Specialized Allez Sport 2024 first-ride review: Can it live up to its name?
To tens – perhaps hundreds – of thousands of road cyclists around the globe, the Specialized Allez represents a beginning; the inception of their love for the sport, and holds a special sentimental place in their heart as their 'first proper road bike'. For years, the Allez has been Specialized's entry-level road bike, and with the brand's position as arguably the biggest bike brand in the world, it's a naturally common choice for interested roadies looking to try out this new sport.
The new Allez, launched this week, has a reputation to uphold. As the brand's highest-selling road model, the Allez is immensely important to the brand, and recent iterations have served its purpose exceptionally well. As a budget-friendly, entry-level model, this Specialized can't specialise; it needs to do everything well while meeting a price point that doesn't break the bank. It doesn't need to be the fastest like the Tarmac, nor the most comfortable like the Roubaix. It needs to be fun to ride, easy to own, cheap to service, and versatile enough to handle being the one-bike solution.
It also has an unusual position of responsibility, one for the future of our sport. Good or bad the Specialized Allez will still sell in vast quantities purely on its predecessor's reputation, as well as Specialized's brand cachet and prominence in bike shops, but with each flaw and negative experience comes an extra reason for these new cyclists to go and try golf instead, so it needs to not have any.
Last week, I received delivery of the new Allez Sport, the more expensive of the two available models at £1,600 / $1,800 / €1,750. I've only put a weekend's worth of riding into it so far, but I have some early thoughts on whether it'll live up to its prior reputation and responsibility for cycling's growth.
Design and specifications
The base of the new Allez, no matter whether you opt for this spec or the cheaper £1,100 / $1,200 / €1,200 version, is an E5 Aluminium frame and full carbon fibre fork.
A glance through the geometry chart will tell you that the riding position is quite upright, and thus should be comfortable for most. Interestingly, with the transition to the new Allez, the geometry charts have seen some "smoothing," as Specialized puts it. In my size 58cm, the position is quite a bit more upright and relaxed than its predecessor, gaining 16mm more stack (height) at the front and losing 4mm of reach. At the smaller end of the size run, however, things have gone in the opposite direction for the stack, with the 52cm now being 16mm lower.
What size bike do I need? Geometry charts, stack and reach explained
Specialized says this is due to information gained from its subsidiary-brand Retul's bike fitting database, and calls it 'Endurance Road Geometry.' For someone who likes a longer, lower position, I call it pants but appreciate I'm almost certainly in the minority in wanting an aggressive position on an entry-level bike.
Geometry aside, an overarching trend and significant positive with the design of the Allez is the way Specialized has kept everything simple and low maintenance. For example, despite the trend for integrating cables into the handlebar and stem, Specialized has kept cabling here external. They do run inside the frame, but instead of entering at the head tube and routing through the headset bearings, they enter at the down tube. They then exit at the bottom bracket via a large exit port.
It's as if the whole package was designed by someone who had recently been frustrated by an expensive servicing bill. The bottom bracket is threaded, meaning that too is easy to service, and the seatpost is a round 27.2mm, meaning if ever you need to find a replacement, you can just head into your local shop and they'll almost certainly have one in stock. A nice feature here too is that the seatpost is covered in small horizontal ridges, adding to the friction to prevent it slipping.
Visually, not much has changed from the outgoing Allez. I expect I could have taken this onto my local club ride this weekend and nobody actually notice that I was on an unreleased model, save perhaps for one small detail. It says a lot that the most (only?) real aesthetic talking point is the seatstay bridge, which Specialized has decided to have some fun with by making it diagonal. Asked why, the response from Specialized's Road Bike Product Manager was something along the lines of "It's a talking point on the shop floor." I appreciated the honesty from a brand that typically has a marketing tagline for everything.
Overall, though, I find the aesthetic rather dull. Of course, that's not necessarily a dealbreaker, I'd certainly rather function than form if I had to pick only one, but know that this isn't going to turn any heads at the cafe, especially in this off-white, basically-grey colourway.
The diagonal seatstay bridge is where the conversation continues, too, as hidden on its underside is a mount enabling the bike to fit full-length fenders (mudguards, to our British audience). The Allez might be popular as a my-first-road-bike, but its suitability as an affordable 'bad weather' bike makes it popular among an equally large crowd of 'converted' cyclists too. This audience also wants a bike that is durable, cheap to service, and can take wide tyres, and the Allez meets those criteria well, but at the top of that list of requirements is the ability to take mudguards. The Roubaix fails in this regard and was the only real thing that befell it in our recent Roubaix Expert review. The Allez, meanwhile, checks the box.
It has clearance for 35mm tyres (32mm with mudguards), albeit the bike is supplied with 30mm Specialized Roadsport tyres. These are fitted to Specialized's own tubeless-ready Axis Sport alloy wheels, which are equipped with six-bolt disc rotors, rather than the lighter weight (and easier-to-remove/replace) centre-lock standard, but besides the added weight, this shouldn't cause any issues in everyday use.
