The Specialized Allez, Reborn

The Specialized Allez, Reborn

I don’t usually write about equipment that I haven’t ridden and won’t ever get to ride. I’m going to make an exception, though this may not be the only time this happens. There are a few organizations that I have a soft spot for. They have in common using the bicycle to change lives. World Bicycle Relief is giving bicycles to people in developing nations in Africa as a way to increase options and grow economies. Mobility is more than just freedom; mobility is an economic multiplier. For those who aren’t familiar with World Bicycle Relief, you can learn more about them here.

40th-bike-comp2

So Specialized has dreamt up a way to mobilize people like you and me into giving World Bicycle Relief fat stacks of cash. They have revisited one of the most popular and beloved bikes of the last 40 years, the Specialized Allez. As part of their effort to commemorate the company’s 40th anniversary, they are doing a special run of 74 Allez frames. Now these aren’t just reproductions of the old bike. This is where this gets interesting. Specialized went back to the two men who shepherded the original Allez into being, engineer and frame builder Mark DiNucci and former R&D manager Bryant Bainbridge. After a stint elsewhere, Bainbridge is back at Specialized, overseeing “sustainable innovation.” Between his two stints at Specialized Bainbridge spent time making big organizations greener. DiNucci designed the tube set and lugs, while Bainbridge set the size run and worked out the geometry for the original Allez, and they have now revisited those designs and as they put it, looked at the Allez with the benefit of 40-years-worth of lessons.

This limited-production Allez—they will only produce 74 of these—features a new tube set and a special lug set to accommodate the tubes. To put this in perspective, Specialized allowed DiNucci to chase his muse, or as Bainbridge put it, they “wrote him a blank check.”

DSCN2588

The tubing is Reynolds 853, but drawn to his spec. The wall thicknesses for most of the tubes are .74-.45-.74. The butts, shapes, swaging and diameters are all his. The top tube is 28.6mm in diameter while the down tube is 38.7mm. The seat tube swages, starting at 28.6mm but growing to 38.7mm at the bottom bracket; it features a quad butt. He even refined the heat treating process, slowing it down to improve strength. It was a level of scrutiny to which Reynolds is unaccustomed. The lugs and dropouts are all new as well. The walls are thinner and enjoy more gentle transitions. In short, they are beautiful straight out of the box. The fork blades start at 29mm and taper to 12mm, while the D-shaped chainstays start at the dropouts at 16mm, swell to 25.4mm and enter the BB shell at 32mm.

DiNucci deserves to be praised as one of the most select talents in the bike industry. As an engineer, he’s designed for the likes of Specialized, Santa Cruz and Canyon, among others. He has the ability to do 3D CAD work as well as FEA on his own designs. It’s especially rare that a capable engineer can wield a torch, but his accolades include a Best in Show award from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. He really is the whole package.

The lugs and dropouts he designed for this bike were designed not just to be light and strong, but also to give maximum penetration with the least amount of heat, keeping the tubing’s heat treating as intact as possible.

During our call, Bainbridge paused after a rather lengthy rundown on the work that DiNucci had put into the project, then muttered, “I have no idea how many hours are in this. It’s a black hole of cost.” In a nod to Ben Serotta he noted that Serotta’s former company was the last time anyone took a serious look at rethinking steel. Noting DiNucci’s efforts he then flatly offered, “This maybe be the last time someone gets a chance to rethink steel stem to stern.”

DSCN2590

That Specialized went back to DiNucci and Bainbridge to reimagine the Allez fascinates me. They could easily have just gone to a factory and used the old lugs and tubes. Not only did they cajole Bainbridge and DiNucci into looking at the Allez with fresh eyes, they went back to a factory they had worked with to produce the original Stumpjumper. I’ve seen a number of naked frames over the years and the brazing work in the sample images is impressive. The factory, Toyo, was also responsible for some other Specialized bikes, including the Sequoia. They’ve been doing Ritchey frames for ages and Bainbridge says they are one of the last production houses on the planet capable of doing work of this quality at volume. As it happens, Toyo is also celebrating their 40th year of production.

DSCN2652

I can’t help but note that the points have been thinned on these lugs, so while DiNucci himself didn’t build these frames, they bear his signature in that his work is refined, clean and direct. Production frames coming out of Asia almost never got this level of care, not then, not now.

