Specialized Diverge first look

We take a look at what’s coming to gravel in 2018

Specialized’s founding principle is to create technically advanced products that provide a performance benefit that’s focussed on the needs of the rider. While focussing on specific areas of cycling isn’t new, manufacturers seem to be split in terms of making bikes to cover several bases, or keeping them lean and committed to a niche.

The ever-burgeoning and evolving gravel and adventure sector has seen some exciting bike developments, but the line between cyclocross bikes and gravel machines has blurred, creating some performance compromises at both ends for bikes intended to inhabit such diverse arenas.

In deciding to clearly separate Diverge from CruX, Specialized has been able to strive for maximum, uncompromised performance in each model, and the results are obvious.

Specialized says that gravel bikes are its fastest growing sales category and could become its largest in a couple of years’ time, hence this redesign.

While the company recognises that off-road drop bar riding is a good thing, it still sought to maximise handling and rider comfort, and one obvious way to accomplish that was by fitting a Future Shock up front.

With its Future Shock, SWAT Box and sloping top tube, the Diverge’s profile isn’t dissimilar to the Roubaix, but from here on its attributes will take you in a different direction entirely.

The Men's Diverge Comp E5 with aluminium frame, carbon fork, Praxis chainset, and Shimano 105 hydraulic
The Men's Diverge Comp E5 with aluminium frame, carbon fork, Praxis chainset, and Shimano 105 hydraulic

Intending to offer comfort, capability and confidence, the Diverge not only provides comfort through the Future Shock, but also its carbon layup. With heavily dropped seat stays too, Specialized says the rear end is five percent more compliant than before.

In place of the Roubaix’s linear spring, the Diverge’s Future Shock uses a progressive compression spring to alter the compression rate throughout its travel to prevent regular bottoming out.

The cartridge offers 20mm of travel between the stem and head tube, and adds 25mm to the bike’s stack height, but the head tube length is well judged to still allow for an aggressive position.

Good rear clearance from a generous 38mm tyre
Good rear clearance from a generous 38mm tyre

Capability comes from the larger tyres the Diverge is designed for, it can run 700x42mm or 650Bx47mm inflated width tyres — although Specialized says that the sweet spot is 700x38mm or 650Bx45mm.

Forward mudguard mount and front mech cable routing behind the vast bottom bracket shell
Forward mudguard mount and front mech cable routing behind the vast bottom bracket shell

The standard supplied spec will include 700c wheels and 38mm Trigger Pro tyres on the top four models, with 30mm Espoir Sport rubber on the lower four.

Larger tyres equate to greater traction and comfort, and for increased handling stability the new Diverge’s bottom bracket has been lowered by 10mm. The wheelbase has also changed, increasing with 421mm chainstays that add up to a 1,011mm wheelbase on a 56cm frame.

Specialized Diverge kit

The 650B Roval CLX32 carbon wheelsets shown are also new for Specialized, but if plumping for these or other smaller diameter wheels (and fitting tyres smaller than the intended sweet spot) there is a risk of pedal strike due to that lower bottom bracket.

The 142x12mm rear and 100x12mm front thru-axles maintain stiffness and alignment.

The new Diverge is designed to also accept 650B wheels with up to 47mm tyres
The new Diverge is designed to also accept 650B wheels with up to 47mm tyres

Rather than the Roubaix’s significantly lowered seat clamp that allows the seatpost to sway a small amount within an oversized seat tube, Diverge places its seat clamp in a conventional position atop the seat tube.

Specialized's Phenom is a great all-round saddle
Specialized's Phenom is a great all-round saddle

The range-topping S-Works Diverge comes with Specialized’s Command Post XCP dropper post, which is 27.2mm in diameter and gives 35mm of additional saddle clearance, operated by a thumb lever on its own handlebar-mounted clamping band.

A custom thumb lever controls the dropper
A custom thumb lever controls the dropper

The two top carbon models have 1x drivetrains, a Shimano XTR rear mech and R785 Di2 hydraulic levers for the S-Works, while the Expert has SRAM’s Force 1. All of the other models have double chainsets and either hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes.

Shimano Di2 electronic shifting is paired with an XTR clutch rear mech to keep the chain on its single ring
Shimano Di2 electronic shifting is paired with an XTR clutch rear mech to keep the chain on its single ring

The claimed weight for an S-Works Diverge frame is just 880g, while a complete bike, including tubeless tyres and dropper post, is claimed to come in at 8.4kg.

