Specialized Allez DSW SL Comp review£1,500.00

This is not your dad’s Specialized Allez

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Editor’s note: Since posting this review certain 2018 Specialized Allez models have been subject to an important safety recall. Voluntary action from Specialized has seen the company recall approximately 13,000 bikes due to a manufacturing defect in the fork crown of affected bikes. For more information on this recall please visit this article.

The Specialized Allez has been around for years and has always been a safe choice for an entry-level bike. It’s not cutting edge and it’s average rather than great value for money, but you know that if you suggest one to a powerfully built acquaintance, they aren’t going to hunt you down and divorce you from your kneecaps for giving them bad advice.

The Allez DSW is not your garden-variety, trouser-clips-and-helmet-mirror road bike. DSW stands for ‘D’Aluisio Smartweld’, and even a cursory look at this bike’s frame will reveal that there’s something a bit weird going on.

Rather than simply sticking tubes together at their ends in the conventional fashion, DSW relocates the joins to optimise stiffness and weight, indeed Specialized says this is the stiffest alloy bike it’s ever tested. (No, we don’t know how many bikes it’s tested...)

The result is a frame that’s not lumpy in all the usual places, instead sporting visible welded seams that interrupt the main tubes just before they reach the head-tube and bottom bracket area. It’s also one that deviates radically from the usual Allez formula by including an aero-section seat-tube with a matching post borrowed from the bike’s big brother, the Venge.

Specialized Allez DSW SL Comp ride impression

You don’t buy the Allez DSW as your sole road bike, you buy it to race mercilessly
You don’t buy the Allez DSW as your sole road bike, you buy it to race mercilessly

All this is in aid of creating a criterium-racing weapon, and Specialized makes no bones about the single-minded nature of the design. This much is evident in the ride.

This is not a bike for shrinking violets and it would be a mistake to view this as an entry-level race bike

With a long reach of 385mm (horizontal distance from bottom bracket to centre of the head-tube) and just 533mm of stack (vertical distance) on our 54cm test bike, this was always going to be a racy ride. It’s not an unpleasant place to sit, but is an uncompromising one, offering an intimate and detailed account of the road surface beneath you.

It’s not the most relaxing ride and it feels happiest when you’re trying to rip it in half with all the power your quads can muster. So yes, it’s a race bike, and no, we wouldn’t choose it for putting in big miles.

Specialized has taken a piecemeal approach to speccing the Allez DSW, with a smattering of 105 shifty bits, muted but attractive Praxis cranks, and some Axis own-brand brakes that get the job done but are a little flexy for our liking.

Finishing kit is all decent stuff and while the basic wheels do little to sharpen the riding experience, we had no real cause for complaint. This bike is begging for a set of bona fide race wheels, not least in aid of aesthetic harmony.

Specialized could have made this thing black-on-black to hide the welds, but we’re glad it didn’t. It’s a big, orange middle finger to polite cycling society and within its narrow racing remit it works.

This is not a bike for shrinking violets and it would be a mistake to view this as an entry-level race bike. If anything, it’s a single-use device for n+1 aficionados — you don’t buy the Allez DSW as your sole road bike, you buy it to race mercilessly every weekend without worrying about breaking something more expensive.

The only problem is that this spec isn’t really optimised for racing and unlike US customers, we in the UK don’t get the option of buying a frameset. The Allez DSW is a cool piece of design, but the SL Comp spec doesn’t do it justice.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Matthew Allen

Senior Technical Writer, UK
Former bike mechanic, builder of wheels, hub fetishist and lover of shiny things. Likes climbing a lot, but not as good at it as he looks.
  • Age: 27
  • Height: 174cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 53kg / 117lb
  • Waist: 71cm / 28in
  • Chest: 84cm / 33in
  • Discipline: Road, with occasional MTB dalliances
  • Preferred Terrain: Long mountain climbs followed by high-speed descents (that he doesn't get to do nearly often enough), plus scaring himself off-road when he outruns his skill set.
  • Current Bikes: Scott Addict R3 2014, Focus Cayo Disc 2015, Niner RLT 9
  • Dream Bike: Something hideously expensive and custom with external cables and a threaded bottom bracket because screw you bike industry.
  • Beer of Choice: Cider, please. Thistly Cross from Scotland
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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