Review: Specialized Allez DSW SL Sprint Expert
October 4th, 2016
October 4th, 2016
Anna is a jack-of-all-bikes, and has been riding and racing in a myriad of genres for over seven years; from World Cup level cross-country, to grass roots coaching kids on the road.
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My first bike was an Allez, but it was nothing like this. The standard Allez doesn't seem to have changed much over it's years. It's still an aluminium alternative to the Tarmac. The Specialized Allez Sprint shares the same metal frame and namesake, but it couldn't be more different, baring more resemblance to the Venge than the Tarmac, and at a claimed frame weight of 1,150g for a 56cm, it's only around 140g heavier than the carbon Venge. D’Aluisio Smartweld Technology, so named after long-standing designer and engineer Chris D’Alusio, is a construction method that keeps the welds well away from the joints, which in tern boosts strength and minimises weight. It also allows the bottom bracket to be formed separately and then welded on to its respective tubes, giving this Allez Sprint's metal frame an oversized bottom bracket area and a chance to compete with the rigidity of modern carbon frame designs. Having similar forks and seat tubing to the top level Venge and Tarmac, it will be interesting to see just how much difference frame material will make.
Firstly, let's put this bike into context. The Allez DSW SL Sprint Expert retails at £1,500 for the spec on test. That's with largely Shimano 105 components and a few S-Works finishing touches in the seat post and forks. The closest equivalent is the Specialized Venge Elite, also with Shimano 105 groupset, S-Works carbon seat post and forks, and exactly the same Axis Elite wheels, which retails at an extra $500 (as it is only available in the US), but you do get a carbon frame and more carbon in the cockpit too. Here in the UK, the Venge is much more of a premium range with the lowest spec being Shimano Ultegra with hydraulic disc brakes at £3,900 and the lowest rim brake option being a £6,000 Di2 option. But I don't want to focus too much on comparisons. The Allez Sprint is clearly offering an affordable alternative to the Venge, but it's also it's own bike in its own right. As it stands, a Shimano 105 build is a budget-savvy choice, and is good value for a bike at this price point. The Allez Sprint was originally introduced last year as a 1x, single-ring-only, option. This new 2016 model has a tidy direct mount on the frame to run a much more universal 2x, double chainring, set up. The 52/36T choice is a touch higher than you'd expect to see on most club riders' bikes, and indeed the standard non-Sprint model, but this nods towards the Allez Sprint's intentions of speed, and, as you'll read later, it didn't pose too much of a problem thanks to it's rolling momentum. The Axis Elite are descent enough wheels. They are a step up from the Axis Sport wheels that come with the top spec Allez (£800), and would fit the spec of a bike way over the £2,000 mark. Though Axis is a brand specific to Specialized, don't let this fool you into thinking they're a lower end, own-brand, money-saving choice. We only need to look at Roval to know that Specialized wheels and components have become a brand in their own right over the last few years. The Axis were no exception in aluminium, and were comfortable and reliable wheels on test.
I really was excited to ride this bike. There was a part of me that wanted to prove to the world that aluminium is just as good as carbon, and another part of me just wanted to play on a damn fast bike for a change. The Allez Sprint seemed to kill two birds with one bike. What I found, however; was a bike that couldn't really be compared to a carbon bike, nor an aero road bike for that matter, in fact, it was so darn versatile that I stopped trying to compare it and just started riding it, and reviewed it in its own right, just as it deserves. The first thing I noticed, was that the Allez Sprint has a real spring in its step. It tackles the road's contours with a certain zing to it, levelling out harsh bumps, but by no means wallowing. Rough, bitty roads did have a touch of rattle to it, but larger bumps and, dare I say pot-holes, were tackled with a more linear ride feel. It really is lively, and has a personality that I've found a lot of carbon bikes to be lacking these days. It fires out of corners with real enthusiasm, and the sharp acceleration rewards energetic blasts on the pedals. It is stiff, responsive, and has such a keen rolling momentum that the larger gears really made sense.
the Allez Sprint has a real spring in its step. It tackles the road's contours with a certain zing
The geometry is steeper and more aggressive than the standard Allez. The shorter head tube means the front end is pretty slammed, and your position is literally on top of the steering. This gave it a racey feel that made more sense the faster I went. That being said, I found the position surprisingly comfortable. I'm not sure if this is because I'm partial to a race bike or not, but I felt right at home on the Allez Sprint, and the balanced weight distribution meant that there were no aches and pains after a long ride. For this reason, it is clear that the Allez Sprint is capable of so much more than just short sprint criteriums. The steep seat tube allowed the perfect freedom to get my legs spinning, not just sprinting. A high bottom bracket suggests that the Allez Sprint's perfect partner prefers to pedal around corners where possible, and that is certainly necessary in the Red Hook Crit; a fixed gear criterium series, and one that Team Allez-Allez Specialized seems to be topping time and time again. Personally, I'm a corner cruiser, but where I did find the Allez Sprint to shine was out of the saddle, stomping up a long climb. The low front end and fast back end means it climbs as well as it sprints with every pedal stroke counting towards forward propulsion.
As good as it was to thrash about and fire up hills, the Allez Sprint is capable of so much more. It is comfortable, in both ride quality and positioning, and would hold up as an all-day, mile munching machine. It is affordable enough to be the winter trainer and the week-day commuter, as well as the weekend warrior. Whack some stiff, aero race wheels in there and you'll have yourself an absolute weapon. As it stands, it is fast, fun, and just feels "right", straight from the off. I really don't have a bad word to say about it.