Racing 200 miles of gravel on the new Specialized Diverge

Suspension up front and plenty of bottles for the Dirty Kanza

There are gravel races that are longer than the Dirty Kanza 200, but few combine massive fields, scorching speeds, rough terrain and capricious weather.

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It was my seventh time toeing the start line at this legendary race. After many years of tinkering with gravel race strategies, I came away from last year’s event pleased with my set-up. But, being a tech editor, I know that there’s always room for improvement.

Early this spring, I caught wind that Specialized was developing a purpose-built gravel race bike. Riding 200-miles of lonely flint roads in the heart of Kansas seemed like the perfect way to put it to the test.


The latest Specialized Diverge was my weapon of choice for the 2017 Dirty Kanza 200
Josh Patterson / Immediate Media
Specialized’s Diverge was a bit of an odd model when it was introduced in 2014. It was a bit more capable than brand’s endurance road bike, the Roubaix, but only by a matter of degrees.

Rear clearance was limited to around 35mm-wide tires without much mud clearance, so it wasn’t an ideal candidate for gravel riding. Despite its introduction, the company’s cyclocross bike was still the preferred weapon of privateer gravel racers. In fact, it was my DK200 bike of choice last year.

The gravel category has rapidly evolved from niche to mainstream. Specialized was quick to take note, shift gears and redesign the Diverge accordingly. The new Diverge has a clear purpose: to be the fastest gravel race bike the company can produce.

Comfort is speed