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Specialized Diverge STR
Almost since gravel became a category, bike companies have been trying to figure out the best way to make them faster and more comfortable, and for many brands that has meant incorporating suspension in one form or another. Specialized just came out with the most unique approach yet in the Diverge STR with Rear Future Shock.
Specialized has built in 30mm of travel at the seat post, and controls it with a damper in the top tube that limits how quickly the seat post moves back and forth. The idea behind it is similar to the Front Future Shock at the head tube, which is also in the Diverge, that suspends the rider over the bike rather than the bike over the terrain. It keeps the rider comfortably in place even as the road gets rough.
But the smartest thing about Specialized’s design is that it doesn’t zap any watts when sprinting out of the saddle. Suspension forks absorb some of the rider’s effort, but the Rear Future Shock only works when a rider is seated, allowing a rider to get forward momentum out of every last watt they can muster. And otherwise, Specialized has kept the Diverge STR as similar to the previous one as possible, keeping a similar fit and features like downtube SWAT storage.
VeloNews has already spent some time on this bike. Find out how it rides in this review.
Full builds from $7,500; specialized.com
Factor OSTRO Gravel
The competition is getting ever fiercer in gravel racing. In response, bike brands are delivering ever faster gravel bikes. The OSTRO Gravel is Factor’s latest off-road racing rig, and it’s focused not on bikepacking and adventure riding (though it could certainly handle that too), but going as fast as possible over mixed terrain roads.
Factor used its OSTRO VAM road bike as a starting point, incorporating the aerodynamic tube shapes and optimizing them to the slightly slower speeds of off-road riding. Gravel bikes need to be more robust too, so Factor created a stronger layup made with TeXtreme, Toray, and Nippon Graphite pitch-based fiber materials. However despite that reinforcement, Factor keeps the weight low, to 900 grams for a painted size 54 frame.
Factor has also adapted the geometry for gravel, while still keeping the steering on the quicker side. Rounding out the bike with 45mm tire clearance allows it to take on a variety of courses, from all-road to serious gravel.
Frame: $5,499, complete builds from $8,199; factorbikes.com
Litespeed Ultimate G2
Litespeed has given its titanium gravel race platform, the Ultimate, an overhaul. The legendary American brand that specializes in titanium now introduces the Ultimate G2, featuring a tweaked geometry that provides additional stability at speed, and an elongated front-center and shortened stem for responsiveness, among other improvements.
But the focal point of the redesign is the interlock dropped seat stays which make for two independent stiffness-enhancing weld points — that means a much more responsive rear end. Litespeed shapes its tubes in house and is one of the most capable titanium brands in this regard, allowing it to produce mad scientist designs like this.
Tire clearance has also been upped in the redesign process to 700x48mm, making this bike capable of tackling just about every gravel race out there.
VeloNews got the chance to ride the Ultimate G2 already. Find out how it rides in this review.
Builds starting at $4,950; litespeed.com
The GVR from direct to consumer brand Obed doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into any one category — it’s here for it all. It’s designed for comfort on long rides with an intersecting seat tube–top tube interface that Obed says isolates the seat stays from the seat tube, helping the frame disperse and absorb vertical shock into the seatpost. Tire clearance of 700x45mm means extra comfort as well.
At the same time, The GVR is also designed for speed. It features a number of wind tunnel tested aero tube shapes for an efficient ride. The downtube hides the water bottle from the wind, while narrow seat stays and a bowed fork profile promote cleaner airflow over the bike. The brake and shift cables are also internal, for a cleaner look with an aero advantage to boot.
If you prefer bikepacking or adventure riding, Obed sells an optional seatstay bridge hardware kit which lets you fit on fenders and a rack. Obed manages to deliver a lot of value overall too, with builds starting at $3,795.
Builds starting at $3,795; obedbikes.com