The new Specialized Allez Elite has got longer and taller, improving its manners while still just about maintaining its racing aspirations, and for a lot of people it really is going to make a lot of sense.
- Pros: Lighter with improved all-round handling
- Cons: Not as aggressively sporty as previous version, but you can't have everything
Forget anything you may already know about the Specialized Allez, one of the most popular bikes for those new to riding or moving their way up the ladder, because for 2018 everything has changed, and I mean everything.
Last year I reviewed the Allez E5 Sport and it was an absolute belter. A bike that just felt right whether I was hammering it around or taking on a 200km audax; it was nippy, flickable and just fun to ride.
So why change it?
The Allez had always been designed as an entry-level race bike, something it was very good at, but I think it's safe to say the majority of people riding them had no intention of taking on the local criterium or road race. Because it can be picked up for less than the £1,000 Cycle to Work cap, the Allez has become a commuter's favourite, with many taking on the daily haul to and from work in all weathers and conditions. The new design has reflected this, with the Allez frame now able to take full mudguards and a rear rack while still maintaining the ability to wear 28mm tyres. Since this review, Specialized has replaced the fork with one that doesn't have mudguard mounts, although you can fit mudguards via clips.
The geometry has changed completely too. There are only two measurements it shares with the 2017 model: the seat tube length and the head angle.
Thankfully, it's still the same fun bike to ride, albeit with slightly different manners – a little bit more mature, if you like.
Last year's 54cm model had a stack/reach of 1.41, a very race-orientated long and low position, but this new Elite comes out at a much more relaxed 1.5 which is a good balance, somewhere in the middle between race and endurance machine.
These figures are created by a slightly taller front end. The top tube has also grown by 2mm.
This, accompanied by the slightly longer wheelbase, has just taken the edge off the Allez's performance handling; it's not quite as sharp into the bends and the turn in feels just a little slower.
I must admit I do prefer the old one, as it better suits my aggressive style of riding, but the way the 2018 model handles does make for a much more suitable bike in varying conditions, and quite possibly quicker too if you take every ride into account.
If it's wet, for instance, you don't need to back off quite so much because the lengthier frameset brings an extra level of stability; this Elite still has that excellent ability of making you feel like you are sitting in exactly the right position on the bike at all times.
Feedback from the road is still impressive too, so you know what the bike is up to beneath you – even with the ever-so-slightly dead-feeling wire bead Specialized Espoir Sport tyres absorbing some of the information.
Using what Specialized has claimed as 'aggressive butting profiles' to the E5 aluminium alloy tubing, it has managed to shave a fair chunk from the claimed frame weight; pairing that with the new full-carbon FACT fork (last year's was carbon with an alloy steerer) sees a weight loss of 450g.
This has benefited the Allez's climbing ability over the previous model, especially with a none-too-shabby 8.77kg overall weight for this model, according to our scales. The overall stiffness of the frame helps here too; shedding that weight certainly hasn't seen any increase in flex, even though Specialized hasn't gone over the top with the oversizing of any tubes.
The dropped seatstays are actually positioned for aerodynamics thanks to the Allez's development in the wind tunnel, but the smaller rear triangle will no doubt increase tautness here. The chainstays are sensibly proportioned too and they plug into what most of you will be happy to hear: a threaded bottom bracket shell.
Stiffness at the front is taken care of with a tapered steerer on that new fork and head tube, which uses the not-so-common 1 1/8 to 1 3/8in headset, although there are plenty of replacements available online from the likes of FSA.
Everything feels tight under hard cornering and braking, that's for sure, and thankfully it hasn't come at the cost of comfort. The entire frame manages to take out the worst of the road buzz and I never once felt like I'd taken a battering.
Another addition for 2018 is internal cable routing – well, as far as the bottom bracket shell at least, before they exit through a large opening underneath the down tube. It seems odd, on a bike to be used in winter with mudguards, to expose the cables at their most vulnerable position in amongst the tyre spray, but only time will tell. It's not the most sophisticated of setups either, with just a hole either side of the down tube for you to run a full outer down to a stop at the BB shell.
The rear brake cable runs through the top tube and I'm happy to report that it didn't ping and rattle about on rough road surfaces.
Finishing kit is the usual Specialized own brand fare, and there is no harm in that at all. It's decent quality, simple alloy stuff with subtle markings that deter the badge snobs.
The handlebar has a 31.8mm diameter, as you'd expect these days, and it comes with a shallow drop from the top of the hoods to the bottom of the bar. This allows even the least flexible rider to use the full range of positions, getting in the drops for sprinting or just to get out of the wind.
The Body Geometry Toupe saddle has been around a while now and has a lot of admirers. I got on with it okay after a few rides but it is quite firm, though it will soften with use.
As far as the drivetrain is concerned there are a few manufacturers involved. It's based around a Shimano 105 system, including the front and rear mechs plus the shifters and cassette.
The chainset is an Alba 2D from Praxis Works – very similar to the one John tested, although here it's a 50/34-toothed ring selection.
I found the shifting spot on between the two rings even when under load, and its all-black finish certainly matches the stealth look of this Allez. It comes with a Praxis bottom bracket too.
The cassette is 11-speed, and Specialized has chosen an 11-32 rather than the more usual 11-28, and it makes perfect sense for the type of riding the Allez is likely to see, giving an extra couple of bailout gears.
You also get a long cage rear mech, which gives you flexibility to play around with bigger or smaller sprockets should you want to without a massive price outlay.
