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Headbanger’s Ball: Alloy from Trek and Specialized

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Trek Émonda ALR 6
Trek shocked the world two years ago with the 10-pound Émonda SLR10. So how can an alloy bike for $2,200 bucks that weighs over 17 pounds be considered part of the same family? For Trek
it means making the alloy Émonda a leader in its category for light weight. A size 58cm alloy bike that costs $2,200 and weighs 17 pounds is definitely one of the leaders in that category.

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Trek welds the bike up with a profile that places it unmistakably in the Émonda family and uses its top alloy blend, 300 Series. A technique called Invisible Weld delivers smooth transitions from tube to tube with less material and better contact, making the final product lighter and stronger. The junctions are incredibly smooth, partly because they are sanded prior to painting.

TrekEmondaALR

All the work put into coaxing performance out of alloy can be lost if the build is down market. The Émonda ALR 6 is more than respectable: full Shimano Ultegra mechanical. The wheels are Bontrager Race TLRs. They aren’t light, but they do spin on DT Swiss hubs and are tubeless ready, which takes the sting out of the 1,720 grams. The rest of the build is more Bontrager, with the slim 27.2 carbon seat post to help smooth alloy’s ride.

Specialized Allez DSW Sprint X1
The Allez name has been a staple at Specialized since the 1980s. Its latest incarnation may be alloy, but that is where any similarities end. Using a new welding process called D’Aluisio Smartweld, Specialized has coaxed more performance out alloy than any previous Allez.

AllezSprint1x

The man behind the curtain of Specialized’s recent product greatness has been Chris D’Aluisio, and while he was strolling across the parking lot one day, inspiration struck: What if the edges of each tube were domed, shaped precisely to mate to the next tube, moving welds away from high stress areas and creating a valley for the weld material to be deposited?

When Smartweld first hit the market it was on an S-Works Allez and the frame happened to be lighter and more compliant than any alloy on the market. The Allez Sprint is the latest incarnation and it takes a Tarmac-inspired front triangle and mates it to a Venge-inspired rear for a bike that is more aero than the original Venge. Take a look at the clamshell-style bottom bracket and you’ll see that D’Aluisio Smartweld is certainly not easier to manufacture, just better.

Specialized has built the new bike as a 1X-only platform; no front-derailleur option exists, at least not yet. But the bike’s intention is razor thin—scorch a crit course and smash the lunch ride. If you want Smartweld in an all- around platform you’ll need a standard Allez SL. With a SRAM Force 1 group and Axis 2.0 alloy wheels the Allez Sprint X1 is $2,600 and weighs 17.1 pounds in size 58cm.

Alloy on the Road
On the road, the Trek Émonda ALR 6 clearly has a more difficult job to live up to. The name itself makes comparisons to its big brother, a true carbon superbike, inevitable, however unfair. The bike feels very much a member of the Émonda family from its planted and balanced feel, but it will never accelerate in the hills like its big brother. While its comfort in the saddle surprised
 us greatly, its overall acceleration and bottom-bracket stiffness left a bit to be desired, lacking alloy’s usual punch.

The latest Allez is aiming at a smaller target and doesn’t suffer from any inherent comparisons to the Tarmac or Venge. In fact, its 1X spec makes it an open question. The feeling is “What can this thing do?” not “Will it live up to preconceived notions?” What it does is stunning. Accelerate at Cipollini levels and the Allez Sprint will smoke the tires like a ’67 Pontiac GTO and it torches corners with a composure that is very unlike alloy. Its not the right bike for a Gran Fondo, but the Allez Sprint X1 manages to be an exciting bike to ride, irrespective of material or nameplate.

Allez DSW Sprint X1: SRAM Force 1; 17.1 lbs (size 58cm) $2,600: specialized.com.
Émonda ALR 6: Shimano Ultegra: 17 lbs (size 58cm): $2,200: trekbikes.com