A2’s direct-to-consumer model means big savings for triathletes by cutting out the middle men. Their latest line of tri bikes improves on their previous models with a more adjustable front end and disc brakes.
Smooth ride/responsiveness for the price
Fantastic fit flexibility
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A2 Bikes SP1.2 Tri Bike: The Basics
A2 Bikes was one of those brands that business folks call a “disruptor.” At a time when most people were buying bikes at a bike shop, who were buying the bikes from a brand, who were buying the bikes from a factory (and spending money on R&D, quality assurance, marketing, etc.), AJ Alley thought it would be a great idea to source the bikes from the factory himself and then sell directly to triathletes. A2 Bikes is no longer alone in that model (though the bike brands who sell direct to consumers don’t pass on 100% of the savings, mind you), but Alley and his brand are stepping into the ‘20s with a new line of tri rigs with superbike design and disk brakes.
The big news, aside from the obvious disc-only setup is that this round of A2 Bikes, named the SP1.x series (available from the SP1.1 at $2,800 to the SP 1.4 at $8,000), is designed by Kevin Quan—the former senior engineer at Cervelo. A2 spent time with Quan in the wind tunnel on this iteration, and while we haven’t seen the data, they probably weren’t there just to hang out and take pretty pictures.
Below we take a very quick look at the highs and lows of A2 Bikes’ new range. For a deeper dive into each of the many features, close-up photos, and more, check out our extended review.
A2 Bikes SP1.2 Tri Bike: The Good
Though Quan’s involvement is notable for the pedigree of this new bike line, we don’t have any facts and figures yet about how this lines up, aerodynamically with other bikes in this price range. The good news is that, unlike other brands, the frame you get for the $2,800 105-equipped version is the exact same that you’d get with the $8,000 Di2/SRAM Red version. This is trickle-down technology at its best.
Elsewhere, A2 did a great job of offering four sizes with a fairly wide range of reach, made even more adaptable with intentional adjustability. In particular, the front end of the new SP1.x series has a stem that allows for more flexibility than the last version, and the seat post head has a huge range of fore/aft adjustability, allowing for very steep or shallow effective seat angles and potential fit setups.
In terms of ride, the ride quality of the SP1.2 version we tried with very basic Vision training wheels was right down the center between rough and smooth, but definitely smoother than most sub $3,500 carbon frames.
A2 Bikes SP1.2 Tri Bike: The Not-So-Good
Like with anything, there’s bound to be a tradeoff when it comes to a lower-priced bike. Obviously weight is not going to knock your socks off at $3,500, and as such the SP1.2 tipped the scales above 22 pounds for the size XL we tested. That said, the added pound or so didn’t make the bike noticeably tougher to climb with, and it wouldn’t be hard to knock that down with some better wheels and/or bars.
On the other hand, we were surprised to find that the handling on the SP1.2 required much more rider feedback than most other bikes we’ve tested. It struggled to hold a straight line—either in the aerobars or in the basebars—without near-constant adjustment, even in calm wind. While we got used to it fairly quickly, it required more energy to keep in check and cornering suffered as well. The aerobars were moderately stacked on the risers (so unlikely the culprit) and the basebars didn’t have any unusual adjustments. Nothing was loose, and the bike was assembled and rechecked by professional mechanics.
A2 Bikes SP1.2 Tri Bike: Conclusions
There might be people reading this and wondering, “Well, how much does cornering and handling really matter on a tri bike, anyway?” And yes, while cornering isn’t going to make or break your race, being able to check out a little bit in the aerobars and let the bike steer on “autopilot” is actually an energy-saving boon for triathletes—especially long course ones.
Elsewhere, however, the SP1.x series is a refreshing update to A2 Bikes’ budget line. Still, the barebones 105 version of the carbon-framed SP1.1 is effectively the only bike available today for under $3,000 with disc brakes, but Quintana Roo and a few other brands are knocking at the door with bikes in the mid- to low-$3k range.
If you’re a new- to intermediate-level triathlete looking for a carbon tri-specific bike with disc wheels, definitely start your search with the SP1.x series for a great mix of design pedigree and trickle-down tech at an untouchable price.