A few months ago I decided it was time to purchase a new road bike. I had considered upgrading the components on my 2007 Specialized Allez Sport, but it was actually less expensive to buy a new bike than to purchase all the parts I wanted for the old one. I spent a few weeks reading and researching 2016 models from various manufactures. There is a lot out there to choose from: dozens of brands, a kaleidoscope of frame geometries, maybe 10-15 reliable groupsets, and of course, the choice between steel, aluminum, carbon, or titanium framesets.
After considering my options (including various carbon bikes), I decided to get another Specialized Allez, which is Specialized’s more-or-less traditional, aluminum road-race bike. After all, I got over 30,000 miles out of my last Allez with virtually no problems other than maintenance and the occasional drivetrain replacement. The thought of a carbon bike was tempting, and I rode a Specialized Tarmac that was super nice. But, I am no racer, and in the end I just didn’t see the need. I wanted something that was serviceable, sturdy, light, and easy to work on given my limited skills as a bike mechanic. Besides, carbon bikes are virtually non-recyclable as a practical matter, and the environmentalist in me (goaded on my fiancée The Nurse) felt aluminum was a more responsible choice, carbon forks aside. And, if I am honest, I have safety concerns regarding carbon fiber.
So, I decided on and purchased a 2016 Specialized Allez DSW SL Comp, an aluminum frame with carbon forks. The bike had pretty much everything I was looking for: an aluminum frame, carbon forks, more aggressive road geometry, and a Shimano 105-based groupset. The only compromise I made is that the groupset was not entirely 105; but the Full Speed Ahead Gossamer Pro crankset (52/36t) and Axis 2.0 brakes were perfectly adequate. And any compromise is offset by the cool unpainted, brushed aluminum finish.
2016 Specialized Allez DSW SL Comp
So, having recently passed the 1800 mile mark on this machine, it is time to share some impressions.
The Allez was also available in a cool bright, almost fluorescent “Hyper Green” that is very racy looking. But, since I’m a middle aged lawyer with a few extra pounds, I opted for the more minimalist unpainted brushed aluminum finish with red and black carbon forks. It is a nice, understated look. All the components are black, or close to it. It’s a good looking bike that doesn’t show road grime very easily. With the exception of a few well-earned chips and scratches, it looks brand new.
This bike was a great fit from the beginning. I had been riding an Allez for about ten years previously and this new model has almost identical geometry. It was comfortable and familiar from the start. However, the Toupe Sport saddle isn’t my favorite, and will likely be the next upgrade. Probably the biggest difference is that I no longer use road-style clipless shoes and pedals, and have switched to a mountain bike-style SPD system. The new shoes/pedals work like a charm (and make it easier to walk into a bar for a post-ride beer). It should be said that the folks at High Desert Bicycles provided a very extensive bike fitting to go with the purchase. This had a lot to do with how well this bike rode from the start. The day I picked the bike up, I left the shop and headed out with The Nurse (who bought a Specialized Dolce Comp at the same time) for a 25 mile ride home via the Paseo del Bosque Trail. The bike was light, stiff, quick, and responsive.
Since that day, two centuries and 1800 miles later, the bike still rides great. If you regularly read bicycle magazines, you will encounter a lot of talk about how roughly aluminum bikes ride. There is some truth to that. But, modern aluminum frames are so well engineered and when pared with carbon forks, a bike like the Allez is comparable to carbon or steel for comfort. Much of the riding I do is on remote rural stretches of highway that are very worn and poorly maintained. During a particularly rough 115-mile ride, I ended up doing 40 mph on a bumpy downhill stretch of Highway 60 near Bernardo, NM dodging potholes and banging over cracks in the asphalt. The Allez took it well, and at the end of the descent I rode north for another 50 miles without feeling jarred or rattled.
As mentioned above, the groupset is based around Shimano 105 gearing and brifters. The FSA crankset works as well as any other comparable set, even if not as light. There is no need to extol the virtues of Shimano’s 105 group here, but it is no surprise that the groups works exactly as it should with smooth precision and indexed shifting on both the front and rear derailleurs. The Axis brakes are flawless if heavier than their 105 counterparts. As mentioned above, the seat is not my cup of tea, but others might dig it. The drop bars and stem are Specialized alloy and get the job done. They are nothing special. I may get a wider set of bars in the near future, but there is no rush.
Oh, the fake “cork” bar tape is pretty nice and cushy. I like it.
The only real upgrade has been swapping out the kind-of cheap Espoir Elite tires that came with it for 700c x 25 Continental Gatorskins and STOP Flats tire liners. These improved the ride by maybe 700% and the number of flats went from 2-3 per week to 1 every 700 miles or so. No kidding. A Cateye Strada Cadence bike computer was added as well in order to better nerd out at numbers. A small-ish Timbuk2 saddle pack was thrown on to hold tools and other junk. Other than that, this bike is stock, off-the-rack.
That’s it. I just ride. Every time I get on and press the pedals the bike will go as far as I want. That is all I need in a road bike, and this bike is perfect for that.
If you want to race, this isn’t the bike for you. It is too heavy for that. However, if you want a light, stiff, serviceable bike that will last for 30,000 miles (and more) without a blink, the Specialized Allez DSW SL Comp might be a bike to consider.
I will post another review after the 5,000 mile mark.