Handmade in America and shipped to your door: Allied Alfa

Specialized and Orbea alums collaborate on consumer-direct bikes

How Allied make carbon frames

The Allied Alfa is a carbon monocoque bike built in the southern United State of Arkansas — a rare thing in and of itself — by industry veterans who are plowing ahead with a new business model of shipping complete bikes to a customer's door or a bike shop. Built with the latest Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9150 and Dura-Ace carbon clinchers, this 56cm Alfa weighs 6.88kg / 15.17lb.

[Updated Aug 14 with a video from Allied that shows the manufacturing process]

Allied offers custom bikes, too, with custom paint via CyclArt a part of the package. But a stock Alfa, with two choices of head tube heights per size, could well be all any rider needs. The frameset is $2,700 and Shimano Ultegra bikes are $4,000.

While the big companies continue to splinter their road bike offerings — race bike, endurance bike, aero bike, adventure bike, climbing bike, etc. — the Alfa features fairly racy angles but clearance for modern wide rims and up to 28mm tires, plus the option to get a low head tube or a taller head tube. 

The Alfa frame weighs 875g in this 56cm size
The Alfa frame weighs 875g in this 56cm size

Sam Pickman, Allied's lead engineer, came to Allied with 11 years' experience on Specialized's senior engineering team. As a tall rider, Pickman was always a little irritated that many companies segregated handling geometry by head tube length, where agile bikes were short up front and and tall head-tube bikes always had more relaxed handling.

So, the Alfa comes in regular sizes and "+" sizes, which are identical save a 2cm taller head tube.  

At Specialized, Pickman was the lead R&D manager on the current Roubaix with the FutureShock front suspension. He was also responsible for the recent iterations of the Tarmac, among other projects.

So, why Arkansas?

Well, that's where former Orbea USA boss Tony Karklins calls home. He and Pickman are joined at Allied by co-founder Douglas Zell (Intelligentsia Coffee founder), Chris Meertens (former Specialized senior composites engineer), Olivier Lavigueur (11 years composite work at Guru) and Jim Cunningham (40 years premium paint experience and founder of CyclArt, which HIA Velo bought).

The frame is made as a monocoque in Arkansas
The frame is made as a monocoque in Arkansas

"We are putting every single part of the process under one roof in the United States," Karklins told BikeRadar. "The business model couldn’t afford to outsource anything. We are bringing in paint, talent, testing, after-sales service, even our tooling manufacturing is in the state of Arkansas." 

One somewhat unique service that comes with having everything in-house: Allied offers lifetime warranties, and can repair your frame if ever that is needed. 

Old meets new

While most road bikes continue to plow ahead with press-fit bottom brackets (I've had it with press-fit bottom brackets!), Allied opted for a threaded BB on the Alfa. 

"The frame has threaded cups bonded into the frame," Pickman said. "The BB itself threads in just like on an old school steel bike: no adapters, no BS, just threads in."

Goodbye, creaky BBs. And good riddance.

Hate creaking bottom brackets? So does Allied, which chooses to use threaded BSA bottom brackets to eliminate the creaking that often comes with press-in designs
Hate creaking bottom brackets? So does Allied, which chooses to use threaded BSA bottom brackets to eliminate the creaking that often comes with press-in designs

But the frame is no old school steel bike: the 56cm monocoque frame weighs 875g, and can be configured with interchangeable eagle-motif stoppers for the internal routing of mechanical or electric drivetrains.

Allied is using a material called Innegra, which is sandwiched into the carbon layup and which greatly increases resistance to failure. Allied showed me samples of the material, laid up between carbon, and asked me to break them. When a layer of carbon on both sides breaks (which took a little doing), the flexible Innegra held it all together.

Innegra is a polypropylene fiber and the company is based in Greenville, South Carolina.

The seatpost wedge is integrated nicely into the top tube
The seatpost wedge is integrated nicely into the top tube

Shimano recently started using Innegra on some of its carbon PRO components

Speaking of PRO components, this test bike features the new PRO Vibe carbon bar built to house the Di2 junction box at the end of the drop, where you'd normally stick a plug to finish your handlebar tape wrap.

Shimano's PRO Vibe bar and stem feature internal routing for cables and wires
Shimano's PRO Vibe bar and stem feature internal routing for cables and wires

And the new PRO Vibe stem routes the Di2 wire right out through the center, under the face plate that is reverse bolted for a clean frontal profile.

The Di2 battery sits inside the PRO Vibe seatpost.

Shipped to your door

While consumer-direct brands have gained significant traction in Europe — hello, Canyon — they really aren't a major thing yet here in the US. Some of the smaller brands are selling online and having new mobile outfits like Beeline Bikes deliver them built to the door. And the big brands like Trek, Giant and Specialized are experimenting with online bike sales, but those bikes are still picked up in a shop.

Allied has a model more like a small custom builder but on a bigger scale, where you can buy online and then get it right at home, or at a participating shop.

My Alfa showed up in a slightly wider than usual cardboard bike box. And the thing was almost completely built, tuned and ready to ride — just put on the front wheel, insert the seatpost (saddle is already on), adjust the saddle height and go.

I understand that Canyon ships their bikes similarly, but I haven't yet seen a Canyon box. I wish all test bikes came so completely built!

Allied's wide box allows for a fully assembled cockpit, so you just have to pull out the bike and put on the front wheel and seatpost. Easy
Allied's wide box allows for a fully assembled cockpit, so you just have to pull out the bike and put on the front wheel and seatpost. Easy

I will be testing and reviewing this bike over the coming weeks, and reviewing the Shimano Dura-Ace 9150 Di2 group as well. Click through the gallery above for a closer look.

Stay tuned for a review on the Allied Alfa
Stay tuned for a review on the Allied Alfa

Ben Delaney

US Editor-in-Chief
Ben has been writing about bikes since 2000, covering everything from the Tour de France to Asian manufacturing to kids' bikes. The former editor-in-chief of VeloNews, he began racing in college while getting a journalism degree at the University of New Mexico. Based in the cycling-crazed city of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two kids, Ben enjoys riding most every day.
  • Discipline: Road (paved or otherwise), cyclocross and sometimes mountain. His tri-curious phase seems to have passed, thankfully
  • Preferred Terrain: Quiet mountain roads leading to places unknown
  • Current Bikes: Scott Foil Team Issue, Specialized S-Works Tarmac, Priority Eight city bike... and a constant rotation of test bikes
  • Dream Bike: A BMC Teammachine SLR01 with disc brakes and clearance for 30mm tires (doesn't yet exist)
  • Beer of Choice: Saison Dupont
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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