While it's a racing frame, the price point and the build it comes with aims it more at those looking for an upgrade bike – and it's very versatile, gobbling up long days in the saddle and intensive interval sessions alike.
Versatile bike – can be ridden hard or far
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As a range known for its superb entry-level bikes, it might come as a surprise to some to see a Specialized Allez with a different, more aggressive shape. But that's because this is the Specialized Allez Sprint Comp, an aluminium bike designed for criterium racing and used by Team Specialized/Rocket Espresso at the Red Hook Crit races.
It's still an aluminium frame, and Specialized has used its D'Aluisio Smartweld Sprint Technology. This reinforces the welds, giving greater stiffness in areas of higher stress for when you're pushing hard through corners or hammering on the pedals.
But smart welding isn't the only thing that differentiates this from the other Allez bikes in Specialized's range. There's also an S-Works FACT carbon fork that helps reduce some of the bike's weight and road chatter, although our model still came in at a weighty 8.28kg for the complete build.
While the frame receives a Venge FACT aero carbon-fibre seatpost it doesn't have a direct brake mount. I spent a great deal of time rearranging the Shimano 105 calipers as they moved during braking, causing a very frustrating rubbing.
Being a racing bike, the Specialized Allez Sprint Comp's geometry packs a punch, especially when compared to the rest of the Allez range. Its short 405mm chainstay length makes it a bike crying out to be pedalled through the corners and it has an aggressive 150mm head tube length in the size 56 we tested. That's 30mm lower than the Specialized Allez Elite and 10mm lower than the more aggressive Specialized Tarmac Elite SL4.
Fortunately, the bike comes with a stubby 100mm stem so it's a not a back-breaking drawn-out position. In fact, I found the 100mm stem to be a great length for aggressive turns and attacking riding whilst still being comfortable enough to ride for the 100km days I've done in the saddle.
The bike receives Specialized's Body Geometry design, meaning the bike gets a differently designed bottom bracket area, head tube and fork depending on the size of the bike – so it should feel compact and punchy regardless of your frame size. With that in mind, Specialized says the bike would make a great everyday road bike, or alternatively it could be raced. The specification the bike comes with puts it firmly in the former category, but that isn't a bad thing.
The superb Shimano 105 makes up the drivetrain, and it is a good performance groupset, especially in the 52/36 11-28 guise the bike comes with, and the STI shifters are small and comfortable. A lot of my test bikes lately have been coming with compact chainsets, but the mid-compact specced here was great for putting down the power on the flat South West London roads. I'm looking forward to seeing the frame partnered with the more angular and aggressive new Shimano 105 that was announced recently.
The DT Swiss R460 wheels are excellent training wheels and they roll far better than their boxy dimensions would suggest. They've been tough on the rubbish London roads and I've hammered the rear wheel into many potholes – one particularly deep one on the way to Clapham Junction springs to mind. Despite the rucksack on my back and the almighty clunk that accompanied it, the rear wheel is still running straight and true.
They're not slow, either. I've used them on particularly fast group rides in Richmond Park and they didn't shy away from the pace or feel sluggish and I was really impressed, especially considering the rest of the group were on carbon bikes and carbon wheels.
Watch: Tech Question – is the compact chainset dead?
Of course, being a racing frame the Specialized Allez Sprint Comp is crying out for a pair of deep-section carbon wheels itself, and it would have been rude to deny it. I obliged, throwing on a pair of Hunt Race Aero Wide wheels I've been testing and the bike looked great. The carbon rims added some more stiffness to the ride and shaved off some of the excess weight from the DT Swiss wheels.
I'd also swap out the Specialized Turbo 24mm tyres specced and throw on some faster rubber. Specialized's Turbo Cotton tyres would look the business on this bike.
With this list of changes and upgrades you might want to make, it's fair to say that the Specialized Allez Sprint Comp probably isn't the best value bike on the market. For less than £1,600 you can get carbon fibre, Shimano Ultegra-equipped bikes, although they don't have the same crit racing pedigree as the Allez.
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