I love downcountry mountain bikes, and for many reasons (which I’ll get into), the Allied BC40 has been one of my dream bikes ever since it was released in 2022. I rarely buy new bikes, so I’ve been patiently waiting, hoping to encounter a used BC40 here at TPC. A couple of weeks ago, a beautiful BC40 with a very nice build finally showed up. Unfortunately, it was a bit too big for me, otherwise, I probably would have picked it up. Instead, I pulled it aside for a feature and some glamor shots.
I watched this bike come and go (it sold fast!), and I’m still dreaming about picking up an Allied BC40. To explain why, I go a bit deeper into the story behind Allied’s American-made bikes and why I think the BC40 is the ideal quiver-killer for XC-leaning trail riders like me.
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The Birth of an All-American Brand: From Guru to HIA Velo to Allied Cycle Works
Back in 2017, when TPC was still tiny, I encountered an Allied Alfa road frame for the first time. But there was another, perhaps unfamiliar name associated with it — HIA Velo. We’d received a shipment with four HIA Velo Allied Alfa frames. HIA Velo was the manufacturer, and Allied was the name of the new brand it was launching. All I knew was that the paint looked beautiful and I had to know more.
This early 2017 HIA road frame gave us a preview of what was to come. It doesn't come through well in this photo, but the sparkly black paint looked gorgeous in person.
HIA stands for “Handmade in America,” and HIA Velo was started by Tony Karklins, the founder of Orbea USA. After 14 years at the helm of Orbea USA, he left to start HIA Velo and Allied to bring bike manufacturing back to the US.
Through the 2000s, all the major bike brands had shifted their manufacturing to Asia. Karklins said in an interview with Bicycling: “Almost overnight, the big brands weren’t producing their own bicycles anymore. I believe at that moment, the industry lost its soul. That passion for making the best, something that you love, was exchanged for sending your production to Asia for composite expertise and cheaper labor.”
So in 2016, Karklins gathered a few cycling-obsessed investors to help purchase carbon-fiber manufacturing equipment to make carbon frames here in the US. Former Allied CEO, Brendan Quirk, told me the story in an interview.
Guru, which was a highly regarded Canadian frame manufacturer based Montreal, Quebec, was known for its super light carbon bikes (it Photon HL was the lightest frame in the world back in 2015). After it went out of business, Karlins was able to acquire is carbon manufacturing equipment in a bankruptcy auction. He moved all of Guru's tooling and infrastructure down to Little Rock, Arkansas to get HIA Velo off the ground. So in spirit, Allied and Guru are connected.
Just having the machinery isn’t enough to guarantee success. The key to Allied becoming a renowned bike maker was its engineering department. Enter Sam Pickman. Just as Karklins was getting HIA Velo up and running, Pickman resigned from Specialized after 11 years as a successful R&D engineering manager. He had helped develop legendary bikes like the Roubaix, but wanted more freedom to develop his vision of the perfect bike.
“One of the main reasons I left [Specialized] is because of that outsourced model,” he told me. “It makes it really difficult to come up with new ideas and develop new things if you don’t have the ability to also innovate the processes at the same time. So what would inevitably happen is we would come up with an idea, try to get our factories to buy in to develop it, and often they’d just not feel like doing it for one reason or another.”
The timing was perfect. Pickman met Karklins through a mutual friend and after he saw the budding HIA facility, he was so excited that he bought a house in Little Rock before he left. For the last 7+ years, Pickman has been the Director of Product and Engineering and the brains behind the bikes that have made Allied so successful.
Allied's paint is all done in house and gives customers lots of room for customization.
Now, the brand is known as Allied Cycle Works, and its home base has moved to Bentonville, Arkansas (one of the best MTB destinations in the country). Currently, it is one of only a few brands making carbon frames here in the US. It also does all of its paint in-house, allowing it to give riders a huge range of color options when they order a brand-new bike or frame. The result, I think, is some of the most unique and beautiful-looking carbon frames in the business.
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Enter the BC40: Allied Finally Makes a MTB
Amity Rockwell after winning the 2019 Unbound Gravel on the new Allied Able.
In 2019, Allied got a big break. It was sponsoring two lesser-known (at the time) riders — Colin Strickland and Amity Rockwell — who both went on to win the 2019 edition of Unbound Gravel on the brand new Allied Able gravel bike. It was a dream product launch. Soon, the Allied Able was the most in-demand gravel bike around and the few pre-owned Ables we acquired at TPC that year didn’t last more than an hour before selling.
Not long after this, I asked CEO Brendan Quirk and Sam Pickman if Allied would capitalize on this success and expand its off-road line-up to include mountain bikes. Their answer was no. “We really believe in [the gravel] movement,” Quirk explained, so that was where they would focus. Both emphatically denied that a mountain bike was in the works…
But after a few years (and a pandemic) had passed, I was surprised by the announcement that Allied was indeed releasing a mountain bike: the BC40.
I was blindsided! If I’m to guess, Quirk and Pickman might have been burying the lede when I spoke to them back in 2019. Bikes take several years to develop, and chances are they were either already working on the BC40, or they had plans to start working on it in the year after we spoke.
