The Takeaway: Specialized’s Allez Sport is a budget-friendly aluminum road bike that gets the small details right.
Only a few years ago, aluminum road race bikes were prevalent and cheap. Many riders, including myself, started their cycling journey on these bikes—and a few riders even raced them into the elite ranks. Long-running model lines such as the Cannondale CAAD, Trek’s various ALR models, and, naturally, the Specialized Allez were the bikes of choice for many new cyclists.
Unfortunately, the era of the aluminum-framed road bike with high-end groupset seems to be behind us. But Specialized recaptures the essence of what made these bikes so great with its latest incarnation of the Allez. It is a near-perfect blend of performance, upgradability, and price consciousness.
When I discussed the new Allez with Ben Edwards, who leads Global Marketing for Specialized, he never described it as a budget road bike. Instead, Edwards emphasized that Specialized’s goal with the Allez was simple: to offer a well-made, great-riding, and super-functional road bike. And the new Allez goes a long way to returning the humble aluminum bike to striking that balance of performance and accessibility.
Updates and Improvements
The most noticeable change for the Allez is that it is now disc brake only. Disc brakes improve the bike’s overall versatility, though they are heavier than rim brakes. The Allez clears tires up to 35mm wide. Plus, the bike can run full-wrap fenders with 32mm tires. The mounts allow for the use of a rear rack and panniers and add more utility.
Better yet, for new and experienced riders alike, the new Allez foregoes most cable integration. While hidden cables look cool and provide increased aero performance, their downsides include increased costs for routine maintenance (or even basic adjustments to stem position).
I’m genuinely glad that Specialized did not go the way of Scott or Orbea, who have integrated the various shift cables and hydraulic lines through the steer tube. Cable integration on lower-priced bikes creates two big problems. Since these bikes usually use mechanical shifting, they have twice the number of lines to conceal. Hidden cables make the routing very cramped and often lead to rapid degradation in shifting performance (as the cables are more likely to kink).
The deterioration of shifting performance leads to the second issue—the increased maintenance costs. According to Cadence Cycling Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, replacing a single-shift cable on a bike like the Scott Speedster 20 ($1,900) can cost as much as $200 in labor. That is 10.5% of the total cost of the bike. That doesn’t even include the cost of the cable and housing. The shop quoted me $25 to perform the same repair on the new Allez. For riders shopping in this price range, that is a massive difference.
The theme of practicality continues with the inclusion of a standard BSA threaded bottom bracket. The Allez also uses standard-sized cockpit parts: 27.2mm seatpost, 1-⅛-inch steerer, and 31.8mm bar clamp.
The alloy frame features subtly hydroformed tubes, but the Allez was not aerodynamically optimized. Specialized also uses butted tubing to help reduce weight and improve ride quality.
The updated frameset weighs 1,444 grams in the 52cm size. And at the front is a 420 gram full carbon fork (specific to the new Allez) with a tapered steerer. Given the bike’s price, these weights aren’t too bad. Especially if you factor in that many carbon frames hover in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 1,100 grams. Our size 54 complete bike weighed 21.8 pounds (with Ultegra pedals and two bottle cages).
Models, Pricing, and Competition
Specialized offers two new Allez models: a base-level Allez at $1,200 and a slightly pricier Allez Sport (tested) for $1,800.
The Allez base model features Shimano’s Claris 8-speed 2x groupset and uses Tektro mechanical disc brakes. I’ve ridden this parts kit on the Specialized Diverge E5 and was quite impressed by its performance. Shifting was reasonably good, and the brakes—while not as powerful as hydraulic units—have easy adjustability and performed well for a mechanical offering.
Specialized equips the Allez Sport using a Shimano Tiagra 2×10 drivetrain and matching Tiagra hydraulic disc brakes. Details like the bar, stem, seatpost, saddle, and wheels are the same on both models.
The bike’s Axis wheels are perhaps the lowest point of the build for me. Both models of the Allez use the same wheels and tire combination. They are heavy and, combined with the stock wire bead tires, do the bike no favors in the ride quality department. However, the wheels are tubeless-ready with a modern 21mm internal diameter. And the tires, despite having the ride characteristics of brick, at least come in a nice 30mm width.
