12 Feb ALFA ALLROAD: A Designer’s Take by Sam Pickman: Lead EngineerReading Time: 3 minutes
Every once in awhile technologies come along in this industry that opens the door completely for new kinds of bikes and riding. Without a doubt, the most significant in road bikes over the past 5 years is disc brakes. Early adopters and journalists have been praising the improved brake performance, which is a huge boost over carbon rims and standard rim brakes, but on the design side, disc brakes have removed a huge tire clearance limiter, the brake caliper. Only a handful of years ago, if you wanted nice brakes on your road bike, you were limited to 28C tires. With that constraint removed it has opened the door for a new segment of high-end drop bar bikes aimed specifically at off-road or mixed-terrain riding.
With any new category, there is a lot of room to stake a claim and define your take. The path most companies seem to be going is towards a very capable off road bike with a relaxed, upright geometry and clearance for really wide 650B tires. These bikes are without a doubt cool and are resonating in the market with a couple of great high-quality examples out there.
For us at ALLIED, we felt like those bikes just missed the mark a bit for the type of ride we were after. The majority of the gravel bikes in their effort to be good at many things wind up being not great at anything. Speaking personally, the thing I search for most when riding a drop-bar bike off road is front-wheel feel and traction. When I have a good feel from my front wheel traction I have tremendous confidence, when I am having a hard time picking up feedback from the front, I immediately want to straighten up and get on the brakes.
How you get good front wheel feel on a bike is through weight distribution and front end steering geometry. The issue with most of these gravel bikes is the front end is so short and or tall, that the rider’s weight gets biased a ton toward the back wheel. Combine that with a low trail number and the result is a bike that feels very vague in the front. It would be one thing if these bikes were meant to be ridden on rocky steep terrain, like a mountain bike, where pitching is a big issue, but they aren’t really meant for that. So this adjusted rider position doesn’t really make them that much more capable off-road (except of course for the very large tire), but it also makes them ride pretty poorly on the road, especially when you stack them up against a purpose-built road bike, and if you’re like me, these bikes still spend a significant amount of time on the pavement, riding to the off-road stuff.
With that understood, when we thought about what we wanted most from the AR, it was a bike that gave up very little on the road, but you could rip off-road as long as the terrain didn’t get too wild. This bike will feel just like your race bike in many ways; fit, handling, pedaling, and responsiveness. Combine that with the ability to put 35C tires on and it just opens up your world to ride almost anywhere. The longer geo makes for more balanced weight distribution, combined with a trail in the mid-’50s, it has excellent front wheel feedback. Is it the greatest off-road bike? Of course not, that’s not the intent, but it is a blast to ride off-road while giving up nothing on the road.
IT IS PURE AMERICAN PERFORMANCE AT ITS FINEST.
After riding the ALL ROAD, you will find yourself busy on Ebay selling all your other bike stuff, because this is all you need.