The Chapter2 Toa may have the ability to swallow 32mm rubber, but don't let that make you think it isn't a contender for racing duties and one of the best carbon road bikes out there. With impressive stiffness levels, sweet handling and the geometry that puts you into an aggressive position when you want to be, this bike loves to be ridden hard.
Toa means 'to be victorious, win' in Maori, the language of the indigenous Polynesian people of mainland New Zealand where Chapter2 is based, and it's a fitting name for a bike that is this flipping fast.
> Buy now: Chapter2 Toa for £2,713.60 from Chapter2
Chapter2 says it spent two and a half years developing the Toa to create 'an all-out, no-compromise carbon fibre race-ready frame platform', and that is exactly what it is. Don't go thinking that means the Toa is completely focused on performance, though, this is no stiff-to-the-point-of-harshness peloton machine. Its comfort is up there with the best endurance bikes on the market.
First impressions count, and the slammed setup that arrived at road.cc Towers left me in no doubt what the Toa was all about.
Rolling away from the house while spinning along for the first few minutes to warm the legs up, I was initially surprised with how comfortable the Toa feels. True, it was wearing a set of 30mm wide Schwalbe Pro Ones, a very supple race tyre, but I was running them to my usual high-pressure preference, so the frame and fork weren't hiding behind any squish there.
Everything feels well balanced, including the steering, with no twitchy handling, and it's a thoroughly nice place to be.
Even when hitting the first build-up of traffic as I entered town, the Toa flowed through the crawling cars and lorries, feeling more like a relaxed hybrid than a bike that was frustrated at having its high-performance DNA reined in.
Once free from the hustle and bustle, though, the Chapter2 shows its true colours. The stiffness through the lower half of the frame is very impressive, and the whole bike just wants to go.
The weight, or lack of it, helps too. Okay, our build includes some very bling kit such as a full Shimano Dura-Ace mechanical grouspet and deep-section carbon wheels from Zipp, but 7.41kg on the scales is still impressive for a 56cm bike running a hydraulic setup these days.
At full chat the Toa surges forward, feeling like a sprinter's machine, and no matter how hard I hammered the pedals it felt planted – no rear wheel skipping about on the tarmac and the front end felt poised regardless of how hard I banked the bike over.
Rolling routes are probably my favourite. Aided by a few aero elements in the frame design, and the deep-section wheels, the Toa rolls near effortlessly on the flat, and you can get low in the drops if you want to keep the pace up.
It's when you hit those false flats that the Chapter2 reveals how efficient it is, though. A combination of the low weight and stiffness means the Toa is barely affected, and should you hit a climb the transition is smooth as you go from spinning along to increasing the effort as the road rises, dropping gear by gear rather than having to make large jumps up the cassette as the bike starts to fight gravity.
I'm no climber by any stretch of the imagination, but the Toa increased the fun factor.
The overall, best bit, though, is the handling. The front end just feels on it, with plenty of precision and loads of feedback that lets you know exactly what the front tyre is up to.
The fork legs are tight with no unwanted flex, chatter or understeer, which lets you push the Toa hard into the bends or brake hard before you arrive at the start of the corner.
The steering is quick, so even on challenging off-camber turns the Chapter2 never feels flustered, and the short head tube means you can get into a low-slung position, dropping your centre of gravity for even more stability in the bends.
The long and the short of it is that the Toa is a very capable race-inspired bike that thrives on being ridden hard, giving instant gratification for your efforts. Comfort hasn't been forgotten, though, and there is evidence flowing through the tubes that the carbon fibre layup has been well considered.
It's a very stiff bike, but the compact rear triangle still maintains a level of forgiveness that aids in keeping that rear end stuck to the road, and if you are out for a longer ride, it stops you getting battered.
It's the same with the fork. For all of the stiffness on offer to cope with those steering and braking loads, there is enough give there to stop your hands bouncing about on the bar.
Frame and fork (and cockpit)
Chapter2 strives for a boutique-style finish to its bikes, with each paint colour being a small quantity limited edition run.
The paint quality has a very high-quality finish – as does, from what I can tell without an x-ray machine, the quality of the Toray carbon fibre of the frame and fork.
The claimed weight for a medium frame is 1,099g, the fork 419g (uncut), the seatpost 135g, and the handlebar/stem 395g.
Its design follows that of many race bikes on the market, with the lower half of the frame being oversized, as you can see by the chunky down tube, which flows neatly into the head tube.
Chapter2 has gone for a T47 bottom bracket, a standard being embraced by many bike designers as we go through 2022. It basically allows the wider shell of a press-fit bottom bracket (where the bearing cups are pressed into the frame) but with the creak-free solution of a threaded bottom bracket.
A wider BB shell means the width of the seat tube can be increased, along with the size of the chainstays, for more stiffness without affecting the q-factor (the distance between the crank faces) or the width at the rear dropouts.
For a clean and aero look the Toa runs fully internal cables, hoses and wires through the handlebar/stem directly into the head tube via the headset spacers.
Not only does it look smart, it also means the Toa can be set up for either mechanical or electronic groupsets without any unsightly guides or anything lying redundant on the frame.
To access any cables or hoses there's a small removable section on the underside of the frame beneath the bottom bracket.
Being a race bike, mounts are kept to the minimum, with just a couple of positions in place for water bottle cages. The down tube mounting point does come with three bolts, though, to alter the position should you be running a frame bag or something.
It's flat mount, as you'd expect, for the brake callipers, and 12mm thru-axles for wheel retention.
The Toa is only available as a frameset, but one thing that is included is the Mana, an integrated carbon fibre handlebar/stem.