It can be tempting to dismiss the Allez Sport as overpriced. After all, $1,800 is not a small sum for a bike that’s almost 22 pounds. But when I tried to find some direct competitors for the Allez Sport, I was surprised at how little I could find. Large brands have wide gaps in their model ranges at the lower-end price points.
The best Allez Sport alternative that I could find was the Canyon Endurance AL 6. It’s priced at $1,500 and uses the same Shimano Tiagra 4700 2×10 groupset as the Allez Sport. The Endurance also features clearance for up to 35mm tires, but unlike the Allez, it does not have mounts for fenders or a rear rack. The $300 price difference between the two bikes is because Canyon sells bikes directly to consumers, while Specialized distributes through its network of dealers and retail shops.
Trek’s Domane AL 4 Disc is another solid option. It’s also priced at $1,800 and features the same Tiagra groupset. Like the Allez, the Trek can accommodate a rear rack with fenders and has clearance for 35mm tires.
If price is your main dividing factor when looking at a road bike like this, I wholeheartedly recommend the Canyon. It’s one of the very few cheaper options that doesn’t have significant downgrades in the drivetrain or use mechanical disc brakes.
What about the Allez Sprint?
The Allez and the Allez Sprint share a name and frame material, but that’s honestly about it. They are fundamentally different bikes aimed at very different riders. And this holds even if you ignore the $1,200 price difference between the two.
The Sprint features aerodynamic tube shapes, hidden cable routing, less tire clearance, and aggressive geometry. It has massive frame stiffness for road or criterium racers at the expense of versatility.
The Allez, on the other hand, is Specialized’s entry point to drop bar riding. Compared to the Allez Sprint, the Allez has a relatively laid-back geometry and ample tire clearance. Plus, it has hidden mounts for fenders and a rear rack.
If you are debating between purchasing the Allez or the Allez Sprint, I highly recommend thinking deeply about what you want from a drop bar bike. Quite a few good bikes fit the price gap between the $1,800 Allez Sport and the $3,000 Allez Sprint. And at this price point, carbon bikes begin to enter the picture. For example, Specialized’s Tarmac SL6, which uses the same Tiagra groupset as the Allez Sport, is $2,700.
Component Highs, Lows, and What to Upgrade
While the Allez Sport is an entry-level bike, Specialized did a great job getting many of the bike’s small details right. For example, the Allez Sport uses the same thru-axles and alloy bottle cage bolts included on S-Works bikes that cost many thousands of dollars more.
Shimano’s Tiagra 10-speed groupset manages the Allez Sport’s shifting and braking duties. And it performs great—as good as any generation of 105. And honestly, I would go so far as to say it’s as good as any Shimano 10-speed groupset, including previous iterations of the brand’s flagship Dura-Ace components.
Tiagra shifts are crisp and precise. The front derailleur trim works very well to keep things quiet no matter what gear you are in at the back. Not to mention the lever shape Shimano uses for its mechanical shifters is as comfortable as it is unsightly (this is to say it’s very comfortable).
The most obvious low point of the Allez build kit is the wheels and tires. At almost 2,000 grams, Specialized paired these wheels with nearly 450-gram Specialized Roadsport tires. While this combination offers a ton of durability and puncture protection, their ride qualities leave a ton desired. Arguably they are primarily responsible for making the Allez Sport feel “entry level.”
The Allez Sport is worth upgrading because Specialized nailed the most important elements like the geometry and ride quality. And the alloy frame is quite light for what it is. If your budget is tight, the best place to start is with a set of tires. My recommendation here would be the folding bead, 700x32c Panaracer GravelKing Slick. These tires are reasonably priced ($60 per tire) and ride great. At 290 grams a tire, swapping in a set of these will drop 320 grams (0.7 pounds) of rotating weight from the Allez.
If your budget allows for a wheelset upgrade, don’t hesitate. I tested the Allez with Roval’s 1,485-gram alloy Alpinist SLX wheels—just under 500 grams lighter than the stock wheelset. Oh boy, do lighter wheels improve this bike!
With upgraded wheels, the Allez instantly felt like a bike that should cost double its price. It was more eager to climb, and its already sporty handling felt even livelier. Though, at $800, the Alpinist SLX upgrade is roughly 45% of the bike’s initial price. Throw in the new set of tires, and that figure goes up to 50%. These changes push the Allez into a different price category, but it also means the Allez rides like it belongs there.
