Reviewed: Specialized Diverge Carbon Comp

by 5

The brand new Specialized Diverge was launched to the world earlier this month and, now that I’ve had this bike on test for about three weeks, I wanted to bring you a more in-depth look than just a First Ride, as it’s a bike that needs a bit of looking at.

First proper ride out. Before it got really dirty…

The most obvious thing about the new Specialized Diverge range is the front suspension. While reasonably subtle, it’s hard to miss the flexible rubber bellows below the stem that hides the 20mm of Future Shock front suspension. Specialized’s idea is to suspend the rider and not the bike, so that it has minimal effect on the bikes steering and handling – and it’s way lighter than making a whole suspension fork.

It really isn’t pretty, but it works

This is the second generation of Diverge and it has been long in coming. Sagan was riding a prototype of the frame at the 2018 Paris Roubaix race and the production frame was raced in 2019. In order to evolve it from the original Diverge, Specialized’s engineers did a lot of cutting up of old frames and sticking on new front ends, to try different angles and reaches. They ended up making the bike a little longer, a little slacker and not quite as low in the BB as the previous model.

It’s a 52cm, but actually it has a 54cm top tube and a 43cm seat tube. Confused?

Sizing and setup

I spent longer than normal trying to work out the right size to order in for the Diverge. I’d not ridden the original one, so I had no real comparison. Specialized has ‘longerised’ the new Diverge, extending the frames reach, slackening the head angle and fitting a longer offset fork. I normally run a 54cm road and ‘cross bike, so that pointed to the 52cm frame for me, with a 542mm top tube, which makes reasonable sense given the frame’s sloping top tube. 

Bolt thru front and rear and hydraulic discs. How did we cope before?

However, when building the bike up, the frame – while plenty long enough – seemed tiny in the vertical plane. Even with the 20mm of suspension travel under the stem, and what looks like the middle of the three moulded spacers fitted, the (riser) drop bar tops were lower than those on my road bike! I decided to commit myself to roadie hell and flipped the stem upwards to give a liveable handlebar height, even though I still found it a pretty committing position off road – plus it put the (metal capped) handlebar ends in line with potentially punching holes in the side of the top tube in a crash. Luckily it didn’t come to that. 

The sizing is very much a ‘try before you buy’ kind of thing anyway as the frame actually measures 43cm c-t on the seat tube, so all of your years of road bike sizing are out the window. However, I think it’s more likely that you’d be coming to this as a mountain biker or cyclocross rider than a pure road rider. There’s too much rule breaking going on here to attract the pure roadie. Room for 50mm+ tyres? Suspension? Dropped top tube? Loads of bottle bosses? Can’t see that fitting in the crowd at the Rapha cafe…

Double chainset and big tyres is possible thanks to a solid, but thin, carbon chainstay section

This Carbon Comp level bike features a nearly complete Shimano GRX 2×11 setup with Shimano providing gears and brakes. The only non-GRX bit of the transmission is the wheels, which feature Specialized own-brand hubs laced to pleasingly chunky (24mm internal) DT Swiss G540 rims, which look carbon fibre from their profile but are pretty bombproof alloy instead. 

The two-by GRX is a welcome spec

Keeping with the wheels, the Diverge Comp Carbon features Specialized’s 700C Pathfinder Pro tubeless-ready tyres (though they come with tubes) in a 38mm width. These chunky looking carcasses feature a completely slick centre section with a generous diamond tread over the shoulders of the tyres – ‘The ultimate combination of speed and traction for mixed surface performance’ apparently. It’s worth mentioning that there’s MASSIVE tyre clearance, front and rear.

Massive clearance

The rest of the components are, as you might expect, from Specialized’s own huge accessory category. The handlebars are the Adventure Gear Hover and they feature all sorts of curves. As well as having an almost riser-bar tops situation, the bars flare out, from around 42cm by the brake hoods (end to end) to 48cm at the bottom of the drops. 

The stem is a 75mm job, topped with the control for the Future Shock. There’s no visible headset adjustment as that all takes place very neatly under that aero headset spacer. However, to get to it, you’ll need a tiny Allen key (something like 1.5mm) to get the top knob off – not something you’re likely to have on your trail tool.

The knob locks out the Future Shock, but you’ll have to remove it to get to the headset.

