The Allez Reboot

The Allez Reboot

Specialized comes in for more criticism than any other bike company save, maybe, Trek. I’ve heard people take jabs at them for their products, needlessly pushing undesired technology, over-the-top presentation, sales tactics that make the bike industry seem less a community than a scrum, aiding and abetting doping, cannibalizing its dealers, a workplace that demands your less your time than your blood, and a marketing vision that places an outsized emphasis on wins at the highest pro level.

That’s a lot of criticism. From where I sit, they may be guilty of a few of those, but not all of them.

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The tragedy here is that Specialized is doing some extraordinary work in advocacy, and may be spending twice what any other company is on its many efforts, but they’ve garnered far less attention for those initiatives than they deserve. This may be, in part, their own fault for employing so many employees who are (understandably) fixated on going fast and other people who go fast. Case in point: without Specialized, NICA may not have gotten off the ground; what they’ve put into the organization could be considered Round A financing.

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I mention this as a prelude to revisiting my post from this past winter about the reboot of the Specialized Allez. Specialized brought back noted builder/designer/engineer/Renaissance man Mark DiNucci to design a tube set, lugs and hardware for a frame to be built by Toyo. I’ve heard from more than one source that they gave DiNucci a blank check to follow his vision for what steel today can be. It’s a crazy thing to do, to treat an engineer like an artist and to give them a project that is more patronage than product.

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I tell you, it’s crazy.

With parts of this quality, and produced by Toyo, arguably one of the finest production building outfits on the planet (they even thinned the points on this thing!), and a price tag of $3500, this bike has the power to reframe our conversation about steel road bikes. But they only built 74 of them. Yes, they gave all the cash to World Bicycle Relief, a laudable thing, truly, but what-the-holy-septic-tank?

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They made 74 of them. Read my lips: sev-en-ty-four.

This is the sort of bike that could reinvigorate people’s view of Specialized and of steel. By that, I mean it may help some folks to conclude that Specialized isn’t completely focused on the disposable and it could grow the market for steel. Truly. But only 74.

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In the end, it seems like this was an extravagance, which is just what Specialized doesn’t need.

I finally saw one of these framesets this weekend. Glenn Fant, the owner of NorCal Bike Sport in Santa Rosa, bought one on stuck it on the wall behind the register, where it gave off the glow of something beautiful to the point of radioactivity. It’s the first time I’ve seen one in the wild, so-to-speak. I was concerned that he might just leave the thing on the wall, but he told me he plans to build it up with Dura-Ace (mechanical, natch).

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As someone who has become familiar with DiNucci’s aesthetic, his taste for simply lines, sharp angles and a form dedicated to function, this frame is clever in the way that it lightly decorates the necessary, disguising engineering in points of steel.

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As a material, steel isn’t dying, but it’s not getting a lot of love from those who produce tubing. We’re not far from Indiegogo campaigns for tubing and lugs. My concern isn’t that steel tubing will stop being produced, but that those who do the metallurgy will stop putting resources into moving bicycle tubing forward, which is what makes DiNucci’s work on this frameset so special. And right now, he’s the only guy permitted to build with it.

At the risk of repeating myself, this frameset is a rare event, a special creation worthy of fanfare, if not parades. Over the years, I’ve celebrated the work of many artisans; this is an occasion where we really can’t use too many superlatives in lauding this bike’s position at the pinnacle of steel frame building.

Hey Mike, do the community a solid and put these into full production.

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15 comments

  1. Sleepy

    74?
    74.
    For $3500?
    I’ll be more excited when they start pumping them out a $500 a pop.
    Bring back the Road Bike!

  2. Pat O'Brien

    I second Padraig’s motion. I sent a suggestion to Trek a few years ago to start making the 520 with Reynolds tubing. The response was the message was forwarded to marketing. I did not hear another word from them. If you wanted to start bringing some poroduction of premium bicycles back to the USA, this Allez would be a good place to start.

  3. Michael

    Gene: the point is that, if a big company got into making high-end steel frames, the market for steel tubes and lugs would go through the roof and smaller frame-builders would be able to find a wide assortment of good tubes again, and perhaps there would be some new types (like what is used in the allez) available too. This would change the industry, in a good way.

