Review: Specialized Diverge Gravel Bike

Words by Kathryn Dickinson

on 18/10/2018 12:01:53

Specialized-Diverge-Review

This article was written by #TeamRutland ambassador and avid mountain biker Archie Davies. Archie has his own blog A Gravity Man. Find out more about Archie. A few months ago we sent Archie a Specialized 2018 Diverge to test ride, Archie has written down his thoughts on the gravel bike. Is it the perfect road bike for mountain bikers?

I'm a mountain biker. Always have been, and at the point of writing this, think I (might) always will be. There's some doubt in there for sure and I can tell you why. Gravel Bikes. �What?� you may ask? Well in my own words imagine a chunkier road bike that's designed to ride off road. �Ah that's a Cyclocross bike Archie?�. Well sort of, but the Cyclocross bikes are UCI homologated. Think of them as race honed bikes, rather than bikes you'd ride for leisure. Hence, Gravel Bikes.

So to test out the theory, and confirm if this is just another marketing ploy by the bike brands to sell yet another niche bike, I picked up the 2018 Specialized Diverge Sport Carbon in August and have been running it for a couple of months now. So without further intro let's get cracking!

Specialized Diverge Sport 2018 Carbon.

Specialized Diverge Sport 2018 Carbon Cyclocross bike Grey

Specialized Diverge Sport 2018 Carbon Cyclocross bike

This new design frame has tackled one of the most common requests, more tire clearance, the Diverge will fit tires up to 42mm while still having room for mud. Along with this the frame design has been constructed out of Lightweight FACT 9r Carbon Fibre which is one of the lightest in its class and undeniably durable making the riding much more enjoyable. The Diverge Sport features an all new version of the Future Shock system giving you 20mm of Travel, allowing the bike to soak up bumps with ease as well as adding extremely predictable handling.

  • Frame - FACT 9r Carbon Frame w/Future shock Suspension
  • Drivetrain - Shimano Tiagra 2x10 Speed
  • Brakes - Tektro Spyre Mechanical Disc
Shop Now > See the full Specialized Diverge range >

I quote �The Diverge gives you the ability to go where you want and enjoy yourself while you do it, whether it be popping down to the shops, joining a local group ride or tackling a tough dirt climb.� With its FACT 9r carbon frame, the Diverge weighs around 9.5kg and is one of the lightest in its class and an absolute feather compared to the Stumpjumper. The gearing is a Shimano Tiagra 10-speed groupset with a 11/34 cassette and 48/32 chainrings. It's the way it picks up speed, due to its lower weight, and keeps on accelerating (thanks to better aerodynamics) that sets it apart from other gravel bikes. It can fit tyres up to 42mm while still having room for mud, make sure you keep the tyre pressures pumped up, it needs at least 50psi in its 700x38c tyres otherwise it can feel sluggish and much harder work.

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The Diverge features an all new version of the 'Future Shock' progressive suspension (developed with McLaren Applied Technologies) fitted above the head tube. With its 20mm of travel (and 3 interchangeable spring units) it smooths out the ride, reducing fatigue and making a rocky trail more than tolerable. It also comes with Tektro mechanical disc brakes, which work well, though take a bit of getting used to; after riding with hydraulic disc brakes on MTB's, I'm used to massively more power and sensitivity.

Riding the Specialized Diverge Gravel Bike

It feels weird. Probably an obvious thing to say and yes after 5 minutes or so, I started to get used to the feeling of sitting on top of the front wheel compared to the lazy, reclined feel of the Specialized Stumpjumper. The second immediate thing you notice riding it is the efficiency in which your pedal strokes initiate movement. It's not a playful bike, well not compared to what I'm used to, but neither did it feel like it was begging me to stop.

best-specialized-gravel-bike

So one of the best rides I've had on it so far was the red-graded mountain bike trail at Thetford. Generally, a trail which requires momentum to get those smiles going and momentum is what the Diverge delivered. Focusing less on getting the most out of the corners my riding instead focused on not losing momentum in the corners and hammering down those straights. The opposite to a MTB ride, but boy was it fun. With my brother and mate behind me running 150mm trail bikes, the difference in my ability to cover ground effortlessly was quickly highlighted. Yes, they could keep up, but they were really trying. Their ride had turned into a damage limitation exercise as egos were now on the line.