This model, the Allez Sport, gets a 2x10-speed Shimano Tiagra disc-brake groupset, which, despite being slightly long in the tooth and probably due for a refresh within the next 12 months, offers powerful braking, light-action shifting, comfortable ergonomics, and the usual spread of gears with its 50/34T chainrings and 11-32T cassette. Continuing the trend, the Tiagra groupset will be easy and relatively cheap to service, with parts likely to remain available for decades to come.
Up front, my 58cm frame is fitted with a 100mm stem and 42cm bars, as is almost ubiquitous among road bikes from Specialized and competitors. Finishing off the build is a Specialized Bridge saddle. The shape of which is neutral enough to likely be comfortable for a wide range of people, but of course, saddle comfort is personal so no guarantees here.
All combined, the bike weighs 9.5kg in my size 58cm without bottle cages or pedals. This isn't going to win any weight-weenie competitions, but it's pretty reasonable for bikes of this price, with a similarly specced Trek Domane coming in at 900g heavier, and a Giant Contend AL 2 being somewhere between the two.
With its relatively upright riding position, budget-friendly tyres and wider-than-I'm-used-to bars, I was expecting the ride quality of the Allez to be slow, uninspiring, perhaps even dull, but in reality, it wasn't.
Cornering is precise, but with the long wheelbase and wide tyres, it is stable and confident. My local bike path has a few tight chicanes that I often need to brake coming into on unfamiliar bikes. With the Allez and a few days of dry weather behind me, I felt confident enough to hit them at speed and it handled them without any fuss.
Power transfer never posed an issue, either. It was reasonably fast to get up to speed when necessary, and when punching up sharper climbs, it responded well to my pedalling input.
I did find that it was arduous to keep things rolling along at higher speeds, though, for which I largely blame the budget tyres (a relatively cheap upgrade) and the upright position, which wasn't helped by the additional 25mm of spacers I currently have beneath the stem. There's no aerodynamic tube shaping either, which is a surprise for a brand with its own wind tunnel.
The Shimano Tiagra groupset is excellent, with light-action shifting and hydraulic disc brakes. Up front, the chainset offers the usual 50/34 chainring configuration. It's only 10-speed at the rear, which might seem dated in an age where competitors are already using 12 and 13 sprockets, but the overall range is largely fine. I did find on a couple of climbs that I wanted one more gear from the rear cassette. Knowing that Tiagra can handle a 34T cassette, it seems like an omission to spec the 32T as standard.
It's here where the major differentiation can be found between the two available Allez models, with the lower-spec Allez base model getting 2x8-speed Claris and mechanical disc brakes.
Specialized has never been the brand to offer the best ratio of spec per price on paper, instead putting more effort into the details — such as the all-carbon fork here, rather than speccing an alloy steerer tube that you might get elsewhere — and relying on brand reputation among other things to convert customers rather than engaging in what it calls the 'race to the bottom.'
However, at the lower end of the pricing spectrum, where attention to price is heightened and differences in spec can sometimes make a far greater difference to the quality of a ride than those small details, it becomes difficult to recommend the Specialized Allez over lower-priced or on-paper-better-value options from competitors.
For example, Ribble's Endurance AL Disc comes in at £1,499 with Shimano's next groupset up, 11-speed 105 mechanical. Canyon's Endurace 6 with Tiagra will set you back just £1,199, or for just £350 more than the price of this Allez, you can upgrade to a carbon fibre frame with Canyon's Endurace CF 7.
Admittedly, Specialized isn't out on its own at the higher price point. Trek's similarly-specced Domane will set you back a higher price of £1,625 with the older 4600 version of Tiagra, while Cannondale's Synapse is even more, at £1,650, with that same 4600 Tiagra groupset.
Of course, as I've already mentioned, the area where Specialized has done a stellar job is ensuring the ongoing costs of the Allez will remain reasonable, so you won't be hit with an unexpected £200 labour charge in two years' time when your headset wears out, and you won't have to pay a mechanic to fish cables through a tiny exit point for an hour, because it's a 30-second job. You also won't have a three-week wait for a proprietary bottom bracket bearing, nor will you have to buy your cassettes on eBay in five years' time due to it being discontinued, because unless something goes very wrong at Shimano, everything will still be produced and widely available.
It's often said that with Specialized, you're just "paying for the brand name," and there's a bit of truth in that, but what does it mean exactly? Whenever I hear this, I think of my past experience working in an independent bike shop - shout out to Bike Shed in Devon - that stocked Specialized alongside dozens of other bike brands and hundreds of brands in total. Out of all that we dealt with, Specialized's support system was the easiest to deal with, which ultimately made the process of servicing and warranty smoother for the customer. Of course, that's not to say all others were awful, far from it in most cases, but in a world of marginal gains, it's a difference worth noting. Whether that's enough to offset the initial cost will depend on which brand you're comparing against, and where your priorities lie.
On paper, Specialized rarely looks like the best value option. If you value the after-sale support from the brand via your local bike shop, you might be tempted, but if you're simply looking for the highest spec for the lowest price, you'll probably go elsewhere.
To answer the earlier question of whether the 2024 Specialized Allez lives up to its prior reputation, and meets that unusual responsibility it has for 'onboarding' new cyclists into the sport, early impressions suggest that it's a tweaked version of the same great Allez formula, so I'd say it's a safe bet.