The American Adventure: Allied Alfa All Road
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We had heard rumor of “HIA”—Here In America—and its “crazy” plan to make carbon bikes in the U.S., but our real introduction to the company and the brand it spawned, Allied Cycle Works, occurred about a year ago. We sat down with Sam Pickman, Allied’s lead engineer. He was one of the principals responsible for Specialized’s product hot streak, but he decided to pick up and move to Little Rock, Arkansas, and make bikes in the U.S. for a startup with big plans. Sam knows his stuff and one statement he made during our chat seemed to sum up just how differently Allied plans to do things.
“Carbon modulus doesn’t mean shit!” he said.
Heresy! As riders, we’ve had the myth of modulus shoved down our throats in almost every advertising campaign. We asked Sam to elaborate: “Yes, obviously, modulus does mean something and is a critical value when designing the laminate, but modulus really doesn’t mean anything if you use it wrong. In fact, you could very easily make a bike out of the highest of high-modulus carbon fiber and it would ride like complete shit.”
It’s this almost subversive debunking of design myth that made Sam the perfect fit to lead production of Allied’s bikes, and it’s most evident in his Alfa All Road.
In Sam’s mind, many of the mixed-surface bikes have overshot the mark when it comes to capability. How often do we really need 650b wheels or huge tires on a ride? Five percent of the time? Is that worth the penalty they present the rest of the time? Allied’s response was to go to a 38mm maximum-width tire and stick with 700c wheels—conservative subversion. This allowed Allied to base the Alfa All Road off its proven, road-specific stablemate, the Alfa.
On our 58cm test bike, the All Road is just 1mm taller and 3mm shorter in stack and reach than the Alfa. The bottom bracket drop is essentially identical and the wheelbase is just 15mm longer on the All Road. This is all to create a front end that feels precise and delivers feedback you can trust. Allied wanted to avoid the laid-back and vague feeling a very relaxed fit and front end can produce. Of course, those front ends are also invaluable when the road is steep and nasty, letting you sit back and ride it out.
This gets us back to the 5-percent argument. “If the trails get really rowdy, it is not as good because you are more likely to be pitched, but the expectation is that this bike won’t be used for really steep terrain. The fit and feel are very similar to that of a race bike…. With 25mm tires, it is almost completely indiscernible like a road bike, but put 38mms on and it gives the bike incredible capability off-road,” Sam says.
While we know modulus isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, Allied was able to hit strength, weight and ride-quality targets with T700 and Innegra fibers. The Alfa All Road is just 920 grams for a 56cm frame that includes the tough Innegra S High-Modulus Polypropylene fibers in areas likely to see impact from forks and down tubes, and at the top tube where handlebars are likely to impact.
At $3,500 for the frameset, the Allied Alfa All Road isn’t cheap, but it’s certainly no more than many Asian-made frames. So making it in the U.S., paying a living wage and with responsible environmental policy appears doable. The All Road we tested was built with SRAM Force1, fi’zi:k cockpit and Reynolds carbon wheels, pushing its price to $7,305 and hitting 7.68 kilograms (16.9 pounds) on the scale—a very impressive weight for a 58cm disc bike with 38mm tires.
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The Allied is simply the most precise, aggressive and lively “adventure” bike we’ve ridden. On the road it gives up an ounce to the super bikes, outperforms most road endurance bikes and leaves them far behind when the ride turns to gravel or fire road. Allied successfully swung the pendulum to the lively and aggressive side of performance with the All Road. It can do duty as your dedicated road bike with 28mm tires and even become a ’cross bike. In fact, its geometry and fit actually share quite a bit with some of the new-look, lower-bottom-bracket ’cross bikes.
However, it is important to consider that 5 percent if it is important to you. With just 38mm tires some riders may find the bike overmatched in deep Iowa or Kansas gravel, especially with the more aggressive front end. If bikepacking or Southern California single track is a big part of your plans, rack mounts and 650b could be adventure mandatory. But for most riders, the 95 percent, the Allied Alfa All Road can indeed do most of it, and do it better than most of the bikes dedicated to a single purpose—and all made right here in the USA.
PRICE: $7,305 (as tested)
WEIGHT: 7.68kg/16.9 lbs (size 58cm w/o pedals or cages)
BUILD: SRAM Force1, fi’zi:k Cyrano bar, stem, seat post and Arione saddle, Reynolds ATR 700 wheels with Schwalbe G-One Allround tires.