There are a few other particulars about the frame Bainbridge shared with me that make it all the more impressive. While he didn’t have the BB drop number handy, he did tell me it was low, lower than anything else Specialized has produced, somewhere in the range of 7.5 to 7.8cm of drop. The trail will be held consistent across all sizes, so that has the head tube angle gets shallower relative to the 73-degree angle found on the 56, the fork rake will increase to keep the 5.7cm of trail (thanks to 4.5cm of rake) found in the 56cm frame consistent. Similarly, as the head tube angle gets steeper in the larger frames, the fork rake will decrease. The bike will feature a longish wheelbase—which is something you can do with a low BB—thanks, in part, to the 42.2cm chainstays. The chainstays were left deliberately long so that a rider can run fenders and 28mm tires—at the same time.

The frame is available in six sizes, 50 to 60cm, in 2cm increments.

40th-bike-comp3

The framesets will be sold through Ebay’s Giving Works division to ensure that 100 percent of the proceeds from the sales will go to World Bicycle Relief. The frame sets will be delivered to the purchaser’s local Specialized dealer where they will remain unopened until the purchaser arrives. Also included with the frame set will be a Merino wool warmup, a winter cap, a high-quality cotton summer cap, a leather saddle bag, exclusive leather Toupé saddle and leather bar tape. Though the sale is being conducted through Ebay, the sale of these frames is “buy now” rather than an auction; each frame set will go for $3500. The sale begins 9/8.

I’ve seen a lot of steel bikes in my time; I haven’t been this excited for a new design since I encountered Serotta’s Colorado Concept tube set back in the 1980s.

You can learn more here.

, , , , ,

20 comments

  1. MCH

    Nice work and a good cause. Seems a shame though to have all of those resources and then build a frame with eyelets. The original Allez was a race bike. I’d like to remember it that way. Why build a Sequoia and call it an Allez?

    1. Touriste-Routier

      Historically even race bikes had eyelets; this ended in the 70s; fenders in the winter.

      While the Allez was a race bike through much of it’s tenure, steel was then the material of choice (though I recall a aluminum lug bonded carbon tube version in the late 80s). Now days steel is not the go to material for race bikes, and is primarily the domain of niche builders. I think they have addressed their likely market with this design.

  2. Gary

    Given the resources Specialized has committed to this project, it would be a shame to limit production to 74 frames. Padrig, did Mr. Bainbridge offer any indication that Specialized is considering further steel frame production with Toyo? (I still enjoy my early-80s Stumpjumper; the build quality is excellent.)

  3. Waldo

    Gary, Mark DiNucci will retain intellectual property rights to the lugs and tubes after the run of 74 Spesh bikes is sold. So, eventually, you’ll be able to get a custom version that may work even better for you.

    Padraig, I quibble with the comment that no one has rethough steel since Serotta Colorado and point you to PegoRichie tubes.

  4. JohnK

    That is f-ing pretty. I owned an Allez which is still alive and well carting around my grad student nephew in Atlanta. Kind of cool that Specialized did this. Kind of a wink that steel is still here and still viable and wins hands down (at least in my opinion) as the by far the best medium for artists and craftsman.

  5. Pingback: Specialized 40th anniversary Allez - 74 available - Page 3

  6. Pingback: A Completely New Frame


  7. Author
    Padraig

    MCH: This revisiting of the Allez, while different from the original Allez, is different from the Sequoia as well. Those eyelets are less meant for a rack than fenders. This is definitely not a touring bike. The addition of the eyelets seems to owe to the fact that both Bainbridge and DiNucci live in Oregon these days, rather than Morgan Hill. To put the geometry in more perspective, Bainbridge cited the Italian stage race bikes as being the forebears of this bike, which helps explain the low BB.

    Gary: DiNucci will, in fact, be building with this lug and tube set once these bikes are sold. I didn’t really want to go into that in this post because Specialized does need to sell these bikes first and I don’t want to steal their thunder by teasing that, but it’s out there now, with Waldo’s comment.

    Waldo: Reasonable people can discuss just how big an advance PegoRichie tubing and lugs are. Considering what a leap the Colorado Concept was at the time, I’m not sure that PegoRichie is as big an advancement, though it’s terrific stuff. I do think DiNucci deserves credit for extraordinary work, it’s a level of involvement I don’t think another frame builder has ever had in tubing design. I look forward to following up on this, learning more.

