SPECIALIZED ALLEZ COMP COMPACT APEX
A poor-man's race bike with a mix of parts that leaves us wondering
Specialized bills the Allez Comp Compact Apex as a poor man’s race bike. Most entry-level models in this category have convoluted frame designs and component specs intended to seat the rider in an upright urban-bike-path position, while providing the illusion that its owner is actually riding a race bike. The Allez Comp Compact Apex breaks that mold with the look and feel of the genuine article. Its handlebar is low and wide. The slightly sloping top tube is still low enough to allow for a truly aerodynamic position in the drops, and the drivetrain is geared to match the task of riding in a tight group. But the biggest news that the Allez Apex brings to racing’s hopefuls is its $1400 price tag. A sport racing bike for less than some of us pay for a wheelset? The Allez Comp Compact Apex has the credentials.
Specialized’s Allez Comp aluminum frame is formed to trace the gentle curves and tapered lines of contemporary carbon wunderbikes. The welds are smoothed with a second pass of the TIG torch in the tradition of Cannondale, and the clear-coated paint and graphics are simply stunning. The fork has carbon blades with an aluminum crown and steerer tube, while the frame features a tapered head tube with an oversized, 1.5-inch lower bearing. Behind the flashy frame are solid numbers: a roomy top tube length; a 74.5-degree seat angle to encourage a smooth, high-rpm cadence; and a stable-steering, 72-degree head angle to ease the Allez around high-speed corners.
SRAM's Apex rear derailleur and 11-28 cassette give the Allez Comp wide and useful gearing options. Shifting performance was excellent.
It is far easier for a bike maker to produce a cost-is-no-object pro racing bicycle than it is to deliver an affordable model with similar features. Built around a modified SRAM Apex drivetrain, the Allez component package walks the tightrope between shamelessly low-priced generic parts and items that are brilliantly designed for the task.
“Apex” refers to SRAM’s latest midpriced, 20-speed component ensemble that incorporates DoubleTap shift/brake controls and wide-range gearing choices to facilitate climbing. Standard Apex chainring gear choices (53/39, 50/34 and 48/34 chainring combos) are intended to offer a broad selection of gear options, while at the same time (maybe most importantly) avoiding the dreaded “Fred look” of a triple chainring. Specialized chose a racier 52/36 chainring setup for the Apex crankset; however, paired with the closer-spaced 11-28 ten-cog Apex cassette option, the Allez drivetrain rides more like a conventionally geared bike, which is far removed from SRAM’s original intention for the Apex group: to be a two-chainring drivetrain designed to compete with triple-crankset systems. Beyond the Apex ensemble, the Allez parts that qualify for the brilliant category are the Specialized-branded handlebar and stem, along with the Specialized Body Geometry Riva Saddle, which gives the bike the genuine feel of a road-racing machine.
SRAM's non-standard S100 crankset and 52/36 chainrings complement the Allez in its role as an affordable racing bike.
Those who spend most of their time on elite-level hardware will gasp at the Allez Comp’s 20 pound weight, but early pro race bikes weighed a pound more and cost exactly the same (in wayback bucks). Still, on the road, the Allez is truly a sweet ride—smooth over the bumps, precisely balanced around corners and a solid climber. We questioned Specialized’s “customization” of SRAM’s Apex drivetrain-until we put some miles in. The gear spread is an excellent compromise for a rider who must tackle hills on Tuesday and ride a fast, flat lunch ride on Thursday. Still, it seems the intended audience for a bike in this price range would be well served by a bike that utilized the quantifiable merits of the Apex package gearing.
Of course, there were a few hiccups. The Tektro brakes are tepid stoppers, and the adjustment barrels are impossible to manipulate on the fly, which is inexcusable. With all the wheels available in the entry-level performance market, how did these slow-accelerating Roman chariot cast-offs end up on such an otherwise contemporary ride? A fresh-feeling wheelset would supercharge the already strong performance of the Allez Comp Compact Apex.
Specialized’s Allez bears witness to the fact that if you get the numbers right and pay attention to the components that the rider sits on, holds on to and pulls or pushes, an affordable bike can perform at a high level. The Allez Comp Compact Apex is perfectly placed for a soon-tobe- serious cyclist who needs as much racing bike as $1400 will buy. Specialized Allez Comp Compact Apex is a wordy name, but memorize it so you’ll be ready when somebody asks you what to buy for a first-time road biker, especially one with racing aspirations.
• True race bike feel
• Ride-anything gearing
• Almost anyone can descend like a pro
on this bike
Weight: 20.1 pounds (54cm)