The seatpost is a skinny (and long!) Roval Terra Carbon post, which gives a good amount of flex and trail buzz insulation. It slipped for the first few rides, but a good clean and some fibregrip seemed to fix that. The saddle is a Body Geometry Power Sport in the new style of cropped road saddles. Odd to look at if you’ve not seen them before, but comfy to ride.

SWAT storage

Specialized is very proud that it’s managed to incorporate a SWAT door, first seen on the mountain bike range, into the frame. It’s a hole in the top of the sizeable downtube that allows access to the previously unused space inside the downtube. This allows you to stash a jacket and a tube (and a tool and a CO2) inside the downtube, under the bottle cage. 

Talking of cages, there are many bottle bosses on the Diverge Carbon Comp frame. Two in the main frame, one under the downtube, a ‘bento box’ one on the top tube (for fitting snack bags securely) and there are bottle bosses on the sides of each fork leg. Obviously they’re expecting you to be going a long way. It does seem a little odd to have all of this water and luggage capacity if you’ve got such a small main triangle, as that would appear to limit your storage space within it, but this kind of bike is probably aimed at the ‘fast and light’ rider rather than the ‘we’ve brought a full cheese-board along’ crew.  

Bosses absolutely everywhere

The Ride

Let’s get the Diverge Carbon Comp out riding then… And first impressions are that everything about this bike is built for speed. Big, shiny, aggressive speed. There’s no way to seemingly ride it slowly. From the head-down, arse-up, eyes-forward riding position, to the practically slick tyres, it’s definitely not one for the seafront pootle (not unless you’re on you way back from 80 miles over the South Downs…) everything appears to be set up to make you go faster.

Up, up some more, up. Then down.

And this bears out in the riding. After a few miles of bedding in wheels and tyres and riders (accompanied by a fair few spoke-bedding twangs) and a short time sharpening the brakes, it was off and up some of my favourite climbs around here. 

Despite the extra inch of suspension under the stem, the bike still needs riser bars…

The Diverge certainly loves to climb, whether on or off road, but especially on road, where the 2×11 GRX gearing really made sense on the Carbon Comp, with nice short gaps between the 11-34T cassette. There’s a cheaper (£2199) Diverge Base Carbon model, which comes with a 1×11 11-42T cassette setup – great for off roading and cyclocross racing, but the ‘old school’ luxury of having a dual chainring up front was really appreciated if you’re more of a road/off road/road/off road rider. 

Yep, there’s actually a bridleway in there…

On the tarmac, the slick centres of the Pathfinder tyres allow speedy climbing and fast rolling. The frame will take 650C wheels if you want chunkier rubber, but this might be a bit of a compromise if you regularly have to vanquish tarmac on your way to the trails.

Incredible amount of grip (in the dry, so far) off road and speed on road with these Pathfinder tyres.

And off road? That was a very pleasant surprise. The Diverge Carbon Comp just loves getting off road, whether that means a whip along the canal, a dedicated big day out or just a ‘What’s down there, I wonder’ explore. And it seems to take everything at top speed. I certainly found myself going way faster than anyone could expect the minimal tread to keep up with. It was rarely an issue, though. Apart from a few slow speed slides, the tyres were astoundingly good in the, admittedly incredibly dry, conditions we’ve had here for months. 

The Future Shock, arguably the heart of the bike and the reason for choosing the Diverge over the cyclocross-specific CruX, is impressive in that it’s barely noticeable unless you’re really looking out for it. It’s easy to lock out, with a twist of the top knob, but apart from longer road climbs, I just left it fully open. It’s like running a 2.6in mountain bike tyre on the front of your road bike. I’m not sure how much damping you can realistically do in 20mm of travel, but it seems effective enough that I never felt it dive or pogo under braking or over repeated hits. It really just seems to ‘just work’ – which is the way I like my bikes. Obviously you’re buying into proprietary technology and anyone with a Specialized Future Shock mountain bike from a few years ago (25mm front axles, anyone?) will agree that you’re going to be stuck in that system for the life of the bike. However, it appears easy enough to service and you can even just remove it and put a non-moving dummy unit in place if you don’t like it. 

Attaaaaaaack!

The thing is, though, it’s hard not to like. It makes descents terrifyingly fast but with enough control that you forget that you’re doing 30 on a skinny tyred road bike with slicks on an old gravel farm track and there’s a corner coming up…

It’s the season of the dustplosions, yay!

