Specialized Smartweld Allez Elite 2016 review£1,000.00

Updated alloy take on the Tarmac

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Specialized considers the Allez the budget version of its multi-Grand Tour-winning Tarmac. But rather than just making an alloy copy of that race-ready carbon rig, the designers at Spesh’s California HQ have taken the Tarmac as the basis and tweaked it to make it more friendly for the everyday rider.

The frame angles have been retained but 15mm has been added to the stack while keeping the reach the same. This is still a reasonably aggressive riding position, but means there’s a reduced risk of lower back pain in the less flexible cyclist.

The designers have also added 4mm to the wheelbase, which is barely noticeable but should make things a little more stable. In practice, the tried-and-trusted Tarmac shape is already a winner when it comes to the trade-off between nimbleness and stability.

The frame angles are identical to the Tarmac

Our Allez felt powerful and purposeful on the road, and was at its best over rolling terrain. Our tester even managed to beat one of his segment PBs over a four-mile stretch by nearly half a minute. This Allez lives up to its name and really does go, responding  when you put all your power through the pedals.

It’s no mug on the hills, either. The rock-solid chassis feels responsive, with the latest Tiagra’s shifting keen to match it.

On longer, dragging climbs the middleweight wheel and tyre pairing does, however, feel a little ponderous, as if you’re working against the wheels, rather than them working with you. The Axis Classics aren’t bad wheels – they’re well constructed with smooth-running hubs – but this frameset deserves better.

The Axis name also adorns the Allez’s brakes. These come with decent quality cartridge pads and provide ample power, but the feel at the levers is a bit wooden, and on fast, twisty descents that slightly on-off feel makes them hard to judge at times.

Specialized's finishing kit is good stuff

But it’s the frame that’s the star. Specialized’s patented Smartweld features joints with larger welded areas, which creates more consistent welds. Combined with the hydroformed head-tube, top-tube and down-tube it also allows more extreme butting – the tapering of wall thicknesses through the length of a tube.

Related: Horse for the Course – Tarmac Pro Disc for Rocky Mtn Ntl Park

This is a win for both engineer and rider, as the welds are stronger and more regular, plus the frame is lighter. Specialized hasn’t skimped on the quality of the alloy: the Allez’s E5 blend was used on pro-level bikes not many moons ago, and Specialized says it’s stronger and lighter than its A1 alloy, offering ‘the best weight and ride quality’.

This also translates to very respectable levels of comfort. Specialized’s contact points help, with a well-shaped bar and thick padded bar tape and the excellent Toupe Sport saddle.

It’s no Roubaix-style road buzz-smotherer, and it would be improved with wider, more supple rubber, but we had no issues with the ride of the Allez even on the lottery of British roads we tested it on.

It offers fine handling and a rigid yet smooth ride – while being tough enough to take day-to-day knocks, going a long way to prove that alloy has plenty to offer the price-conscious rider. With a few weight-saving and performance upgrades the Elite would be a real force to be reckoned with.

Sub-£1,000 road bike grouptest

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

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