Here it is: we will argue that you can hang a Shimano Ultegra, or SRAM Force group off this A1 aluminum frame and go racing all the way up to a top domestic level. Yep, it rides that well. And it lends credence to what manufacturers learn when pushing to develop bikes at the other side of the sport, at the World Tour ranks.
And while we appreciate the Allez Sport for its race bred pedigree and similar ride and handling, a few small adjustments can slot it in under a first time rider fairly flawlessly. One of the best examples here is the Specialized branded EliteSet stem, which offers four positions of rise, or drop, through a 12-degree range. This allows for a noticeable range of cockpit position for everything from high-performance racing and riding to comfortable cruising.
This and more is what led us to award the Specialized Allez Sport Compact as the best machine of our “Best Road Bikes Under $1,000” test.
Ride and Handling: goes down with bikes costing 10 times as much
Sure a carbon bike whose frame cost four or five times what the entire Allez Sport Compact does complete will damp vibration better, pedal better, and be massively lighter.
But the interesting and inspiring feature of the Allez is that its stiff, evenly flexing, frame descends like a stone. Sure the ride is harsher, and there’s some flex when pedaling uphill and sprinting, but we’ll tell we can ride the thing down a hill within a percent or two of what we the industry’s best bikes enable.
Give us some better brakes and stiffer wheels and, well, we can probably match our top speeds and nail the same corners.
This inspires confidence, and really makes the Allez a bike that can grow with riders who are out to grow their own skill and involvement in the sport.
As for the basics, the Allez doesn’t have toe overlap or any other weird handling compromise. Simply it’s a solid basic foundation for someone to head into the sport with.
Frame: rides well, looks good
We’ve already given plenty of kudos to how the Specialized frame benefits the bike’s performance in the previous section, which is of main importance, but the Allez also looks quite good too.
The formed top tube, svelte seat stays and straight bladed fork mirror the contemporary carbon lines that proliferate the industry. At the coffee shop it’ll probably require a double take from your buddies before they realize this is a sub-$1,000 steed. Specialized even offer it in two colors: blue and white as tested, and black and yellow.
As far as details, the Allez frame, like all in the test, has a replaceable rear derailleur hanger, and we also believe the front derailleurs brazed mount to add stiffness and subsequent crispness to the front shifting.
Equipment: a complete package
Building a bike for less than $1,000 is a tough job. There are only so many options, yet it’s quite interesting how greatly a small feature can really impact the end product.
We tested eight machines for our “Best Road Bikes Under $1,000” review, and to be honest, there were at least three other frames that kept close pace with the performance of the Specialized Allez frame — Cannondale’s CAAD 8, Felt’s F85, and Giant’s Defy 3 — but none quite matched the performance of Specialized’s overall package.
What did Specialized do right? In a word: details.
Aside from the frame, a wheelset has the most influence on the ride of the bike and we found the Allez Sport’s DT Axis 1.0 to be among the most predictable, not to mention most round and true (you’d think this is a given, but it’s not) in our testing at this price point.
For the drivetrain, Specialized went with Shimano’s Sora. While the shifters are flawed in terms of ergonomics, their operation is smoother and requires less hand force than competitor MicroShift. Yes, they’re only nine-speed, but Specialized manage a gear range [34/50 chainrings paired to a 12-27-tooth cassette] that’s usable for new riders and the experienced on a budget.
Other wins for the Specialized package include the previously mentioned EliteSet 3D forged stem and the Body Geometry Riva saddle. The latter happens to be one of the most comfortable ‘cut-out’ saddles we’ve ridden.
What could have made this bike better, and biggest miss for its specification? Easy: 25mm tires. That’s it, really.