• AA BB

    You say maximum official tyre width is 24c. Would wider tyres work?

    • Mark C LeBlanc

      This is false. I am currently riding 28mm tires with room for a 32 in the rear. This article needs to be corrected so it doesn’t misinform people. This is actually one of the best things about the bike. It has much more tire clearance than the Venge.

      • James Huang

        This was direct from the Specialized product manager who oversaw this project: “Max we can sell with is 24, but a shop could easily change to a 28. We need to have 4mm of clearance on all sides of the tire to ship it.”

        My test bike actually came with a 26mm rear, but Specialized isn’t allowed to sell it that way based on CPSC guidelines. A bigger tire may very well fit (especially on a bigger frame size), but it’s a question of how comfortable you are with limited space between the tire and frame/fork.

        • Mark C LeBlanc

          Well I ride a 54 with 28s on front and rear. I’ve raced all season without any rub at all on 50/60mm depth carbon wheels with a 25mm external width. You wouldn’t even be able to put 28s onto a venge frame, so comparatively, it has more clearance than the carbon ponies and should’ve been characterized as a benefit.

          • James Huang

            This frame may very well have “more” clearance than a Venge, but I can still only say what is *officially* permitted to be used on the frame. Given the mandated 4mm minimum clearances, a 28mm tire would certainly fit between the stays and frame, but would only leave around 2mm of space. Whether that’s something someone is comfortable with is a question I can’t answer for people.

            • Mark C LeBlanc

              That’s just fishy. I just measured mine with 28 mm Vittoria Corsa G+ tires on a 54cm frame. I have more than 5mm on BOTH sides of the seat stays AND chainstays. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4e179b2e88470b49f9cffbd961041c1f31a9682bbf824819f996b2edff9c7a69.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6199b3427bbb172c89734feca2422c2d20d0fe3e3cf24e5a39eab21cda5972f3.jpg

              • James Huang

                That’s good to know, but again, I’m just providing Specialized’s official word on the subject. And again, given how the seatstays attach to the seat tube, it’s very likely that the clearance will vary a lot depending on frame size. I didn’t measure the 26mm rear tire on my test bike, but I don’t recall it having as much clearance as the 28s on your frame.

                • Mark C LeBlanc

                  No worries. I’ve just always been really impressed with the tire clearance for larger diameter tires and was surprised when the article sort of portrayed it as a pitfall.

                  • James Huang

                    Had I been able to more comfortably fit 28s in here (on wide-profile rims), I would have been more tempted to buy the test bike. As it is, though, I think I’m holding out for the SmartWeld analogue to the Tarmac that I would bet money is coming next year.

                    • Superpilot

                      Hey James, thanks for the review. Just a note on the 24mm thing, isn’t that kind of why you review a bike?

                      You can surely just mention the mandated rule that Specialized has to follow, but then at least try the other tires and let the consumer know what does fit and how much clearance? I mean, that is the insight I look at a review for, I can only read so much about Smartweld and hollow bottom brackets, it is the ride characteristics and usability of a bike that matters most IMHO.

                      Whether that construction makes an actual difference, the stiffness in acceleration, comfort on bumps, performance of stock groupset and wheels if a stock build, what BB it has, as well as tire clearance is key these days.

                    • James Huang

                      Ok, point taken, but keep in mind that tire clearance can often vary with frame size, and I can only report on the one that I have here.

                      On that note, I don’t think I would have been comfortable running 28s on the bike I had (or else I would have been much more tempted to buy this one!).

                    • Superpilot

                      Just saying my opinion of what I want to read in reviews, not having a go at you. It’s up to you how you want to review :) Those are two things you could mention, that it could fit in that size but alter with frame size, and that you would prefer not to as was too close in your opinion. Anyway, keep it up!

                    • James Huang

                      I’ll definitely keep that in mind moving forward. Thanks for the feedback!

