Specialized Women's Diverge E5 Comp gravel/adventure bike review£1,500.00

Great for gravel plus commuting and all-round riding

BikeRadar score4.5/5

If you’re the kind of rider that doesn’t like to stick to tarmac, wants a bike that’s versatile enough to explore interesting gravel-based routes, or is looking for something comfortable and efficient for commuting on pothole-riddled roads, the adventurous Specialized Women’s Diverge E5 Comp might just the bike for you.

Specialized Diverge frame

Specialized has constructed the Diverge around what it calls its ‘Open Road Geometry’. Previously, when road bikes were designed to handle off-road conditions they were essentially cyclocross bikes, which meant an aggressive body position, but the latest generation of gravel and adventure bikes have been designed to give a more comfortable, upright position.

Alloy shallow-drop handlebars complete the cockpit
Alloy shallow-drop handlebars complete the cockpit

Specialized is also one of the big brands that has recently opted to eschew women’s specific frame geometry in favour of an updated unisex geometry that gives equal weight, in design terms, to body dimension data from male and female riders. The result is, according to Specialized, a frame that will suit the majority of riders, with gender-specific finishing kit such as saddles and size-specific elements including shorter crank lengths on smaller models.

The lower priced models in the Diverge range, including this one, are constructed from aluminium, and there are pros and cons to this though it does come with a FACT carbon fork.

The obvious one is cost: for a Diverge with otherwise similar spec and a carbon frame, you’re looking at £2,500 / $3,000 / AU$3,600 for the Women’s Diverge Comp Carbon.

There are multiple attachment points for fitting the plethora of racks Specialized (and other brands) produce, though you will need to fiddle with a few adaptors or get aftermarket parts in a few cases if you want to use non-Specialized products.

The Diverge is compatible with mud guards at the front, and the forks have attachment points for a rack at the drop out and mid way down the length with a vertically drilled crown.

At the rear, there are attachment points at the dropouts for a rack, and if you want to spend a bit more you can buy a seperate seat post collar which has an integrated mount for attaching to said rear rack.

To fit 'conventional' mudguards front and rear, rather than the Plug and Play Fender Set, you'll need to fit the eyelet addaptors the bike is supplied with, as well as fitting a supplied mudguard bridge mount that fits around the seat tube.

The latest Future Shock now has a more progressive tune on the spring that means it doesn’t blow through the travel as easily

Future Shock updates

Specialized has updated the Future Shock system since it first debuted on the Roubaix and Ruby road bikes back in 2016.

The system consists of a spring built into the headset which compresses to absorb impacts from the road. It essentially works to isolate the handlebars from the forks, muting the shocks travelling up from the road surface.

That wrinkled rubber section below the stem is where the Future Shock system sits, inside the head tube
That wrinkled rubber section below the stem is where the Future Shock system sits, inside the head tube

The original system was, in all honesty, a little bouncy. It worked, but there was some noticeable bob when standing up and pedalling. It now has a more progressive tune on the spring that means it doesn’t blow through the travel as easily.

It makes it pretty much perfect for gravel riding. It smooths out the rough surface almost imperceptibly; I found myself checking it was actually working. When those unexpected or unavoidable potholes appear ahead, I’d find myself bracing for a hard hit that didn’t materialise — the system does take the sting out of hard edge hits.

A more comfortable ride has many benefits. Although it might not feel like it, I found myself going faster than I thought, due in part to the smoothness of the ride and confident handling the Future Shock enables. It also makes riding on gravel significantly less fatiguing on the hands, which again means better control, plus the comfort to keep riding for miles or hours, whichever is your preferred measure of riding success.

Specialized Diverge spec

The Women’s Diverge E5 Comp is fitted with the ever-reliable Shimano 105 groupset with a Praxis Alba 2D crankset. With an 11-32t cassette and 48/32t chainrings there are more than enough low gears to spin up some seriously steep hills, even while laden with a heavy bag or two.

Tektro Spyre mechanical disc brakes, while not quite providing the smooth stopping power of their hydraulic siblings, do provide significantly stronger braking power than rim brakes, especially in the wet, and were reliable enough to control the speed of a heavily laden bike on long descents.

