Specialized’s Allez goes back a long way, to 1981. So it’s fair to say that the Allez deserves the epithet ‘venerable’. And for a bike model to still be going strong after nearly 40 years it really has to have something — a lot — going for it. And Specialized’s new Allez does have oodles in its favour.
- The Specialized Allez Elite is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub page.
Originally a lugged steel road machine with down-tube shifters, the Allez has long been Specialized’s entry into its world of aluminium road bikes.
For much of the last decade the frame has been instantly recognisable by its curved top tube, under which the rear brake cable hung forlornly like a washing line. It was always a great ride, though, with pretty aggressive geometry and fast, accurate, spot-on handling.
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For 2018, however, Specialized’s designers gave it some major surgery and it reappeared with a lighter, more modern-looking frame with a straight top tube, dramatically dropped seatstays and unobtrusive internal cable routing.
Those are all immediately apparent, but other, more crucial changes, were less visible but equally welcome, changing its character for greater all-round appeal.
Specialized managed to trim around 450g from the frameset, which was an impressive five percent. This may not have improved performance significantly — after all, aero trumps weight pretty much all the time — but with a weight dipping under 9kg, the Allez Elite was one of the lightest road bikes available at this price unless you were prepared to purchase online. And it’s always nice to shed a little weight.
Other changes also upped its comfort and versatility; there were new rear rack mounts and neat mudguard fittings, as well as clearance for full-length fenders. And while the Specialized tyres may have said 25mm on their sidewalls, they ballooned up to a comfort-boosting 28mm on the wide DT Swiss rims.
The most significant, though not immediately apparent change was to the Allez’s geometry. Before 2018 this echoed that of Specialized’s Tarmac bikes and their Tour de France-winning geometry, except the Allez’s head tube was even shorter than the Tarmac’s — showing just how aggressive the Allez’s geometry was.
Specialized Allez 2019
Today’s Allez (in 56cm) has a 1cm taller head tube, 8mm longer seatstays and a wheelbase stretched by 6mm. These aren’t huge differences, and the frame angles are still pretty steep (73.5-degree head-tube, 73.25-degree seat-tube) while the top tube is a mere 1mm shorter.
But the resulting stack figure is 22mm higher and the reach is 7mm shorter than before, enough to relax the ride slightly, taking off the aggressive edge and giving it more the feel of a very lively, very comfortable all-rounder, in the territory of Giant’s similar Contend SL1.
The kit is based around the new 7000 series Shimano 105, and while there’s a step down to the Tektro brakes, which don’t quite match the performance of the 105s, the Praxis chainset has a great industrial look, a 105-equalling performance and comes with a threaded bottom bracket.
Another improvement for the non-competitive rider is the wider gear range, with the cassette now featuring a knee-friendly 32t bottom sprocket. Hit the hills and this will be your very best friend, allowing you to stay seated longer and spin with a knee-friendly action.
But if you do want to get out the saddle and hammer it, the low-weight, still sub-metre wheelbase and compact rear end mean excellent handling and power transfer. It’s not quite as exciting a descender as before, but is stable, supremely surefooted and easy to control.
Specialized Allez Elite ride impressions
The marginally more upright ride is perfect for long days out, commuting and big training miles. And if you’re looking for a year-round trainer the mudguard-friendly Allez would fill that brief superbly.
Step on the gas, though, and the handling is still pleasingly sharp and taut, the wider tyres giving excellent grip as well as improved comfort.
For 2019, Specialized’s Allez Elite has gained a fantastic, brand-spanking-new ‘gloss light blue and rocket red’ paintjob, but the price has snuck its way up to £1,050, compared with £1,000 for Cannondale’s largely 105-equipped CAAD Optimo and the Giant Contend SL1.
The price rise is unwelcome, but we’ll be surprised if other brands don’t follow suit. Trek’s equivalent, the 105-equipped Domane AL5 already costs £1,100.
I’d argue though that this is the still best circa-£1,000 all-rounder available from a major brand and bricks-and-mortar bike shop, perhaps nudging oh-so-slightly ahead of Giant’s excellent Contend SL1. You can get slightly better value bikes from Canyon and Rose, but you have to be confident about buying online and setting them up.
Overall, it’s very hard to fault the new incarnation of Specialized’s Allez Elite. It’s now a more practical all-round machine than wannabe race bike, making it suitable for a wider range of riders.
Great looks, fine performance and excellent versatility. Allez, allez, allez!
Specialized Allez Elite specifications
- Sizes (*tested): 49, 52, 54, 56*, 58, 61cm
- Weight: 8.87kg
- Frame: E5 Premium aluminium
- Fork: FACT full carbon
- Chainset: Praxis Alba 50/34
- Bottom bracket: Praxis
- Cassette: Shimano 105 11-32
- Chain: KMC X11EL
- Derailleurs: Shimano 105
- Shifters: Shimano 105
- Wheelset: DT R460, sealed cartridge hubs
- Tyres: Specialized Espoir Sport, 25mm
- Wheel Weight: 1.3kg (f), 1.85kg (r)
- Stem: Specialized, 3D forged alloy
- Bar: Specialized Shallow Drop, 6061
- Headset: Specialized
- Saddle: Body Geometry Toupé Sport
- Seatpost: Alloy, 2-bolt clamp
- Brakes: Tektro Axis caliper
Specialized Allez Elite geometry
- Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
- Head angle: 72.5 degrees
- Chainstay: 42cm
- Seat tube: 48.5cm
- Top tube: 55.5cm
- Head tube: 18cm
- Fork offset: 4.75cm
- Trail: 5.7cm
- Bottom bracket drop: 7.6cm
- Wheelbase: 1,000mm
- Stack: 59.6cm
- Reach: 38.5cm