        • ConnerSwarthout

          Hey everybody, to clarify James’ point above: the bike is designed to have a minimum of 4mm clearance with a 24mm tire based on the requirements of ISO which is the governing test standard for most of the world. Because of the manufacturing tolerances involved with forming, cutting, and welding the CS’s, we design bikes to have more clearance than the 4mm minimum so that in production we reduce the possibility of non-conforming bikes. That’s why (as Mark notes) he is finding 5mm of clearance on his frame, and most frames should have at least ~4-6mm of clearance.

          • James Huang

            In other words, YMMV.

            Thanks for chiming in, Conner!

      • macandbumble

        I too run a 58cm 1x with 28s front and back. Doesn’t transform the bike into a Roubaix, but it does make it a bit more comfy. Mark, what tyre are you running as a 32? What brakes you running with it?

        • Mark C LeBlanc

          TRP r970 EQ brakes. I’m not running 32s, but I could def fit a 32mm rear. I run 28mm Vitoria Corsa g+

  • winkybiker

    “….feels more like a muscle car stuck in rush-hour traffic, constantly straining to be free of its moorings….”


    • James Huang

      Too kitschy? Struggled a bit with that one, to be honest, but the sentiment is true nonetheless. This bike hates to go slow.

      • winkybiker

        Kitschy? I’ll say. Mixed metaphor, too. Boats and ships have “moorings”. Cars? Not so much. I think I get what you’re trying to say, but I can’t agree. Any bike can be pedalled slowly. The bike doesn’t care, it’s just a bike. It doesn’t hate anything.

        • James Huang

          Ok, this one maybe doesn’t “hate” riding slowly. But it certainly seems boring.

          • H.E. Pennypacker

            Interesting writing is always superior to uninteresting. I say keep it up, even if people think you swing and miss from time to time. Strive for interesting prose.

        • philipmcvey

          I agree on the mixed metaphor. And the kitsch component. On the other hand I do think there are bikes that make far more sense at speed than they do idling along – whether because of aggressive geometry or aero features that do nothing unless you’re moving at 40kmh – so from that perspective the observation holds water for me. As for anthropomorphising – James is not the first to do it.. it’s a common enough literary device. (I’m not a fan myself)

          • misterhorsey

            If James was anthropomorphising he would have given the bike human characteristics in his metaphor, as that’s what anthropomorphising realtes to (i.e. slow pedalling the bike felt like Usain Bolt, getting impatient in a slow moving crowded street. But instead, he compared it to a muscle car (heavy, fossil fuel guzzling machine) – which is just plain weird ;)

            Hats off to you James for being so gracious in your receipt of all this unsolicited constructive criticism!

  • Legstrong

    I have never ridden Allez before. How does it compare to CAAD frames? I used to ride CAAD10 and thought it was super stiff and snappy. CAAD10s are excellent crit bikes. Both CAAD and Allez are about the same price.

    That Allez aero seatpost does not help in terms of ride quality.

    • Mark C LeBlanc

      Previously switched over from two Cannondale Supersix Evos. One of them was a HiMod and one of them was a regular mod. Both 2015 models. Both great bikes. This bike has completely changed my thinking. I haven’t had any problem with the ride quality. I’m riding 28mm tires at 90-95 psi and the ride quality is just fine for me.

      • Legstrong

        I should’ve clarified that I had no issues with super stiff frame. In fact, I am craving for one. I mainly race crits.

        90-95psi for 28c tires is too much IMO (I don’t know your weight and internal rim width). I run 83psi on the front and 88psi on the rear. 25c. 21mm internal rim width. 170lbs. However, this is a separate issue. James Huang had a podcast (here on CT) specifically on tire pressure.

        • Mark C LeBlanc

          I’m 175. Should I try riding at 85 psi?

          • James Huang

            What are you at now? The biggest takeaway I got from chatting about the subject with Josh Poertner and Jan Heine is the need to experiment. I’m 70kg/154lb and am now at around 80psi, whereas I’d previously normally run at 100-105psi. It’s been quite the eye-opener.

