In the past, Specialized’s Allez was the bike to beat when it came to affordable aluminium. In recent years, though, brands such as Cannondale, Giant and Boardman - and not forgetting impressive debutants HOY Bikes - have all shown the Allez a clean pair of heels in the testing stakes.
With the 2014 Allez Race, Specialized are hoping to reclaim their crown by implementing the technical advancements first seen on this year’s Allez S-Works. For full coverage of next year's range see our Specialized 2014 road and triathlon bikes story.
Ride & handling: Much sharper and racier than previous Allez
Get out and ride the Allez and it’s immediately apparent that this is a very different machine to the outgoing model. That bike offered a decent enough ride but felt very much like what it was - a budget aluminium bike ideal for the daily commute or your first foray into more sporty riding.
The Allez Race feels like so much more. Its geometry mirrors the Tarmac in every way, and the new head tube and fork combination makes it a sharp and swift-handling machine.
Those of a racy disposition won’t like the conical headset cap, which lifts the cockpit to a novice-friendly height, but switch it out and this would be a slammed race-ready ride.
Specialized Allez Race 2014
Front end stiffness is impressive, though it does mean the front can feel a little harsh over rougher surfaces. The 25c tyres and thick gel bar tape help, but we’d quickly switch out the aluminium bar and fit a more forgiving carbon cockpit. At the back we had no issues with comfort, the widely spaced and skinny seatstays offering a nicely flexible ride.
Although BikeRadar have only spent a couple of days riding the new Allez so far, it’s a bike we’d already recommend to the aspiring racer. If the hustle and bustle of crit riding is your bag and you want a bike that’s likely to be tough enough to handle knocks and come back fighting, you won’t find much at this price that can touch the Allez Race.
We’ve already placed our order for a long-term test bike, but we’ve got a sneaky feeling that Specialized might be about to take back their alloy crown.
Frame & equipment: Innovative Smartweld technology, decent kit
The frame technology used here is called Smartweld, and was developed by Specialized in-house metal expert Chuck Teixeira. He’s worked with aluminium since 1984, and was the first to butt tubes, losing about a pound in frame weight by changing wall thickness. Specialized claim that Smartweld will be just as revolutionary for aluminium frame production.
So, what exactly is it? Well, it’s patented, so you won’t see it on competitors’ frames, and it combines specially shaped, hydroformed tube sections. With traditional frames, welders need to rely on craftmanship and material to make tubes meet properly. Smartweld creates rolled edges at the tube ends; when these are offered up to each other they form a V-shaped channel that makes for a much more consistent weld joint and increases stiffness hugely.
Try squeezing the base of an empty drink can and then squeezing it in the middle - the rolled shape at the base makes the can very stiff there. The principle is the same with Smartweld.
The rarefied S-Works version of the Allez weighs in at just 1,050g for a 56cm frame - impressive stuff. This Race model isn’t as extremely butted, and it's painted rather than anodised, so its chassis weighs in at 1,250g. That’s still impressive and you won’t find many lighter carbon frames on bikes at this price.
Wide-spaced, skinny seatstays on the 2014 Allez Race
The Allez Race’s spec is what we’d expect at the price point - a drivetrain that mixes Shimano 105 with an FSA Gossamer BB30 50/34 chainset (yes, the Allez frame is now oversized at the bottom bracket, like its big brother, the Tarmac.
Non-series Shimano brakes handle the stopping, and the bike rolls on Specialized’s own Axis 2.0 wheelset. That’s shod with 25c Espoir Elite tyres, which handled with impressive tenacity on a fast descent in an unseasonal Colorado storm.
The front end is a pairing of a shallow drop alu bar and Specialized’s clever adjustable angle stem. You’ll be perched on a cro-mo railed Toupe saddle; its slender, flat shape suited us, and we know it’s a popular perch. Matched to the frame is an all-carbon tapered fork taken straight from the Tarmac. It all adds up to a complete bike weight of 8.71kg (19.2lb).