Forget 'entry level' or 'beginner's bike' tags, regardless of its price the Specialized Allez E5 Sport is an absolutely cracking race bike offering speed, composed handling and massive amounts of comfort for those rides when you want to go fast and long.
After 215km of Barry's Ball Buster audax I stepped off the Allez with the contented feeling of a good day's training in the legs but with no pain or discomfort anywhere else. Not bad from a bike with a full racing geometry and a body that's not used to spending eight hours saddle bound.
I'd only taken the Allez out for a two hour spin about five days before but everything just felt right. The position, the way it handled; everything about the bike felt like I'd been riding it for thousands and thousands of miles.
I must admit I did change the saddle to an old fave and put some lighter wheels on just to knock the weight down a touch (the Superstar Components Pave 28's I tested back in 2015) but the Allez performed brilliantly throughout the day once again quashing that old fashioned idea of an aluminium alloy frame giving a harsh ride.
The handling is great, very controlled and neutral for those who maybe aren't maybe the most confident descenders but thanks to the amount of feedback through the frame and fork from where tyres meet tarmac you'll soon grow in confidence and ability.
That's the great thing about this bike, it kind of works with you. You can grow with it in terms of skill and confidence but even if you are a very experienced rider you can still climb aboard and be excited thanks to how responsive the Allez is. Okay the front end isn't as razor sharp in the really high speed, technical bends as some carbon fibre, mega money speed machines but unless you're riding them side by side you'll be hard pushed to notice.
The stack to reach ratio of this 54cm Allez is 1.41, that is race bike territory (endurance bikes normally come in around the 1.55 mark) and really allows you to get long and low into the drops for when you really want to get a move on.
Your centre of gravity just feels right and the Allez E5 Sport is a very flickable machine whether that is on a descent or at slower speeds through a town centre negotiating traffic and filtering.
The Allez is a stiff little thing too with hard acceleration or climbing not highlighting any major flex issues around the bottom bracket or headtube areas. At 9.44kg (20.8lb) the Allez is no lightweight but its ride quality belies its numbers on the scales.
Read more: 17 of the best 2017 road bikes under £1,000 — top choices for Cycle To Work scheme buyers
Frame and Fork
Specialized have always had their own branding for their different aluminium tubing and it's no different here. The E5 Premium is likely to be a common aluminium alloy like 6061or 7005 as found on most bikes at this price range. Specialized says it's been 'fully manipulated' which judging by the various curves and kinks means it's been hydroformed to create the shapes.
Specialized have kept things pretty traditional and simple too with a straight 1 1/8-inch steerer on the alloy/carbon fork and a threaded bottom bracket. That might compromise a little on overall stiffness but it does little to detract from the work the rest of the frame is doing.
The overall finish is very high though with smooth welds and pretty impressive paintjob. The red and black colour scheme makes the E5 Sport look much more expensive than its price tag.
Saying all of that though the latest Sora R3000 is absolutely brilliant with shifting as crisp and precise as the current Tiagra and barely distinguishable from that of 105.
The only downside is its nine speed range especially when pairing this bike's compact 50/34 chainset with a 11-32 cassette. The jumps between sprockets are pretty big and for me as a downhill speed freak and reluctant climber with a narrow cadence preference I want both of those extremities at either end of the cassette.
Hear are the gear ratios, for those who get excited about such things.
Other than that though the Sora stuff looks good and is hugely reliable, changing gear easily when under load.
The rest of the stuff is Specialized's own brand. Bar and stem wise you get an all alloy set up which works well, the bars have a compact drop for various hand positions plus the stem length felt spot on for the size of frame.
Out back you get an alloy seatpost with easy to tweak saddle position and a Toupe steel-railed seat. I admit I didn't really get on with its shape and firmness but after all saddles are a very personal thing.
The wheels and tyres are also from Specialized and offer good performance when you consider the budget.
Starting with the rubber I found the Espoir Sport tyres a little on the sluggish side. They only have a 60tpi (threads per inch) construction which means they aren't that supple especially over rougher road surfaces where they just couldn't react to the bumps making for a jarring and muted ride.
With a wire bead they are also quite heavy too which takes its toll on acceleration. Puncture performance was good though and they'd be solid performers through the winter.
Wheels wise, again things are more about reliability than performance with the Axis Sport wheels but they rolled well and didn't feel massively heavy. Changing to some lighter wheels like I did with the Pave 28's made a massive difference to how the Allez responded to your efforts so I'd say if you want for a little more speed this is the first place you should look.
Axis also provide the dual pivot brake calipers and although still not brilliant they are among the best own brand stoppers I've used. They just lack the bite of, say, Shimano's 105 calipers to really make you feel confident flying into that next bend.
