If your passion for cycling goes beyond cursory interest, you've no doubt heard of Specialized's Allez. Named for a French cheer that basically means "let's go" (among other things), the classic road bike has been in continuous production since the early 1980s, making it one of the Specialized's oldest and most trusted models.
The Allez is good-looking, relatively light, lively and fast for the price — the same selling points it has leaned on since the very beginning. These days, there are plenty of bikes that have more bells and whistles, flashier components and more capabilities.
Why, then, is the Allez still so beloved?
The Birth of a Classic
Specialized founder Mike Sinyard traveled to Europe in the '70s, where he met the Italian racer and bike maker Cino Cinelli. Before long, he began importing European bike components to the US and dreamed of developing his own answer to glamorous Euro road bikes — at a more accessible price point.
Working with Lighthouse Cycles founder Tim Neenan and renowned Japanese frame builder 3Rensho (pronounced San Rensho), Sinyard developed the first Allez — a steel frame race bike with a need for speed baked into its DNA. The bike made its debut in 1981 alongside the Sequoia and the Stumpjumper, a groundbreaking mountain bike that Spec still produces versions of to this day. (An original Stumpjumper is on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.)
According to a wonderful Youtube video by Eric Spinney (a.k.a. Spindatt), the first Allez bikes featured Tange tubing and full Campagnolo componentry, and its original geometry echoed the angles of early European race bikes. The bike was a hit, and Specialized has produced a new edition literally every year since.
A few years later, in 1984, the company introduced a new variation, the Allez SE — a more affordable option that hit the big screen in the 1985 bike racing drama American Flyers (starring a rare, mustachioed Kevin Costner).
Changing with the Times
Come 1988, production had moved to Giant Bicycles facilities in Taiwan and, believe it or not, a carbon-tubed Allez, the Epic, was introduced. Picture a flashier paint job, more modern components and cast and polished aluminum lugs. The year 1994 brought us the first aluminum alloy frame Allez, the M2, and three years later, all new Allez bikes were made of similar material.
By 2003, Specialized had introduced the Tarmac, which became the brand’s top-of-the-line carbon frame race bike, but the Allez did not go away. Rather, it retained its status as the go-to beginner road bike — a light, fast, classic-looking beauty that wouldn’t wreck your bank account.
The nameplate got new life with the introduction of the Allez Sprint, featuring a 1x drivetrain, aero seatpost and D’Alusio Smartweld (DSW) Tech, a revolutionary welding process that produces a stronger, lighter frame.
Specialized began introducing new treatments of the Sprint for the renowned Red Hook Crit, and as riders customized their own builds for (relatively) cheap, the bike became a social media sensation, keeping the Allez name in the zeitgeist to this day.
There are plenty of theories as to why the Allez holds a special place in many cyclists' hearts. Maybe it's the race-ready geometry that also works for everyday commuting and pure racing. (After all, the stiffer frames of faster bikes do tend to take a toll on super-long rides.)
Or perhaps it's the quality of components, and the fact that Specialized can include a high-performance Shimano groupset (on some versions) and still keep the bike fairly priced. Current offerings range from the base Allez ($1,000) to the absolutely loaded Allez Sprint LTD - SRAM Force eTap AXS 1x ($6,800).
Of course, many new riders are just pulled in by its reputation as a bona fide classic — its own popularity continuing to propel it forward, with experienced riders recommending it to beginners, and then those beginners recommending it to new beginners down the line ... and so on.
Gear Patrol's own Scott Ulrich (associate editor, social platforms) bought an Allez a couple of years ago after seeking input from industry vets. According to him, it's the ideal starter roadie.
"Perhaps what I like the most is that it looks and feels like a genuine road bike, which is great considering that I got mine for around $1,000," Ulrich says. "As someone who was looking to step up from 'bike owner' to 'cyclist', the Allez was the perfect choice."
The Lightest Bike in its Class
In 2023, the Allez is the lightest it's ever been. For this year's model, released in May, Specialized pulled out all the stops to cut the weight of the Allez frame to a mere 48.5 ounces (1,375 grams).
The premium E5 alloy is butted — and double butted — in all the right places. Commonly seen on steel road bikes, a butted tube has the same exterior diameter but variable thickness on the inside of the tube. The thicker alloy is at each end of the tube, where more pressure is put and where more support is needed, while the thinner portions are in the midsection, providing more compliance and a more responsive ride (while keeping weight to a minimum).
The 2023 Allez also features a full carbon-fiber fork, which shaves additional weight. (Hear that, Epic?)
The newest version of the Allez takes geometry cues from the Roubaix — yes, the bike that's got seven wins at Paris-Roubaix (the toughest one-day race in the world). The updated geometry on the Allez delivers more comfort over longer miles, thanks to an elongated head tube and a more relaxed head tube angle. This helps take the weight off your hands and place it more on your sit bones — which are supported by a Body Geometry saddle.
Although the Allez was built to race right out of the box, it works just as well as a commuter or everyday ride. To increase its versatility, Specialized included rack and fender mounts to make it easy to customize and bring whatever you need along for the ride. If you want to try the Allez's chops at a little off roading, the 35mm tire clearance can handle light gravel, while a wide gear range can help you climb the steep stuff.
A New Price Point
Sure, the updated Allez comes with a ton of technical updates ... and it now comes with a higher price tag. The Allez was always known as an entry-level bike but it's no longer $1,000 — the new Allez costs $1,200 for the base model and $1,800 for the Sport edition, which boasts more impressive componentry. Both bikes are available in three colorways.
Inflation's on the rise, so it's hard to blame Specialized for increasing the price; however, it does perhaps nudge the Allez a pedal stroke away from its timeless appeal as a race-ready bike you don't have to be a sponsored Tour rider to afford.