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Specialized Diverge review

13 Feb 2018
Verdict:

The Specialized Diverge is one of the most versatile, fun bikes we've ever tested

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£2,000
For 
Fast and fun
Against 
A little bit heavy

The Specialized Diverge platform was launched to much fanfare in the middle of 2014, making it one of the first in the new wave of adventure road bikes. Now, nearly four years on, this breed of cross-over bike is an established part of the market.

The videos advertising the new product line summed up the style of riding, with Lycra-clad riders seen zipping along tarmac roads, gravel, and over fences to explore singletrack and take in actual mountain summits, not just their tarmac passes.

We’re as suspicious of marketing hype as anyone but this looked like a world of fun – does the Diverge live up to that promise?

 

The frame

Specialized Diverge frame

Specialized has a long and distinguished history working with aluminium and the E5 alloy used here is the same material found on the firm’s £7,500 S-Works Allez.

The geometry is slightly different, though, as the Diverge has a deeper bottom-bracket drop, which lowers your centre of gravity and makes the bike more stable at speed.

It’s also 22mm longer than an equivalent Specialized road bike thanks to its elongated wheelbase. Some of this extra length is due to the clearance needed for the bigger tyres and disc brakes, and some has been specifically dialled in to help improve the bike’s handling on unpredictable surfaces.

For years, Specialized has relied on its Zertz bumpers to help dissipate road buzz, and the Diverge features these handy shock absorbers on its seatstays and fork.

We’re not convinced they can provide much benefit attached to an aluminium tube – at least not in the same way as they can when built into a carbon frame.

Still, the carbon fork works well, soaking up road vibrations like a sponge. Specialized claims sufficient clearance for 35mm tyres, but even bigger ones are possible.

We were pleasantly surprised at how aggressive the riding position turned out to be; this bike can be as easily set up for going at speed as it can for riding in comfort.

Components

Specialized Diverge disc brake

All the Shimano parts on the frame work faultlessly, but it’s what we’ve come to expect of both the 105 components and BR-785 hydraulic disc brakes.

The Praxis Works oversized BB allows a chainset with an oversized spindle to run in a threaded bottom-bracket shell (which is good if you hate creaks but like stiff cranks), and the gear range is perfect.

However, it’s the Specialized components here that really shine through, from the bar tape to the seatpost. First up, there’s an offset spacer that slots on the steerer under the stem – rotate it and the angle of the stem changes.

This means you have four potential stem angles available if you’re willing to flip it. Secondly, the CG-R carbon seatpost, with its Z-shaped head and rubber insert, provides exceptional comfort, flexing visibly to provide a level of compliance no frame on its own ever could.

Lastly, the bar tape is great, and we happily rode without gloves even when we ventured off road, risking nettle stings.

Wheels

Specialized Diverge fork

The hubs on this bike aren’t remarkable but they work perfectly laced to a pair of excellent, wide rims. This is the way we’d prioritise things – standard hubs, good rims.

The tyres are Specialized’s own Roubaix Pro, a popular tyre among commuters in its 23 and 25mm widths, but it’s a fatter 32mm here.

There’s no tread pattern to speak of, but the huge volume and good width provide significant levels of traction, even when we found ourselves on really muddy bridleways. What’s more, with that roadie-but-fatter profile comes superb straight-line speed and on-road manners.

You could ride a chain gang on these tyres and still keep up.

The ride

Specialized Diverge review

The Diverge is the closest to a traditional road bike of any of the adventure bikes on tested around the same time.

The tyres are slick, the position is instantly familiar and the gearing is a bog-standard 2x11 set-up, with proper big gears at the top end for all-out speed, and plenty at the low end to get you up the steeper climbs.

Specialized has the Crux range for cyclocross, and the AWOL line for adventures and touring, so the Diverge range could seem a little superfluous in theory.

Hop on and get riding though, and it’s a revelation. On the road, it picks up speed like any regular slick-tyred road bike, but heading into suburbia, we found a strange thing happening – we started to see speed bumps as launch pads and began gleefully getting both tyres off the ground.

Onto the gravel canal towpath that heads from London’s Olympic Park up to Hertfordshire, we were again amazed at the speed.

With a clear view ahead, we were touching 40kmh without really trying. As the terrain deteriorated, we expected to find the limits of the slick tyres pretty quickly, but even at 75psi they didn’t let us down, and although they bounced the bike around a bit, the CG-R seatpost and Zertz-equipped fork proved an effective combo at keeping us comfortable.

Within a few hours of riding, we began wondering that if you owned a Diverge if you’d need a road bike too. The Diverge can go almost as fast on the road, and if you spot an enticing shortcut, it’s yours for the taking.

Rating - 4.5/5

Geometry

Geometry chart
Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 548mm 543mm
Seat Tube (ST) 466mm 469mm
Down Tube (DT) 608mm
Fork Length (FL) 395mm
Head Tube (HT) 140mm 137mm
Head Angle (HA) 72 71.5
Seat Angle (SA) 73.5 73.4
Wheelbase (WB) 1000mm 1004mm
BB drop (BB) 75.5mm 76mm

Specification

Specialized Diverge Comp
Frame Specialized E5 aluminium, BB30 - Zertz carbon fork
Groupset Shimano 105
Brakes Shimano BR-785
Chainset Praxis Works TURN Zayante, 50/34
Cassette Shimano 105, 11-32
Bars Specialized shallow drop
Stem Specialized Comp Multi
Seatpost Specialized CG-R carbon
Wheels AXOS 3.0 Disc
Tyres Specialized Roubaix Pro, 32c
Saddle Specialized Geometry Phenom Comp
Contact specialized.com

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