Well, I've already touched on this above with regards to the Raleigh Criterium Sport and B'Twin Ultra in terms of spec list but the more bikes you ride you soon realise that components are such a small part of the equation. They are the icing on the cake if you like; a mediocre frame won't be made better by chucking lighter and more expensive parts at it though a good frame just works with whatever is bolted on.
The Specialized Allez is the latter, it's a brilliant package as it is but by upgrading things over time you will end up with an awesome bike. A machine that'll grow with you as your ability and fitness increase you can justify those little treats to turn this thing into a bike that will really challenge those with a tag twice the price.
Awesome speed machine for the racer on a budget and anyone else who likes to go fast
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized Allez E5 Sport
Size tested: 54cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
FRAME: Specialized E5 Premium Aluminum, fully-manipulated tubing w/smooth welds, 1-1/8" lower bearing
FORK: FACT carbon fiber
FRONT WHEEL: Axis Sport
REAR WHEEL: Axis Sport
INNER TUBES: 700x20/28mm, 40mm Presta valve
FRONT TYRE: Espoir Sport, 700x25mm, 60TPI, wire bead, double BlackBelt protection
REAR TYRE: Espoir Sport, 700x25mm, 60TPI, wire bead, double BlackBelt protection
CRANKSET: Shimano Sora Compact
BOTTOM BRACKET: Shimano
SHIFT LEVERS: Shimano Sora STI
FRONT DERAILLEUR: Shimano Sora, clamp-on
REAR DERAILLEUR: Shimano Sora, 9-speed
CASSETTE: Sunrace, 9-speed, 11-32t
CHAIN: KMC X9, 9-speed w/reusable MissingLink
FRONT BRAKE: AXIS 1.0
REAR BRAKE: AXIS 1.0
HANDLEBARS: Specialized Shallow Drop, alloy, 125mm drop, 70mm short-reach
TAPE: Specialized S-Wrap
STEM: Specialized, 3D forged alloy, 4-bolt, 7-degree rise
SADDLE: Body Geometry Toupé Sport, steel rails, 143mm
SEATPOST: Alloy, 12.5mm offset, 2-bolt clamp, 27.2mm
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 E5 Sport is versatile and value-packed. That's because its stiff alloy construction, carbon fork, and Shimano Sora shifting make sure that it's ready to take on all of your weekend rides with complete confidence. Go out and get after it. It's constructed from our lightweight and ultra-stiff E5 Premium aluminium to ensure that you get those most out of every watt that your legs can produce. More so, this construction makes for a bike that's equally capable for the road ahead, so you'll find it performing exceptionally on climbs, descents, and all-out sprints. Even better, these characteristics are all amplified by the Elite's exquisite & confident geometry and FACT carbon fibre fork. For the build, we went with a no-nonsense approach, opting for Shimano Sora shifting, durable Axis sport alloy wheels, and brilliant Espoir Sport tyres."
Specialized have played a bit of a blinder when it comes to the Allez E5 Sport as it performs brilliantly for the beginner and experienced rider alike.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The frame and fork are very responsive and the red/black paintjob means the E5 looks way more expensive than it actually is.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
"E5 Premium Aluminum frame features fully manipulated tubing with smooth welds that increase stiffness and efficiency, while looking just as good as it performs.
A FACT carbon fiber fork provides incredible stiffness and front end steering response, while also efficiently absorbing road chatter."
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Looking through the numbers you can see that the Allez E5 Sport lives up to its racy name, steep angles and a short wheelbase make for nippy handling machine.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The 54cm has a stack to reach ratio of 1.41 which is very much in the racer category.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, not quite as refined as some more expensive alloy frames but in no ways harsh or comfortable.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes, it responded well to hard efforts.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Well, it is a spirited climber and fun to accelerate.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Yes, you have to remember it in traffic.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral yet engaging.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling felt nicely weighted in the bends and although the E5 hasn't got the tightest front end it performs way better than expected on a bike of this price.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I didn't really get on with the Specialized Toupe saddle.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Specialized's own brand bar and stem combo is very stiff for when you are really hammering it out of the saddle.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The tyres are a bit on the sluggish side so I'd recommend an upgrade here.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The latest Sora groupset, R3000 is stunning offering shifting virtually identical to Tiagra and 105. Being 9 speed the jumps between sprockets on this 11-32 cassette could be a bit large.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so, what for?
The Axis wheels feel pretty solid and even though they are a bit on the weighty side they are decent performers on a bike of this price.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so, what for?
The tyres feel a little stodgy '' probably becaiuse of the very low tpi (threads per inch) count, so this is definitely one of the things to upgrade.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Specialized's own brand kit looks good and is of decent quality although personally I didn't get on with the saddle.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Allez E5 Sport is an absolute joy to ride whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned racer thanks to confident handling and a great frameset. You may be able to get other bikes for the same money with higher spec lists but if you can cope with only 18 gears I'd say the sacrifice is definitely worth it.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.