The Allez is a strong option for the rider aspiring to own a $2,000 to $3,000 bike but doesn’t want to drop all that money at once. It also suits riders that prefer slowly customizing and upgrading their bikes as they go along. The Allez provides a solid base for this kind of approach.
The Allez intentionally does not have racing geometry. Instead, Specialized went with a more relaxed fit that puts the handlebars closer to the rider and higher up. For example, compared to the much racier Allez Sprint, the handlebars on the Allez are 32mm higher and 17mm closer to the rider (on a size 54cm). Specialized combined the taller bar height with a slightly relaxed head (72º) and seat tube (73.25º) angles (both are more relaxed than the Allez Sprint).
Riders seeking a more performance-oriented fit should not totally rule out the Allez. The only things needed are a longer stem and (perhaps) a shorter headset cover. And because the upfront cable management is so simple, changing both these pieces would be a simple and inexpensive modification.
It’s no shock that the nearly 22-pound Allez does not feel as spectacular as a bike that costs several thousand more. There’s no denying that lighter bikes often feel better, more reactive, and more eager to perform. Nicer wheels and tires go a long way in bridging this gap. But while I think those are absolutely worthwhile purchases for the right rider, a bike like the Allez isn’t meant to be compared to a 15-pound ProTour bike.
Honestly, making that comparison sells the Allez short. It’s quite an exceptional riding bike on its own. When riding the Allez, you quickly forget its weight and price. Because it just feels solid in all the right ways. The Tiagra drivetrain never missed a shift. The hydraulic brakes were powerful and reliable.
The feeling that something is slightly off or a corner cut a little too obviously often undermines the riding experience of entry-level bikes. For example, on the Diverge E5, the downtube cables rattled inside the frame. It was a simple thing that consistently pulled me out of experiencing my ride and into being annoyed. Specialized uses foam insulation inside the Allez’s downtube to prevent this noise. The same technique is used on high-end bikes to prevent the same issue. It’s a small detail, but it provides a better experience for the rider.
That’s how the Allez ultimately wins out; it’s a bike that does all the small things right when out on the road. I loved the sporty feel of the Allez. Even with the stock tires, I never found the bike to be overly harsh and thought it was as smooth as one could expect from an aluminum frame. While the stock 30mm tires smooth quite a bit of road chatter. When I tested the bike with some 35mm S-Works Mondo tires set up tubeless, the Allez became one of the smoothest riding road bikes I’ve tested this year.
The combination of 50/34-tooth chainrings and an 11-32T cassette made it easy to find my rhythm on rolling terrain and never left me looking for more gears on the steepest climbs. Under full power while out of the saddle, the Allez matched my effort with lively eagerness and no perceptible flex in the frame. Still, the only weak spot was the stock wheels. Partially it’s because the Allez frame rides so well that I think the wheels couldn’t help but stand out as subpar compared to the rest of the build.
The Shimano Tiagra groupset was another high point—it just plain works. The shifting was crisp and precise, with particularly smooth and pleasant shifts from the front derailleur. It’s worth spending the extra money to get the significant benefit of the Allez Sport’s hydraulic disc brake groupset over the mechanical discs on the base-level Allez—if it’s within your budget.
The Allez is perhaps the best enthusiast-level road bike I’ve tested. It’s simply a great bike, even if you don’t factor in the price. It accomplished the most important task of a bike like this: making me want to ride and keep riding. And this is why the Allez is the perfect bike for riders looking to get into road cycling or racing.
Specialized’s Allez is sporty and engaging right out of the box with no real mechanical quirks or letdowns. It doesn’t need any upgrades to be a capable companion for new or experienced riders. It’s also easy to upgrade and grow with riders as their skills and experience levels increase. A select few may eventually outgrow what the Allez offers, but for most riders, the Allez will be a bike they lovingly upgrade over time instead of replacing wholesale.
Test Editor Dan Chabanov got his start in cycling as a New York City bike messenger but quickly found his way into road and cyclocross racing, competing in professional cyclocross races from 2009 to 2019 and winning a Master’s National Championship title in 2018. Prior to joining Bicycling in 2021, Dan worked as part of the race organization for the Red Hook Crit, as a coach with EnduranceWERX, as well as a freelance writer and photographer.