It takes a lot to knock us off our feet, but the 2013 Allez Race has. The bike is stiff, stable and somewhat comfortable. It also offers a lively feel and good components – what more could you ask for?
The Allez Race also features cutting-edge technology. ‘Smart weld’ is a process Specialized have pioneered for their top-tier aluminum Allez models. The idea is to hydroform the ends of the top and down tubes where they meet a size-specific, forged head tube, creating a weld groove.
This design is said to make a frame orders of magnitude stronger and lighter (about 1.2kg for a 56cm size) than a traditionally welded bike. But it requires less skill and is faster to do than any other hand-crafting aluminum welding method.
“A junior welder with limited experience can weld this joint expertly,” said Chris D’Alusio, Specialized’s director of advanced research and design.
Once it’s put into production on the Allez bikes, Specialized plan to use the manufacturing technique throughout their road and off-road lines, to strengthen and lighten their performance-minded aluminum bikes.
The smart weld components: a forged head tube and hydroformed top and down tubes
One question you might have is whether the new design works. In a word – yes. In the last five years, EN test standards have heightened so much that many steel bikes can’t pass for head tube fatigue. The smart weld method passes with flying colors, though, say Specialized, in a class of strength previously only achieved with carbon.
Ride & handling: Not quite top-notch carbon performance but a screaming deal
Up front, the Allez Race is as stiff and precise as any bike we’ve ridden in terms of steering, thanks to the forged head tube.
The smart weld technology seems to allow the tubing to work, too, as it tapers back into the traditionally welded center and rear of the bike. Overall, the bike has a very even flex, with a refined snap to it. It’s impressive for an alloy.
Specialized’s Allez Race, new for the 2013 road market
The one place the bike lacks stiffness is in the drivetrain. While it provided an adequate platform for the power associated with our 150lb tester’s frame, there was a reasonable amount of bottom bracket deflection that was easily felt when we sprinted or produced any hard, out-of-the-saddle bursts of power.
While carbon damps high-frequency vibrations better than aluminium, the Allez Race does an admirable job with high-amplitude hits. We rode it on dirt too, and the same first impressions applied.
As a final test, we added Specialized’s new COBL GOBL-R seatpost to the package. The carbon leaf spring-style post took the edge off both high-frequency and high-amplitude vibrations, making it a relevant upgrade for those dealing with dirt or bad roads frequently.
Frame & equipment: Advanced aluminum with solid budget spec
The E5 alloy top and down tubes are butted down to the thinnest wall Specialized’s manufacturer can produce with their current machinery – this is possible because the ends of the tubes are then hydroformed to produce the second half of the weld channel.
The tube’s end butt is hydroformed as part of the smart weld channel, which concentrates material exactly where it will be welded. This allows the rest of the tube to be thinner, because it doesn’t need to deal with the more erratic heating profiles associated with traditional aluminum welding methods.
Smart welding is claimed to be easier, quicker and more robust than traditional methods
As for the rest of the frame, Specialized include both their OSBB (BB30) and expertly shaped rear stays. The Allez Race uses a 27.2mm seatpost to help offset some of the vibration transmission associated with the aluminum frame, and the chassis is finished with the same fork found within the mid-range Tarmac bike line.
Aside from the fairly heavy DT Swiss Axis 4.0 wheels, which are relatively stiff and offer a comfortable ride, the race-ready Allez Race lives up to its name. The Axis wheels are shod with Specialized’s Turbo Pro tires, which offer a reasonably supple ride with great cornering grip.
The components are a mix of SRAM Rival (shifters and rear derailleur) and Apex (front derailleur) mated to an FSA SL-K BB30 crank and Axis brake calipers. Specialized take care of the cockpit with an OE level range of aluminum parts, which we found adequate for the price and purpose of the bike.
All in all, the Allez Race offers a solid parts pick that didn’t really let us down in any department.
We tested the Allez Race on the roads around Utah’s Alta and Snowbird ski regions