Last Sunday was the first weekend day that felt like spring to me, so I filled a couple of big bottles, put on some shiny new kit and headed out on the Specialized Allez Comp for my first 100-miler of the year. After a few hours on the back roads of Wiltshire and Berkshire, I came home thinking that this is a really neat, value-packed bike that deserves some serious consideration.
That wasn't the first time I rode the Allez Comp. Far from it. The bike arrived at road.cc way back before Christmas. Since then, I've got loads of miles in on it, and I've been consistently impressed. Here's why...
Dependable frame and fork
The Comp is made from Specialized's E5 aluminium alloy and the geometry is borrowed from the Tarmac series – it's the same as you'll find on the pro-level Tarmac SL3. Our review bike is the 58cm model and it's pretty rangy with a 582mm top tube and 44cm-wide bar.
The head tube (which is something I always feel the need to comment on; I'm obsessed) is 205mm and you get a 20mm cone spacer on top. It's the same as you'll find on the SL3, but when Specialized introduced their Tarmac SL4 full-on race machine they reduced the head tube length of the 58cm model to 19cm.
A Trek 2300 (£1,200) with a 586mm effective top tube comes with a 210mm head tube, and a Giant Defy 1 (£995) with a 575mm top tube has a 20.5 head tube – so Specialized are in step with other mainstream brands here.
When I first got on the Allez Comp, I felt that the front end was a little high for my taste. A few rides down the line, though, and I was perfectly happy and comfortable. Even on the flat road from Avebury to Devizes where the wind's always in your face – you must know it; you go past Bishops Cannings on your left – the position was low enough to slip along efficiently.
The welds are neatly done and the top tube bows distinctively. I don't reckon that makes a blind bit of difference to the performance but it looks pretty good. The bottom bracket is an outboard BSA type while the head tube is tapered, housing a standard 1 1/8in upper bearing and a 1 1/2in lower one. None of the other Allez bikes get this feature – they're all straight 1 1/8in. The fork that plugs in there comes with an alloy steerer and crown and carbon blades.
Without riding them all back to back I couldn't say for sure whether the tapered head tube provides extra front end rigidity but I can say that the Allez Comp is plenty stiff enough.
There's a super-fast descent by Broad Hinton White Horse. It's a left-hander we call Never Ending Corner because it goes on for a spookily long time. You think it's going to end... but it carries on. And then you have to throw the bike immediately into a right at 40mph+ without touching the brakes. Anyway, the Allez Comp's front end stayed perfectly well controlled down there and that's good enough for me.
Specialized say the Allez bikes have the same torsional stiffness as their Tarmac SL3 and I find that easy enough to believe. Fire as much power as you can muster through the cranks and everything stays aligned. The frame isn't as light as the higher-level road bike frames in the Specialized range, obviously – you're going to save weight if you jump to one of the carbon-framed Tarmac models – but the Allez Comp provides a performance that's just as dependable.
Super-value Shimano 105 groupset
The Allez Comp comes fitted with a Shimano 105 groupset that's hard to beat in terms of value for money. Manufacturers will often sling on a couple of 105 components and then save cash by fitting some downgraded kit too. Here, though, you get 105 shifters, brake callipers, mechs, chainset and cassette... that's pretty much a full house.
105 is arguably Shimano's best value groupset. Well, I say that; on another day I might argue that Tiagra is Shimano's best value groupset. Either way, you get a lot of performance for your money here.
What's so good? The shifters are really comfortable and flicking across the 10-speed cassette couldn't be easier whether you're on the hoods or the drops. I like the fact that the gear cables run underneath the bar tape to keep the front end tidy too. That's not the case with Tiagra or below.
Shimano do braking well and the 105 callipers provide a whole load of power. Shimano moved the brake lever pivot and the brake arch pivot on the calliper last year to bring them into line with Dura-Ace and Ultegra and the brakes now work better than ever.
As you'll know, there's that big hill coming down into Marlborough with a mini roundabout at the bottom. You don't want to brake unless you have to, but you can't see if there's any traffic coming until the last second. Well, these brakes give you the confidence to lay off the levers safe in the knowledge that you can stop in time if necessary. That's what counts in the real world.
Also, if you just need to scrub off a little bit of speed, like when you're coming down that twisty Stoke Hill just outside Erlestoke (the golf course side, not the prison side), the feel is good. Modulation through your trigger fingers is just right.
Speaking of Stoke Hill – it's the one that goes up to Salisbury Plain; only use old tyres if you're thinking of going over to West Lavington because the road isn't properly surfaced and it'll cut up the rubber – the compact 50/34T chainset matched up to the 11-28T cassette should get you up there without too much cursing. Be careful on the really steep bit under the trees if it's been raining, though, because any tyres can slip on that slime when you're riding out of the saddle.
There's really not a lot to moan about when it comes to Shimano 105. It's a bit vanilla, I guess. A bit like you'll find on a million other bikes out there... but that's because the performance is so solid and that has to be good news.
