Carbon Artistry and the Allied Alfa Disc All-Road Bike

The Allied story is one that has been touched on briefly here on the Radavist. A brand that was formed through the foresight of one man; Tony Karklins and his ability to acquire a Canadian brand Guru’s assets at auction. This included the machinery, technology, everything; down to the paint booth. Upon winning the bid, Tony then moved this equipment to Arkansas, hired a few key players and began cranking on this new brand, dubbed Allied Cycle Works, which operates under the umbrella of HIA Velo. I could go more into this story, but people like Patrick at Red Kite Prayer have done an exceptional job covering the beginnings of Allied, so if the story of the brand is what you’re here for, head to RKP for an exceptional write up.

Now, when Patrick wrote his piece about Allied, they had but one model; the Alfa road bike. Later, the brand developed this beauty, the Alfa All-Road. While the Alfa road has all the lines and functionality of a proper carbon, rim brake road bike, the Alfa All-Road opens up the door a little wider to the sorts of rides we really enjoy over here at the Radavist; dirty and dusty fun!

Nomenclature

The word “gravel” is a hot commodity in marketing jargon these days, yet you’ll be hard-pressed to find me describe bikes as being “gravel” bikes, mostly because that definition means something different to everyone. I see everything from drop bar rigid mountain bikes, to cantilevered touring bikes and carbon fiber race machines being marketed as “gravel” bikes. It’s confusing to both the consumer and me, which is why I tend to look at the simplest approach to classification; if there are drop bars on a bike, to me, it’s a road bike. Plain and simple. Of course, there are various degrees of what makes a road bike a road bike, like the geometry, component selection, and usage.

In short; if I am riding a bike on a road, it’s a road bike. Doesn’t matter if it’s a dirt road, a rocky road, or a road with crushed up substrate material to assist in drainage – aka gravel, it’s still a road bike, or “all-road” as I’ve grown comfortable is using to denote these machines with disc brakes.

To give you some context, I began riding these steep California mountain roads on ‘cross bikes. The geometry between a ‘cross bike and a road bike are different enough to merit these two classifications. Road bikes tend to have steeper angles, lower bottom brackets, and a shorter wheelbase. This makes them more maneuverable in tight corners and off-camber race courses. Contrarily, a cross bike will typically have slacker angles, a longer wheelbase, and higher bottom bracket. I always knew this but never really felt the difference until I started riding bikes in California. Then, it became very apparent how a ‘cross bike on a long day’s mountain ride was actually less fun than a road bike. Those long descents are something else. With the advent of proper hydraulic disc groups for drop bar bikes, it really opened the door to vehicles that performed quite well at handling dirt riding, while instilling confidence during the long descents.

Pardon the explanation here. I’m quite certain you’re all aware of this but I needed to clarify on just what this bike is.

Alfa is the Alpha

A slang version of alpha, or the beginning, the Alfa began as Allied’s flagship rim brake road model. The Alfa All-Road however, took this design and broadened the shoulders if will, giving more room for bigger tires, a refined geometry for riding on all roads, without being what many would call an “adventure” bike – another marketing term you’ll be hard-pressed to find in heavy use here. My SEO suffers, but it helps me sleep at night…

Jokes aside, the Alfa All-Road is the evolution of the Alfa, just with a more modern, disc-oriented twist. It’s just at home on a paved road with slicks as it is a dirt ride with a tire like the G-One.

Made Here Because It Matters (to Some)

Allied was able to completely redesign the Alfa platform to fit disc brakes, electronic gruppos, wider tires and superb cable management due to their facilities being all in-house. From design, prototyping, production, and paint, Allied owns the entire process. This vertical supply chain is a dream for many companies and in a sense, aids in the economic feasibility of this brand’s existence; the one thing a lot of new bike companies struggle with.

Even companies that manufacture frames overseas end up losing a lot of time and money to the approval process of said manufacturing. It’s not like you hit a “print” button and your design plops out of an overseas factory, completely perfect the first round. An in-house, or on-the-ground contractor usually overseas this process and reports back to the company. It’s a complicated procedure and owning each step simplifies this, which in turn, saves the company and the consumer money in the end.

To then sweeten the deal, they’re able to offer shops wholesale pricing, while still offering consumer-direct purchases. I wouldn’t say they push either over the other and in today’s modern world, there are certainly opinions on either side. This whole process really sweetens the deal for those looking to support small time brands, making things by hand, in-house.

The Devil is in the Details

Immediately, the thing that stood out to me about Allied’s offerings were the details, mostly because there was a no-nonsense, yet still very well designed, approach to common features like internal routing and seat post clamps. Some of which are by-products of the brand’s roots with Guru and others are strategic decisions by the designers. From the flat-mount disc brakes to the branded and replaceable derailleur hanger, to the thru axles and shapes of the tubing, the Alfa exudes a sexiness that, in my opinion, has long left the carbon fiber road bike market. Take that as a compliment, however, as many say this aesthetic makes the Alfa look dated. To me, this throwback is done so in such a way that it merely emboldens the overall design package of the bike. There’s a confidence in the total appearance of the bike, without it being overtly pretentious with technological gimmicks.

Then, you start to look at the fork. Also made in-house and looks like it came from the frame, not added to it after the fact. It’s clear the frame and the fork were designed simultaneously, resulting in a perfectly-mated pairing.

That said, their insignia might not be for everyone. Take the Eagle on the downtube. It’s a bold statement for such an otherwise low-key, minimally-branded frameset. Personally, it evokes feelings of industry, in an almost Metropolis kind of way. The book, not the magazine… You know, Thea von Harbou.

A Respectful Build Kit

When talking with Dustin at Allied, I made sure to emphasize that I wanted a modest, not elaborate or overly expensive build kit. Think Ultegra, not Dura Ace and alloy rims, not carbon. While those balleur builds always look and consequently photograph well, it’s not my intent to take a bike at the Alfa pricepoint and further rack up the purchase price. I also don’t want the ride quality of the components to outweigh or influence the review of the frame itself. Things like carbon wheels drastically alter the feel of drop bar bikes, especially with smaller – in this context – tires. The bike arrived with a traditional road group and gearing, which initially made me concerned since I’d been so reliant on SRAM’s 10-42 cassette and 38t 1x ring setups, yet as I found in my first shakedown ride in the mountains, a double crankset ain’t so bad and those Rotor 3D30 cranks add a bit of flair to an otherwise ho-hum Shimano kit.

Fizik’s Cyrano R1 carbon cockpit and seatpost mate perfectly with the Alfa All-Road and the HED Ardennes+ wheels with Schwalbe G-One 38mm tires provided confidence-inspiring control on even the most rutted descents, while offering immediate engagement for those green light moments of inner-city riding before you hit the dirt. However, I will say that if you’re looking for bigger than a 38mm tire, the Alfa is not for you. A 40 would hit the Di2 front mech. That said, I never felt the need for anything bigger than a 38mm with this bike.

As built, with the frame pump, water bottles, pedals and saddle pack holding a spare tube and a tire lever, this build weighs in at 19lbs 11oz. Not bad at all.

Pricepoint and Personalization Particularities

I opted for a subtle, Dove Grey paint job, with black components on this 58cm frameset. You can go wild with metallic paints, fades and other bright options, all done in-house in Allied’s Arkansas facilities but I wanted a subtle build for the review. As this bike is built, with Ultegra Di2 hydro, you’re looking at $6,399. If that’s too much for your wallet, the mechanical equivalent comes in at $5,499. There are SRAM build options as well. Or, you can also purchase the Alfa as a frameset for $3,500. Pricing breakdowns are found at Allied.

The Alfa All-Road, like the Alfa comes in a wide range of sizing, including “+” head tube options for those looking for more stack. Or, if you’d like a completely custom geometry, Allied offers that in their Echo model.

Ride it Like It’s a Review Bike

While the motivation for reviews is ultimately to entertain the readers of this website, while helping promote a brand’s endeavors, there is an entirely selfish satisfaction I get from being able to throw my leg over the saddles of various machines. The Alfa All-Road got me stoked to ride a straight-up disc road bike. These days, my bikes are all fit with 27.5 wheels and tires ranging in 47mm measurements up to 2.2″. While I own traditional road bikes, I find myself favoring short, steep and rocky mountain road rides, which in turn mean equally as steep descents and doing so on rim brakes, while can be entertaining at times, is not for me these days. Boy how things change when you get older!

I looked to my playground of the Verdugo mountains for a majority of the rides on the Alfa, partially because I felt the build kit would make these traverses more challenging and because I wanted to push this bike’s capability.

Climbing on a nimble carbon frame is one of the nicest, yet most subtle experiences. When frames are tuned to dance with you on climbs, not resist your every motion, it really heightens the experience. Please don’t read that as “compliance” or the frame being a noodle. The Alfa All-Road is plenty stiff, yet the design of the stays and top tube offer a buttery ride, unlike many of the oversized tubing profiles utilized by other modern machines. Allied uses Innegra, a high-modulus fibrous material to strengthen their frames while offering the tunability of the ride quality through engineering. You might have watched their video on Innegra here on the site.

As someone who rides mostly steel bikes, prefers steel bikes, and will almost always choose steel over carbon, bikes like the Allied Alfa All-Road offer a unique, yet familiar ride quality I’ve come to enjoy. Sure, nothing compares to steel, but a foray with a carbon bike every now and then is a delightful experience.

Allied’s Warranty

Plain and simple, straight from the horse’s mouth:

“Every ALLIED frameset is backed by our lifetime warranty.
This warranty covers any manufacturing defect for the original owner for the lifetime of the product. Paint is covered for two years.

In addition to our lifetime warranty, ALLIED offers a repair service if your frameset is ever damaged in an accident. This repair service is an industry first and does not impact the lifetime warranty for the original owner.

Because our factory is located here in the United States, we can use the same material, tooling, and technicians to repair your bike and get you back on the road.

We make products to last a lifetime, and we stand behind them.”

Take the Long Road Home with the Take Away

The Allied Alfa is an exceptional offering for those looking for a domestically-produced, carbon all-road frame with a unique look, the right weight and with options to personalize. While nothing about the bike is revolutionary – there are no integrated head shocks or dampening mechanisms – it’s no-nonsensical design and ride quality is matched by its sleek aesthetic. With pricing options, the ability to purchase either online or in a shop, the Alfa All-Road nods to the sea change that is consumer direct, without leaving shops out to dry. It’s by no means an indestructible machine, which is the unfortunate by-product of carbon fiber, but Allied backs their products with a hefty, lifetime warranty and utilizes Innegra to reinforce damage-prone zones on the frame.

If US-made matters to you, or perhaps you want a minimally-branded, no-nonsense carbon disc road, check out the Allied Alfa and ask any questions you might have in the comments!

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