The Allez name is somewhat iconic in Specialized’s long history as an American bike company. These days the name is kept for its alloy road bikes, adorning a hugely popular range that's helped many a rider to get into the sport of cycling.
Fast-forward to 2016 and the Allez range is bigger than ever with Specialized investing in its aluminium D’Aluisio Smartweld Technology and demonstrating that there are still plenty of reasons to buy a metal bike.
Sitting one model up from the baseline, the Allez E5 Sport doesn’t have the same wonder-tech as the models above it, but the trickle-down effect is obvious.
The 2016 Specialized Allez E5 Sport
The finest ride and handling balance for the money
Pitted against five of its low-priced peers by our Australian testers, the Allez rode into the sunset with BikeRadar's Editor’s Choice award. It took something truly special to stand above the rest, given that there are so many inevitable similarities between bikes at this price. A bike can have the best components, but in the end it’s how it reacts out on the road that counts most.
With this, the Allez proved to offer an unexpected balance of comfort, control and speed. Put its 9.41kg (20.75lb) weight out of your mind for a moment – the Allez rides like a far more expensive bike.
It's available in six frame sizes, and we soon felt at home aboard our 54cm size sample. The head tube up front is long enough to afford an upright position for those who seek it, but it also allows for an aggressively low height if desired. If you have back or neck issues you may need to ask your supplier to swap out the stock 100mm stem for something shorter, but most should find comfort straight out the shop door.
Comfort comes from one’s setup and position on the bike, but also in the ride quality and how the bike absorbs the road beneath. Here, a combination of smart touch points and a on-trend wheel system makes all the difference.
Lots of air volume goes a long way to a smoother ride
While the tyres are marked 25c, the wide 24.5mm width rims balloon the rubber out to an impressive 28mm width. With this, the ride quality is exceptional, enabling the bike to smoothly roll over poorly finished roads and remain glued to the ground. Some might expect this to feel sluggish, but it’s quite the opposite as the bike just hums along, allowing you to focus on a smooth pedaling action.
While it’s the wide rubber that does the most for the ride, the frame doesn’t transmit road rattle like some others can. The aluminium construction delivers a minor amount of compliance, and the slender 27.2mm seatpost is another improvement over the larger diameters used in the often harsh alloy frames of years gone by.
It’s worth mentioning that a bike can be too comfortable, leading it to feel numb and unresponsive to the road. This is an area where aluminium bikes as a breed tend to hold their own, and the Allez certainly provides enough feedback from the road to communicate what the wheels are doing beneath you.
High-speed descents are met with confidence and control, as your weight is kept ideally balanced between the two wheels. For us, it commonly takes a ride or two before we confidently find that balance point in bikes, but the Allez felt a natural companion almost immediately. Again, the tyres play a big part in stopping the bike from skipping through bumpy corners, but the chosen angles go a long way too.
Frame tubes are optimized to resist flex, without unnecessary weight gain
Putting the power down or pointing the Allez up steep climbs serves to remind that the bike is an entry-level model, with the overall weight hindering acceleration. That said, it’s just 300g more than the lightest we tested among its peer group – and obviously rider weight can vary a good deal more than 300g. Flex in the frame is non-issue when on the attack.
With this, the bike has no trouble getting to speed – it just takes more energy and time to do so. While immediate speed isn’t on tap, the comfortable seated position, along with extremely wide range gearing (more on which later) encourages you to sit and spin your way up the nastiest of climbs.
Low-cost spec, but no unacceptable compromises
Subtle curves and tube forming on the Allez E5 frame
As mentioned previously, the Allez E5 Sport’s frame doesn’t offer Specialized’s new SmartWeld technology, which seeks to create a frame that's lighter without sacrificing strength. That's no deal breaker though. Instead, the frame tubes are shaped by hydroforming technology. This high-pressure liquid moulding is most apparent in the top tube, which tapers from wide at front, to especially narrow at the seatpost.
Where higher-end models use a tapered fork steerer tube for increased front-end stiffness, the E5 Sport keeps with a simpler straight version. Peering inside reveals that this tube is aluminium, which is then bonded onto the fork’s carbon legs.
In the past we may have called the threaded bottom bracket shell and external cable routing ‘dated’. However, such features are now proving to be luxuries that, respectively, provide reliable functionality with none of the creaks and other issues that can plague press-fit bottom brackets, and make servicing brakes and gears a lot easier for the novice.
Also, those looking to use the Allez for commuting may be pleased to find fender/mudguard and rack mounts out rear (though to be fair, it’s hard to find an entry-level alloy frame that doesn’t offer such things).
Shimano Sora isn't fancy, but it does what it needs to
Like the other five bikes we tested at the same time, the E5 Sport features Shimano Sora nine-speed gearing. The STI shifters function as expected, although the hoods (levers) are larger than more expensive options from Shimano – smaller handed riders may dislike this, while those who ride wearing 'catchers' mitts' will approve.
Saving a bit of cash, the cassette is a Sunrace item, although it shifts just fine, and the 11-32t gearing range is fantastic – especially matched to the compact 50-34t Shimano Sora crank up front.
With the Allez featuring the widest rims we’ve seen on a road bike at this price, the resulting tyre volume from the ‘Axis’ wheels is noticeably improved. Additionally, such a wide rim makes for a stiff wheel, tracking where it should and with great durability too.
Wrapping those wheels, Specialized provides its own rubber in the form of the 25c Espoir Sport with puncture resistance. While these are slightly weighty, they do shield off those dreaded flats nicely.
Not perfect, but the braking performance of these is leagues ahead of many other bikes in our grouptest
Besides the wheels, the stiff ‘Axis’ brake calipers perform far better than others at this price. While they’re likely straight out of the Tektro brake factory, these offer a few premium features that create a snappier lever feel and more immediate braking power at the wheel. The easily replaced brake pad inserts are a nice touch too.
When it comes to saddles, Specialized is a key name. The 143mm width Toupe specced here shares the same shape as premium offerings of the same name, but with softer padding and more basic construction. The saddle proved comfortable with our testers, though the sharp lip of the cheap foam exterior led to some complaints from our more narrow-stanced riders.
The handlebar is nice addition too, with its ergonomic shape giving a more comfortable perch when riding on the tops.
Conclusion: simply the best in class
Put simply, this is the very best road bike in its category for 2016. The universally great handling is matched by a clever selection in components to create a terrific bike. If you're looking to race, then perhaps consider the Cannondale CAAD8 Sora 7, but otherwise this bike will serve most everyday cyclists very nicely.
Click through the gallery up top for a closer look at this bike.