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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.