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If you’re after an all-round road bike that can handle long, fast rides at the weekend and maybe hack it on the daily commute too, the Specialized Allez could be the model for you.
Specialized’s Allez range has been around for donkey’s years. Well, kind of. The name has. The bikes have changed massively, obviously, although they’ve always offered a sound ride, dependable performance and some of the best value for money out there. This incarnation lives up to those standards – it’s a dependable all-rounder without an obvious weakness. At £500 for the entry-level model, you really can’t go wrong here.
The Allez is made from Specialized’s A1 Premium Aluminium and comes with a similar distinctively bowed top tube design to the one you’ll find on the high-end carbon Tarmac bikes. It drops down steeply along its length to avoid any uncomfortable encounters if you need to get your feet down to the road in a hurry when you hit a red light.
The down tube is meaty enough to provide plenty of torsional rigidity through the centre section while the skinny seatstays come equipped with eyelets for attaching a rear rack if you want to go down the ride-to-work route. The welding is neatly done and the paintwork is good – you get a high-quality finish here. It’s not the world’s most stunning frame, perhaps, but it’s well made, solid and pretty impressive on a 500 quid bike, as is the carbon-bladed fork.
Specialized are big on rider comfort – it’s something of a brand obsession. They figure that a comfortable rider is a happy rider, and a happy rider will get on their bike more – and you can’t fault that logic. And if you ever meet the guys from Specialized, they’ll always tell you how comfort and performance are inextricably linked. So, for example, they’ll point out that Fabian Cancellara is able to ride so fast across the cobbles on one of their comfort-inspired Roubaix bikes because he’s isolated from the jarring of the road. That and the fact that the bloke’s clearly some sort of Swiss monster.
Anyway, as far as comfort and the Allez go, the chainstays provide a little give over rough road surfaces while the carbon fork legs help to dampen out vibration at the front end. The Body Geometry Rival saddle is a winner too. There’s enough flex in the hull to take the sting out of the occasional pothole while a shallow channel down the centre relieves the pressure to keep you sitting pretty even on long rides. Saddles are a personal thing – what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another – but most riders we know get on fine with this design which splits the difference between squishy and firm.
The ride position isn’t too extreme either. Sure, the Allez is built to a racy geometry but the reach is reasonable and the head tube isn’t ridiculously low. On our 56cm model, for example, the head tube is 18cm tall compared to 17cm on a Tarmac race bikes and 19cm a Roubaix. You get a good, healthy stack of headset spacers below the stem too. In other words, it’s a position you can sit and pedal in comfortably as long as you’ve got half-decent mobility in your lower back, or you can whip out a couple of spacers, chop the fork’s steerer tube down a touch and go for a more aggressive setup.
Specialized have added several features that should keep you rolling without interruption. The tyres, for instance, come with Flak Jacket protection – a tough aramid belt that lives below the tread to help prevent punctures. It’s not as tough as Specialized’s Armadillo puncture protection system, but it’s lighter and does a pretty good job. The wheels – Alex S500 aluminium rims on forged aluminium hubs – are built strong with 32 spokes front and rear to spread the load. They’re not light but they’ll stand up well to everyday use and abuse without complaint.
The entry-level Shimano 2300 drivetrain runs as smoothly and reliably as far more costly setups, the double chainset (52/39T) and 8-speed cassette (12-25T) providing a spread of gears that’ll get you up most climbs without too much trouble. That said, we reckon a compact (50/34T) would be a better option, offering lower ratios on a bike that’s likely to appeal to less experienced riders – but you can’t have everything, we guess.
The only thing that really bugs us about the 2300 kit is the little thumb shifter that sits on the inside of the lever body. It’s fine to use when you’re riding on the hoods but getting at it when you’re down on the drops… no chance. It’s the same on Shimano’s next-level-up Sora too, so you have to pay a lot more for a Tiagra-equipped bike if you want a system that’s significantly better.