The Men’s S-Works, Expert, Comp and Sport Diverge have carbon frames with Future Shock, then the Diverge Comp E5, E5 Elite, E5 Sport and E5 all come in Specialized’s Premium Aluminium, of which only the Comp E5 includes a Future Shock. There’s also an S-Works frameset for those who like to build their own.

They’re each available from 48cm to 61cm, plus 64cm for the carbon or aluminium Comp models.

The inclusion of a dropper post on the S-Works model makes steep descents much easier
The inclusion of a dropper post on the S-Works model makes steep descents much easier

Diverge spec and sizing

Topping the women's Diverge range is the Comp, with a FACT 9r carbon frame, thru axles, Future Shock, CG-R seatpost, and mostly Shimano 105 hydraulic bits
Topping the women's Diverge range is the Comp, with a FACT 9r carbon frame, thru axles, Future Shock, CG-R seatpost, and mostly Shimano 105 hydraulic bits

As well as eight men’s Diverge models, there are five new women’s bikes.

The range-topping Diverge Comp comes with FACT 9r carbon frameset, Axis Elite wheelset, Shimano 105 hydraulic discs and CG-R seatpost instead of a dropper. This, plus the carbon Sport and aluminium E5 Comp models all come equipped with Future Shock.

The women's Diverge models share geometries with the men's range. Only component specs and colours differ
The women's Diverge models share geometries with the men's range. Only component specs and colours differ

The women’s Diverge E5 Elite and E5 omit Future Shock, and all but the entry-level bike is specced with 48/32 chain rings — the E5 has 48/34 rings — and they come with either 11-32 or 11-34 cassettes.

Apart from the Comp, all models will have mechanical disc brakes. The Comp and Sport are offered in 48-56cm sizes, with the other three machines adding a 44cm frame as well.

Shimano 105 mech with 11-32 cassette
Shimano 105 mech with 11-32 cassette

Mountain biking legend, former World Champion and Specialized Ambassador, Ned Overend — who has lost little of his speed and love of cycling — was at the launch and talked to us about the Diverge. He assessed it as a blast to ride quickly both on- and off-road, with an overall mass and tough accelerative wheelset that, with a tyre swap, wouldn’t be outpaced on fast road rides.

Axis Elite Disc aluminium wheelset and Soecialized Trigger 38mm tyres
Axis Elite Disc aluminium wheelset and Soecialized Trigger 38mm tyres

From our initial experience aboard the S-Works Diverge, we can’t disagree with Overend, but we will organise a more extensive test of the new Diverge as soon as possible.

Diverge pricing

The Diverge Comp E5 is the cheapest model to come with Future Shock
The Diverge Comp E5 is the cheapest model to come with Future Shock

  • Men’s S-Works Diverge: £TBC / $9,000 / AU$NA
  • Men’s Diverge Expert: £NA  / $4,000 / AU$NA
  • Men’s Diverge Comp: £TBC / $3,000 / AU$4000
  • Men’s Diverge Sport: £TBC / $2,100 / AU$NA
  • Men’s Diverge E5 Comp: £TBC / $1,800 / AU$2400    
  • Men’s Diverge E5 Elite: £NA / $1,400 / AU$NA
  • Men’s Diverge E5 Sport: £TBC / $1,150 / AU$NA
  • Men’s Diverge E5: £TBC / $970 / AU$NA
  • Men’s S-Works Diverge Frameset: £TBC / $4,000 / AU$NA
  • Women’s Diverge Comp: £NA / $3,000 / AU$4,000
  • Women’s Diverge Sport: £NA / $2,100 / AU$ NA  
  • Women’s Diverge E5 Comp: £TBC / $1,800 / AU$2,400             
  • Women’s Diverge E5 Elite: £TBC / $1,400 / AU$ NA
  • Women’s Diverge E5: £TBC / $970 / AU$1,500 
Robin Wilmott

Tech Writer, Tech Hub, UK,
Robin began road cycling in 1988, and with mountain bikes in their infancy, mixed experimental off-road adventures with club time trials and road races. Cyclocross soon became a winter staple, and has remained his favourite form of competition. Robin has always loved the technical aspect of building and maintaining bikes, and several years working in a good bike shop only amplified that. Ten years as a Forensic Photographer followed, honing his eye for detail in pictures and words. He has shot at the biggest pro events since the '90s, and now he's here, drawing on all those experiences to figure out what makes a bike or component tick.
  • Discipline: Road, cyclocross, time trials
  • Beer of Choice: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

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