The Specialized Allez is the company's big sales success. Since its launch, the range has always been considered by our testers as the default benchmark of true road bikes at the £700-£1,000 mark. With its combination of light aluminium frame, competent drivetrain and a smattering of well-chosen kit from Specialized’s in-house componentry lines, the Allez has always been a winner in our eyes.
The £900 Allez Elite features the latest incarnation of Shimano’s Tiagra groupset. Combining a compact chainset and a very usable 11-28T cassette, this is the perfect setup for newer riders looking for a good range of lower gears for climbing. What is new for 2012 is the wheel choice: Axis 1.0s, the latest introductory model from DT Swiss. We don’t expect ultra-light at this price, and the DTs certainly aren’t, but they're well built, with good quality standard cone bearings and solid seals.
What we’ve always loved about the Allez is the geometry. Despite its modest price it’s definitely designed to race. With a sharp head angle and a straight fork it’s brimming with fast, responsive reactions to input. The wheelbase is short with tight chainstays to boot. What’s refreshing about the Elite is that although it’s very much aggressive in poise, it’s also remarkably well mannered as a day-today ride.
For an all-metal frame it has a beautifully smooth manner. Across broken surfaces and coarse roads it’s free of jolts, bangs and vibration. The frame handles a lot of the smoothness but much of the comfort is down to the excellent contact points. The Specialized Body Geometry Riva saddle has a narrow profile and a slim shape overall, but the upper is deeply padded with a large pressure-relieving channel. In fact, we had to adjust the saddle height to allow for the sag when seated.
The compact drop bar and quality tape – fitted to the bike with Specialized’s clever adjustable stem – take plenty of road buzz away, and the big volume Espoirs are among the best budget tyres we’ve seen. The highly patterned tread handles wet conditions remarkably well, while in the dry the soft gummy rubber has excellent levels of grip. Overall, it’s rare to find a bike with proper race geometry that has this much comfort. The fact that you can get all this for under a grand is remarkable.