            • Holby City

              Come on get down to 70psi!

              • James Huang

                I’m already down to 60! But it’s on a bike fitted with 28mm tires on 21mm-wide (internal width) rims so they measure 31mm :)

          • There is no formula for determining tyre pressure for an individual. You’ve got to experiment with different pressures, and most important, ride a given pressure for at least a few days (a week is better). I’ve found ~60psi works really well for me for Vittoria 25mm tyres on Belgium plus rims, and 50psi for 28mm GP4000 tyres on similarly wide rims. I’m ~170pounds.

            Listen to the podcast for all the details

        • Gustavo Cinci

          True. I too ride 2 diff aluminum bikes and run about 75-80psi on wide rims, and am 158lbs. Cannot imagine this bike being comfortable at all w deep dish, except on carpet-like pavement.

      • AA BB

        What length rides are you doing? Any really rough roads?

    • campirecord

      Ride quality of CAAD is way better. I have an Allez as a city bike and man its rough…

  • Kiwicyclist

    James, can you make any comment on the handling, say in comparison with the Venge (prev generation which I happen to own)? One of the things I have always liked about the Tarmac and Venge is the handling, particularly for crit racing.

    • James Huang

      I can’t comment on the handling relative to the previous-edition Venge (never rode one), but I’d say this one is nearly identical to the Tarmac overall. It’s very quick, but not overly nervous.

      • chris

        current tarmac or SL4 tarmac?

        • James Huang

          I’m referencing the SL4 — and specifically, the 52cm size.

  • Andy B

    What does this offer me.. over say.. a train? which I can also afford

    • mrp33p3rs

      the train is prettier.

    • Warwick

      Well, you’ll notice how the heated gas pedal warms your feet, and the…

  • TheTallCyclist

    About the Smartweld, (immeasurable) marketing claims aside, it is basically done so that bikes can be produced easily and welded by robots; no different mitered tubes needed for the different sizes so the process is significantly shorter (and little human input – read expensive, is needed), tubes are just shortened to fit the sizes (and most probably why the smaller size ride harsh – ie there are no thinner walled tubes for the smaller sizes and thicker ones for the larger frames).
    Therefore by stocking a few parts, you can manufacture bikes very quickly and at low cost. For the same reason chainstays size remains the same across sizes (which comprosmises handling as the sizes grow). Also keep in mind that Chuck Texeira was the man behind the now discontinued Easton aluminum tubesets which were top of the line and are dearly missed among the custom framebuilding community – he knows a thing or two about aluminum. All I am saying, don’t mistake convenience of manufacturing with ‘performance enhancing.’=)

    • James Huang

      I’m not sure I agree with you. I have yet to see a bicycle frame welded by robots (and have been to several Asian bike factories) and if anything, the welds on this thing are a bit lumpier than I would expect with fully automated production. Specialized is very clear that one of the advantages of SmartWeld is that it’s easier to get a consistent joint (and I’ve mentioned as such in the review). As a result, it does perhaps allow less experienced welders to do the job in less time (and, therefore, lower cost) but I see that more as a by-product of the process. Aluminum frames are already dirt cheap to produce.

      SmartWeld tubes can’t just be cut down to size like mitered ones, either, as they require rolled ends that need to be formed in some kind of press/die. Even so, mitered aluminum frames often use shared tubesets already, so I don’t see how SmartWeld could offer much financial advantage over a conventionally welded frame.

      As for the shared chainstay length (and BB drop, I might add) across the size range, absolutely, that strikes me as a cost cutting measure. But it’s hardly unique to this bike.

