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Allied Alfa Disc review

1 Nov 2019
Verdict:

Tried-and-tested geometry married to innovative composite engineering makes the Alfa Disc ride brilliantly

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
The frameset is designed, made and tested in-house, addition of Innegra fibres imbue the frame with velvety ride quality
Against 
Integrated cockpit not particularly stiff

There was a time when it felt like every bike had a distinct personality – Bianchis were made by Italians, Treks by Americans, Raleighs by Brits – but those times have gone.

Nowadays it is the norm for one of the most important parts of a bike’s entire design process, the fabrication of the frameset, to be left in the hands of a subcontractor halfway across the globe.

‘Bringing back the “maker” aspect to bike building was one of the fundamental tenets of Allied Cycle Works when it was founded in 2016,’ says Allied CEO Sam Pickman, whose CV includes time as an engineer at Specialized, where he worked on the Tarmac and Roubaix.

Every bike is designed, tested, fabricated and painted on Allied’s premises in Little Rock, Arkansas in the USA.

Pickman says this keeps things as simple as possible, cutting out all the complications of sourcing goods from Asia.

‘Being close to the factory floor as an engineer means you make very different decisions because you can see the bike you’ve designed,’ he says.

‘It enforces the fact you’re accountable, and the quality is higher for that.

‘When manufacture happens overseas it can become a “not my problem anymore” issue after the factory has been sent a set of shapes they need to make into a frame.

‘This isn’t a dig at Asian factories. When I was at Specialized I spent a lot of time in Asia and I have very little issue with what goes on there.

‘There are a lot of great people making great products.’

Another advantage of keeping the entire operation under one roof is that it speeds up the entire design process.

Pickman says decisions and changes can be made very quickly when you control all the steps involved. The time between testing one part and testing a reiteration can be as little as 24 to 48 hours.

‘Working with an Asian subcontractor, that turnaround could be 30 days each time.

‘The brand has to factor in retesting the manufacturer’s tests, dissecting and working out what needs changing, then summarising and communicating issues to the subcontractor whose first language isn’t English.

‘The whole thing is incomparably longer and more convoluted,’ he says.

Pickman explains Allied’s advantage for the consumer is transparency over how something is made, who makes it and how those people are treated.

It also means that every Allied can get a personalised paint scheme and custom spec, too.

This may seem like quite an extensive justification of Allied’s manufacturing processes but in truth the quality of the Alfa Disc tells its own story.

When I first got to appraise the bike – squeeze the brakes, pinch the tyres, the usual – the stunning iridescent paint scheme was the first thing to draw my eye.

From some angles the bike is royal purple, from others emerald green, and it gives the frame a dynamic, fluid appearance.

Taking a closer look, I noticed neat touches that testified to Pickman’s claims of the fastidious approach Allied uses.

An exquisitely machined aluminium eagle (Allied’s logo) at the top of the down tube also serves to guide the gear cables inside the frame.

There is a United States-shaped badge at the bottom bracket that says ‘Made Here.’, whose full stop denotes the location on the scaled down country of Allied’s HQ in Little Rock.

It is a level of attention to detail and quality of finishing that differentiates the Alfa Disc from its peers, and that’s before I’ve even put a single mile on the bike.

Being similar to stand apart

Those points of difference became ever wider the more time I spent on the bike.

It has some genuinely sublime ride characteristics, yet if it does stand apart from other bikes on the market, it’s nothing to do with the bike’s geometry.

The Alfa Disc is totally conventional in this respect. Stack, reach, chainstay length, fork trail, head tube and seat tube angles are all what you’d expect from a long, low, snappy-handling race bike.

Happily, that translated into a predictable experience on the road.

The bike put me in an aggressive position yet one I was easily able to maintain, and it reacted promptly to steering input while remaining stable and planted at high speed. It felt right yet (in a good way) unremarkable.

‘There’s a convergence when you look at what every big brand says are the right numbers for road race geometry.

‘There is a formula you don’t need to mess with – I applied that at Specialized and it is no different on the Alfa Disc,’ says Pickman.

‘That’s the foundation, and we manipulate the character of the bike through tube shapes and layup schedules.’

And it’s in this area where the Alfa Disc shines. Off that solid geometrical base, Allied has made the ride quality as dynamic as its paintjob.

It was as stiff as I could ever need in a sprint, yet as smooth as butter when the road surface of my Dorset lanes got rough and I needed a bit of cushioning.

The Alfa Disc is punchy yet refined, like a bare-knuckle boxer who drinks tea with their pinky extended.

Pickman attributes that to the inclusion of Innegra in the resin – a polypropylene that functions like Kevlar and is used in the top tube, fork crown and seatstays.

The original idea wasn’t to add comfort, but to hold the otherwise-brittle carbon together in the event of impact.

‘To be honest the influence on ride feel was kind of a happy coincidence,’ Pickman says.

‘We originally put in Innegra to improve the durability of the frame. The seatstays get a full layer of Innegra in them, which basically makes them flexy but really good at absorbing vibrations.

‘Ultimately it is another benefit of producing in the US and working in the way we do – Innegra’s technical rep just drove up here and showed us how to work with it.

‘Our methods meant we were out riding it in no time, which is when we found there was something going on, not just from a safety perspective but that it changed the character of our design in a positive way.’

Allied and its Alfa Disc are as good an example as any to show that sometimes it pays to do things a little differently from the norm.

Spec

Frame Allied Alfa Disc
Groupset Campagnolo Record H11
Brakes Campagnolo Record H11
Chainset Campagnolo Record H11
Cassette Campagnolo Record H11
Bars Black Inc Integrated cockpit
Stem Black Inc Integrated cockpit
Seatpost Fizik Cyrano R1 
Saddle Fizik Arione R1 VSX saddle
Wheels Campagnolo Bora One DB, Schwalbe One 28mm tyres
Weight 7.29kg (56cm)
Contact bicyclechain.co.uk

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Price: 
£8,400

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