Road Cycling

Specialized Allez Sprint Comp Disc Road Bike Review | Aluminum Race Bike – Bicycling

The Takeaway: A fast and punchy aluminum bike, with a carbon fork and seatpost, that is unmatched in speed and handling by any bike at this price.

  • Who Should Buy This: Bike racers who want a badass, non-carbon race bike.
  • What We Love: The incredible ride at an affordable price.
  • Something We Don’t: The saddle it comes with is fine for the price, but we suggest buyers swap it out with a nicer one.

    Price: $2,200
    18.6 lb. (49cm)

    The Specialized Allez Sprint is like a spring-weather day in the depths of winter: something glorious and unexpected that deserves your attention.

    This is a race bike designed to have exceptional stiffness and responsiveness. It gives you everything you want in a fast bike—a snappy ride, meticulous feedback, serious efficiency, and even some aerodynamic optimization. And now it’s offered with disc brakes to level up your game. The Shimano 105 hydraulics have dreamy modulation and control, especially in wet conditions.

    The Allez Sprint is unmatched in speed, handling, and bad­assery by any bike at this price. And the addition of more powerful hydraulic disc brakes now give the bike WorldTour performance (Sagan rode one at the Tour Down Under this year). It’s light, fast, and so much fun.

    Oh, and it’s aluminum.

    Style: Road racing
    Full-carbon Tarmac
    Shimano 105
    36/52t chainrings, 11-28 cassette
    Shimano 105 7070 hydraulic disc
    160mm (front and rear)
    DT R740 Disc, sealed cartridge hubs, 14g spokes, 24h
    Turbo Pro, 60 TPI, folding bead, BlackBelt protection, 700x26mm

    Somehow, carbon bikes got tagged as the be-all-end-all of speed and performance. But instead of using aluminum to make a bike to fill the “affordable” or “entry-level” slots in its lineup, Specialized went all out on aluminum-alloy to create the fastest, punchiest bike it could with an accessible price tag by reinventing how aluminum bikes are made. The two things it’s doing differently than anyone else: brazing the bottom bracket together and using the D’Alusio SmartWeld technique.

    That technique, named for its inventor, Chris D’Alusio, a creative specialist for Specialized, is a tube-forming-and-joining process that moves the strength-sapping weld zones away from the highest-stress areas of the frame. Instead of mitering the top and down tubes and welding them to the head tube, the top and down tubes are joined to the front of the bike just behind the head tube, which requires less material. This makes the frame lighter, stronger, and smoother-riding.

    And it seems to work. Based on my time on the bike, the Allez Sprint offers a snappy ride much like a higher-end carbon race bike. Helping out is a carbon fork originally created for the Tarmac (Specialized’s top-of-the-line carbon race frame) and a carbon seatpost from the previous generation Venge (the brand’s aerodynamically optimized frame).

    To construct the bottom bracket, the company used a lower-heat method called brazing (as opposed to high-heat welding) to mimic the strong and stiff high-volume hollow shape of bottom brackets used by carbon frame manufacturers. This, too, seems to pay off. The Allez Sprint responds with a snap to any power put into the pedals, urging you forward.

    The Allez doesn’t totally mimic a carbon ride, though. It feels less compliant, but also a bit more muted.

    Bigger hits zap through the frame, but the damping properties of aluminum eliminate a bit of road feedback (though not a ton—I was definitely feeling what was under my wheels). This may be preferable for riders who don’t require such an intense interaction with the pavement.

    On one steep descent, I tucked into the drops and shifted down into a heavy gear, and I got this bike flying. The chunky pavement forced me to swerve every few meters, but my legs kept churning and propelling me faster, and the Allez welcomed it. The bike felt stable and comfortable, especially at high speeds. And on a bike that’s this easy to ride aggressively, disc brakes made me that much more confident ripping downhill at eye-watering speeds. Don’t pass this bike by because it’s “just” aluminum. The Allez Sprint does it faster and rides better than you can possibly guess a $2,200 bike could.

    Will My Press-Fit Bottom Bracket Creak?

    Yes. But any bottom bracket can creak. Keeping things quiet down there is a matter of proper parts installation (with the correct tools) and keeping your bike clean and properly maintained. That means regular service intervals (check your owner’s manual or with your favorite mechanic) and using the lubricants or bonding agents recommended by the frame manufacturer.

    That said, it isn’t by accident that press-fit systems have a reputation for noisiness. They have a greater propensity to make noise, and, when they do make noise, they tend to make more noise than a threaded system. And press-fit systems are more likely to be found in frames with large-diameter, thin-walled tubes, which are great at amplifying sound.

    Some brands, like Specialized, have started moving back to threaded-bottom bracket systems in some models. But press-fit systems are also better and quieter than ever. Either way, you have to take proper care of your bike. Do that and your BB is less likely to make noise, no matter what type you go with.

    Expert Eye with Chuck Teixeira: Why Braze Aluminum?

    Chuck Teixeira is arguably the father of the modern high-performance aluminum frame. He began creating aluminum tubes at Easton for the 1988 Olympic cycling teams, and went on to hone his craft with the groundbreaking Easton ProGram taperwall tubeset. First used by Yeti and Manitou, ProGram featured thick weld zones and very thin center sections, resulting in a new era of lighter, smoother-riding aluminum bikes. He now works for Specialized as the brand’s senior advanced R&D engineer.

    The joints on the Specialized Allez Sprint’s bottom bracket look cleaner than the fat welds elsewhere. That’s because they are brazed together, rather than welded like the rest of the bike’s junctions. Brazing is a lower-heat method than welding. This is Teixeira’s baby.

    “Brazing helps us to create a shape that allows us to coax the stiffness that was left on the table with other fabrication techniques,” says Teixeira. “Anytime you melt aluminum with a welding method, you give up a little bit of the properties of the base metal, whether that’s ductility, fatigue, or strength. But if you braze it, you don’t ever melt the material, so you don’t lose anything. It’s 100 percent of what it was before.”

    The bottom bracket area is the biggest contributor to the performance of the bike in terms of pedaling, he says, and the Allez has one that is unmatched in stiffness compared to any other aluminum bikes and many carbon bikes. Says Teixeira, “It’s the tailoring of proportions and the dimensions in there to make it work. With the Allez, our objective was to balance the stiffness. We took aspects and behavior out of the carbon bikes that did well and brought those into the aluminum bike.”

    So why not just braze the whole frame? “It’s tricky and complicated to make brazed joints that are really happy and elegant, so a TIG-welded or SmartWeld joint is simpler to make,” says Teixeira. “If we were just making 56cm frames, we could easily braze every joint. The complicated part is making an interface for all the sizes because every tube and angle is different.”