It’s not the biggest gripe ever, though, and it’s common to pretty much every road bike at this price. Overall, the Allez’s ride is actually really enjoyable. As we said before, it’s a comfortable bike, and that’s worth more than a whole heap of glitzy parts and fancy tube shaping. You’ll be perfectly happy as you eat up the miles on a long weekend ride. And at 9.8kg (21.6lb) it’s a decent weight too, which makes those hills just a touch more manageable. Okay, it’s nothing to shout about compared to a typical £800 bike’s weight, say, but comparing like with like, acceleration is reasonably snappy when you want to get a shift on. Plus if you wanted to you could probably drop a fair chunk of weight by replacing the wheels and still come ahead.
The Allez is also a stable, planted ride. It won’t skip about over iffy sections of Tarmac and it holds its line through quick, fast corners. Just as important, the dual pivot brakes will stop you reliably when called into action. They lose out surprisingly little to mid-range options in terms of power and modulation. Pay more and you’ll get better – that’s usually the way it goes – but these are dependable enough, giving you the assurance you need to cut loose on the descents without fear of disaster.
All in all, the Allez is a good road bike for the money. It’ll handle all sorts of road riding but it’s at its best when you hit the open road. If you want a sporty machine that’s fast, reliable and capable of helping you rack up the miles, take a good look.
Comfortable, stable all-round road bike that's at its best getting in the big miles on the open road
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Make and model: Specialized Allez Double
Size tested: Red
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame Specialized Allez A1 Premium aluminum, fully manipulated tubing, smooth weld compact race design, integrated headset
Fork Allez carbon, carbon fiber legs, aluminum crown and steerer
Headset Cage bearings integrated
Stem Alloy, CP bolt, 31.8mm
Handlebars Specialized Elite, 6061 aluminum, short drop, 31.8mm
Brake callipers Light dual pivot brake, Teflon pivots, forged alloy
Shift/brake levers Shimano 2300 STI, Flight Deck compatible
Mechs Shimano 2300
Cassette Shimano HG-50, 8-speed, 12-25T
Chain KMC Z-51
Chainset Shimano 2300 (52/59T)
Bottom bracket Cromo axle, 68mm x 113mm
Pedals Silver cage/black body, w/ black toe clips and strap
Rims Alex S500, aluminum, sleeve joint, CNC machined sidewalls
Hubs Forged aluminum
Spokes Stainless 14g
Tyres Specialized Mondo Sport, 700x23c, wire bead, 60TPI, w/ Flak Jacket protection
Saddle Body Geometry Rival road, w/ steel rails
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?
Specialized say, "Borrowing technology from the World Championship winning Tarmac, the Allez utilizes a bowed top tube, oversized alloy construction and performance components to deliver a fast and efficient ride that looks and feels like a top-end racing bike, without the hefty pricetag."
Let's be honest, it doesn't feel like a top-end racing bike, but it does feel like a good entry-level road bike.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The frame isn't the lightest ever but it's well made – the welds are neat and the paintjob is good.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is Specialized's A1 Premium aluminium.
The fork is carbon bladed while the dropouts, crown and steerer are alloy.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It's a fairly typical road bike geometry with a mid-height front end. It'll feel low and stretched if you're coming from a mountain bike, but in road bike terms it's not too extreme.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, see the body of the review. Specialized focus on comfort and it shows in the Allez's ride.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too felxible?
Yes, no worries on that front. They've not gone crazy trying to shave off the grams so it's stiff enough. 32 spokes in each wheel mean they don't flex about a whole lot either.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Power transfer is fine. As ever on a bike of this price, winding it up to speed takes noticeably longer than with a lightweight, and climbs are a little more demanding, but once you get a bit of pace going it bowls along happily
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's stable and nothing shakes it off its line. Combine that with a shed-load of comfort and this is a bike you feel happy to sit on and pedal all day. It lacks a bit of spark compared to a bike costing a couple of hundred pounds more, but against its immediate rivals it's right up there among the best as an all-round package.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? No – but that's because I have expensive tastes!
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? To someone buying a first road bike
Age: 39 Height: 190cm Weight: 74kg
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, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, 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 Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.