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Specialized Diverge Elite review

25 Aug 2016
Verdict:

The Specialized Diverge range has oodles of off-road ability and plenty of comfort to boot.

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,200
For 
Incredibly versatile
Against 
Not much really

Specialized’s Diverge was one of the first so-called ‘gravel bikes’ to take the mainstream by storm. In fact, we absolutely fell in love with last year's Diverge Comp. It’s built with the intention of providing all-day comfort (by way of endurance-focussed geometry and Zertz vibration-damping inserts) on any road, or track, you’d care to point it down. While the full Diverge range includes three full-carbon models at the top end, we’re looking at the mid-range aluminium framed Elite model, fitted with Shimano’s dependable Tiagra groupset. Can it perform as well on the road as it does off it?

Frameset 

Specialized Diverge Elite carbon fork

Specialized’s Diverge frame is made from E5 aluminium, which incorporates clever welding technology (Smartweld, if you will), to make it as stiff as possible in all the right areas, without this being at the expense of compliance. The top tube and down tube are hydroformed at their ends, before being welded inside a forged 120mm head tube, keeping the front end stiff while the overall weight is kept to a minimum. The FACT carbon fork – as used on so many of the brand’s bikes, including Specialized’s big-money S-Works models – also features Zertz inserts, designed to counter vibrations even further. A relaxed head angle combines with a just-sub-metre wheelbase for a confidence-inspiring ride. The rear end is designed with compliance in mind, with Zertz inserts in the seatstays. Specialized claims there’s clearance for tyre sizes up to 35c, suitable for full-on adventure-spec or CX rubber.

Groupset 

Specialized Diverge Elite disc brake

Shimano’s 10-speed Tiagra makes up every element of the groupset except the brakes and chain. A long-cage rear mech efficiently moves across an 11-32 cassette, which in conjunction with a 50/34 chainset, provides gearing versatile enough for any terrain you could reasonably expect to ride this bike on. Like many bikes at this price point, the Diverge uses TRP’s Spyre mechanical disc brake set-up. Easily modulated, easily set up and easily adjusted – we’re big fans.

Finishing kit 

Specialized’s functional alloy kit is used throughout the build, the star of which is the short-drop, short-reach, compact handlebars, that work in unison with the carbon fork to provide enough feel while keeping road and off-road buzz at bay. A 27.2mm alloy seatpost also eliminates a fair amount of buzz, aided by the sloping top tube that gives a longer length of exposed seatmast.  

Wheels 

Specialized Diverge Elite tyres

The wide-rimmed Axis 3.0 wheels are fitted with Specialized’s own Espoir Sport tyres. They’re grippy, long-lasting and in this 28c guise are high-volume enough to offer a comfortable ride over most road and off-road surfaces. On tarmac, they offer some surprisingly good handing and an excellent turn of speed in a straight line.

The ride

As with many bikes running tyres wider than 23c, there is a rapid beginning to our test loop as we rocket in a straight line down a half-mile-long descent. TRP’s mechanical discs are employed with a feathering of the front level as we slow for a 30mph limit. As we attempt to hold on to some momentum into a village, it’s surprisingly easy to get the power down and maintain 25mph on a false flat. The Diverge Elite is loving the tarmac so far…

The Diverge treads the fine line between ‘normal’ road bike and gravel-grinder. The closeness of its geometry to the firm’s Roubaix endurance model (albeit with a slacker head angle and deeper BB drop) means we’re instantly at home, while the gearing is spot-on. Whether hammering along a rolling road with a tailwind or struggling up a loosely-surfaced cinder track, there’s always a suitable ratio. The 10-speed Tiagra set-up still offers a workable spread of gears, although some of the cogs are a fair old jump up or down.

Specialized Diverge Elite review

It feels like a bike on which you could very easily tackle a Sunday ride with mates, a lengthy sportive or even a faster-paced club run, aided by not-too-wide tyres that offer low rolling resistance and wheels that spin up pretty quickly. The wide rubber is a positive boon on damper tarmac climbs, especially with a little air taken out of them (we ran them at 85psi on the road). Yes, the Diverge is a little on the portly side in this entry-level incarnation, but it’s on a par with the other bikes. In all, the rear is particularly comfortable, although the front end doesn’t quite offer the same degree of compliance. You’d notice this more if you were daft enough to run the 28c Espoirs closer to 100psi. Specialized’s Toupe saddle is as comfortable as ever.

Decent side grip and extra volume assist those tyres in the provision of a confident ride, with no skittish moments. Things get pretty boingy on trails, but we’d rather have that than constant juddering. The elastomer inserts in the bike’s seatstays help to isolate a lot of buzz from regular tarmac, but the bike still feels direct on bumpy downhill blasts. The Diverge’s handling is made all the more dreamy by its braking set-up. The Spyre system’s overall ease of modulation offered throughout our test further convinced us that they're only bettered by hydraulic counterparts. 

Geometry

Geometry chart
Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 534mm 530mm
Seat Tube (ST) 447mm 444mm
Down Tube (DT) 627mm
Fork Length (FL) 390mm 394mm
Head Tube (HT) 120mm 120mm
Head Angle (HA) 71.25 71.3
Seat Angle (SA) 74 73.8
Wheelbase (WB) 995mm 995mm
BB drop (BB) 77mm 80mm

Spec

Specialized Diverge Elite 
Frame Specialized E5 Premium Aluminium
Groupset Shimano Tiagra
Brakes Tektro Spyre, 160mm/140mm rotors
Chainset Shimano Tiagra, 50/34
Cassette Shimano Tiagra, 11-32
Bars Specialized, alloy
Stem Specialized, 3D forged alloy
Seatpost Specialized Sport, alloy, 27.2mm
Wheels Axis 3.0 Disc SCS
Saddle Specialized Toupe Sport
Weight 9.62kg (52cm)
Contact specialized.com

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