If I could own only one road bike, it would be this Swiss Army knife of a pavement machine
A few years back, road-bike design was becoming so segmented that it seemed like you needed a different bike for every occasion: a spindly lightweight for climbing; an aero machine for rolling terrain; a TT bike for short efforts; a steel three-speed for commuting; a knobby-tired specimen for cyclocross; a fatter-tired knobby model for adventure and gravel.
That specialization still exists, but in the last couple of years, there’s been an interesting counter-trend toward road bikes that are more versatile. And no bike that I’ve ridden in the past year better exemplifies the trend than the Allied Alfa All Road.
At quick glance you wouldn’t be able to tell this bike apart from a standard road machine, such as the Trek Madone or Specialized Tarmac. That’s partly because before the bike’s lead designer, Sam Pickman, took the reins at Allied, he spent 12 years engineering for the Big S in Morgan Hill. That’s not to say that the All Road is a rip-off. But Pickman comes to the gravel category from a traditional road background, and the bike looks the part, with a steep head angle (73 degrees), a not-too-low bottom bracket, and short chain stays relative to comparable gravel bikes. “My feeling is that much of the gravel market has gotten it wrong with the tall head tubes and upright positions,” Pickman says. “Weight over the front tire equals traction, and, at least for me, that gives the most confident ride, whether I’m on pavement or dirt.”
Then again, the bike is called the Alpha All Road, not the Alpha Gravel, for a reason. It is, quite simply, a disc road bike that accommodates fat tires. On a set of Enve SES 3.4 Disc clinchers, which have an extremely wide 21mm internal rim width, I’ve been running 35c Hutchinson Verides with room to spare for at least a few more millimeters. And on 650B wheels, I favor the 42c Compass Babyshoe Pass, and I’m pretty sure there’s room enough for 45c WTB Riddlers. However, unlike more gravel-specific bikes such as the Open U.P. or 3T Exploro (both incredible rides in their own right), the Alpha All Road also looks and rides just fine with a lightweight set of climbing wheels and 25c race tires. And in every one of these iterations, my tester weighs just 15 pounds and change.
Numbers geek-out aside, what this means is I have a bike that can take the place of every single road model that I’ve ever ridden. Not just that, but the All Road is one of the highest-performance machines in pretty much all of those varied genres. I’ve ridden it in the hardest, fastest group rides that I’ll ever be able to participate in and kept pace just fine. I’ve climbed 7,000 feet in a day in the high mountains and never felt handicapped because of weight. I’ve plowed up 4,000-foot forest road ascents, smashed down two tracks so rutted and sandy they’d be perfectly acceptable on a mountain bike, and pedaled no shortage of single track, albeit the smooth, flowy variety. Heck, I’ve even loaded the All Road up with packs and taken it bikepacking for a few nights.
And in every single instance, I’ve finished thinking, “Chose the right bike for the job, again.”
It’s true that, beyond the frame, there’s everything to love about this bike. Mine is built with the finest kit available: full Dura-Ace Di2 9170, with the silkiest shifting of anything out there and new disc brakes that set the standard on the road; Shimano Pro Vibe cockpit parts, which allow all the wires to get tucked away; those Enve 3.4s that are so smooth and quick they would probably make a Huffy ride like a Pinarello; and a Brooks Cambium C13 Carved saddle, perfect for taking the butt-sting out of the rough. This bike costs over $10,000 as built, so yeah, of course it feels as polished as a Tour machine.
But what I love about the All Road, and Allied’s direct-to-consumer model, is that you can get this exact frame with a high-quality build (Ultegra mechanical and Shimano RX-31 wheels) for just $5,000. That’s competitive with the big brands, without any reduction in carbon quality. Plus, you get a custom spec, your choice of 19 paint jobs, and a product that’s 100 percent engineered and built in the U.S.
If I have one misgiving about my All Road, it’s that the geometry is a tad aggressive. Though Allied has a taller head tube option for this bike, which raises the front end by 20mm, those molds weren’t even built when this test bike came off of the company’s nascent production line. Were I to buy a brand new frame, I’d consider the more relaxed position, which would simply give me more fit options and make the ride more comfortable.
But that’s a mere niggle, a fact that’s underscored every time I walk into my garage, which is hung with 20 or more bikes at any given time. From that plethora, I find myself inevitably, almost instinctually, grabbing my Alpha All Road whenever I’m not required to test something else. And each time I pull it off the hooks, I grin with the anticipation of what I know will be an excellent ride ahead. I truly may never need another road bike in my life.