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BIKE TEST: ALLIED ALFA

Originally Posted at https://roadbikeaction.com/bike-test-allied-alfa/

Has an American carbon renaissance begun?

Let’s not kid ourselves; long before Allied Cycles Works set up their carbon frame shop in Little Rock, Arkansas, last year, America had already enjoyed a strong tradition of domestic manufacturing. From pioneers like Calfee and Trek to a legion of new-wave builders like Alchemy, Argonaut and Holland Cycles, finding a way to deal with the cost and complexity of building carbon frames on U.S. shores is something plenty of others have already figured out.

What’s different here is that as opposed to the variety of small-scale builders, Allied’s effort marks the first that resembles a grand plan to produce carbon frames on a scale more reminiscent of Trek’s in the days before they moved most of their OCLV carbon production to Asia.

While it’s still too early to judge whether Allied’s effort is indeed a workable plan or just a big dream, the start-up brand has an impressive factory with an impressive list of capable, well-regarded employees and, as we look at here, an impressive new bike.

THE FRAME

Being a 20-plus-year industry veteran, Allied founder Tony Karklins was wise enough to know that 2017 in America was neither the time or place to start a big production facility dedicated to steel or aluminum frames. Allied is all about carbon, and the Alfa represents their version of the ultimate monocoque frame (Allied also has a custom frame in their repertoire—the tube-to-tube-made Echo).

At first glance, everyone who laid eyes on the Allied Alfa had the same impression but with divergent interpretations. One camp felt it was uninspiring to look at, while others admired its sense of elegance. In this day and age of graphics overload, the Alfa definitely assumes a more understated visual stance.

As always, looking beyond the graphics package is imperative, and what the Allied lacks in flash, it makes up for with some impressive, jewelry-like touches. Internal cable routing, of course, but the seat cluster is really a standout section of the frame, as the nicely tapered top tube seamlessly intersects the seat tube before splitting off to change face and take on the duty of becoming the seatstays. The whole package was finished off with some raised-letter graphics, a unique downtube badge featuring the brand’s eagle logo and, lastly, a thick coat of red paint with just enough metal flake as to provide a pleasant sparkle in the sun.

In addition to the traditional design of the frame, Allied also takes a page from the old way of doing things by offering 12 different frame sizes, each with your choice of either a flush head tube (as tested) or one with a 2cm rise. We liked the tire clearance that was roomy enough to provide aid and comfort to a 28mm Michelin Power tire.

THE PARTS

Our Allied test bike was actually delivered to serve two functions. The first was to ride and evaluate the frame and bike as a whole. To make that happen, Allied coerced Shimano into lending a complete Dura-Ace R9150 Di2 parts package to the effort, which, given their limited availability at the time, was especially impressive owing to Allied’s infant status in the game. It pays to have friends!

To say that the Dura-Ace parts were anything less than impressive would simply be an attempt to deny the obvious. Black is definitely the new black here, as the four-arm HollowTech II crank first catches the eye with its massive profile and mirror-like finish. The parts that don’t share the popular “murdered-out” look are still a close cousin with an equally polished anthracite finish.

Key to the Di2 drivetrain are the three modes of synchronized shifting options—manual, semi-synchro and full synchro—and the new (for road) Shadow design rear derailleur. Look for a deeper breakdown of the Di2 parts next month where we compare Shimano’s version of connectivity with SRAM’s wireless eTap system.

THE RIDE

We’ve ridden plenty of bikes that share the Allied’s 73-degree head/73.25-degree seat angles coupled with a 99.2mm wheelbase. Where the Alfa distinguishes itself is in the resulting handling and ride quality. In short, very impressive. What stood out was how test riders independently called out their similar opinion of how the bike was race bike stiff in acceleration and cornering yet still enjoyably compliant. Long rides were made all the more easy owing to the comfort afforded by the well-built Stealth saddle from Pro Components.

Owing to its 56.5cm-long top tube that had us a bit stretched, of the 12 available frame sizes, we would’ve preferred a 54cm over our 56cm. Still, we came away surprised at how well the bike tracked through bumpy corners despite not having enough load on the front wheel.

Since we have yet to ride any of Shimano’s soon-to-arrive full carbon clinchers, the Dura-Ace hoops spec’d were of the aluminum/carbon hybrid variety, and between the redesigned binders and aluminum brake track, no one was left wanting of more power (as in disc brakes).

THE VERDICT

The Allied Alfa is a pretty straightforward carbon bike. Some people were surprised that the young brand’s initial offering would be so simple given all that is currently fashionable in frame/component evolution. But, you have to start somewhere, and Allied obviously wanted to prove that they could walk before they ran. We do know that by the time you read this, their talked-about gravel bike should be public.

Allied is selling the Alfa frame (with a naked finish) for $2700. The upcharge for any one of their many high-luster finishes ranges from $300 to $600. A complete bike with a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, Rotor crank, Mavic wheels and Fizik components can be had for $4000.

Owing to the minimal graphics and subtle tube shapes, you could mistake the Allied for some random, no-name bike that popped out of some open-market mold in China. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Plain-looking as it may be, the Alfa has its own head-turning abilities, which grow more evident with each pedal stroke.

PUNCH LINES

  • A new day for American handmade
  • Understated—yea or nay?
  • All-day-long ride quality

STATS

Weight: 15.25 pounds

Sizes: 49, 52, 54, 56 (tested), 58, 61cm

Factory Website :
http://www.alliedcycleworks.com

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