Welds apart: With the welds of the Allez Sprint starkly splitting opinions, we ask the experts for their view on Specialized’s controversial new smart weld technology.
Following the launch of the new Specialized Allez Sprint, there’s one particular aspect of the frame that has set comment sections and forums ablaze – the welding. Or, to be more specific, those striking welds around the head tube.
Now, svelte joins have never really been a particular feature of the Allez Sprint. The bottom bracket welds of the previous model had quite an industrial look to them – arguably starker and more prominent than the head tube welds of this latest iteration.
But perhaps it’s the prominence in the field of view that makes the welding around the new Allez Sprint’s head tube stand out so noticeably to some.
Of course, the comments weren’t all one-sided, and the frames had plenty of support too.
Frame builders perspective
David Ballie is an experienced British frame builder that repairs both aluminium and titanium frames. Cycling Weekly caught up with David and got his opinion on the latest Allez and their controversial joins. “It’s impossible to know how good a weld is without taking the frame apart” and without cutting a frame open there’s going to be a certain element of speculation. Despite that, there still is much that can be said about the choice of location for the welds.
“Normally when you join a down tube to a head tube, what you’re effectively doing is trying to get the weld area to be the smallest possible circumference that it could possibly be. What [Specialized] has done is make the join at quite a pronounced angle so that the weld is almost in a vertical line perpendicular to the ground.”
Just because something is the established way of doing things isn’t in itself a good argument against a different method. Baillie went on to elaborate: “You really want to reduce the amount of weld area as much as possible because, basically, the smaller the join the stronger it’s going to be. If you look at what Specialized has done, they’ve actually increased the size of the weld. It’s probably not a significant difference, but mechanically I just don’t really see the justification.”
Similarly, for the positioning of the welds further back from the head tube, Baillie explained: “I understand what they’re saying about the stress and the forces, but the join has only been moved by about 15 or 20 millimetres, so there is still going to be plenty of stress there. Potentially more, even, as those extra bits of the tube sticking out from the head tube could end up acting almost as a lever, extenuating any flexing from the head tube. Again, it’s not really likely to be anything significant, shouldn’t cause any problems at all, it just strikes as a bit pointless.”
Antonio Taverna is the sole heir to his family’s frame building business (@racerosabicycles). He is also a master frame builder that works with titanium, carbon and aluminium. Here is his opinion on the new Allez Sprint.
When it came to the placement of the welds on the top tube and down tube, Antonio Taverna does believe that this would indeed likely increase the strength of the frame. “It makes sense from a ‘robustness’ point of view – the use of these forged ‘lugs’ moves the stress away from the critical points. But my question is: how often did the previous Allez frame break at those critical points?”
He went on to say: “I think this is likely to be one of those solutions to a problem that did not exist. With regards to the weight, any saving is likely to be marginal – in fact, if anything, this method will add a bit of weight instead, in my opinion.”
But regarding the aesthetics, although so much Italian engineering pays such strong attention to the form as well as the function, Taverna himself was disarmingly pragmatic: “Nothing is large or ugly in my opinion. For mass-produced frames, it is a matter of strength and also cost. You simply don’t want to smooth out TIG welding because this reduces the welds’ strength and the extra time adds to the production costs.
“Of course, for hand-built frames, that’s a totally different matter. The TIG welding used for this typically uses double the material of mass-produced frames and the hand-made smoothing makes the welds even stronger, as well as being more gentle to the eye. But then it does add a lot of labour and therefore cost.”
On the performance benefits of the new design, Antonio was more sceptical: “I realise you’d tend to think that this ‘stronger’ forged lug method allows you to use lighter weight tubing – but I think this cannot be the case. The tubing would still need to be double-butted at least and so there should be essentially no difference in weight between the old Allez Sprint and the new one. If there is, it is almost certainly not because of the different construction method.”
When it comes to aesthetics, on the whole, we are on board with the Allez Sprint. The bottom bracket area looks better in our opinion than the previous model and, with the BB now sitting in a continuation of the down tube, we would argue the look tops out more traditional designs with a greater number of welds.
So what do you think? Is a smart weld really that bad or are people just spoilt by carbon smoothness? Let us know!