Specialized Allez DSW SL Sprint frame review

Specialized Allez DSW SL Sprint frame review

My hunt for an affordable frame to build up a test rig for the many parts and pieces we get to test ended abruptly in the rainbow glory of Red Hook inspired madness. This limited edition poke-in-eye to the Carbon-ocracy was all the frame I never knew I needed. So I snagged one, and built it up with all kinds of goodies either hiding in my cupboard, or arriving to review.

Below is my review of the Allez DSW SL Sprint frameset only. This is not a standard build, so the frame at its heart is my focus. If you are curious about my bonkers build, I published an article with full spec, and made an incredibly indulgent new bike day video for YouTube.

So let’s get crackin’. 

Allu-mination

So, it’s been explained better elsewhere (this CyclingTips piece for example) but this is an alloy frame that uses “D’Alusio Smartweld” - where the DSW in its name comes from. The tubes don't use traditional mitered joints, rather hydroformed tube sections welded just before the junctions around the head tube and bottom bracket. Aesthetically it sort of looks like lugged aluminium. That means stiffness. Lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of stiffness. Lots. 

 The paint does a great job of hiding the welds. The internal cabling exits the frame to drop below the bottom bracket and re-enter the chain stays. It's not the prettiest system.

The paint does a great job of hiding the welds. The internal cabling exits the frame to drop below the bottom bracket and re-enter the chain stays. It's not the prettiest system.

It’s plenty aggressive looking with an aero seat tube, mega down tube, and a massive bottom bracket shell. It’s not an all-alloy affair for the frameset, with an S-Works carbon fork taken from a Tarmac and their Venge carbon seatpost completing the ensemble. Specialized throws in its oversized bottom bracket (which I didn’t use), and some headset bearings but not the headset cap for some weird reason. Total frame weight is around 1400g for based on some numbers I’ve found on the interwebz (I forgot to weigh mine). Not light. But it's not trying to be.

Geometry

It's fascinating to look over the Allez geo. Its reach is long-ish but it has a seriously low stack, short wheelbase and headtube, and sports a steep 73.5 degree head angle and 74 degree seat angle. My 56 frame feels like a smaller bike. Traditionally I buy bikes with a 55/56cm top tube, chuck an inline post in it and a longer stem. I prefer my position to be more forward with my butt over the bottom bracket. That's not an option here, with the Spez seatpost having a setback. It’s a long n’ low position.

 The mean looking Venge seatpost is a damn nice touch at this pricepoint

The mean looking Venge seatpost is a damn nice touch at this pricepoint

The Ride

Riding this bike feels like the scene in Doctor Strangelove where Major Kong gleefully rides the bomb as it falls out of the B-52. It’s terrifying, exhilarating, and very fast.

The savage geometry dials everything all the way up to 11. None of your watts, or steering input get wasted. It turns like a fly, accelerates like a greyhound, and takes all your stomping with indifference. I spend most (all) of my time in the hills and I really enjoyed caning this bike on the ups and downs. The stiffness is conducive to climbing, and the razor-sharp handling makes descending a riot. It’s easily one of the most fun frames I’ve ever ridden - and really reminds me of the uncompromising 2016 Giant TCR that's had too many coffees.

 The front end of this bike is very sharp with it's stiff head tube and S-Works carbon fork.

The front end of this bike is very sharp with it's stiff head tube and S-Works carbon fork.

I do recognise that all of the frame’s virtues can be considered drawbacks. The stiffness could be called uncomfortable and the fast handling could be called skittish. It's not a relaxing bike either.  If you like your bikes to feel lively - like walking a velociraptor on a leash sort of lively - then you’ll love this frame. Those who are more amenable to walking happy golden retrievers should look elsewhere. 

I did not find the ride too harsh, something that is a consistent criticism of this frame. Rather, it was pretty damn smooth because I fitted wide rims, wide tyres, and carbon contact points. I also run 60 psi in the tyres. I’d highly recommend anyone building from scratch should choose components carefully. You could end up with a bike that wants to beat you up. Those buying off the rack with a Specialized build should heed the warnings of a very firm ride.

Wrapping up

I love that this Allez DSW SL Sprint frame exists. It's a glorious middle finger to the homogenised bicycle range focused on an endurance, climber, and aero bike lineup. Sure, it's badged as a crit-racing rig and it certainly exhibits the sharp turning and acceleration-supporting stiffness needed in that discipline. But it's so much more than that. I’ve done rides over 3 hours on this whip and it didn’t beat me up or try to eat me. We live in a world where an aero bike won Paris Roubaix. Focus on the features of the bike, not the marketing guff.

This is a frame with a very clear sense of purpose: go fast. It does that. Very well. There’s nothing else that will feel like this for $1500. It’s the cheapest full-gas-racing-frame I’m aware of. Just know what you’re getting before you invest. Now, if you'll excuse me it's time to walk my velociraptor.

Check out some reviews of the components on this build:

VIDEO REVIEW