Unlike with some brands, where you get a specific bar width and stem length for the size of the bike, Chapter2 offers the choice of 11 combinations at the point of ordering your frame.
It's a good-looking cockpit, and comfortable, too, with plenty of hand positions, while the drop to the, er, drops isn't too extreme.
As I've mentioned, the geometry is racy without being over the top. There are six sizes, from XXS to XL, with corresponding top tube lengths of 482mm up to 575mm.
Our large model comes with a 558mm top tube, 160mm head tube, and a 533mm seat tube.
The rear centre measurement (centre of BB shell to centre of dropout) is 408mm, which helps keep the wheelbase to a nimble sub-metre length of 986mm.
The seat tube angle is 74 degrees, while the head tube sits at 73 degrees. The fork offset is 43mm, although that changes to 53mm for the three smallest sizes.
Stack and reach figures are 577mm and 390mm respectively.
Looking at Chapter2's website, it shows that the paint job tends to dictate the price. This Glossy Black (Tuhua) model has an RRP of £3,392 (currently discounted to £2,713.60) while the Blue and Cyan (Moana) is £3,566.
The Black + UD W/Gold (Koura), and the Aqua Blue (Makarora) are also £3,566. Chapter2 says that once each limited run of the colour is sold, it is never produced again.
Those prices include the Mana cockpit and delivery/taxes to the UK.
For comparison, the Fara F/AR that I tested recently comes as a frameset option for £2,519 direct from Norway, although that doesn't include a carbon cockpit in the price.
I was very impressed with the build quality and the performance, and while it is a little more endurance based than the Toa, the ride qualities are similar.
Fara also makes a race-focused bike called the F/Road which looks a much more direct comparison to the Toa. It has a frameset price of £3,559, and the good news is that we have one on the way for testing.
Factor's Ostro Vam frameset has the same sort of DNA as the Toa, being targeted at fast riding and racing but with the comfort to cope with longer stints in the saddle. It, too, comes with a carbon cockpit, as with the Toa. The prices aren't that similar, though, with the Factor costing £5,200.
The big brands don't necessarily challenge in the price department either. The frameset option for the Specialized S-Works SL7 will set you back £4,500 if you can get your hands on one. We reviewed a full build in 2020.
Trek's Emonda – we tested an SL 6 Pro last year – is available as a top-end frameset in SLR guise. It costs £4,900 for the 2022/23 model. It is very light, though, at a claimed 700g!
While not exactly cheap, the Toa is competitive on price against the bikes that I'd say are near matches from a performance point of view. It's fast, stiff and an all-round comfortable and fun bike to ride. Those limited edition paint jobs give a little bit of a custom edge to the finished product too.
Impressive stiffness, performance and comfort, with the bonus of limited edition paint jobs
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Make and model: Chapter 2 Toa frameset
Tell us what the frameset is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Chapter2 says, "2 1/2 years in development with every detail carefully considered and meticulously executed, the TOA is the culmination of all the CHAPTER2 frames that have come before it. TOA which means "to be victorious, win" in Maori delivers an all-out, no-compromise carbon fibre race-ready frame platform designed, engineered, and manufactured to the most exacting standards.
Inspired by the TERE's Performance All-Road DNA and the AO's versatility, the TOA has all its cables/hoses tucked away from sight and the wind, creating an aerodynamically seamless transition between the MANA Bar and the TOA's Kamm-Tail chassis.
Sporting a T47 Bottom Bracket for easy maintenance, the aluminium BB Shell works in unison with the high-tensile carbon carefully laid into the BB area to increase stiffness by up to 7.3% over the TERE. Additionally, the use of a Latex mandrel for the whole front triangle has increased the Headtube stiffness by 23.5% over the TERE for that out of the saddle and power to the pedals moment.
Other enhancements such as the bundled MANA Bar, Quick-Fit headset spacers, up to 32mm of tire clearance, vibration dampening Seatstays and Seatpost makes for a package that ticks all the right boxes."
This is a high-performance road bike, which is incredibly stiff but still maintains good comfort levels.
State the frame and fork material and method of construction
The frame and fork are made from Toray carbon fibre.
Overall rating for frameset
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The build quality is to a very high level, finished off with an impressive paintjob.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry puts the Toa very much in the race camp, with relatively steep angles and a low-slung front end, without being overly extreme.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The stack and reach figures are fairly typical of a bike of this style and size.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The amount of comfort is impressive considering how stiff the frame is.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The adoption of the T47 bottom bracket allows for a wide junction for larger tubes. This results in a very stiff frame in the right places.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Thanks to the high level of stiffness and a relatively light weight, the Toa feels efficient when you want it to get a move on.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Quick.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling is fast but thanks to the amount of feedback from the front of the bike I never felt the Toa to be twitchy or difficult to live with.
Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
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Rate the bike for sprinting:
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Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
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Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
Rate the bike for climbing:
How did the build components work with the frame? Was there anything you would have changed?
To exploit the Toa's performance potential it requires a top-end build; the Shimano Dura-Ace groupset and deep-section Zipp wheels let you really get the best out of the frameset.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
For a bike of this level of finish I'd say the price is competitive, as you can see by the opposition I've mentioned in the review. The Specialized and Trek may be lighter, but that doesn't bring a huge amount of performance in the real world, and that gram-saving is costing more in the long run.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
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Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a stunning bike to ride, both in terms of comfort and how it behaves on the road, whether you are pushing it hard or just enjoying the ride. The limited edition paint jobs give it a custom feel, and finish off the high-quality build perfectly.
Age: 44 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
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