Is the Specialized Allez the Ford Focus of road bikes? Consider the evidence: it’s been good but not exceptional value; it’s a solid performer; it’s pleasant looking without being too daring or challenging by current standards; and it’s everywhere. There’s nothing exotic about the Allez, but it’s been successful because it’s always been a very safe choice — does it still stack up?
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The E5 Elite is the most expensive of the regular, non-DSW Allez variants, meaning that it’s got a conventional aluminium frame rather than a wackily-welded D’Aluisio SmartWeld one. It’s similar in overall appearance to the carbon Tarmac, just a little less slick thanks to external cabling and visible welds where the tubes meet, and the tubes are massive.
I'm not complaining — the Allez is £800 cheaper than the entry-level Tarmac and it’s a good looking thing with harmonious lines and minimal frippery. Everything is easily accessible for maintenance and there are even mudguard bosses at the rear, although annoyingly there are none up front. In any case, clearances are reasonable, with room for at least 28mm rubber. (In fact, the Specialized 25s it comes fitted with measure more like 27mm anyway.)
Specialized has taken a rather piecemeal approach to the spec with the latest 10-speed Shimano Tiagra bits doing the shifting, and braking coming from Axis (Specialized own brand) calipers.
The former is predictably competent while the latter are adequate rather than good — they do flex a bit — but they win points over the standard Tiagra items inasmuch as their pads are stiff cartridge units rather than one-piecers.
I’d normally moan about non-groupset cranks just because I like collars and cuffs to match, but the understated Praxis ones look rather nice in a functional sort of a way, and I’ve no complaints about their shifting behaviour either.
The Allez’s price puts it at entry level, but in geometry terms it barely differs from the racy Tarmac. Reach and stack on a size 54 are 387mm and 548mm respectively, so a fairly long and low position is achievable, although if you want to get properly aggressive you’ll need to swap out the 20mm conical headset spacer for something shorter and fit a longer stem.
The ride is racy too, indeed the Allez is an impressively stiff bike that climbs with enthusiasm. It does remind you sometimes that it’s not the most sophisticated of frames — don’t expect a huge amount of compliance from either end — but if it’s thrills you’re after then there’s a lot to like.
Stamping on the pedals and lunging for finish lines either real or imaginary reveals a liveliness and sense of purpose that isn’t a given at this price point and that’s in spite of some pretty basic wheels; those Axis clinchers aren’t the stiffest things in the world and some rear brake rub is evident with the pads running close.
If bimbling around bumpy backroads is your thing, the Allez probably isn’t ideally suited to your needs. It definitely isn’t the most refined bike in the world but for my money it has enough fizz to be enticing.
If you want a bike for spirited club rides or a spot of racing it’s a solid place to start, and while it’s not a screaming bargain, its frame is certainly upgrade-worthy.