Specialized has specced Tektro Axis dual pivot brakes with a drop range between 42-52mm. They work pretty well, not showing any really worrying signs of flex like some deep drop callipers can, and as the rims and pads started to bed in together things were improving noticeably.
Wheels and tyres
A mixture of DT Swiss R460 rims and unbranded hubs build into the type of wheelset expected at this price. Not exactly lightweight but they feel pretty sturdy and certainly took on everything I put them through out on the local lanes.
Both front and rear were a little out of true straight out of the box but not majorly so, and nothing a quick fettle with a spoke key wouldn't sort if you're comfortable with that. Our bike came straight from the manufacturer and needed to be assembled, so this kind of detail would hopefully be picked up by the retailer before it left the shop or warehouse.
The tyres, as I've already mentioned, are adequate performers but they are a bit heavy with their wire bead and layers of puncture protection, so a change to something lighter would definitely make a massive difference to how the bike reacts and feels. Grip was okay, and they shrugged off any invasions from the likes of thorns and gravel.
What about the competition?
I've recently tested the Boardman Team Carbon, which is a quid more expensive than the Allez Elite. As the name suggests, it has a carbon fibre frame and fork, though overall weight between the two in stock builds comes down to just 100g.
The Boardman has more aggressive geometry, sitting somewhere between this 2018 Allez and the 2017 model, but this newer Specialized feels faster both in terms of speed and handling. I liked the Boardman and was actually quite surprised how much racier the Allez felt.
The Boardman also has mudguard mounts but doesn't offer the same levels of clearance as the Allez, making the Allez a better proposition for year-round riding.
Another option could be the Giant Contend SL 1 with its alloy frame ready for guards and 105 groupset for £999.
All three use very similar builds, so I'd say the Allez Elite is spot on as regards pricing, especially when you consider how good the frame is. It's ripe for upgrades to the wheels and tyres too.
Overall, while I personally may not be totally enamoured by the changes to the Allez's geometry to make it easier to live with and more stable, they have made it a bike that will appeal to a larger demographic, which obviously makes sense.
What is impressive is that Specialized has managed to achieve it without losing too much of the Allez's pedigree when it comes to a sporty and fun ride experience.
A more-rounded and versatile Allez without compromising fun, it's now a possible fast winter trainer too
road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized Allez Elite
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.
Specialized E5 Premium Aluminum, fully manipulated tubing w/ SmoothWelds, 1-1/8"- 1-3/8" tapered head tube, internal cable routing, threaded BB, 130mm spacing
Specialized FACT full Carbon, 1-1/8" to 1-3/8" Taper
DT R460, sealed cartridge hubs, 14g spokes, 20h
DT R460, sealed cartridge hubs, 14g spokes, 24h
700x20/28mm, 40mm Presta valve
Espoir Sport, 60 TPI, wire bead, double BlackBelt protection, 700x25mm
Espoir Sport, 60 TPI, wire bead, double BlackBelt protection, 700x25mm
Praxis Alba 2D
Included w/ crankset
Shimano 105 Ez, clamp-on
Shimano 105, 11-speed
Shimano 105, 11-speed, 11-32t
KMC X11EL, 11-speed w/ Missing Link
Tektro Axis caliper
Tektro Axis caliper
Specialized Shallow Drop, 6061, 70x125mm, 31.8mm clamp
Specialized, 3D forged alloy, 4-bolt, 7-degree rise
Body Geometry Toupé Sport, steel rails, 143mm
Alloy, 2-bolt clamp
Bolt type, alloy, 31.8mm
Nylon, 105x78x28mm, loose balls w/ reflectors
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 says, "There's no denying it, we're still in love with aluminium road bikes, and when it comes to transforming this passion into a labour of love, we make a bike like the Allez Elite. If you're just finding your cycling legs, this is the best place to start."
The new Allez is a different beast to earlier models and has brought with it a lot more versatility.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Frame: Butted aluminium alloy E5 tubing with smooth welds
Fork: Full carbon fibre legs and steerer
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The front end height has been increased a bit and the Allez now has a longer wheelbase, although it is still quite race-orientated compared with a lot of endurance bikes.
Full details here https://www.specialized.com/gb/gb/men/bikes/road/allezelite/133817
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Stack is 570mm with reach being 380mm, giving a ratio of 1.5 in a 54cm size.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, the ride quality is good, no harshness over rough surfaces.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiffness is good at the front end and bottom bracket area, which benefits steering and power transfer.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Pretty good; it's no ultimate sprinter's machine but it's well up to the type of riding it's designed for.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Yes, but not really 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?
The handling isn't quite as sharp as a race bike, but unless you really try to fling it down every descent you shouldn't get into too much trouble.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The Specialized own brand finishing kit offers a comfortable place for your contact points.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
I can't really think of anything to change at this price point.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Definitely change those tyres for something with better rolling resistance.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
It's a bit of a mixture but it all works well together.
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?
On bikes of this price with a decent frame and fork, this type of wheel is absolutely as expected. They are decent enough performers but an upgrade to something lighter would really benefit the bike.
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?
A slightly dead feel to the tyres, but they are good at keeping punctures at bay.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
It's exactly as I'd expect to find here and does a good job for a simple aluminium alloy setup.
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
Why 9? For a bike under a grand the Allez's frame and fork are hard to fault. Added to this, Specialized has brought a whole new level of versatility to the Allez; a larger range of riders will be very happy with it.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithein
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.