    1. Waldo

      There is an abundance of tube sets old and new. Manufacturers continue to come out with new alloys (stainless from three different manufacturers, Columbus Spirit, PegoRichie, etc.) and tubes as venerable as Reynolds 531 and Columbus SL are still widely available.


  4. Author
    Padraig

    Thanks for your comments everyone.

    Gene: Respectfully, I suggest you go read my original post so that you understand just how extensive and significant DiNucci’s work on this bike is. I grant that DeRosas are beautiful, but the real significance of this bike lies beneath the paint, and DeRosa, despite that brand’s significance, hasn’t done what DiNucci did here.

  5. Dave King

    While I agree that Specialized makes some fantastic products, is it really so hard to be a “good neighbor?” To be honest in your business dealings? To maintain ethical standards in a sport that has been incredibly damaged by doping? I don’t think that that is too much to ask. Yes, a person, or an organization is allowed to make mistakes and should be forgiven for them – if they show sincere regret and make amends not to repeat those mistakes again – which I don’t believe Specialized does or has done. And no, I don’t think that being successful in business requires ruthlessness and a lack of ethics – Patagonia is one company that has tried very hard to to be fair, honest and conscionable and is also wildly successful and profitable. I think that for too long society has cut businesses a lot of slack because they make a desirable product. Although Specialized is a small company on the global scale of businesses, I think the outcry from the masses about their business dealings has been an important and vital tool in encouraging ethical and responsible behavior.

    Also, I have known the founder of NICA for almost 20 years and was a witness to the growth of NICA (and NorCal High MTB) since it’s inception in 2000. There were many other companies important to it’s early success, but to say that NICA would not have gotten off the ground without Specialized is, in my opinion, an overstatement. If anything, NICA owes its success to it’s incredible army of volunteers that make the teams, events, camps, etc, be so successful.

    The bike this article is about: looks fantastic and I like the attention to detail. But I’d argue that 74 framesets retailing for $3500 is not going to do much to invigorate the steel frame market. Breezer has offered the steel Venturi for a few years now – which offers some modern and innovative features all for $1099. Yeah, probably made in China. But for $3500 for a steel frame, I think the money is better spent on a custom steel frame (Landshark, Caletti, etc).

    Anyway, great article. I like the way you introduce interesting issues and dilemmas into your articles.

  6. Jay

    While I am sure that the Allez steel frame is an example of craftsmanship at a very high level, the idea that DiNucci is doing something different, I mean really different, is almost an affront to guys like Richard Sachs, Tom Kellogg, Ben Bishop, and a whole host of other highly skilled guys. These guys have been keeping the notion of steel alive.

    It looks like a production frame with a custom price tag. For that amount of money you might as well go custom for an even nicer fit and finish. Just sayin’…

  7. bob

    i have a first gen allez built by konno that is a fun,fast,smooth,great feeling and pretty rare bike and think this homage to specialized bikes’s first attempt at a high level production bike is an honor to dinucci,sinyard and neenan and is along same thinking as merckx 70th birthday bike………if people cannot or do not appreciate them,then let someone else enjoy it by getting one……..whenever any high profile builder or company launches an anniversary/limited edition frame ( or bike ) be it derosa,sachs,schwinn,ritchey,specialized,pegoretti etc there seems to not be a shortage of buyers………..3500$ may be steep for a limited edition toyo built frame but as noted;they are likely best production builder in the solar system which may be why savvy companies utilise them………i would like very much to have one of these dinucci designed allez frames……..lucky and wealthy are the 74 who acquired them……..

  8. PedalRon

    Yup, definitely not interested in buying anything from Specialized. Happy to ride my steel Casati or Tommasini or De Bernardi.

  9. Skip

    I think the $3500 price tag is mostly dictated by the low production volume. I suspect if Specialized decided to increase production the price would come down.

  10. jorgensen

    Would be perfect save the “lawyer ledges” on the front fork… oh wait, the latest and greatest quick release skewers cannot hold a wheel well enough, so the UCI now requires them…

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