Advertisement

Sign up for our newsletter

Advertisement

Specialized Women’s Diverge E5 Comp review

1 Mar 2019
Verdict:

A very accessible all-road all-rounder, but can prove sluggish for pure road riding, and needs some wider tyres for true off-road riding

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Versatile, well engineered and very tough all-weather and all-road bike
Against 
Heavy, slightly thin tyres for off-road use, the Future Shock adds a lot to the price

The Specialized Diverge was released to a surprising level of fanfare, with the all-road platform managing to capture the surge in gravel and adventure riding. This Diverge E5 Comp is the women’s specific aluminium version of the bike, and promises versatility and comfort.

The Diverge E5 has an aluminium frame, which traditionally sacrifices some compliance, and for that Specialized has added the Future Shock suspension unit below the handlebars. Offering 20mm of travel, the Future Shock unit should increase comfort at the front end while also increasing grip off road. 

It works by using a simple coil spring within a shock unit that sits below the handlebars, and is concealed with a soft rubber spacer. It’s tensioned with two small grub-screw bolts that sit against the headset.

The Diverge E5’s off-road capabilities are also showcased by its wide tyre clearance – the bike can take tyres up to 42mm in width. That would open up some considerably bumpy off-road routes and even easier trails. 

The bike’s geometry also speaks to off-road versatility. A long 421mm chainstay help create stability on rough terrain, aided by a relatively long wheelbase (1011mm for a size 54cm) while the headtube may look relatively short at 158mm for a 54cm frame, but with the Future Shock added, it offers a fairly high front end. That should improve comfort and stability off-road.

All those features are accompanied by weight and general finish that are well suited to road riding. For instance the carbon fork offers a little more stiffness while cutting overall weight, and the Shimano 105 groupset with a sub-compact 48/32 chainset offers a nice range and specificity of gearing for long road rides. Often all-road bikes may opt for a 1x single chainring setup instead.

This specific model is the women’s specific, but increasingly Specialized is introducing parity in their design, and so the bike is identical in geometry to their non-gender specific equivalent but available in smaller sizes and specced with different components.

The Diverge is certainly an all-road solution, but is likely to be a favourite of commuters who like to take on towpaths or off-road sections of cycle network, or simply want a bomb-proof and versatile all-year workhorse.

We tested it on the regular commute but also off-road to see how well it takes on both of those key tasks.

On and off-road

The Diverge certainly has the finishings of an all-road gravel bike, and so my first destination was my local trail. It’s hardly a demanding track, but it certainly gave an early indication to how well the Diverge’s off-road design works in practice.

The Future Shock unit meant that I could take descents just a little bit quicker than on an average cyclocross bike, as it increased my handling confidence over rocks and hard bumps. It also felt thoroughly bomb-proof and I was happy to hit rough terrain at speed.

In truth, I felt that the tougher stretches would have been easier and more fun with wider tyres. You might have a similar contact patch on a road bike with 28mm tyres, so in that sense there is not a huge gain in traction and comfort over an endurance race bike.

I would have preferred to see a 32mm spec at least. In the case of the S-Works Diverge, for instance, the tyres come in a 38mm width. For off-road use, I would also have preferred a 1x single chainring setup. This is for chain retention, as over really bumpy terrain chain slip is an issue, but also for simple maintenance as a single front chainring remains much clearer of muck and grease.

The general geometry and overall performance, though, suits all-terrain riding very well. I was happy to have the versatility to spec some wider tyres and spend the day on muddy bridleways yet also take my place on the Sunday club ride.

Club rides were probably the best use for the bike, though. With its bulky high puncture-protection tyres, heavy wheelset and bulky overall weight of 9.8kgs, this is not a hugely spritely road bike. Granted, I had a few moments when I found myself springing off in a competitive sprint from the lights when on a commute home, but on a bad day it did concede a huge amount to my regular road bike.

All-weather

While it is a little sluggish compared to my lightweight rim brake racer, there’s no doubt that the Diverge is a fairly ideal winter slogger for road riding. Despite giving it minimal maintenance, it stood by me throughout a winter of tough, rainy and occasionally snowy riding.

Eyelets for full mudguards and panniers made it even more appealing for the hard rainy months.

The double BlackBelt protection on the Espoir tyres did a great job throughout the season, suffering only a single flat over three months. The mechanical disc brakes also saved me any hydraulic maintenance, even though the pure braking performance is not quite as impressive. The Future Shock unit was also impressively self-sufficient.

In terms of the female specificity of the bike, the geometry is identical to the men’s version and so the only discernible differences are the saddle and a set of smaller sizing options – plunging down as small as a 44cm frame.

The women's Body Geometry Myth Sport saddle is a pleasant addition. For long commuting miles or tiring days off road, I found it relieved a lot of pressure and generally left me comfortable throughout the ride. The long seatpost in the compact frame also makes for some extra flex and increased comfort in terms of vertical compliance.

Similarly, the handlebars offered a narrow and shallow setup which I found very comfortable. The shallow drops were a nice resting spot for descents, sitting behind the tops a little and so meaning I could oddly sit in a more upright position while sat on them. Nonetheless they were also positioned nicely for hard sprinting.

Comfort for cost

My lingering impression of the Diverge was that it provided a very robust bike with an impressive level of comfort. The FutureShock did a great job off-road, but perhaps I’d opt for a lower-stiffness spring for on-road use as it didn’t come close to bottoming out and offering its full travel. 

Given its off-road pretentions, and it’s all-weather resilience I’d probably also opt for wider tyres, run at a lower pressure. 

It’s also worth considering price point when it comes to the FutureShock. It adds a considerable premium compared to the 2019 alloy frame without the FutureShock and with a lower spec groupset costs £850. While the FutureShock does improve control on rocky descents, the comfort difference can be bridged with a bigger set of tyres.

Aside from those tweaks, the Diverge does a solid job, despite being a little sluggish on the road. But you can’t have everything, and while some very high-end gravel racers manage to mix on-road speed with off-road versatility, the compromise with Diverge E5 is not a bad one at all.

The Diverge E5 Comp is a great example of the way bike design is going, and I’m excited to see where the Diverge series goes next.

Specification

Frame Specialized Women’s Diverge E5 Comp
Groupset Shimano 105 R7020 Disc
Brakes Tektro Spyre mechanical disc
Chainset Praxis Alba 2D 48/32T
Cassette Shimano 105
Bars Specialized Shallow Drop
Stem Specialized 3D forged alloy
Seatpost Specialized alloy
Saddle Women's Body Geometry Myth Sport
Wheels Axis Elite Disc
Weight 9.8kg (size 54)
Contact specialized.com
Price: 
£1,500

Read more about: