Perhaps you’ve noticed, but gravel or adventure road riding is getting pretty popular. In fact, for Specialized, it’s their fastest growing category for the brand. And while it’s not there just yet, in a few years they believe gravel will be their largest category. That means it could be bigger than pure road or any of the mountain bike categories, which is saying something. Though it’s not all that surprising – gravel bikes offer a tremendously versatile ride that can tackle anything from pavement to XC trails and anything in between. Add in the desire to get away from roads and the vehicle traffic that comes with them, and it’s easy to see why more riders are looking for the road less traveled.
It’s also not much of a surprise that Specialized has an all new Diverge. Even less of a surprise if you caught the recent muscle car shenanigans with Peter Sagan. However, the bike does have a few features that may surprise you (dropper post?) and a complete package that makes for a very enjoyable ride, regardless of the road surface…
Compared to the original Diverge which was designed to be the bicycle equivalent of a Swiss Army knife, the new gravel focused Diverge has changed quite a bit. Gone are the Zertz inserts from the frame and fork – in favor of the Specialized Future Shock borrowed from the recent edition of the Roubaix.
While the cartridge is exactly the same with a main spring, top out spring, and a separate booster spring, the Diverge introduces a new progressive main spring (above, white wrap) that ramps up as you go through the travel whereas the Roubaix and Ruby currently use a linear spring to better absorb small road chatter. According to Specialized, the Future Shock pieces are interchangeable, meaning you could add the progressive spring to your Roubaix if you wanted to (more on that in our first ride review). Just like the other Future Shock equipped bikes, the three separate booster springs allow you to fine tune the shock’s performance.
Like the Roubaix, the 20mm travel Future Shock helps isolate the impacts going through the front of the bike from the rider for increased comfort and control. Also like the Roubaix, the frame without the Future Shock cartridge is quite light – just 880g for the S-Works model in 56cm. At the highest level you’ll find a FACT 11r carbon frame with a FACT carbon fork, both with flat mount disc brakes. Complete, that means a Diverge S-Works 56cm with two bottle cages and a full SWAT box comes in at 18.52lb (8.4kg). A women’s Diverge Comp in a 56cm with no cages, SWAT, or dropper and a 2x drivetrain measured 21.01lbs, while the aluminum Diverge Comp E5 in a 54cm weighed in at 21.61lbs.
One interesting frame detail is the move to a BB 386 EVO bottom bracket which was done to increase tire clearance without having to get crazy with the chain stay shaping. On the Diverge Comp, there’s even a Praxis Works BB 386 EVO bottom bracket to go with the Alba 2D crank which was a special request for this bike, though it will be available aftermarket soon.
Equipped with thru axles front and rear, the Diverge runs a 142 x 12 rear and 100 x 12 front through the entire line. You won’t find any front derailleurs on the top two builds, but every frame is front derailleur compatible with a removable braze on design. The frame is equipped with fittings for fenders, and can even take a rear rack if desired. Cable routing is internal with different options for both 1x, 2x, and mechanical or electronic drivetrains – plus stealth dropper compatibility.
That dropper is only found on the top of the line S-Works edition, but the 35mm Command Post XCP can be installed on any of the carbon Diverge frames. There is some flexibility to where you place the mechanical remote, but the logical place seems to be directly under the shifter so you can reach it quickly no matter the hand position.
The SWAT box is also an S-Works only stock part, which is the same exact box found on the Roubaix and Ruby. Because of that, the size of tube you can store is limited to a 700 x 28c standard Specialized road tube, and it has to be wrapped very tightly. Originally, the box was designed around their super light tubes for road use, but the gravel bikes need thicker tubes that can stretch – so the standard tube is required. Inside the SWAT box you’ll find a valve extender, co2 inflator, tire lever, and multi-tool all right out of the box. You’ll have to add your own tube and CO2 canister. The SWAT box is only included on the S-Works build, but will fit all other carbon Diverge frames (not compatible with aluminum Diverge).
For the weight conscious out there, the fully loaded SWAT box (700 x 20-28 standard tube, valve extender, CO2 inflator, cartridge, muti-tool, and tire lever) measures just under a pound at 432g. If for some reason you wanted to run a completely empty SWAT box, it would add just 162g – though if it’s empty you might as well take it off. The two piece semi-clamshell design attaches with two bolts to the frame for the driveside piece, and the non-driveside part then interlocks with the latch that also serves as the storage door for the multi-tool.
There are quite a few different versions of the Diverge from the carbon bikes with Future Shocks to E5 aluminum builds with or without the Future Shock, but all have a similar version of Specialized’ “Open Road” geometry with clearance for 700 x 42c tires. As standard equipment, all Diverge completes will ship with a 700c wheelset and tires from 30-38mm wide, with 38mm being what Specialized considers the sweet spot for this bike. On the higher end bikes, you’ll find 700 x 38c Trigger Pro 2Bliss ready folding tires.
While the bike is built around the 700c wheel size, Specialized does include 650b x 47mm as the largest Road Plus tire size that is compatible, though they note that certain wheel and tire sizes drop the bottom bracket even further which could lead to pedal strikes in the right instance. That’s partly due to the 5mm lower BB of the new Diverge meant to lower the center of gravity and provide better handling. Specialized’ design team points out that cross geometry does not equal gravel geometry. You can get away with one bike for the other discipline, but the Diverge is designed to give the rider more confidence and stability while their new Crux uses ‘cross focused geometry for fast direction changes and a higher BB to aid in off camber sections of the course.
Like many of the new bikes from Specialized, the men’s and women’s Diverge use a shared platform with the same geometry between sizes. The size range does change however, with the men’s bikes running from 48 to 61cm (64cm on certain bikes), and the women’s running from 48 to 56cm for the carbon models and 44 to 56 on the aluminum bikes. The women’s bikes have different paint schemes, but there’s nothing that screams ‘women’s specific’. The biggest difference between a men’s and women’s Diverge comes down to crank length and the touch points with different Body Geometry saddles, bars, and stems. Specialized says that the move to a shared platform comes from the accumulation of more than 40,000 unique data sets from their partnership with Retul. Based on their findings, Specialized has moved into the camp that believes men’s and women’s specific geometries aren’t needed, and are instead “building bikes for people, not specific genders.”
As you drop down in price, frame materials and components continue to change, but there will be aluminum bikes with the Future Shock available at the Comp E5 level above. There is also a Sport version which eliminates the Future Shock and comes stock with 700 x 30c tires as the entry point for the line.
We’re waiting on the final pricing and availability list and will update this when we have it.
Stay tuned for first ride impressions up soon.