BIKE TEST: ALLIED ECHO - Road Bike Action (2024)

Of all the reasons gravel riding has grown in the last decade, value has long been a leading factor. The utility and dual-sport nature that the progressive frames provide have given rise to the common quip of “just change the tires and you’ve got a road-ready ride,” but few frames are purposely designed to run skinny rubber and even fewer provide an authentic road bike feel. Small builders like Otso and mainstream brands like Cervelo have adopted “flip chips” to modify the geometry of the frame to better suit the desired ride quality. Arkansas-based Allied Cycle Works gave the flip chip a go with the Echo, offering a handmade take on the two-in-one frame design.

Allied got its start in 2017 under the leadership of some industry veterans who sought to renew American carbon manufacturing efforts at a level that could be competitive with the likes of Trek and Specialized. The Alpha was their first road bike, and the bike’s subtle graphics, semi-internal cable routing and “all-day” ride quality left us with the sense that the forward-thinking team in Rogers, Arkansas, could be at the forefront of an American carbon renaissance. Five years later we got our hands on one of the most intriguing all-road platforms recently launched, the Echo.

THE FRAME

At first glance the Echo’s traditional drop-bar aesthetic appears to be nothing more than a modern gravel bike, but the bike can be ridden in two separate geometries. In its gravel setup, the carbon frame accepts 40mm tires, and its internally routed hoses keep it looking trim. At 950 grams the Echo is on par with other gravel race bikes like the Factor Ostro Gravel and many standard road frames. Our Maroon Metallic paint job is an upgraded offering alongside six standard colorways and a handful of other premium personalized designs.

A closer look reveals the interesting bits of the Echo. From the eagle logo on the downtube to the “Made Here” lettering above the bottom bracket, the Echo is packed with personality. However, we were instantly attracted to the dual flip chips located at each dropout.

Much like the single flip chips in use across the industry, the Echo is able to tweak the position where the wheels are placed relative to the frame, allowing for variable tire clearance and key geometry distances. Our Echo was set up in the gravel position—a 101.5cm wheelbase and 72.5-degree head tube angle with a 57.5cm stack and a 38.9cm reach. It’s a relatively steep head tube angle for a gravel bike by about half a degree, and the stack height is on the taller end.

In the road position, the Echo squeezes into a tighter geometry with a 73-degree head tube angle, 100.1cm wheelbase, 39.4cm reach and 57cm stack. The 73-degree head tube angle is common on racing bikes like the Specialized Tarmac SL7 and Giant TCR, even an endurance bike like the Cannondale Synapse is close with a slightly steeper 73.1-degree angle. Stack- and reach-wise, the Echo is longer and taller than most road bikes. In this position, the chainstays are 41.5cm, a centimeter shorter than in the gravel position.

THE PARTS

Our test bike was built up with one of Allied’s entry-level offerings consisting of a SRAM Rival AXS groupset. The Echo frame is not routed to support mechanical builds, so only modern wireless drivetrains are compatible. A 10-36 cassette is paired with 46/33 chainrings. It’s a wide range that’s ideal for both road and gravel terrain.

Aside from the drivetrain, Allied offers a variety of components through their online bike builder. A selection of Zipp and Industry Nine wheels are available. Our bike rolls on the latter’s UL250 carbon hoops mounted with 40mm WTB Vulpine tires. While Industry Nine is best known for its mountain bike components, their background in the dirt has proven useful for the UL250s with a hooked 25mm internal rim width and a claimed 1420-gram wheelset weight.

Allied specs a proprietary stem with a faceplate top cap on the Echo. Internally, the stem is hollow to allow for hydraulic hose routing. The hoses are covered by the face plate, which secures the handlebar, and covers the steerer tube. Anyone looking for a bit of value may consider the Echo EX build with a standard stem and handlebar that leaves the hoses exposed but costs $1000 less than our test bike spec.

A 25mm-offset Black Inc. seatpost and 42mm handlebar are included with our build. Allied offers other handlebar and seatpost options from FSA in a variety of sizes and offsets as well. For gravel and road riding, we tend to prefer a setback seatpost rather than a straight post for the added compliance the offset provides. Allied has both 0mm and 25mm options for all of their seatpost offerings, and we’d likely recommend the 25mm option for all but the most aggressive riders.

THE RIDE

We tried every variation of the Echo’s flip chips. Starting off with the gravel position, our test riders reported highly responsive handling, which is what we expected based on the steep head tube angle and overall lightweight build. It was quick to input with predictable responses. It felt aggressive for a gravel bike and eager to go fast.

Before going straight to the road position, we tried out road wheels without changing the flip chips. We set up a pair of Zipp 303S wheels with 28mm Vittoria Corsa tires. The result was similar to an endurance bike, like a Cannondale Synapse with relatively controllable relaxed handling for skinny tires.

Getting the flip chips set up in the road position proved simple. Allied uses a smart sliding mount for the brake caliper on the fork and a secondary bolt position for the rear caliper. Once loosened, you can simply flip and fit the flip chips in the dropouts with just the help of the tools Allied provides with the bike, an 8mm hex key and a 16mm wrench. The calipers required minor adjustments, but the total process took less than 15 minutes, even for our less mechanically inclined test riders.

In road mode, the Echo is not a full-on race bike, rather it’s a tame, progressive road rig with a long wheelbase that rode more like an endurance bike. This isn’t a bad thing, but it didn’t provide the high-performance handling we expected to match the aggressive gravel position. Its subdued nature is not a negative. Rather it’s in line with the compliance-focused trends many manufacturers are blending into their race bikes.

THE VERDICT

Allied’s Echo is bursting with interesting design quirks and all-road performance. Its made-in-America heritage paired with modern design cues make it a standout in the increasingly popular all-road category of bikes. This is a bike that definitely boasts an elegant look and feel to it. While not fully committed to either road or gravel, the Echo is a true all-road bike that capably sits atop the dual-sport category. We’d like to see a bit more tire clearance in the gravel position for some ample 700c rubber rather than opting for a wider 650b option.

For us, a two-in-one bike best serves riders focused on value. However, while the $4580 Echo frame is priced to match its premium, handcrafted quality, that’s a price point that’s out of reach for most riders. Be that as it may, the complete bike price of $6735 is surprisingly cheap for a bike based on an American-made carbon frame. While there will always be those more extravagant riders who insist on having a separate bike for each type of riding, the Echo is intriguing with its versatility and makes a case for the validity of flip-chip designs.

PUNCH LINES

• A versatile all-road ride

• Highly responsive handling

• Front and rear adjustable flip chips

STATS

Price: $6735

Weight: 17.64 pounds

Sizes: XXS, XS, S, M (tested), L, XL

www.alliedcycleworks.com

BIKE TEST: ALLIED ECHO - Road Bike Action (2024)

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