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Chapter2 Toa review: A race bike that's comfortable, fast and easy to live with

The Chapter2 Toa race bike takes inspiration from the brand's endurance models but does it give it the winning edge?

Chapter2 Toa review
(Image: © Graham Cottingham)

Our Verdict

Very comfortable yet super fast, the Chapter2 Toa is a versatile and forgiving race bike

For

  • - Clearance for 32mm tyres
  • - Endurance-bike levels of comfort
  • - Excellent control and balanced ride
  • - Superb turn of speed
  • - Comfortable and aesthetically tidy Mana handlebar

Against

  • - Prominent Māori detailing isn't for everyone
  • - Not the lightest in the segment

Road racing is going through somewhat of a transformative time at the moment with trends and even the racing landscape challenging the status quo. That has left manufacturers reassessing how they approach bike design. The best road bikes have become specialist beasts, optimised for a single job whether that's climbing, aero or out-and-out endurance. 

A lot has changed though in the last few years and we aren’t just talking about disc brakes' triumphant win over rim brakes in the pro peloton. The best lightweight bikes that were once the target of all bike manufacturers have proven to be slower than more aerodynamic models in real-world scenarios. Dedicated aero bikes are no longer purely faster with bone-jarring hard ride qualities (in pro racing anyway) and riders are warming to the notion of ride compliance and the wider tyre movement.

Chapter2 certainly believe so too and the Toa is the result. Conceptualised and designed in New Zealand, the Toa features a Kamm-Tail tubing and clearance for 32mm tyres, blurring the lines to create an all-road race bike.

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Chapter 2 Toa paintwork details

Upfront a large Kamm-Tailed downtube connects to the headtube (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Chapter 2 Toa dropped seatstays

The rear stays have a deep drop to add comfort (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Chapter 2 Toa Mana handlebar fitted with Shimano Dura-Ace levers

Every Chapter 2 is limited edition, this colour way is from the Essential Collection (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Chapter 2 Toa paintwork details

There's traditional Maori artwork across the frame (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Chapter 2 Toa paintwork details

And if the Maori designs didn't give it away, Chapter 2 is a New Zealand based company (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Design and aesthetics

Like all Chapter2 bikes, the Toa has an air of exclusivity about it. The frames and colourways are produced in limited runs. The idea is to create a bike that has a boutique feel - a uniqueness to attract riders who want something a little different from the mainstream. While our Gloss Black (or Tuhua as Chapter2 likes to call the colour) test bike may be understated with its black and grey colour scheme and subtle Māori patterns and teal details, there are water-inspired Blue and Cyan (Moana) or Tongariro options, the latter is named after a volcano on the North Island of New Zealand.

The UCI-approved frame is built from Toray carbon fibre and features a large Kamm-Tailed downtube to create an aerodynamic and stiff backbone. This blends smoothly to the headtube, as does the almost-level top tube which features a slight upwards bow. The seat tube and seatpost have a D-shaped profile to add compliance when seated, while de rigueur dropped stays have been added to enhance comfort and are deeply dropped on our size 54cm test bike.

The fork has a slight curve to the legs and the top of the fork blends backwards into the downtube to give the ‘fork crown’ a very smooth finish with the frame.

Chapter2 Toa seatpost clamp

The seat clamp is simple to adjust (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

The frame and fork have clearance for 32mm tyres, although ISO standards technically limit recommended tyre widths to 30mm. ISO demands 4mm clearance on each side of the tyre for debris, however, running 32mm tyres with 3mm on either side shouldn’t cause any problems on the road.

The seatpost clamp is positioned on the top of the top tube and seat tube joint, out the way of wheel spray and easily adjusted. The seatpost is also straightforward to adjust, using a thumbscrew to set the angle and a single bolt to tighten the saddle in place.

The rest of the frame detailing is well executed with a neat rubber cover over the seat clamp bolt, a nicely shaped headset cover, simple slide-together two-piece headset spacers and a three-bolt downtube bottle cage boss allowing lower mounting if you choose to only run a single bottle cage.

The frame is compatible with both mechanical and electronic groupsets (Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo) with complete internal cable routing. There's also a T47 bottom bracket and the flat-mount brake standard can be fitted with 160mm brake rotors for optimal braking performance.

The Chapter2 Toa bike stands in front of a wall

Chapter2 models are only available as framesets (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Specifications

The Toa is available in XS to XL to give a good range of sizing and our medium frame has a 73-degree head-angle and seat angle, 548mm top tube 73mm bottom bracket drop and a  971mm wheelbase - all very agreeable numbers. The M to XL sizes are all fitted with a 43mm offset fork, while the smaller XXS and S get a 53mm offset fork. 

The medium frame comes in at a claimed 1,099g, 420g for an uncut fork and 135g for the seatpost (+/- three per cent). Our test bike tipped our scales at 7.4kg, which is perfectly acceptable for a semi-aero bike these days. Arguably the frame is a touch heavy when directly compared to mainstream competitors, but we are talking a few 100g here.

