The Shimano Tiagra groupset performed flawlessly throughout our three-month test, the nine speed drivetrain providing a good spread of gears for every situation. It’s worth noting that while we tested the double chainset model, Specialized also make a triple chainset version for those living in hillier environs. The Tiagra dual pivot brakes worked excellently, actually exceeding the performance of the costlier Shimano dual pivots we normally ride.
Now to the wheels: with 28 radial black spokes on the front and 32 at the back, they sure look the part. Unfortunately, their performance didn’t quite match expectations. After four hours of riding half a dozen spokes in the front wheel had lost nearly all their tension. Fortunately we always prepare for the worst and we had a spoke key handy. The problem was temporarily resolved at the side of the road and we gave the wheel a proper seeing-to once back home. Within a further four or five hours of riding however, the problem had returned and by now the back wheel had decided to join in the fun. Further re-tensioning ensued and the wheels rode well for a couple of weeks before we looked at them again.
There is nothing wrong with the components used to build these wheels – they’re all quality parts from reputable manufacturers. The problems came about because the wheels were poorly built. If we were considering buying this bike we would get the shop’s wheel builder to make sure these wheels were properly tensioned before we left the shop. It’s a five-minute job that would have prevented our little problem from arising in the first instance.
It’s a mystery why manufacturers insist on putting radially spoked front wheels on mid-range bikes. At this price range, customers want performance but above all they demand reliability. Radially spoked front wheels provide neither improved performance nor reliability; the only advantage we can see is that they look the business in brochures.
The tyres on the Allez Sport were Specialized’s own brand Mondo Sports. Specialized tyres have a very good reputation amongst roadies and with good reason: after two and a half months of riding we hadn’t had any punctures at all. Towards the end of December the tyres began to puncture more often, mostly because their grippy compound picked up flints on the wet roads. Still, two and a half months of puncture free riding is good by our standards and when the tyres did eventually puncture, they were easy to get on and off, even with cold hands.