      • TheTallCyclist

        Good points. I want to add to my comment (i knew you would catch on it=) ) is that welded by robots also can mean welding in fixtures where you do get a consistent joint/less distortion etc – ie it requires less skill ( which doesn’t mean the welders themselves are less skilled) so it can be done in a high volume setting with more or less consistently (high) quality day in and day out. Mitered or not and that all mass production stuff shares tubesets is in a way “industry standard” and nothing new, though what the “mad men” make out of it is another story. Also tubes might come preformed and require cutting at one end only (the Allez tube shapes share uncanny resemblance to what is available from the big custom aluminum factories in Taiwan!) , though we are discussing semantics. In a production setting saving couple of minutes adds up in the long term so antyhing that can improve the process is more than welcome – again what the marketing department makes out of it is another story altogether and proper welds ARE important and ultimately performance increasing (ie bike longevity, fewer warranty claims). Mass produced carbon bikes are also dirt cheap to make and require even less operator skill.=) I am not even going to get into the chainstay and BB drop that is also a cost-cutting measure across a lot of stuff out there – though only the extreme ends (small and/or tall riders) suffer the most from the design/cost efficiency compromises. All of the above is just to mention that there is a bigger picture involved and not meant to say the industry is a villain, – after all you can get decent off the peg stuff for reasonable price – which as I am lead to understand wasn’t always the case.

        • James Huang

          For sure, I never forget that when all is said and done, bike companies exist to make money. But if making money can sometimes carry with it some real-world benefits for us, I’m not going to complain much ;)

  • bigstu_

    There is a dot point missing in the “BAD STUFF” column: Fugly…

  • Coogs

    Those welds look ugly in my view. The colour scheme works though.

  • Ragtag

    James – I know the laws of reviews fail when a review of any Specialized product is being done; even for a normally very good website like yours. But I will urge you to try the CAAD 10 and 12 bikes and then revisit the review. Cannondale are the true innovators in aluminum. What they did with this material, opened the eyes of the other manufacturers – such as Specialized.

    • James Huang

      I am by no means discounting the role that Cannondale has played in developing high-performance aluminum bikes. Without question, they have advanced the genre more than anyone else and championed the material when few others would. I got into cycling when Cannondale was in its prime and lusted after a 2.8 frame myself.

      That said, there’s no discounting how much the Allez DSW SL’s bottom bracket design changes what can be done with an aluminum frame. No one else – Cannondale included – has done anything like this.

      As for the “laws of reviews” and Specialized, I honestly have no idea what you mean. Are we to be especially harsh when judging Specialized products? I, for one, prefer to treat every company (and product) on equal footing, and that includes giving credit where credit is due.

  • Don Seib

    I’ve ridden this bike for an entire season, was lucky enough to get one of the early “black box” complete builds. Mine was shipped with 24 front and 26 rear on the 64 wheels and as noted several times tons of room for larger. In terms of ride compliance, I don’t think it is harsh at all. I planned to ride it through the early crit season and go back to a s-works tarmac…but didn’t. I’ve got about 5k miles on it and switched to a 26 up front and at 85 psi the bike is very comfortable. Also Ansel Dickey won the Rasputitsa gravel event on one….with big meat tires, riding through 10″ mud down cyberia… For an event noted for it’s course difficulty that is a testament to how far aluminum has come. Two big thumbs up

    • macandbumble

      What tyres did Ansel run on the gravel event?

      • Don Seib

        28mm road tires, hard to tell from the pictures, but would guess armadillo or roubaix as he is hooked up by specialized

  • Juju Jordan

    what dust cap is being used?

    • James Huang

      Can you please clarify?

      • Juju Jordan

        It’s a spacer I believe but the last one under the stem and on top of the head tube

        • James Huang

          It’s just whatever was included with the bike. Sorry, I don’t remember the make and model, nor does it appear to be listed on the Specialized web site. I will mention, though, that it appears to be a proprietary setup with custom bearings that press directly into the head tube. The potential lack of widespread availability is something I noted when I tore the bike down for a frame weight, but then again, I also noted that it seems to be reasonably well made with decent seals so it might not be an issue, particularly if you don’t regularly find yourself in wet weather.


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