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AJ Alley expected to be a “one and done” triathlete. For his first sprint triathlon, he borrowed some pieces of gear he needed, improvised others, and rode the same bike he used to commute to classes at Willamette University, where he was studying law.
“It was a way for me to take a break from studying and working, but still feel like I was being productive and not just sitting on the couch watching Netflix,” says Alley. “I’m a strong believer in physical activity alleviating mental strain, stress and tedium.”
But what started as a lark became a full-on obsession the minute he crossed the finish line. “I was completely hooked. I’ve always loved speed. In high school, I was a ski racer, and I still have that little speed demon in me. When I raced in my first tri, I got that feeling all over again.”
But there was one thing that quickly put the brakes on his racing ambitions: The price. When he sought out to upgrade his commuter bike for a more tri-friendly rig, he realized it just wouldn’t be possible on his law-student budget. “I couldn’t believe how expensive everything was,” says Alley. “I couldn’t understand why tri bikes needed to cost this much. I wanted to do something about it.”
First, Alley began cold-calling carbon fiber factories and component manufacturers. He soon discovered a wide discrepancy between the actual cost of a bike and the retail price. The more information he got, the more he realized a high-quality, fast, aero tri bike didn’t have to be an extravagance. In fact, it could be something the everyday athlete could afford.
This epiphany inspired Alley to launch A2 Bikes (pronounced “A-squared”). The flagship design of A2, the carbon-fiber Speed Phreak, retails from $1,599 for the frameset to $2,299 for a fully-loaded set with wheels. Even though the bike is priced lower than many carbon-fiber designs on the market, Alley knows that amount can still be a hindrance for many new triathletes. To keep sticker shock from dissuading new triathletes, Alley came up with the T3 program, which allows triathletes to make monthly payments (starting at $85 for a base-package Speed Phreak with Shimano 105 groupset) for a total of 18 months. “We strive to be affordable and allow access to triathletes that didn’t know they could afford a new tri bike.”
At the conclusion of the 18-month payment period, during which one can race and ride their A2 as much as they want, owners are given the option of trading in their A2 bike for a new, upgraded one. Alley compares this program, called T3, to the model utilized by many cell phone companies:
“How many times have you bought a new phone, only to have the company release a new version soon thereafter? It’s incredibly frustrating after you’ve saved up your hard-earned money to purchase your product, and it’s out of date before you’ve even really had a chance to use it! T3 was born out of that frustration.”
This gives A2 customers access to new developments in the frame, upgrades to the groupset by Shimano/SRAM, or new paint scheme without hassle of selling their previous bike.
“A lot of times, when we buy a new bike, we keep the old one for years and years, just letting it gather dust. The problem is people just don’t know where to take their bikes to re-sell them. With our T3 program, we take care of it.”
A2 partners with Red Truck to sell what they call “pre-loved” bikes for an even more affordable price point. This is something that once again feeds into Alley’s belief that triathlon gear should be accessible to everyone who wants to take on the sport:
“Every triathlete should be able to get a fast, and aesthetically pleasing bike for an affordable price.”