If you're on the fence about how to spend your bike buying dollars, there is certainly a compelling argument for aluminum (click to enlarge).
This may sound counterintuitive, but Specialized is making a renewed push into aluminum frame road bikes, going so far as to encourage people to choose the race-ready Allez Sprint Expert X2 over comparably priced carbon fiber Tarmac models. And while surely there's an economic angle here (this is business after all), the argument in favor of the Allez Sprint is pretty compelling.
In the near term Specialized is set to drop of the price of the frameset from $1350 to $1100 (including carbon fork, headset and Venge ViAS aero seatpost), and launch a new eye-catching gold/Nordic red paint scheme. (They say more fun colors are on the way, too.)
The Allez Sprint Expert X2 will soon be available in a trifecta of 2x builds on this black ano/cyan/white frame (click to enlarge).
Come July, the Big Red S will roll out complete 2x builds with Shimano Ultegra, 105 and Tiagra drivetrains. Expect pricing of those bikes to be in a similar range to the current Allez Sprint X1's, which heretofore was only available in 1x set-ups that sell for $2600 with SRAM Force and Axis 2.0 wheels, and $2000 with SRAM Rival and the same alloy wheels. At the same time the X2 bikes launch the 1x offerings will be transitioned to frame only.
"We wanted to make a statement when we launched last year," explained Specialized's Eric Schuda of the initial Allez Sprint unveiling when the bike was only available with 1x set-ups geared specifically to the criterium racing crowd. "But the 1x was not super commercial so we're bringing in 2x set-ups in July for what will be an early release of 2017 models."
By dropping the seatstay junction, Specialized claims it's matched the compliance of the previous Allez, but in a far stiffer package (click to enlarge).
Who's This Bike For?
Schuda characterizes the Allez Sprint X2 as a bike for the discerning rider on a budget. "Think collegiate racers or shop employees," he explained. "Sure you could get an entry level carbon bike, but honestly the Allez Sprint with Ultegra is better bike in my opinion. For around $2000 you get great parts, good wheels, and the bike will last longer."
For the sake of comparison, the $2400 Tarmac Elite is spec'd with Shimano 105 and Fulcrum S-19 wheels. Frame weight of the Allez Sprint is 1150 grams for a size 56cm with anodized finish. Paint will add a little to this bottom line, but Schuda claims it's still lighter than a similarly priced carbon Tarmac.
The other selling point, which carries over from the original Allez Sprint, is that the frame comes together using what Specialized calls D'Alusio Smartweld technology, which it claims delivers lighter tubes with better rider quality and stronger more consistent welds. Without going too inside baseball, this is achieved by moving the welds away from joints, which makes it easier for welders to lay bead and also stiffens the connection point.
Continue to page 2 to learn more about the Specialized Allez Sprint »
The centerpiece of the frame is the bottom bracket area, where it's typically difficult to bring all the tubes together in one place without a lot of extra material. Not so much here (click to enlarge).
"With normal butting the tube is thickening and making it stiffer," explained Chuck Teixeira, Specialized's guru of all things alloy. "With Smartweld you get a more sculpted and more organic look that is also very bombproof. Plus because you are using brazing, you're operating below the melting point, and we know that if you melt you change the structure and it gets more brittle. That's why normally you would have to make things thicker to address that issue. But in this case we don't have to do that. Instead we can spec incredibly thin alloy without the risk of burning through tubes like in traditional TIG welding."
This is particularly valuable in the bottom bracket area, where it's typically difficult to bring all the tubes together in one place without a lot of extra material. "You always have something floating in space," added Teixeira. "But with our one-piece stamped brazed area, we can move the weld up away from the connection, which helped us make the bike 30 percent stiffer at the bottom bracket than our previous Allez and on par with an S-Works Tarmac frame."
Real World Testing
Of course proof can't be found on the pages of a white paper; it's got to happen out on the road. And here we can personally say that this bike rips (though it must be said that our test mules at a recent press event were not stock builds, and instead were spec'd with high-end Roval CL60 carbon wheels and supple Specialized Turbo tires).
Regardless of components, during a pair of hard-charging test rides in the mountains around Santa Cruz, California, the Allez Sprint X2 with Shimano Ultegra behaved just as a race bike should. Bottom bracket stiffness was rock solid, and handling was quick, nimble and precise, just as you'd expect from a bike with 10mm lower stack height and a 0.75 steeper seat tube angle than the Tarmac, which allows for more aggressive body position.
Admittedly, with the aluminum frame subtle road buzz was palpable at times, but that could partially be blamed on the deeper dish wheels, and could likely be remedied by letting a little air out of the tires. We ran 100'ish PSI on both test rides.
Bottom line, even if you have a bunch of cash burning a hole in your pocket, there's a good argument for skipping the high dollar composite frame road bike, and instead opting for aluminum and dumping the extra money into components - or just put it back in your savings account.
For more information visit www.specialized.com.