The name “BC40” is a reference to the Back 40 trail system in Bella Vista near Bentonville, Arkansas. This loop traverses ridges and valleys, providing tough, grinding climbs followed by fast, swooping descents — exactly the type of riding the BC40 was designed for. It’s light and fast, with relaxed geometry (it has a 66.5-degree head angle) and 120mm of travel front and rear. It’s a downcountry bike, which I think fits the Allied ethos perfectly.
Payson McElveen on the BC40 at the 2023 Leadville Trail 100 MTB. The frame is compatible with a remote lockout and riders can use a shorter-stroke shock to reduce rear travel for dedicated XC racing.
In 2022, Allied also started sponsoring two very prominent mountain bike racers: endurance racer Payson McElveen and World Cup XC racer and two-time Olympian Lea Davison. These riders were set to compete in the first year of the Life Time Grand Prix, which is now the premier off-road race series in the US. For Allied to get in on the action, a mountain bike was a necessity.
Why the Allied BC40 Is My Dream MTB
Of course, I can’t help but compare the BC40 to my current bike, the Specialized Epic Evo, which I consider the benchmark in the downcountry category. I also honestly think the Epic Evo is the best bike I've owned in the last 5 years.
It's a super high compliment then, to say the the BC40 rides extremely similarly to the Epic Evo. They're both light and stiff, with a frame that can fit two bottles (a nice plus for marathon XC races!). The rear suspension feels firm and efficient with the compression fully open, but it has just enough give to soak up harsh hits on gnarlier trails. Our general manager at TPC owns and rides both (lucky guy) and can't pick between them sometimes.
The geometry is fairly similar. Both bikes have a nice 66.5 degree head angle which provides confidence and stability on descents while still being agile enough for modern XC racing. The BC40, however, has a slightly steeper 76 degree seat angle and slightly longer reach — both positives in my book.
The rear suspension is exactly what you expect in this category. The 120mm of travel is controlled by a linkage-driven single pivot with carbon flex stays. The flex pivot is on the seat stay near the rear dropout, and this type of system has become the de facto suspension system for XC and downcountry bikes because removing extra bearings and hardware can save around half a pound.
Speaking of weight, the carbon frame itself is fairly lightweight, with a claimed weight of 1950 grams for a size large. But this is perhaps the one place where the BC40 does lose out. The S-Works Epic Evo is one of the lightest full-suspension MTB frames ever at 1659 grams, while the standard Epic Evo is 1757 grams.
200-300 grams isn’t a huge amount, but it’s notable if you’re a weight weenie. With ENVE M630 wheels, Fox Factory suspension, a Reverb AXS dropper, and a SRAM Eagle AXS drivetrain, this BC40 is 26 lbs 7 oz. The complete weight is around a pound more than my current Epic Evo.
Is this extra heft bad? Not for me. In my mind, it just means the BC40 has a tougher frame. This is likely true because Allied enhances its carbon with a polypropylene fabric called Innegra. It’s an incredibly strong fabric that doesn’t tear, and Allied layers it into its carbon frames to add toughness.
"It provides what is almost like a skeleton,” Pickman explained. “If you were to have a bad crash on a regular carbon bike and you just hopped up and started riding again, you may have damaged your bike to where 10 miles down the road it might break in two just from the regular stresses of riding. But the Innegra kind of holds everything together, and you can get home. The idea isn’t to prevent it from breaking but to prevent it from breaking catastrophically. Because it’s a dissimilar material, the laminate actually does dampen some of the vibrations too."
That’s pretty cool, and it leads me to the final point for why the BC40 is so desirable to me: it’s made here in America. Now, I really have no problem with bikes being manufactured in Asia. Bikes like my Epic Evo are super high-quality and I believe that the builders and factories in Taiwan are some of the best in the world.
But there is something inherently more special about an American-made bike, especially a carbon bike. It’s rare! For me, I love that the frame doesn’t have to travel across an ocean to reach me. I like that the people who built it are American workers. Most of all, I appreciate the dedication and hard work required to stay committed to American manufacturing.
These alloy rocker links are machined in house.
"We’re competing against manufacturers who don’t have to follow the same rules as us,” Pickman explained. They don’t have to follow the same rules in terms of how they treat their people, in terms of how they pay their people, or follow the same environmental regulations or safety regulations. We're playing a game where there are two sets of rules for each team.
"But the transparency into our process, the care that we take, and the quality of product that we produce as a result I think are all huge benefits. It’s an essential part of being a responsible company today."
To me, this BC40 build is near perfect. The only thing I'd change is these one-piece Black Inc. handlebars. They're just not my style.
So the BC40 is American-made, beautiful (in my eyes), and it has the geometry, weight, and suspension to match my favorite bike of the last five years, the Epic Evo. It keeps things feeling fast uphill yet capable downhill. I can take it XC racing or I can shred with me buddies on trail bikes. For me, it ticks every box. I just need to wait for one in my size!
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