Specialized's finishing kit is well thought out
Specialized have a concept: smoother is faster. They've been using this phrase for ages. The idea is that if your bike is smooth you'll have more control, less fatigue, higher speeds, and you'll enjoy yourself more. It makes sense.
So, for example, the Allez Comp comes with a 27.2mm diameter alloy seatpost that flexes a touch more than a wider one to help tame road buzz. The skinny seatstays are designed to do a same job. Of course, it's virtually impossible to isolate the influence of each of these factors out on the road, but the Allez Comp is certainly a pleasantly comfortable bike to ride.
It's easier to feel the difference that the Body Geometry Riva Road saddle makes. It has a groove down the centre and a hole in the middle to reduce pressure on your 'sensitive arteries' (that's Specialized's phrase) – the ones that run to your... I think the medical term is 'tackle'.
It's fairly deeply padded and the shell flexes enough to handle any big hits that come your way. I felt comfortable on this saddle all day long during my big ride in the spring sunshine, even on that rough road that cuts through Savernake Forest.
Specialized's S-Wrap bar tape comes with deep gel padding that disperses any vibrations that get through the carbon-bladed fork. Okay, you could add decent bar tape to any bike for £10 or £15 but it's good to have it there from the start. I've done a whole bunch of rides of three hours or more on the Allez Comp and I've never felt uncomfortable.
Okay, so what haven't I covered? Ah yeah, the wheels. The Allez Comp rolls on DT-Axis 2.0 wheels which aren't available aftermarket, they only come as original equipment on complete bikes.
They're okay. They're not a highlight, but they're okay. They're still round and true, all the spokes are still intact and the bearings are running nice and smooth. Those bearings are of the cup and cone variety, by the way, so it's easy to open them up and give them a clean and regreasing as long as you have a couple of skinny 17mm spanners.
The tyres are Specialized's own Espoir Sports which aren't the lightest ever but they're grippy and the Blackbelt X2 puncture resistant belt has done its job so far in that I've not had to stand on the roadside changing tubes.
The only real negative in the Specialized's performance is that it's a tad overweight. Our 58cm test model hit the road.cc scales at 9.26kg (20.4lb) when there are plenty of sub-9kg bikes out there at this price; some a fair chunk under.
Of course, weight isn't the most important thing in the world but the Allez Comp would be a little quicker up the side of Milk Hill (the highest point in Wiltshire, dontcha know; although, to be fair, that's not saying much) if it lost half a kilo. It would be a touch quicker to react when you're sprinting for signs. It's not sluggish by any means and the frame stiffness helps with responsiveness, but a little lighter would be a bonus.
That said, what we've got here is a tough, very capable road bike that's going to be a faithful ride companion for years to come. The frame and fork are solid, the components are high quality, and the overall performance is strong. And that's why I came home thinking that the Allez Comp deserves some serious consideration.
Reliable, value-packed road bike that puts in a strong performance across the board. Certainly one to consider seriously at this price
road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized Allez Comp
Size tested: 58cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
The frame is what Specialized call E5 aluminium whereas the rest of the Allez range are made from A1 aluminium. However, that doesn't mean much because Specialized don't make public what actually goes into those alloys.
The fork has an alloy steerer and crown and carbon blades.
HEADSET 1-1/8" upper and 1-1/2" lower Cr-Mo cartridge bearings integrated, w/ headset, 20mm cone spacer, w/ 20mm of spacers
STEM Specialized EliteSet, 3D forged alloy, 12-degree, 4-position adjustable, 4-bolt, 31.8mm clamp
HANDLEBARS New Specialized Tarmac Comp, alloy
TAPE Specialized S-Wrap, w/ gel
FRONT BRAKE Shimano 105
REAR BRAKE Shimano 105
FRONT DERAILLEUR Shimano 105
REAR DERAILLEUR Shimano 105
SHIFT LEVERS Shimano 105 STI, 10-speed
CASSETTE Shimano 105, 10-speed, 11-28t
CHAIN New Shimano Tiagra 10-speed
CRANKSET Shimano 105 compact
BOTTOM BRACKET OS integrated, sealed bearings
PEDALS Nylon flat test ride, loose ball, w/ reflectors
FRONT WHEEL DT Axis 2.0
REAR WHEEL DT Axis 2.0
FRONT TYRE Specialized Espoir Sport w/ double BlackBelt, 60 TPI, wire bead, 700x23c
REAR TYRE Specialized Espoir Sport w/ double BlackBelt, 60 TPI, wire bead, 700x23c
INNER TUBES Lightweight, presta
SADDLE Body Geometry Riva Road
SEATPOST New Specialized Sport, alloy, 27.2mm
SEAT BINDER Alloy, 31.8mm
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
The Allez range is Specialized's entry-level road bike range using aluminium frames and race-type geometry.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Pretty smooth welds, neat paint work... all good
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
I found it a bit rangy compared to other 58cm bikes - check out Specialized's geometry charts.
Riding the bike
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? If I was in the market for a £1,200 road bike, yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yup
About the tester
Age: 41 Height: 190cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.