Using geometry from Specialized’s high-end range, the aluminium Allez retails in Australia for just $2,800 – as a complete bike! How did it come together in the workshop?
The build report for the Specialized Allez is completely different to the rest of the bikes in this issue. This is the only alloy bike and uses semi-integrated cables instead of completely internal, coupled with a few other features.
An aluminium frame creates an entirely different way of a bike being put together; designers cannot simply mould parts into a shape that they’ve dreamed up using CAD software the way they can with carbon-fibre.
It’s a little less refined in a lot of ways, as the design needs to accommodate for a little more material in certain areas.
The headset and bottom bracket require a little more ‘work’ than on the carbon equivalent bikes. But Specialized has managed to find solutions to the problem using what it has called ‘Smartweld’ technology.
As with all our test bikes since 2007, the Specialized Allez was put on the flex test jig…
Benefits (and limitations) of ‘Smartweld’
The frame itself is finished adequately. There’s a lot of fuss about the welding concepts, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is neat. There appears to be a second pass weld (simply to take some of the edges off and present a smoother finish) but it does look a little funky.
Not perfectly refined, but not anything to be concerned about.
Often, it’s best to see some bead in the finish or else the strength of the frame may be compromised.
It seems to me that the focus is on ensuring strong frames over aesthetics.
The Smartweld design moves the welds from the joins of the frame to further down to avoid creating weak points. It does take a little bit of time to get used to the weld position, especially since they are large; once you understand what Specialized is striving for (having a stronger frame) you can appreciate it even more.
The bottom bracket uses the same technology and is in fact one pressed unit, and this is one of the first discussion points about the build process.
The design limits where the cables can enter and exit the frame so the compromise for the derailleurs is significant. It is not a pretty solution and perhaps external cables would have been worth considering.
Paired with a mechanical groupset, this can leave the front of the bike a little cluttered with cables. Out of the box, the cables are a little long. Once shortened to accommodate the fit of the rider, they will look neater. The cables have to be steered out of the down tube and around the bottom bracket shell.
Again, the logical solution is for full external cabling because the compromise looks… ah, like a mistake.
With the outer cables required to achieve the requisite bend, it isn’t pretty. And there is a risk of them being set up poorly and getting messed up in the chainrings.
This design allows for relatively smooth shifting which is great but the look under the bike is not the cleanest (it also makes using a front wheel held workstand tricky).
Ah, the true solution is eTap… but that’s a bit expensive.
The Allez was easily the cheapest of the test bikes in #RIDE75.
Build to resist errant noise
There are lots of issues lately in workshops everywhere with bottom brackets creaking so it’s great to see a true BB30 set-up used on this bike.
The large aluminium shell offers a harder surface with less room for error with the tolerances of production (ie. less likely to creak with wear over time).
Specialized has utilised a press-fit screw-in BB30 from Praxxis, again a nice touch which is going to lessen the risk of any potential noises down the line.
The other part of the bike using a press-in is the headset; I didn’t actually remove it for the purpose of this build report because it was an extremely tight fit and there was a significant chance that it would damage the bearings.
The headset functions well but it is nowhere near the quality of an integrated bearing arrangement that can be more easily replaced. From experience these are a little bit of a nuisance to replace so, if you are one to ride in the rain a lot, make sure you get the headset cleaned regularly and that no water is sitting in there long-term.
Specialized played a little trick by supplying a test bike with wheels that were $1,000 more expensive than the price of the entire bike as it’s sold in Australia… so the ride characteristics were skewed from what you’d experience with the actual product as you’ll find it in shops.
That luscious paint…
The quality of the paint is amazing although it’s difficult to capture the variations in colour in photos. In the workshop it was obvious that beyond the actual colour (outstanding) the finish is of a reasonable standard but this bike was also used before it arrived at RIDE.
This means that there were some scars in the finish that come from… well, using a bike.
These things are going to happen and only a raw aluminium finish will negate this. Just be aware that caution is required to avoid damaging what is a stunning looking product.
Wheels worth more than the bike
Although not a stock item for the bike as it’s sold in shops, the brand new Roval CLX 50 wheels were installed on the Allez test bike. The latest addition to Specialized’s wheel line transforms the bike aesthetically and functionally.
Firstly the bike looks amazing with a deeper dish wheel, as a bike that is great for criterium racing especially with thick tubing the bigger wheels look great.
The functionality of the CLX 50 is amazing; with the use of Ceramic Speed bearings the wheels roll so well it’s worth spending extra… but “replacement” wheels (rather than stock items) means that this test isn’t indicative of the catalogue product. This is a shame because it is created to satisfy market demand for an affordable bike but we didn’t get to sample that.
It’s worth referencing that this new rim design offers a 21.7mm internal thickness which is on trend with the way most rims are going.
For the most part the Specialized Allez is built as well as it can be with the limitations of Smart Weld technology. Little details like the cable routing at the base of the down tube and press-in headset are not the neatest but the nature of the design means that compromises have to be made. My suggestion for the future would be external cables.