A growing category of road bikes at the moment is personified by Specialized's brand new Diverge, an adventure and gravel bike capable of riding on more than just smooth tarmac, with big tyre clearance, disc brakes and rack and mudguard mounts making it a really versatile bike. Though built for the popular US gravel racing scene, bikes from a similar mould to the new Diverge are almost perfectly suited to UK riding conditions.
Specialized removed the Secteur from their 2015 range and replaced it with the Diverge. You could easily build up the Diverge in a number of ways, for commuting, touring, Audax even, a winter trainer with slick tyres or more off-road capability with treaded tyres. It would be ideal for next year’s TransContinental race with its newly announced off-road section for example, and there are many new events popping up all the time that appeal to this new breed of road bike. Adventure bike. Gravel bike. Call it what you want.
Specialized have developed an all-new platform for the Diverge, and while it sits under the same ‘endurance road’ tag as the Roubaix Disc, there are only a few visual similarities. There are common features, the Zertz inserts, some shared geometry numbers, but the Diverge features, on the top-of-the-range Diverge Expert Carbon, bolt-thru axles and disc brakes on this carbon model. The most expensive aluminium Diverge also shares the same carbon fork with thru-axle, combined with a quick release rear axle.
All Diverge models, down to the entry-level £750 Diverge A1, come with disc brakes, using post mounts at the fork and on the chainstay. And all frames are equipped with a full complement of rack and mudguard eyelets. All apart from the top carbon model, which has thru-axles, have regular quick release axles. That’s as much to do with wheel choice at the lower price than anything else, the fact is there just aren't’ that many thru-axle wheelsets on the market at the moment. That’ll change with time though.
The Diverge has space for big tyres, there is clearance for up to 35mm tyres with the bikes coming specced with 30 and 32mm tyres. The top model gets Specialized Roubaix Pro 30 and 32mm tyres with a BlackBelt puncture protection and Endurant casing emphasising the rugged ability of the Diverge.
Geometry for a 56cm Diverge centres around a 1011mm wheelbase, 566mm effective top tube, 75.5mm bottom bracket drop (the height of the BB compared to the wheel axles), 415mm chainstays and 72.5 degree head and 73.25 degree seat angles.
To give some perspective, a CruX cyclo-cross bike in the same size has a longer 1022m wheelbase , higher 69mm BB drop and half a degree steeper head angle, 72 degrees, with longer 425mm chainstays. A Roubaix has a higher 71.5mm BB drop and 1010mm wheelbase and 415mm chainstays for the same size frame. The Diverge has bigger tyres than the Roubaix remember so the actual bottom bracket height won’t be much lower. That should give the desired stability needed in a gravel and adventure bike.
So you can see the Diverge sits roughly in the middle of those two models, with the same wheelbase as the Roubaix but a lower bottom bracket and much shorter head tube, 165mm on the Diverge compared to 190mm on the Roubaix. Another subtle change is the trail and rake (51mm and 55mm respectively which places it between the Roubaix and CruX).
The Diverge is super versatile then. You could fit a rack and mudguards and use it for commuting or touring, with mudguards only it would make a good modern Audax choice, and strip them away for a light and lean bike capable of bashing out the road miles or diverting along any off-road paths you might encounter to spice up a ride.
It’s a smart looking frame with the kinked top tube flowing into the skinny seatstays, which are equipped with Specialized’s signature Zertz inserts. There are Zertz inserts in the fork too. The top models are fitted with the company’s own Cobble Gobbler seatpost which while a unique looking design, is said to provide a good deal of comfort. Cables are internally routed and the Expert Carbon has a third bolt on the down tube for mounting their novel SWAT box, a small case that can be loaded with a spare tube and some tools.
The Diverge range starts with the £750 Diverge A1. It features an A1 Premium aluminium frame with a FACT carbon fork with Zertz inserts, and uses regular quick release axles front and rear. Tektro Spyre mechanical disc brakes are mated to a Shimano Claris 2400 8-speed groupset with AXIS Classic Disc wheels and Specialized Espoir Sport 30mm tyres.
Next up is the £900 Diverge Sport A1. It too uses an aluminium frame with a carbon fibre fork, regular quick release axles again and AXIS Classic Disc wheels with Espoit Sport 30mm tyres, with the same Tektro Spyre mechanical disc brakes paired with a Shimano Sora 9-speed groupset with 50/34 compact chainset and 11-32 cassette.
The £1,100 Diverge Elite A1 uses the same frame, fork, wheels and tyres, with the same Tektro Spyre disc brakes, but the groupset is upgraded to Shimano Tiagra 10-seed with a 12-30 cassette and 50/34 compact chainset.
At £2,000, the Diverge Comp Smartweld gets a significantly upgrade E5 Premium aluminium frame utilising the Smartweld technology first seen on the top-end Allez last year, which features preformed tubes at the head tube junction to allow for a better interface between the down tube, top tube and tapered head tube.
The FACT carbon fork is the same bolt-thru design as feature on the top-end Expert Carbon, but it uses a regular quick release rear axle. AXIS 3.0 Disc wheels are fitted Specialized Roubaix PRO 30/32mm tyres and Shimano 785 hydraulic disc brakes, Shimano 105 derailleurs and Shimano 685 hoods.
At the top of the range is the £3,000 Diverge Expert Carbon. It differs from the rest of the bikes in the line-up in being the only model with thru-axles front and rear, and therefore uses completely different fork. It also eschews the rack mounts of the aluminium frames. The frame does shares the same internal cable routing as the other bikes too and a similarly understated colour scheme. The groupset is mechanical Ultegra 11-speed with the new 685 hydraulic/mechanical hoods and 785 hydro disc calipers and IceTech rotors.
Gravel bikes are big in the US, where there are now many established long-distance events mostly on gravel tracks (such as the Dirty Kanza 200 which pulls in a 1,000 people) and while you could compete on a road or cyclo-cross bike, manufacturers are responding by designing bikes that lean more towards a road bike in their geometry so they’re more stable, with long wheelbases and lower bottom brackets, while also comfortable to ride a long way, with the big tyre clearance of a ‘cross bike and disc brakes. Definitely disc brakes.
Specialized have been sharing loads of photos on their Instagram account in recent days demonstrating some of the places and roads the Diverge is capable of been taking to and along.
We don’t have so many gravel roads in the UK, but there are more events springing up all the time (such as the Dorset Gravel Dash) catering for this increasingly popular style of riding. While there are more bikes aimed at this type of riding, most are coming along with mudguard and rack mounts which makes them an interesting choice for someone looking to buy a road bike for riding through the winter or commuting to work. Plus with the added advantage of being able to head along a bridleway or over the South Downs Way if the desire grabbed you.
More at www.specialized.com
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.