While this frame doesn’t exactly punch outside of its weight class, you get a lot of parts for not a lot of dough. (Tested with Ultegra Build and Vision Aluminum wheels.)
A carbon frame with Ultegra for ~$3k is nearly impossible to find
A great bike for beginners looking to spend a little more than the minimum
Predictable cornering, medium stability
Pretty tough build for the average triathlete to assemble at home
Not the stiffest bike, in terms of acceleration
The whole idea of A2 Bikes is that triathletes can ostensibly buy direct from a no-frills manufacturer who doesn’t spend money on distribution, tons of marketing, tons of athletes, and more. You buy the A2 Speed Phreak Ultegra directly from A2’s very simple website, it shows up, you (or a mechanic) build it, you get fit on it (ideally), and you go. Obviously there’s a lot of savings built into that model, so it’s a great way for a beginner or intermediate triathlete to get into something carbon for $3k or under—which is virtually non-existent right now. You might get onto something aluminum for that price, but it’ll be incredibly basic.
A2 Speed Phreak Ultegra: You Buy, You Build
A2 isn’t the first or the last brand to get into the direct-to-consumer model—Canyon has done it from the beginning, QR does it, as does Ventum. Of those four D2C brands, only A2 requires you to spend quite a bit of time (and knowledge) to assemble their bike. Both Ventum and QR come basically ready to ride within minutes of putting air in the tires and slapping on your pedals; Canyon takes a little longer, but it’s not tough. The Speed Phreak, however, requires you to assemble the headset and stem—both of which are not exactly simple in terms of knowledge or fine motor skills. You don’t necessarily need to be a mechanic, but since the front end is a very important part of handling, I would strongly recommend at least having a mechanic check out your work before you ride. That said, I would almost bake in ~$100 into the price to have a shop simply build it for you and another $100 to get properly fit.
A2 Speed Phreak Ultegra: The Ride
Keeping in mind that there aren’t really any carbon-framed bikes available for under $3,000, it’s important to know that A2 is its own category. That said, the ride on this bike feels like a $3K bike—fairly soft in both vertical compliance over all sizes of bumps and in terms of acceleration. There’s a reason expensive carbon frames are expensive, as they usually hit that sweet spot of compliance and snappiness. The good news is that this is a medium-stable setup—important for new and mildly experienced triathletes getting used to the aero position—despite the long, low front end that actually blends super smoothly with the top tube. There are more stable bikes out there that are probably a better choice for long-course triathletes trying to relax in the aero position, but it’s still not bad. In terms of cornering, it’s no surprise that this is a swoopier-handling bike that won’t cut off corners, but again, this level of predictability is great for newer triathletes who might not be aggressive descenders.
A2 Speed Phreak Ultegra: The Good
Obviously this is a good absolute price for an Ultegra-equipped bike, and the 105 version is probably one of the best deals for a low-end tri bike you can find. There are also a reasonable amount of sizes, so it’s likely you’ll find one that works for you, but also expect to use the included risers (a fitter will help a ton here if you don’t already have detailed fit measurements) to get something that doesn’t put your nose on the wheel.
A2 Speed Phreak Ultegra: The Medium
It’s tough to trash a carbon bike that still costs less than a lot of aluminum bikes, but at the same time, I wouldn’t expect to upgrade the parts around this frame. On the other hand, a carbon wheel upgrade would be totally appropriate because you could always put them on the next frame you get; it would make a difference in the ride. The lack of acceleration is worth noting, but it’s also important to recognize how minimally important that is in tri bikes in general—you’re usually supposed to just get into aero and grind, and the Speed Phreak lets you do just that. The only actually disappointing side of this bike—given its stiff competition in the D2C space—was the slightly challenging build and parts (like the stem) that are quite tough to work on.
A2 Speed Phreak Ultegra: Conclusions
In our big 2020 roundup, we gave this bike tough scores on both assembly and value because neither really blew our hair back. Yes, this is an inexpensive bike, but it feels like an only slightly more expensive inexpensive bike—it’s not slaying dragons at $3k. In fact, it would be tough to find a place for this build or the higher-end version in a lot of bike lineups: The frame is great when compared to an aluminum one, and it let’s you get low, but it’s not one that would battle with a Cervelo P-Series very effectively (bearing in mind that even the 105 version of the P-Series costs more than the Ultegra version of this bike). My recommendation is look at this build if you’re thinking about maybe upgrading your frame in a few years, as you get some great parts. Otherwise, I would stick to the 105 build—that doesn’t feel that much different—until you’re ready for something better. Beginners should flock to this bike, intermediate/advanced triathletes may want to evaluate it closely.