  8. e-RICHIE

    The PegoRichie tubing started as a blank piece of paper and was designed from the ground up. In almost 10 years, it’s evolved exponentially and has been available in a range of lengths, gauges, and diameters atmo. Do a search if you need more details.

  9. kurti_sc

    I have a steel allez from ca. 2002. It’s the blue compact model. I’ve ridden the hell out of it and love the way it looks – still.
    Even though I have moved on to another CF bike for my main ride, I can’t help but get captured by the look of this allez and the appeal of a nice steel bike.
    I am currently at “S”, not S-1, however, where S is the number of bikes my spouse will tolerate. so a purchase isn’t in my cards. I need to unload a nice 26″ wheeled custom Kelly, I suppose. But my teenage son has almost grown into that bike…
    Nice job, Specialized – hat’s off to DiNucci and Bainbridge. Not only does it take mechanical skill to produce this bike, I can imagine the work it took to walk the corporate tightrope to imagine, fund, and deliver this project at a place that isn’t a custom steel shop.

  10. Jay

    I love what they have done with this limited run of Allez, but I would argue that there a more than a few custom builders out there that are rethinking steel every time that they pick up their torch. Modern steel has to be ridden to be appreciated.

  11. bob

    i have a VERY EARLY 80s(maybe,possibly “79) konno built allez with original nouvo rec components that i ride on sunny days;it rolls on sewups….it is a great bike;fast,comfy,spins up quick and has such panache and patina ! lucky me !

  12. emanuel ferretti

    it’s a level of involvement I don’t think another frame builder has ever had in tubing design.
    You say.
    Well, we’ve (Simoncini) been working closely with Gilco for the past 9 years, and have produced quite a few unique tubing solutions ourselves in that time. As far as I know we’re the only ones building stainless bikes in traditional diameters, not to mention twin tubes we don’t do anymore and conical tubing we still use.
    I (together with the master builder) finalized the design of a pair of new tubes earlier this year, they will address similar concerns to those solved with DiNucci’s tubing (which I applaud and would love to try out)
    My solution for the seattube, for example, is very similar.

    For me, getting lugs made is harder, but Rivendell, Sachs, Llewellyn and others do so regularly.
    It’s not really a problem, most of my frames are fillet brazed, though I would welcome the choice a few more lugs could offer me.

    I had some Oversized BSA Bottom bracket shells made because it would work better with the big downtubes I’m using now. I could have taken the easy way out and used BB30 or PF30, It would have been cheaper and easier to use what was available, but I didn’t.
    I did what I felt I had to do to make the best frame I can. I offset the minimum order quantity by offering the bb shell for sale to other builders.

    While some aspects of the Specialized project might be unique, taken as a whole.
    The single steps most certainly aren’t.

    I might be missing the point, ie, that the uniqueness of the project is the project as a whole.

    But I think the suggestion that as framebuilders or bike companies we have little input in the materials we buy to make our bikes is misguided.
    If we want to put a price on all this look at bmx catalogues, they’re making frames with custom tubing and dropouts.
    They cost about a third of what my frames cost (though mine are fillet brazed, weigh half as much and made to measure).
    My frames cost about a third of what the Specialized costs.

    Nothing of what we do as framebuilders is plug and play, the work is often hard.
    If I have a chance to make a better product and maybe save myself some tiring work in the process I can assure you I’m on the phone and making myself heard.
    It is my experience, coming from a family of artisans, that this is normal. Expected. Necessary. Mutually beneficial.

    So, Well Done DiNucci, well done Specialized (I never thought I’d say that).
    The bike looks great. though I expected more from the paintjob.
    It’s a shame they’re not custom. But I’m sure DiNucci’s will be.

    I hope the lug and tubesets will be available to builders as I’d love to have a crack at building one.

    Most of all I hope Steel’s little acre of the bicycle industry doesn’t stop innovating, steel is and remains an excellent material for building frames.

    A project like the above is a fine example of what a steel bike can be, but by no means an isolated example.

    Emanuel Ferretti, framebuilder, Simoncini and Revanche biciclette.

  13. Pingback: The RKP Holiday Wish List, Part I | RKP

  14. Pingback: The Allez Reboot | RKP

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *