- Pros: great American story; consumer-direct communication, pricing and shipping; stiff carbon frame; incredible paint options
- Cons: more expensive than German consumer-direct brand Canyon
- Price: starting at $5,699; roughly $7,349 as shown
- Similar products: Alchemy (made in Denver)
- Photographed: Grand Mesa, Colorado
My year-plus experience with the Allied Alfa hinges around a tiny flaw that was ultimately addressed. While perhaps a little embarrassing for Allied, I believe the story demonstrates what sets the brand apart – in a positive way.
While other brands buy Asian, Allied builds its own
With very few exceptions, bikes simply aren’t made in the United States anymore. Low-end bikes like you see at Wal-Mart come from China. Mid- to high-end frames – Trek, Specialized, Giant, Canyon, Cannondale, you name it – are made in Taiwan. But does anyone care? Allied Bicycle Works does. The young company set up shop in Little Rock, Arkansas and fabricates its own carbon frames and forks.
My year-plus experience with the Allied Alfa hinged around three things: American-made intrigue, overall ride quality and one small flaw, which was ultimately addressed. While the latter is perhaps embarrassing for Allied, the process demonstrated to me some of the brand’s core strengths: transparency, commitment to improvement and the ability to adjust production because Allied makes its own bikes.
N + 2: a unique sizing situation
When Allied launched, I knew one of the founders, Sam Pickman, from his time as a Specialized engineer. So testing an Allied wasn’t a matter of “I hope this is okay” but instead a matter of “Sam built this. Let’s go ride in the mountains!”
The bike arrived on my doorstep almost completely assembled, as it does for all customers. Thanks to a custom bike box and a detailed factory build and tune, you just pop on the handlebars and the front wheel and you’re good to go.
Constructed with straightforward road-race geometry, the bike is nimble. A stiff bottom bracket junction means you stand up to stomp and the bike shoots forward instead of flexing side to side. Big picture, the Alfa is no better or worse in these attributes than a stock race bike from the big brands.
A few things do stand out from the big brands, however. The virtually flat top tube offers a classic look in a world of sloping top tubes. More impressive is the option of “+” sizes, where 2cm of head tube length is added to any frame while leaving the remainder of the geometry the same. What’s the big deal about that? Most companies that offer two geometries have a steep, race geometry with a short head tube and a slack, endurance geometry with a tall head tube. Allied operates on the belief that at least some of us want a bike with race handling that isn’t built for a 20-year-old’s flexible back. (Sure, you can accomplish a taller stack on a low race bike with spacers, but that doesn’t cool, now does it?)
The BSA bottom bracket won’t affect your ride, but it could positively affect your mental health, as the thread-in system all but guarantees that your BB won’t creak and squeak like so many press-fit systems do.
N + 2: two frames with a brake-vibration issue
I loved everything about the bike until I rode a particular carbon wheelset, the Zipp 454 NSW, which has etched brake tracks. Hard braking on the 454s caused the rear triangle to vibrate. I towed in the pads; same deal. Under normal braking, everything was fine, but aggressive braking like a hard stop off a steep hill caused vibration.
I called Sam and we arranged to swap the frame. Second frame… same deal. Another call and I shipped the bike with the Zipps so Sam could experience what evidently no one else but me had. Fast forward through more in-house testing and a tweaking of the brake-bridge lay-up, Sam sent me a third frame. I tried my best to aggravate a vibration on that bike, but without luck.
Sam told me only one other rider out of the hundreds that had bought Alfas had experienced anything similar, and they fixed his situation with the use of the appropriate brake pad. And that was prior to the change in rear-triangle lay-up.
One selling point of the Allied frames is that, should anything happen to yours, you can ship it to Arkansas where the people who built it can fix it using the same tools. This is a huge difference from the big brands, which will not fix your frame. Sure, you can have it patched by a third party (I’ve had Tarmacs repaired by Brady Kappius and Calfee), but your warranty with the original brand is void.
Accidents happen, whether through racing, riding or just dumb-life stuff like driving your roof-mounted bike into your garage. In our throwaway culture, having a repair option from the original maker is rare and, for me at least, valuable.
Color me impressed
Paint is the latest arms race for bike brands. It used to be light weight. Then stiffness-to-weight. Then aero. Now, many of us just want a bike that rides great and looks cool. Once the sole purview of small builders, high-end paint jobs are now being one-up’ed by big players like Trek with its ICON collection.
Allied offers a host of stock and special edition colors, all done in house. If one color isn’t enough for you, check out Allied’s latest Harlequin series, which change color based on the angle of the light.
Story continues below gallery. Click on any image for full-size version, and to toggle through the gallery.
Allied not only makes its frames in house but paints them, too, so your frameset can explode with color
The eagle comes in a couple of versions: one for Di2 and another for internal routing of mechanical shift cables
Shimano’s Dura-Ace Di2 shifters are programmable for speed and function, including the buttons on the tops of the hoods, which I have set to control my Garmin
I love the satellite options Di2 allows. Here, I have sprint shifters on the drops and up by the stem on each side
Dressed to the nines in Shimano. All positive save one gripe
I tested the bike with Shimano’s latest Dura-Ace Di2 rim-brake group, the 9120, which I love. Programmable shift speed and remote options galore, comfy ergonomics, hyper-dependable performance and hood buttons that can control a Garmin… what’s not to like?
Rim vs disc has been debated ad nauseum on the internet. My take is simple: discs are better, heavier and sometimes noisier. That’s it. I like both styles.
My one nit to pick with the 9120 group is the lack of an integrated D-Fly, the little component that lets your drivetrain talk to your Garmin over ANT+. Why do we have to buy this separately, Shimano? The D-Fly really makes the whole combination sing, allowing you to scroll through Garmin pages without taking your hands off the shifters, but also sending Di2 info to your Garmin, like gear selection, number of shifts and, critically, battery life. I tucked a D-Fly into the Shimano PRO stem after plugging it into one of the shifters.
For the record, this is a Shimano issue, not an Allied issue.
I tested the bike with a few different wheelsets, including Dura-Ace 9100 C40 and C24 wheels, which are typical Shimano. They aren’t sexy, crazy light or even all-carbon (Shimano opts for a dependable brake track, thank you very much), but they will probably last a decade or more without needing any real service. The internal rim width is narrow by modern standards.
You can buy the Alfa with a few different component-group and wheel options, excluding the Shimanos.
Bottom line: Allied stands behind what it builds
The Allied Alfa is a carbon frame handbuilt in Arkansas. Race geometry with stack-height options are novel for a stock bike. The Alfa’s weight and performance are competitive with the big brands. The paint options are incredible. And Allied will ship your bike right to your door, nearly ready to ride.
I have tested product for years, and am here to tell you that product flaws happen. But the willingness and ability to work directly with riders to rectify the problem in a company’s own factory? That was a first for me, and one that ultimately gave me more confidence in the people behind the brand.
Roll Massif editor
Ben has been riding bikes and slinging stories since he was a paperboy. Professionally, he’s been a cycling journalist since 1999, when racing bikes and studying journalism at the University of New Mexico led to pulls at VeloNews, BikeRadar, Cyclingnews and elsewhere. After traveling the world to report on pro cycling in Europe and manufacturing in Asia, Ben is happy to be at home in Colorado, writing about the incomparable riding and the creative people who drive the cycling culture.