First Ride: Specialized adds suspension to Diverge gravel bike
Specialized takes on purebred gravel race bikes with its new, totally redesigned carbon Diverge. The race-worthy Diverge features a lightweight carbon frame, massive tire clearance, geometry built for stability, and a Future Shock head tube suspension system.
Suspension, tire clearance, and geometry
Specialized’s Future Shock suspension technology provides 20 millimeters of travel at the head tube. First introduced with the Roubaix endurance road bike, the integrated spring system — located in the bike’s head tube — reduces road vibrations at the handlebar.
The Diverge uses a progressive spring that gradually gets stiffer through the full range of its travel. The initial, more supple part of the spring soaks up road buzz. The stiffer side prevents the system from bottoming out on bigger hits. Specialized’s Roubaix uses a linear spring that is designed for more consistent and smoother surfaces where bottoming-out isn’t a concern.
There’s room for up to 42 millimeter tires with 700c wheels. The S-Works model comes stock with 38-millimeter Specialized Trigger tubeless-ready tires that look plump on the Roval CLX 32 Disc carbon rims (21.7mm internal width).
The Diverge’s bottom bracket is 10 millimeters lower than the previous model, which should lead to more stability over rough roads. It has a 72.5-degree head tube angle and 73.5-degree seat tube angle (size 56m). It is a blend of stability with a semi-aggressive position. A 178-millimeter head tube length is reasonably aggressive for a gravel bike. However, the Future Shock suspension system adds nearly 20 additional millimeters of height. This results in a more upright riding position. The bike also comes with Specialized’s carbon Hover Drop handlebars that sweep up from the stem, raising the tops and hoods another couple millimeters.
The frame weighs just 880 grams and our full S-Works test build, including dropper post, weighed 18.5 pounds. That’s similar to most disc brake road bikes, yet the Diverge has a dropper and bigger tires.
While we weren’t originally convinced of Future Shock’s necessity on the Roubaix and Ruby road bikes, it makes a lot of sense for the Diverge. Together with the bike’s beefy tires, Future Shock opens up new routes and trails for drop-bar adventures. The progressive spring makes the suspension feel more natural and less bouncy than the Roubaix’s linear spring.
The Diverge is spec’d with a Shimano 1x drivetrain. We like the single-ring simplicity. It still has plenty of gear range for most gravel rides. The S-Works model includes an Easton 42-tooth chainring and 11-40-tooth XTR cassette. This provides a similar gear range — albeit with few steps in the middle — to a compact road crank and an 11-32 road cassette. The gravel setup’s lowest gear (42-42) equates to 28.7 gear inches (with 38-millimeter tires). A 34-tooth front chainring and 32-tooth cassette on a normal compact road setup offers 29.0 gear inches. That means the 1x actually gives you a smaller gear.
The large gears differ more significantly, however, with the 1x system only offering 104 gear inches while a 50-11 gives you up to 124 inches. You’ll spin out more frequently with the 1x drivetrain, but the added resistance on gravel roads might make that harder gearing less of a necessity.
The Diverge runs a 11-40-tooth rear cassette with a mix of Di2 road shifters and an XTR rear derailleur. As long as you’re running a 1x system (or MTB derailleurs front and rear) Di2 can communicate between road and mountain platforms. This component mash-up may seem odd, but it works well on other bikes we’ve ridden. The gearing is great on this Diverge as well.
Specialized obviously did its gravel homework when designing the new Diverge racer. It has all the compliance and comfort you’d want for long races like Dirty Kanza. The frame is also light and responsive. It has a smart component spec and includes a dropper for added capability.
Is $9,000 too much for a gravel bike? The Diverge’s premium model comes with a premium price tag. The S-Works may be something of an actual divergence from gravel culture’s sometimes curmudgeonly roots. However, with gravel racing’s growing popularity, it was inevitable that we’d start to see pure race bikes.
Fortunately, you can choose from four different models with the carbon frame, if you can’t stomach the S-Works price tag. Given its versatility on all types of gravel and the occasional singletrack trail, the Diverge is a welcome addition to the gravel bike market.