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.
Specialized is one of cycling’s big hitters, with a history dating back to the 1970s and, more recently, great success in the world’s biggest bike races. It has also achieved a level of ubiquitousness among Britain’s cycling fraternity.
This is because it produces the sort of bikes people want and at affordable prices. The E5 is the entry point for Specialized’s Allez range of aluminium road bikes and it looks the business, with a simple but strikingly vivid red paint job that wouldn’t be out of place on a bike costing much more.
It weighs 9.62kg and was a bike that turned a lot of heads during testing, but can that aesthetic appeal translate to an equally rewarding cycling experience?
The Allez E5 comes with Shimano Claris, which does its usual tickety-boo gear-shifting work. Enough said. The brakes are unbranded Tektro units, but Specialized has gone for cartridge brake pads and you can feel the difference compared with non-cartridge units.
The Allez has a bottom bracket with external bearings, which is designed to increase stiffness while keeping the weight down. The compact 50/34 FSA chainset is paired with an 11-32 cassette, which offers a wide range of gears — covering climbing and sprinting — with the only penalty being the largish jumps between gears that the eight-speed set up creates.
The wheels and tyres are another area where the Allez scores highly. The Axis Sport rims aren’t as wide as you’ll find on today’s higher-end road bikes, but they still ensure that Specialized’s 25mm Espoir Sport tyres blow up to a shade over 26mm, and their suppleness and grip proved reassuring during some icy sub-zero rides.
Their Blackbelt puncture-protection layer should keep them performing well in the long term too. The Allez’s contact points are equally impressive, with a quality Toupé Sport cut-out saddle and Specialized’s own bar and bar tape offering both control and comfort.
So, the portents were all very good even before clipping in. And the Allez did not disappoint. Steepish frame angles and a shortish wheelbase keep the handling pin-sharp, though the head-tube isn’t so short that your position is overly aggressive. But the feel of the Allez is very much on the racier side, with a head-tube 2cm shorter than the otherwise similar Giant Contend 2 that was also on test.
The wheel and tyre combo keeps things smooth whatever the surface and the bike just purrs along merrily, and you never feel beaten up whatever the surface, thanks to the quality frame, saddle and slim 27.2mm seatpost.
When you do need to stop in a hurry, the braking is good, offering sufficient power and control. Which is handy, as the Allez’s handling means it’s a treat for descending on, thanks to its poise, control and the amount of feedback it offers.
Specialized has delivered a polished machine with a great frame and a fine, confidence-inspiring ride. It may not fly up hills but its weight makes it a decent climber. However, if you’re looking for your first road bike for fun and fast days out, backed up with more comfort than you might expect, or maybe you want something enjoyable and exciting to train on, this is one of the best bikes available at the price.