Chapter2 Toa Mana handlebar fitted with Shimano Dura-Ace levers

Our test frame was built up with Dura-Ace R9100, Zipp wheels and a colour-matched one-piece bar and stem (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Chapter2 only offers its bikes as frameset options (this includes headset, seatpost, thru-axles and quick-fit spacers) which means it’s up to the customer to choose their preferred build. Our bike was complemented with a Shimano 11-speed Dura-Ace mechanical groupset and Zipp 303 Firecrest wheels. The wheels are set up tubeless and fitted with 30mm Schwalbe Pro One tyres front and rear.

Our Toa is finished with Chapter2’s Mana one-piece carbon handlebar which we found to have a very comfortable shape. There’s a nice amount of flex to help further soften the ride without dulling steering accuracy as well. Weighing in at 395g (100mm / 420mm), it has a slim overall look too and does a really nice job of tidying up the front end, both aesthetically and by routing the cables completely internally. The Mana bar is an optional extra though, so you will need to budget an additional £619 / $699* to your build if you want one.

*At the time of writing, Chapter2 are offering the Mana bar free with the Toa frameset.

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Chapter 2 Toa Mana handlebar

The Chapter2 Mana handlebar is an integrated bar and stem, available as an optional extra with the Toa (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Chapter 2 Toa Mana handlebar

It fully intigrates the cables and hoses for a clean front end (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Chapter 2 Toa Mana handlebar

We found the shape to be very comfortable (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Performance 

While Chapter2’s aero Koko takes the top spot in terms of race optimisation, the Toa offers more of a grand tourer feel - it's still rapid but it's far easier to live with. Big fast-paced days are where the Toa thrives, taking on all manner of road surfaces and keeping you fresh and ready to attack KOMs or contest town-sign sprints. 

The slightly curved fork and subtly kinked rear stays add a lot of comfort, without softening the frame's structure. In fact, it has a beautifully sprung nature to it, with the feeling that the bike hunkers down for grip and springs forwards as you drop the hammer to inject some speed into a steep kick in gradient or through the exit of a corner. 

Grip and ground adhesion are where the Toa shines and this makes it really fast through the corners. The Toa would consistently set PRs on segments I had ridden many times, the fact the Toa did this through a winter testing period when roads are often damp or grimy is even more impressive.

Rough or grippy roads are ironed out too, which ultimately helps maintain pace and adds extra confidence when cornering. This is only further assisted by the 30mm tyres fitted to our test bike. When faced with long stretches of less than pristine tarmac, you can keep pushing and keeping vibration-inducing fatigue at bay.

The compliance and wider rubber do wonders on descents, too, giving you loads of confidence to drive through corners. Geometry and weight distribution feel spot-on as well so the bike has a beautiful balance to it when tipping it into an apex at high speed.

Chapter2 Toa bike stands on a road

Between the frame and large tyres, the Toa is a smooth yet fast ride (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Verdict

Chapter2 says that, despite being a race bike, the Toa was inspired by the brand's endurance road bike, the Tere. This probably goes a long way to explaining why the Toa is so comfortable. As road racing becomes more progressive in terrain, bikes like the Toa are going to thrive. Comfortable riders are fast riders and the Toa delivers excellent vibration damping and control mile after mile, smoothing out cobbles, grippy tarmac and unsealed surfaces alike to keep riders fresher for longer.

While the benefits of comfort on race bikes are becoming increasingly important, it’s not going to necessarily win races. Yet the Toa is still very quick, it never felt like the frame was absorbing drive or twisting under power - and the voluminous 30mm tyres means the bike leaps off the line like a drag racer. Geometry numbers are on point and the bike has a wonderful balance that encourages you to eke out the most from the large tyres through twists and turns.

Toa means “to be victorious, win” in Māori and I think Chapter2 are on to a winning formula with this bike.

Tech Specs: Chapter2 Toa

  • Frame price: £2,779 / $3,149 / €2,999 / AUD$4,899
  • Frame: Toray
  • Sizes: XS, S, M (tested), L, XL
  • Colours: Black (tested), Blue + Cyan (Moana), Tongariro
  • Weight: 7.4kg
  • Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 
  • Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace FC-R9100 chainset, 52/36T
  • Wheels: Zipp 303 Firecrest
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Pro One, 30mm
  • Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace Centerlock 140mm rotors front/rear
  • Bar/stem: Chapter2 Mana
  • Seatpost: Chapter2
  • Saddle: Fizik Antares Versus Evo R3 Adaptive

Logbook: Chapter2 Toa

  • Temperature: -2 to 12 degrees
  • Weather: Wet, cold, windy
  • Road surface: Wet, mixed surfaces, cobbles
  • Route: Tarmac, B roads, rolling topography, mixed climbs
  • Mileage: 2044km

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Graham has been part of the Cyclingnews team since January 2020. He has mountain biking at his core and can mostly be found bikepacking around Scotland or exploring the steep trails around the Tweed Valley. Not afraid of a challenge, Graham has gained a reputation for riding fixed gear bikes both too far and often in inappropriate places.