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Specialized Diverge E5 Sport review

9 Jan 2019

Lacking somewhat in ultimate thrills but a strong and capable all-rounder

Cyclist Rating: 

Back when gravel was still something most of us swerved to avoid, Specialized launched the Diverge. That was six years ago - and what was once radical is now mainstream. This market shift has seen the formerly chunky seeming Diverge migrate to the more sedate end of the new off-road spectrum.

Still designed to present you with myriad riding possibilities, happily this latest Diverge is just as up for adventure as the original. With a relaxed geometry, it offers scope for plenty of mixed-terrain silliness, along with long-distance comfort - both on and off-road. 


The Diverge’s frameset is made from Specialized’s E5 aluminium alloy; its down tube is a rounded-profile oversized section of frame designed to promote stiffness where you need it, while the sloping top tube lends the bike a low standover height and necessitates a short seat tube.

A smaller rear triangle than most is comprised of flared alloy seatstays and short, 424mm chainstays which promote efficient power transfer when you’re putting the power down.

Buy now from Evans Cycles for £900

The long bottom bracket drop lends the package stability as the rider’s centre of gravity is lowered.

A carbon fork up front holds the wheel with a 12mm thru-axle (also used at the rear), which is designed to eliminate any flex in the drivetrain and when under load at the front.

Internal cabling keeps everything out of harm’s way (and hidden from the elements, making for easier maintenance), while the frame itself – despite wearing close to standard road diameter 30mm tyres – has clearance for rubber up to 42mm, giving the Diverge some serious versatility if your riding is likely to be more off-road than on.

Planning some bike-packing? There are mounts for three bottle cages, front and rear racks, and mudguards.


In Specialized’s own words, they’ve chosen to ‘put the emphasis on reliability rather than flashy componentry’.

So, the Diverge is equipped with a lower-end Shimano Sora groupset. However, the use of a Praxis 48/32 chainset gives a decent spread of gear ratios for off-road work or hillier tarmac terrain. Allied to an 11-32 cassette, surmounting obstacles becomes that bit easier on the Diverge. 

Finishing kit

Specialized hasn’t gone flashy with the finishing kit either. It’s typically alloy fare, designed to do the job.

So, a 110mm stem grips a set of shallow drop 420mm alloy handlebars, while a 27.2mm alloy seatpost extends from the seat tube.

Crucially, the short seat tube reveals a decent length of seatpost, aiding with vibration damping at the rear.

Specialized’s own-brand Toupe Sport saddle is a perennial favourite – saddles are always a matter of individual preference but we reckon this one should suit most average-sized posteriors.


Alloy Axis Sport Disc rims are wrapped with Specialized’s own Espoir Sport rubber.

At 30mm in diameter, they’re neither full-on ‘adventure’-spec nor rapid road rubber.

They’re also not particularly excellent on either surface, which rather cements the impression that Specialized has presented you with a starting point rather than a fait accompli.

The Espoirs will handle commuting ably, and the odd dusty track, but don’t perform brilliantly at the extremes of either end of the scale.

First impression

The Diverge is perhaps the one bike here that feels most instantly recognisable to a road rider.

Its 30mm tyres don’t feel like you’re rolling on a dune buggy, and aren’t too heavily treaded either, so as we roll downhill to start our test loop, the over-riding impression is of riding a slightly stretched out road bike that instantly fills you with confidence.

On the road

As an all-rounder, the Diverge has found its place. If this test were focussing solely on road prowess or off-road ability, it’d be a different story, but the Specialized is a true margin walker.

Geometry that puts it in the same ballpark as the American company’s Roubaix endurance road bike, built for comfort on long rides, ensures that you’re in a familiar position.

But the real positive in the bike’s build is its gearing set-up. If you’re not looking to spend a king’s ransom on a bike for all purposes, you’ll need to accept some compromises, but the only ones you take here are a little extra weight and one less cog on the cassette.

Shimano’s nine-speed Sora could take a direct hit from an anti-tank missile and still shift dependably.

Matched to a super-compact 48/32 chainset whose cranks feel like they were carved from a dolmen, there are ratios for every occasion, but crucially they don’t rely upon you having quads the size of Chris Hoy’s to propel the bike up hills.

Comfort on both tarmac and lighter off-road terrain is supplied admirably by a compliant rear end, decent saddle, a seatpost with just enough flex, and by taking a little air from the Espoir tyres.

And if you want to give it some hell on the run home, the compact rear frame triangle is designed to allow just that, being stiff enough to stay firm when you put the hammer down.


The amount of grip available from the 30c tyres fitted to our test bike is not up there with the best, but this isn’t a test of grip at the extremes of lean angle.

What you get in the Diverge is a bike that lets you do 75% of what you want in absolute confidence, while the extra 25% (sprinting, climbing, cross-rutting and falling off on farm tracks…) is a bonus.

Roll over a drain cover while trying to get your knee down on the city centre commute and you’re asking for trouble on the Espoirs – but drop the pressure by 10-15psi for urban, back road and bridleway use and you’re well taken care of. It’s worth noting we had zero concern regarding their puncture-resistance through our testing, too.


Frame: Sturdy alloy frame designed for comfort. 8/10 
Components: Solid and reliable rather than flashy. 8/10 
Wheels: Tyres and wheels are both good all-rounders. 8/10 
The ride: Stable and comfortable over any terrain. 8/10 

Verdict: It may be lacking somewhat in ultimate thrills but the Diverge E5 Sport is nonetheless a strong and capable all-rounder. 

Buy now from Evans Cycles for £900


Size 54cm
Weight 10kg
Top Tube (TT) 549mm
Seat Tube (ST) 473mm
Stack (S) 577mm
Reach (R) 378mm
Chainstays (C) 424mm
Head Angle (HA) 71.8 degrees
Seat Angle (SA) 73.4 degrees
Wheelbase (WB) 1007mm
BB drop (BB) 85mm


Specialized Diverge E5 Sport
Frame Specialized E5 Premium Aluminium, FACT carbon fork
Groupset Shimano Sora
Brakes Tektro Mira mechanical discs
Chainset Praxis Alba 2D, 48/32t
Cassette Shimano, 11-32t
Bars Specialized shallow-drop, alloy
Stem Specialized, alloy
Seatpost Alloy
Wheels Axis Sport Disc, Espoir Sport 700 x 30 tyres
Saddle Body Geometry Toupe Sport

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