Specialized’s 2019 Allez Elite was one of our favourite road bikes last year – and it has hit the top podium spot again for 2020 winning best £1,000 road bike in our Bike of the Year awards.
That’s partly down to the fact that the Rose Pro SL – our best road bike under £1,000 in Bike of the Year for 2018 and 2019 has sold out – but that’s not the only reason.
The more time I spent riding the Specialized, the more I wanted to ride it, and it was the bike I would go back to again and again.
And if I was parting with £1,000 of my own money (okay, we busted the budget by £50 to squeeze this in) this would be where I’d park my cash. Exactly as I did with an earlier Rose Pro SL…
Bike of the Year 2020
The Specialized Allez Elite is part of our annual Bike of the Year test and our £1,000 Road Bike of the Year winner.
Head to our Bike of the Year hub for the full list of winners, categories and shortlisted bikes, as well as the latest reviews – or read our behind-the-scenes feature on how we tested Bike of the Year 2020.
The Allez Elite has clawed its way to the top of the rankings in spite of being largely unchanged year on year.
In fact, when I compared the specification of last year’s bike with the 2020 Allez Elite, I initially thought they were identical apart from this year’s less shouty colours – a choice of black/blue, grey/slate and lilac black rather than 2019’s lovely grey and red (it’s better than it sounds).
But there are three tiny – minuscule even – differences from year to year. Princess and the pea? Pretty much.
What’s new, what’s not…
The changes are the angle of the stem, which now has a 7-degree rise rather than 6-degree, the rear wheel’s spoke count has been reduced to 20 – the same as the front – and the saddle is now a Specialized Bridge rather than a Toupé.
So, why is Specialized, one of the biggest, most innovative names in world cycling treading water this year? Well, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ comes to mind.
This year’s model sees a change in saddle from the Specialized Bridge to a Toupé. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The 2019 Specialized Allez Elite was so impressive – an accomplished, polished road bike that had slightly toned down its earlier, more aggressive edge in favour of geometry with more of an all-round endurance flavour – why change anything?
The all-important aluminium frameset is exactly the same – then again it did have a major makeover for 2018 when the Allez Elite shed half a kilo in weight and dropped its seatstays to bring it more in line with just about everything else and generally get cleaner lines and a more modern look.
I rated the ride of Specialized’s earlier Allez bikes, too, but I really had it in for the rear brake cable dangling beneath the top-tube like a washing line. Now thankfully gone.
The perfect all-round ride
When Specialized reworked the geometry of the Allez for 2018 it made extensive use of its Retül bike-fitting database.
The result was a slightly taller head-tube and geometry more closely resembling Giant’s Defy and Boardman’s SLR road bikes, two of its major competitors and both also in this year’s top 10 £1,000 road bikes test.
Specialized’s Shallow-drop bars with Axis 1.0 brake levers. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The geometry changes weren’t that extreme, however, and the head tube was only a centimetre taller than before, the wheelbase 6mm longer – on my 56cm model – and the chainstays 8mm longer.
Each of the changes was quite modest but they add up to a riding position leaning more towards leisure and endurance riding than racing – which is exactly the cycling that most of us do most of the time.
The taller head-tube provides a more upright riding position that’s friendlier to your lower back, while the longer chainstays and wheelbase both add a little stability and slow down the handling a little.
If you’re a wannabe racer this makes it slightly less appealing but it’s still no slouch over the asphalt.
The E5 aluminium frame is fitted with a carbon fork and alloy stem. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The endurance-cum-all-rounder nature of the Allez is also reflected in its fittings; I’m always a fan of rack mounts on a bike at this price, where any bike could well be your training, commuting and shopping bike rolled into one.
The Allez Elite has rear rack mounts, and front and rear mudguard/fender fittings so you can keep your backside drier and throw less road muck over your riding buddies.
The rack mounts let you carry your clobber in a pannier so you can commute without a backpack, which again is better for your back.
Shimano 105, mostly…
Shimano 105 is the go-to groupset for a circa £1,000 rim-braked road bike. Online companies such as Canyon (and Rose, last year) can offer the full 105 R7000 groupset on its Endurace AL 7.0 while others, including Specialized, deviate here and there.
For the Specialized Allez Elite it is the brakes and chainset, the usual contenders to trim a buck or two.
The Allez Elite deviates from 105 on its brakes, using Axis 1.0 caliper brakes instead. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The Axis 1.0 caliper brakes are okay, though lack the all-out stopping power of the 105 equivalents, but I’m a fan of the Praxis Alba chainset for both its industrial aesthetics and shifting performance.
Can you feel any difference compared with 105? I couldn’t, and shifting even under loads was as accurate as 105.
Specialized has teamed up with DT Swiss for the Allez Elite’s wheels. The DT460 rims work very well with the 25mm Specialized Espoir Sport tyres, which in my experience offer a good balance of grip, suppleness, comfort and durability, the latter helped by twin layers of BlackBelt X2 puncture protection.
The DT Swiss wheels and DT460 rims are fitted with 25mm Specialized Espoir Sport tyres. David Caudery / Immediate Media
As with many of our top 10 this year, it’s good to see that they are tubeless-ready with DT Swiss making both tubeless tape and a 32mm valve for them.
You would need new tyres if you’re going tubeless, though, because the Espoir Sports aren’t tubeless-ready.
Specialized Allez Elite overall impressions
This Specialized is not the lightest bike on test, but putting in the miles on the Allez Elite proves one thing: facts and figures only ever tell part of a story.
The Allez is 500g heavier than the Canyon, but frankly that means diddly in terms of performance. It doesn’t have quite the best kit either, not managing a full raft of Shimano 105 – though I love the alternative Praxis chainset.
A great set of wheels that are tubeless-ready. David Caudery / Immediate Media
If anything, Specialized’s Allez Elite has a sort of Goldilocks quality – it’s ‘just right’ in virtually every area. It’s smooth, it’s easily fast enough, has well-chosen gearing and good wheels.
You want more? Well, it’s also comfortable, dismissive of dismal road surfaces, it’s ready for commuting, great for long days out and with 10 bikes from which to choose – including four with carbon frames – this was the one I returned to again and again.
Specialized Allez Elite geometry (56cm)
The Specialized Allez Elite is our winner of the £1,000 road Bike of the Year 2020. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Seat angle: 73.25 degrees
Head angle: 73.5 degrees
Seat tube: 530mm
Top tube: 564mm
Head tube: 180mm
Fork offset: 47mm
Bottom bracket drop: 76mm
Bottom bracket height: 264mm
With thanks to…
BikeRadar would like to thank 100%, Q36.5, Lazer, Garmin and Facom for their support during our Bike of the Year test.