The wide gear range favours those who like lots of easy gears to spin up hills
The wide gear range favours those who like lots of easy gears to spin up hills

Sadly, this model of the Diverge only comes with a standard alloy seatpost rather than the bump-softening CG-R seatpost that’s seen on pricier models, but this could be a future upgrade.

While saddle choice is a very personal matter, I got on well with the women’s specific Specialized Myth Sport saddle, finding it comfortable over long distance and duration rides, and on rough ground — though I would have liked a little more softness from a springier seatpost!

Certain touches hint at this model of the Diverge having been specced to suit commuters as well as those of an adventurous gravel-based nature, such as the semi-slick Espoir tyres, which are faster rolling than the toothier Trigger Pro tyres found on other models, and which feature a reflective sidewall and ‘Blackbelt’ puncture protection.

Said tyres come in a chunky 30mm width, which also helps soften the ride, and are fitted to Axis Elite Disc wheels. The choice of Espoir Sport tyres makes for a good compromise between faster-rolling tyres for commuting and more knobbly ones for better off-road traction.

Specialized Diverge overall

Overall, this is a great bike for riders who value versatility and comfort above all else, and want something that they can use for long rides where there’s a certainty of gravel riding but still rolls well on tarmac, and will handle daily commuting.

The Shimano 105 groupset is capable and reliable
The Shimano 105 groupset is capable and reliable

The upright position with the Future Shock supported handlebars and softening seatpost make this a ride that will have you admiring the view as you roll rather than riding head-down staring at the road, or keeping an eye on the traffic as you ride in urban environments.

In terms of the competition, while there are some great gravel and adventure bikes available on the market, most of them start at a considerably higher price point with the exception of the Norco Search, the Canyon Grail and the Trek Checkpoint.

At this price point, the majority of adventure bikes feature an aluminium frame with carbon forks, mechanical disc brakes and either Shimano Tiagra or, in the case of the Diverge, the higher-level Shimano 105 groupset. The Diverge has a slight edge over competitors here with the choice of components and finishing kit.

I found myself spending a lot of time on this bike when I wanted to cover miles or go for an exploratory ride through the countryside. It’s comfortable, felt sturdy and sure on some of the crazy ‘shortcuts’ and ‘oh, I wonder what’s over there’ routes I took, it ate up rough surfaces.

Specialized Diverge prices, sizes and availability

The Diverge E5 Comp is available in five sizes: 44cm, 48cm, 52cm, 54cm and 56cm, covering a rough rider height range of 5ft4in to 6ft or 162mm to 183mm.

Since the Diverge is based around a unisex frame with women’s specific finishing kit, taller riders (or indeed any rider who prefers the look, feel or greater model option availability) can opt for the men’s version and swap out any parts such as saddles to suit. This extends the range up to a 64cm frame size, which equates roughly to a rider height of 6ft6in or 198cm.

The RRP is £1,500 / $1,900 / AU$2,400 and the Diverge E5 Comp is available now via Specialized directly or via a number of Specialized dealers such as Evans Cycles in the UK.

If you’re looking for a new road bike, why not check our list of the best women’s road bikes available on the market, all tried, tested and reviewed by BikeRadar.

Aoife Glass

Women's Cycling Editor
A mountain biker at heart, also drawn to the open road. Likes big long adventures in the mountains. Usually to be found in the Mendip Hills or the Somerset Levels in the UK. Passionate about women's cycling at all levels.
  • Age: 35
  • Height: 173cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 74kg / 163lb
  • Waist: 82cm / 32in
  • Chest: 86cm / 34in (below bust measurement)
  • Discipline: Mountain, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Rocky, rough and a long way from anywhere.
  • Current Bikes: Liv Avail Advanced Pro 2015, Juliana Furtado 2013, Canyon Roadlite AL
  • Dream Bike: Juliana Roubion, Liv Avail Advanced SL
  • Beer of Choice: Red wine for the win!
  • Location: Weston Super Mare, Somerset, UK

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