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Specialized Diverge - The perfect getaway gravel bike?

With the new Crux Gravel an out-and-out racer, Specialized is pitching the Diverge more as a bike for adventures. So how does it stand up?

Today we’re talking all things Diverge, perhaps the most versatile bike in the Specialized range. A gravel bike designed to be fast enough to race, yet also provide adequate mounts and comfort for bikepacking.

Specialized market this as the perfect getaway vehicle so we headed away from the office in search of some gravel.

The Bike

Diverge Expert 2022

Now before we get too deep we should mention that Specialized has just launched its 2022 Diverge, once again available in Sport, Comp, Expert, Pro and S-Works guises for the carbon model and aluminium versions to suit lower budgets. The Expert model retains its FACT 9R carbon layup but the colour schemes have changed to a choice of either teal or “arctic” blue from this sunburnt zebra (not the official name) that we managed to get our hands on.

> Stu's full review of the Diverge Expert is here

Other than the colours, there are some more major changes, the 2022 version now comes with a Sram Rival Etap AXS groupset rather than Shimano GRX 815 but as both groupsets are absolutely superb, choosing between them normally comes down to personal preference. This does mean that the newer model gets 12 gears rather than the 11 that we’ve been riding around on.

The new version has seen a price hike of £500 up to a rather scary £5750 but this is sweetened by a set Roval Terra CL’s wheels swapping out the DT Swiss G580’s which although dependable were a bit weighty and a decent excuse for getting dropped up climbs.

2021 Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon - tyre and rim.jpg

With gravel tyres getting ever wider, the Diverge hasn't been left behind. On a 700c wheel it takes up to 47mm tyres, and on 650b it goes up to 2.1in, that’s about 54mm for our younger audience.

> 15 of the best £2,000 gravel and adventure bikes from Cannondale, Trek, GT, Ribble, Kinesis and more

The tyres that we’ve been rolling around on and came fitted as standard on our 2021 test bike are Specialized’s own 38mm Pathfinder Pro but they’ve clearly read our review and opted for some slightly less slender 42mm Rhombus Pros on the 2022 machine. This is something we’re all for, UK gravel is rarely as idyllic as you’d find in the US and that extra volume keeps you rolling over mixed terrain and larger rocks with minimal hindrance on paved roads.

2021 Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon - basj guard.jpg

Of course, those wide tyres have a habit of flicking up rocks and stuff, so the protector plate covering the bottom of the down tube and under the bottom bracket is a welcome addition and should stop you from ending up with an expensive paint repair job. To keep the clean look the Diverge runs all cables and hoses internally – not that there are that many cables on this model anyway, with it running a 1x GRX Di2 groupset. However, one area we’re not so sure about is this red on the inside of the fork, it seems to clash against the rest of the bike but each to their own.

What’s it like to ride

Like most people, we’ve got to do a bit of a ride on the road to get out to some gravel and here, the diverge feels perfectly at home and although the steering isn’t quite as quick as on a dedicated road bike, unless you're aiming to do twisty crits or alpine descents, it's never going to feel out of its depth.

2021 Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon - riding 3.jpg

In fact, stick a set of slicks on and we’d happily commute year-round on it. That’s not bad at all considering that Specialized say that they’ve used their most progressive geometry ever on a dropped handlebar bike. That means a long front centre, a long top tube paired with a shortish stem and a steep seat tube angle and short chainstays to compensate. We won’t bore you with the numbers but the result is a capable and stable bike in the dirt that still feels responsive and nimble on the road. You also get the benefit of a decent amount of seatpost showing to help with comfort.

> SRAM, Zipp & RockShox launch new XPLR gravel components

When you get off-road the Diverge continues to impress. We’ve been out testing it on everything from hardpack gravel with small aggregate to grass, chalk and even muddy singletrack through the local woods. Off-road control is aided by the 12 degree flared bars which means that they’re much wider on the relatively shallow drops than when on the hoods. This means that on-road sections you can remain in a more aero position and the extra width comes in handy when cornering or descending.

2021 Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon - frame detail 2.jpg

After all that you’re probably going to fancy a bite to eat and thanks to the Diverge’s built-in SWAT compartment jersey pockets can be absolutely brimmed with edible goodness. If you open up the internal compartment then you can see space for tools, a spare tube and even a lightweight rain jacket which would normally be taking up valuable pocket space and there’s even a bag to stop them rattling about.

On the topic of noises, it’s been pleasant to not have a bottom bracket creak, Specialized has opted for a threaded BB and although this will divide opinion we think it's a good move given how many pressfit bottom brackets we’ve had drive us crazy.

> 19 of the best 2021 gravel bikes & adventure road bikes

Of course, if you’re heading out on a proper epic ride then you’re going to need even more space and that’s where the Diverge’s mounting points will come in handy. There are the traditional positions for 2 bottle cages and then a couple more for carrying kit, on the fork, and on the top tube for a bento box which will be ideal for gels and food. It'll also take mudguards and a rack, should you so desire.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux-16.jpg

This is where the Diverge differs from the redesigned Crux. The latter gets mounts for just two bottles. If you want to go on adventures, the mount situation is the biggest clue about which bike is meant for you.

> 29 of the best gravel bike tyres for 2021 — get the right go-anywhere rubber

Future Shock 2.0

2021 Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon - Future Shock.jpg

And then we move up to a boingy front end. What sets the Diverge apart from many gravel frames is the Futureshock system offering some suspension up front. This is version 2.0 and whilst we’ve been critical of Future Shock systems in the past this new one does a great job of soaking up the bumpy stuff and avoiding the floaty feeling on the road like on older Future shocks. This new version may only offer 20mm of travel but you’re thankful for it at the end of long off-road rides as it helps to reduce wrist fatigue and you’re left feeling less beaten about after long offroad descents. Whereas older versions had interchangeable springs to change the damping, this new hydraulic unit has a dial on top which is adjustable on the fly from locked out at one end to full spring at the other. This means that on-road segments it can be locked out to avoid bobbing especially when out the saddle.

> 11 best shock-absorbing seatposts — get comfier by reducing road shock

Future Shock 2.0 has just enough movement to take the vibrations out of gravel surfaces, but not enough to mute the signals coming from the tyres, massive jolts will still be massive jolts so you will still need to keep an eye on the trail in front of you and use your arms and legs to soak up the impacts. However, it does mean that you can run slightly higher pressures without discomfort which is good for on-road speed...if that matters to you...

On bigger rides where long term comfort was more of a concern, we tended to leave the dial alone in the springy position which helps to offset the thin bar tape, of course, this is an easy change if you want more padding.

2021 Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon - riding 2.jpg

Conclusion

If you’re into off-road adventures and looking for a bike that's more gravel racer than sedate bikepacking rig, then the Diverge might just be the perfect bike for you. Of course, it does come at a cost and obviously, you can have just as much of an adventure on a cheaper bike, but for pure riding enjoyment, it’s excellent.

Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.

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