Following the ebb and flow of materials development for frame technology, alongside the current favourite - carbon, there's always been room for parallel development of materials like aluminium. During the eighties and nineties, the race was on for supremacy of carbon, aluminium and titanium over steel, the only question back then was which one would win. Failure of the Kirk magnesium frame in the eighties was the notable exception to the huge successes achieved with other materials. Interestingly the material requirements for one Kirk magnesium frame, could be derived from one cubic metre of North Sea water. Despite the failure of Kirk magnesium frames, it's the dogged determination of intrepid designers, inventors, innovators, and technologists like Frank Kirk that gives us reason to celebrate the current range of bicycle products that put a smile on our faces every time we clip into the pedals. In the spirit of innovation, Specialized bicycles road racing engineers : Chris D'Aluisio, Luc Callahan, Andrew Frasca, and Chuck Teixeira have come up with a modern day stunner using aluminium. The Specialized Allez RACE is jam packed with many innovative concepts, cleverly concealed beneath a stealth-matte black paint scheme.
At the Specialized road race department they realised the need for a fast race bike with one very special quality, a quality that sets it apart from it's carbonised stable mates. The quality : the Allez should not see customers liberating every single last moth from their wallets, while searching for wads of cash to buy into the fun that cycle road racing is.
The Chris D'Aluisio led race department team utilized what they call Smartweld E5 technology to create their new aluminium bicycle that punches far above it's light weight in performance. Smartwelding an Allez begins with the creation of hydroformed tube profiles. In case you're wondering what hydroforming is? "Hydroforming is a cost-effective way of shaping ... aluminum .... into lightweight, structurally stiff and strong pieces....This technique is .... frequently employed in the shaping of aluminium tubes for bicycle frames. Hydroforming is a specialized type of die forming that uses a high pressure hydraulic fluid to press room temperature working material into a die." In this case hydroforming the aluminium tubing provides a platform for a specifically shaped tube junction, which has a void or valley capable of receiving weld materials. What this means is a lighter frame, stronger tube junction and ease of manufacture. Traditional butted tube technology is by-passed as the walls of the hydroformed tubes can be made thinner and lighter. Further, the whole unit can be welded together by an apprentice welder, thus reducing production costs.
Mated together with the hydroformed tubes is a, size specific, forged and tapered head tube. The hydroformed and forged units are welded together using Smartweld technology, achieving a strong and lightweight machine. Combine this with the Tarmac full monocoque FACT carbon fork and a 1-1/8" to 1-3/8" sealed headset, the result is a high performance racing bicycle that handles change of direction with absolute precision. Power to the ground is impressive with an oversized lighweight BB30 bracket.
I was given a custom version of the Specialized ALLEZ RACE to test, the overwhelming impression of this package was just how well it flows through corners, when given the correct inputs. In experienced hands most modern race bikes will perform well in corners, and it's here where the Allez shines, there is no compromise despite it's lower price tag. The Allez RACE performs exceptionally well on corner exits. If you're experienced enough to give it a go, take your Allez to the limit of it's grip hold a tight line and push it as hard as you like - it just won't run wide on corner exits -when given the correct inputs. What this means is a low cost bike, that you can race hard and fast down mountains and still chew up the corners in crits. The only question left will be, do you have the skills to match the bike you're riding.
With the bar being raised ever higher each year in the quest for the lightest fastest feeling race machine, despite it's lower price tag the Allez RACE is right up there. For starters the test bike weighed in at 7.35 kg, so there's nothing given away there. Stiffness is exactly what you'd expect from an aluminium frame, the one I rode was mated with an S-Works carbon post, providing enough compliance that you'd comfortably race week in week out on this machine. The RACE is perfectly suited to it's name, it's made only for racing and when you ride it you know you're on a purpose built racing machine.
The Allez RACE is suited to a broad range of riders. If you're new to racing you'll be able to confidently line up knowing you're on a race ready machine, one that your skill level won't outgrow in a hurry. For experienced racers who just can't see the point in throwing wheel barrows full of cash, at expensive carbon options, you'll appreciate that there's no compromise with the Allez RACE. For some the Allez RACE can become a second bike for wet weather or winter time, or just a second bike for any reason.
While I was parking the Allez RACE at cafe's around Brisbane opinions were polarised about the matte black paint finish. Some saw the match of the practical side of cycling being sensibly aligned to the intentions of the Allez RACE. Others who looked at the bike saw it as being just plain ugly, it was this exact sentiment that made me determined to make the bike look as stunning as possible in the photo set. Personally I'd have an Allez RACE in my shed at the drop of a hat, I like the way it looks and even better the way it rides. There's always the polished looks of the limited edition, up-specced S-Works Allez for those who aren't into the black styling of the ALLEZ Race.
Specialized have come up trumps with the Allez RACE. The matte black paint eludes to it's true nature, the shadow boxer, a bike that can race alongside it's carbon competitors, perform as well as them and still be friendly to your bank account. Specialized have capitalised on their vast background in frame building, cleverly combining this experience with the development of aluminium welding technologies. Watch out at your next race - for the shadow boxing Allez, it's truly capable of delivering a sucker punch when you least suspect it.
A big thanks to Bicycle Riders at Morningside for supplying the test bike.
TEST BIKE Based on the Specialized Allez RACE - Rival non standard componentry listed below. Talk to your Specialized dealer for your own custom options. FRAME - Hydroformed tubes, forged and tapered head tube - Smartweld E5 FORKS - Tarmac full monocoque FACT carbon STEM - Specialized - 120 mm pro-set swith variable angles. Plus 12 degree or minus 12 degree adjustment - 24 degree range. BOTTOM BRACKET oversized BB 30 - benefit is lighweight CHAIN SRAM PC 1071 PowerChain™ CABLES Gore Ride On TIRES Blackbelt 700 x 23 220 TPI Turbo Specialized Extremely low rolling resistance and superior cornering traction lets you climb easily, descend faster, and corner harder. SADDLE Specialized SEALED HEADSET Specialized 1-1/8" to 1-3/8" Cr-Mo bearings ensuring precision BAR WRAP Specialized
Test Bike weighs 7.35 kg (bike with SRAM FORCE 7.2)
NON STANDARD COMPONENTRY ON TEST BIKE BRAKES - Sram Red double tap 2012 CRANKS Sram Red 172.5 powerglide 53/39 10spd 2012 FRONT DERAILLEUR Sram Red 2012 REAR DERAILLEUR Sram 10 speed 2012 Standard Race comes with SRAM Rival Double Tap see full list - http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bikes/road/allez/allezracerivalmidcompact#specs HANDLEBARS - ENVE 44's compact PEDALS - Keywin CRM controlled radial movement clipless pedal WHEELS DT Swiss Tricon DT P 2535 Rear wheel 24 spoke Front 18 spoke SRAM Red Cassette SEAT MAST S Works Fact Carbon
All photos by Robert Cobcroft