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Specialized Diverge: All you need to know about the updated gravel bike

7 May 2020
Verdict:

A redesigned frame, wider tyres and Futureshock 2.0 catch the headlines for Specialized newest Diverge

The new Specialized Diverge is a complete overhaul of the previous generation of the US brand’s gravel-specific bike. You can now fit wider tyres and it runs with the Specialized’s Futureshock 2.0 suspension system, two obvious upgrades.

But for its latest Diverge, Specialized has not just made these minor tweaks but has gone about a complete frameset redesign. The plan was to make the latest Diverge even more capable off-road and not just by allowing wider rubber and adding an improved suspension system.

‘Our biggest focus with the new Diverge was to make the most capable and versatile gravel bike on the market. Gravel riding keeps progressing and riders need a bike that can keep up with anything they get into,’ explains Stewart Thompson, head of the gravel category at Specialized.

Specialized has tried to make the Diverge a ‘more confident ride off-road’ by lengthening the bike’s reach and wheelbase - by 13mm and 38mm respectively on a 56cm frame. Completing the geometry triangle, the headtube angle has also been slackened by a degree, similar to Specialized’s Epic hardtail mountain bike.

The bike’s bottom bracket has been raised by 6mm for better clearance off-road, although is still only 80mm which is considerably low for a gravel bike while fork offset has also been increased for a more controlled off-road

Understanding that the longer reach and slacker head tube will have slowed down handling, Specialized has also shortened the bike’s stem option to keep handling lively and counterbalance the increased reach and slacker headtube.

In fact, Thompson adds that Specialized’s commitment to ‘handling geometry is what our team spent the most time working on and what we’re most proud of here’, finding a balance between responsiveness and stability.

Wider tyres

Specialized has also considerably increased tyre clearance across the new Diverge range. The previous Diverge models could fit 700x42mm or 650bx47mm. This has now been upped to clearance of 700x47mm or 650bx2.1” (53.3mm) to provide greater grip and control, especially on gravel descents.

This tyre clearance is also across the board, whether you opt for a carbon model or alloy, from S-Works down to entry-level, Specialized wanted to guarantee that greater freedom afforded by wider tyres.

Increasing tyre width to such levels also forced Specialized to rethink how its chainstays were designed. To get such clearance, a frame usually has to opt for longer or dropped stays in order for that tyre to fit, two options that can affect bike weight and handling.

To work around this, Specialized has made the drive side chainstay narrower in order to fit the tyre but made it from a solid beam of carbon to provide the necessary strength, albeit adding a little bit to the overall frame weight.

Futureshock 2.0 suspension

It is also no surprise that the new Diverge has introduced the FutureShock 2.0 technology.

We first saw this update of the brand’s cockpit-based suspension system as a prototype on Peter Sagan’s Specialized S-Works Roubaix at the 2018 Paris-Roubaix before being officially launched at the same race a year later.

It is quite similar to the original FutureShock 1.5 system with 20mm of front end travel, which by being placed above the headtube focuses on giving the suspension action to the rider rather than the bike.

Yet the more recent 2.0 system offers a hydraulic damper and an adjustable dial in place of the top cap so you can manage the amount of suspension on offer.

Unlike the broad strokes of increased tyre clearance across the board, FutureShock 2.0 will only be available on the S-Works, Pro, Expert and Comp carbon models. The Comp E5, Sport and Base carbon models will remain with FutureShock 1.5 while the Base E5 and Elite E5 models will have no FutureShock suspension system.

Performance

While Specialized has worked hard on making this a better bike for riding off-road, it has not forgotten that being light and aerodynamic are two factors that a rider will still be looking for.

Thompson told Cyclist that it was imperative ‘to maintain the performance road bike feel that comes from lightweight, nimble steering, and responsiveness’ with the Diverge in order to see the bike continue as an off-road race bike.

In fact, the new S-Works Diverge frame is now lighter than the previous model, with its FACT 11r carbon frameset weighing in at less than 1,000g for a size 56cm. Build that bike up and set it up tubeless and you’ll find the S-Works Diverge weighs 8kg complete, a weight that is on par with, if not a little less than, most of its competitors.

For the Comp, Expert and Pro models of the bike, the frame adds on around 100g due to a different carbon layup while the entry Base and Sport models use FACT 8r carbon and weigh around 300g more than their equivalent S-Works sibling.

As for aerodynamics, despite the new Diverge having a bulkier downtube to contain the SWAT storage system, Specialized claims to have designed more wind-friendly fork legs and seat stays which have contributed to a faster Diverge in the wind tunnel.

Storage, bits and bobs

Being a gravel bike and, therefore, built for adventure, Specialized has also made sure there are plenty of storage solutions and ways of carrying spare equipment, food and other supplies.

The primary solution is Specialized’s SWAT technology, a borrowed system from its mountain bike range, that sees a small door incorporated within the bike’s downtube. Within that is a small pod that can be used to neatly stow a tube, tyre lever and CO2 canister.

It’s neat because it means you can either do away wholesale with the saddlebag on shorter rides or just have another neat storage compartment for spares if you are attempting some endurance riding. The only drawback is that SWAT is only specced on the higher Diverge models.

Similarly, Specialized has also included a dropper post into the Diverge range but only on the top-spec S-Works Carbon, Diverge Expert and Comp E5 models.

Additionally, there are also mounts for front and rear mudguards as well as racks, which can also be fitted to the forks albeit not to the crown of the fork.

Prices and specs

There will be nine tiers of the new Specialized Diverge starting with the race-ready £8,899 S-Works option down to the reasonable £949 entry-level version.

Pricing will start at £8,899 for the S-Works Pro Carbon frameset fitted with a 1x 12-speed Sram Red eTap AXS groupset, a dropper seatpost, FutureShock 2.0 suspension, Roval Terra CLX 32mm tubeless wheels and Specialized Pathfinder Pro 38mm tyres.

Variations of the carbon Diverge will then offer 1x Sram Force on the Pro Carbon (£5,999) and 1x Shimano GRX Di2 on the Expert Carbon (£4,499). Mechanical Shimano GRX will be specced on both the Comp and Base carbon models at £3,399 and £2,199 respectively.

For the entry-level £949 Diverge E5, the alloy frame will be fitted with 1x Shimano GRX groupset, tubeless-ready Alexis Elite rims and 38mm Pathfinder Sport tyres.

In terms of colours, Specialized has also introduced a wide range of options depending on the spec offered from black-on-black to orange to even, our personal favourite, a gloss raspberry camouflage.

For more information, visit the Specialized website here.

Specialized Diverge range UK pricing:

S-Works Carbon eTap: £8899
Pro Carbon eTap: £5999
Expert Carbon eTap: £4499
Comp Carbon: £3399
Base Carbon £2199
E5 Comp: £1999
E5 Elite: £1599
E5: £949
E5 Expert Evo: £2399
E5 Comp Evo: £1599
SW Frameset: £3499

Price: 
£8,899 - £949