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Riding the Diverge on the trails

My luck was about to turn however, as 2/3rds around the trail we hit a very rooty/bermed section that really underlines how far forward your centre of mass is on the Specialized Diverge compared. Now they were right on my tail and nibbling away at my tyres. I've been caught and if I'm not careful, about to be over taken. It's at this point you realise you're at the limit of the Diverge's ability off road. With its limited tyre width (38mm or 1/5 inches) compared to an MTB and near enough vertical head angle you can't really attack the rough stuff, you just get through it. Though as you're doing this, yes you're not fast, but boy is it good fun hustling the Diverge over terrain other day riders are struggling on with their rentals. It may look fragile, but it can play hard too!

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So, it's different the Diverge. It's opened my mind to genuinely travelling with my bike, rather than looping the same downhill section. As a bike 80% of the time it feels more than capable off road and when you take it that 20% extra, well it's like thrashing a small hatchback. Your ability to have fun comes down to how well you can get the car, or bike in this case working. I'll be sad to see the Diverge go and would compel anyone who's not sure on the idea to give one a go.

The perfect road bike for a mountain biker?

Diverge is more than just a road bike with chunky tyres, it's an all-terrain performance bike designed to go as fast as you can pedal. Its carbon frame makes it a breeze to lift over gates and the front forks can handle up to 42mm tyres making even the muddiest trails a cinch. You might even describe it as the most widely talented bike you can buy. Take one for an extended test ride (away from the tarmac) and see what I mean. Gravel bikes are far more than a marketing gimmick and will open up a whole new world of riding adventures. Whether you're a roadie or mountain goat, there's room for another bike in your life and its name is Diverge.

The 2019 Specialized Diverge range guide

Specialized Diverge Elite Aluminium 2019 Road Bike White

Specialized Diverge Elite Aluminium 2019 Road Bike White

  • Frame - Specialized E5 Premium Aluminum, Open Road Geometry, threaded BB, 12x142mm thru-axle, flat mount disc
  • Fork - Specialized FACT carbon, flat-mount disc, 12x100mm thru-axle
  • Shifters - Shimano Tiagra
Shop Now > See the full 2019 Specialized Diverge range >

 

Specialized Diverge Elite 2019 Aluminium Road Bike

Specialized Diverge Elite 2019 Aluminium Road Bike

  • Frame - Specialized E5 Premium Aluminum, Open Road Geometry, threaded BB, 12x142mm thru-axle, flat mount disc
  • Fork - Specialized FACT carbon, flat-mount disc, 12x100mm thru-axle
  • Shifters - Shimano Tiagra
Shop Now > See the full 2019 Specialized Diverge range >

 

Specialized 2019 Diverge Comp Carbon Road Bike Brown/Black/Copper

Specialized 2019 Diverge Comp Carbon Road Bike

  • Frame - Specialized FACT 9r carbon
  • Drivetrain - Shimano Ultegra R8000, Shadow Design, 11-speed
  • Brakes - Shimano Ultegra 8070, flat-mount disc
Shop Now > See the full 2019 Specialized Diverge range >

 

Specialized 2019 Diverge Expert X1 Carbon Cross Bike Carbon/Oil Slick

Specialized 2019 Diverge Expert X1 Carbon Cross Bike Carbon/Oil Slick

  • Frame - Specialized FACT 9r carbon
  • Drivetrain - SRAM Force 1, long cage 11-speed
  • Brakes - SRAM Force, flat-mount disc
Shop Now > See the full 2019 Specialized Diverge range >

 

archie-bio

Archie Davies

Instagram: agravityman

Blog: A Gravity Man

Riding a bike started out for me with racing my brother round the patio, to now evolving to regular trips to Wales for all day epics. Mountain biking has been with me for pretty much all my life and so has Rutland Cycling from an early age, fuelling my growing addiction for more bikes and gear.

As the saying goes, all things that go up, must come down, with the down being important. From Downhill to Trail, it's all about those descents. Keep your fingers off the brakes, pop those jumps and rail those berms. Let's not kid about, climbing is a means to an end. So be it the sandy berms of Chicksands to the rocky outcrops of Anton Stiniog, it's time to point the bike downhill and let that adrenaline flow! So, with fatherhood on the horizon I've got just enough time to see the sights, ride the bikes and get as much done as possible. Luckily Rutland Cycling are here to assist again in my final push. It's time to clip in.

Find your nearest Rutland Cycling Store

You can view the 2019 Specialized Diverge range in our Specialized Concept Store in Nottingham, Whitwell, Peterborough, Grafham, Pitsford, and Histon.

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