The answer is the new Allez Sprint, an aluminium bike that takes the aerodynamics and geometry from Specialized's carbon Tarmac and transfers them to a machine cheap enough to race without worrying too much about crashing.
The key to creating such a machine is Specialized's Smartweld technology. Conceived as a cosmetic feature in 2013, the process resulted from the firm's desire for a smooth, unobtrusive, and seamless looking weld. Invented by engineer Chris D'Aluisio, it turned out that his combination of precisely created junctions and smooth, high penetration welds also resulted in far less flex and greater resistance to fatigue.
Not that it's ashamed of its core material, but the combination of its oversized profiles and smooth welds means that the Allez Sprint looks more like its carbon peers than most people's idea of an aluminium bike.
The second technology to help manage this trick is hydroforming. This method of die forming uses extreme pressure hydraulic fluid to press room temperature material into a die. The Allez Sprint frame is made from a minimum number of pieces through the extensive working of each element using this process.
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Allowing better engineering of these elements, this eliminates unnecessary junctions while improving power transfer and structural integrity. Evident in structures like the one-piece headtube or combined downtube and bottom bracket assembly, both of which are formed from a single block of highly wrought aluminium, these are then combined to create a bike that appears almost seamless.
It's a combination of technologies that allows for both greater strength and improved ride quality. At the same time, the complexity of the shapes now achievable means the aluminium Allez Sprint is also free to compete with carbon bikes in terms of aerodynamics.
Having been tested in Specialized's wind tunnel, the brand claims the bike is significantly quicker than all its previous aluminium designs. Although it might be a little light on data regarding how it arrived at the figure, Specialized claims it'll save you on average 41 seconds over a 40km course compared to the former Allez Sprint Disc.
This is a facet helped along by its carbon-esqe tube profiles, plus newly integrated cabling, and a fork and seatpost lifted directly from the Tarmac. Still a little heavier than most carbon frames; nevertheless, Specialized thinks you should also be able to put together builds as light as 7.9kg with some careful planning.
Four decades in the making
Released in 1981, the original Allez was Specialized's first road bike. Since then it's been produced in steel, aluminium and carbon. Long since overtaken by more expensive models like the firm's Tarmac or Roubaix, the bike eventually settled into a new role as its entry-level aluminium racer. Selling in massive volumes, the company has occasionally released hot-hatch style special editions, such as the 2015 Allez Sprint as occasionally raced by Peter Sagan. Marketed as an ideal criterium racer, these sharper, stiffer, and lighter versions proved popular with semi-pro teams and custom builders.
This latest version continues in this race-focused vein. As you'd hope, given its name, Specialized also make a lot of the new Allez Sprint's stiffness, suggesting it should again be an excellent choice for budget-conscious racers.
With carbon accoutrements taken directly from its top-flight bikes, the Allez Sprint also benefits from a combination of thru-axles, 32mm tyre clearance, and a practical 68mm BSA threaded bottom bracket. Cabling is neatly managed, disappearing through a specially created top cap to provide almost all the benefits of a fully integrated system without the extra hassle of routing the cables through the bar and stem.
In the UK, you'll be able to get the Comp version with a 2x Shimano 105 11-speed groupset or build your own bike using the frameset option. If you go for a complete build, you'll find a suitably racey 52/36t chainset plus fancy Supacaz Super Sticky Kush tape.
Americans and those still part of the EU will be able to get hold of the LTD version of the bike, which comes with a single ring version of SRAM's Force eTap AXS groupset. All versions of the bike are available from today.
Allez Sprint Pricing