Luckily, the GRX brakes are astoundingly good. The lever and hood shapes are wonderful and allow lots of grip for easy braking, whether in the hoods or attacking in the drops. The ServoWave action whips the pads to the rims quickly and from there there is a lot of strong, but modulate-able power.

Three Things We Didn’t Like about the Diverge Carbon Comp

  • Riding position seems overly aggressive/committing if you’re coming from a trail mountain bike
  • Teeny tiny Allen key needed to access (and adjust) headset. Not something you’ll be able to do on the trail
  • SWAT hatch contents needed packing well to avoid rattling or rubbing of tools and tubes.

Three Things We Loved About The Diverge Carbon Comp

  • It’s SOOO fast! Speed uphill and down comes easy to the Diverge
  • The Future Shock just works. Efficiently and unobtrusively. It was almost never locked out.
  • Shimano’s GRX 2×11 groupset is brilliant at both shifting and stopping
Broken bricks? That’s kind of how most of our ‘gravel’ roads look around here. Not a single puncture so far though.

Overall 

The Specialized Diverge Carbon Comp is a very fun bike to ride fast. While the looks and technology might be a little divisive, there’s no denying that the bike works very well. After the first week’s wheel pings and slipping seatpost had settled, the bike was trouble free and silent. 

There seems a particular customer for this bike – someone who has adopted ‘gravel’ in all of its forms, over the similar branches of cyclocross and adventure riding. It doesn’t seem to be the kind of bike you’d want to do a mellow 400 mile tour on, but it does seem like the kind of bike you’d want to race a 400 mile race on. If you like the idea, but feel that it needs some wider bars and a dropper, then there’s the Diverge EVO with just that set up for you.

It’s particularly inspiring if you’re a ‘What’s over there? What’s down here?’ kind of rider…

The Diverge, and particularly in this Carbon Comp spec seems ideally suited as a fast training bike for a cross country mountain biker who wants to enter gravel races too. It’s also for riders that love to load up some snacks and water and just go exploring. It would be a top choice for doing fast and light, on and off tour of the Dales in a day. I’ve been very surprised how well the bike has coped with some pretty chunky trails.

Quite who it will appeal to, I’m not sure, but I can see it being a top choice for anyone into the Grinduro or Dirty Reiver-type events, as well as riders who live near forest networks who find the riding too dull on their mountain bike. It’s a competent road bike too, so if you’re a mountain biker wanting one extra bike to do gravel, road riding or training and cyclocross racing, it could well be a good choice. Don’t discount the Diverge EVO too, with flat bars and a dropper.

It took a while, but the Diverge Carbon Comp has really grown on me, to the point that I’ll grab it for a ride and only think about where I’m going to ride when I’m already out. Road out, canal back? Or road climb and off road descent? A bit of back lane exploring? It’s a road-going bike that doesn’t need to turn back at the bridleway or ‘Impassible for vehicles’ signs…

Bike Specs

  • FRAME Specialized Diverge FACT 9r carbon, SWAT™ Door integration, Future Shock suspension, threaded BB, internal routing, 12x142mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc
  • SUSPENSION FORK Future Shock 2.0 w/ Damper, Smooth Boot, FACT carbon, 12×100 mm thru-axle, flat-mount
  • HANDLEBARS Specialized Adventure Gear Hover, 103mm drop x 70mm reach x 12º flare
  • STEM Future Stem, Comp, w/Integrated computer mount
  • SADDLE Body Geometry Power Sport, hollow Cr-Mo rails
  • SEATPOST Roval Terra Carbon Seat Post, 20mm Offset
  • SHIFT LEVERS Shimano GRX 810 hydraulic brake levers, mechanical shifting
  • FRONT DERAILLEUR Shimano GRX RX810, braze-on
  • REAR DERAILLEUR Shimano GRX RX810, 11-speed
  • CASSETTE Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed, 11-34t
  • CRANKSET Shimano GRX RX810-2
  • BOTTOM BRACKET Shimano threaded
  • CHAIN Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed
  • WHEELS & TYRES
  • FRONT TIRE Pathfinder Pro, 2Bliss Ready, transparent sidewall, 700x38mm
  • REAR TIRE Pathfinder Pro, 2Bliss Ready, transparent sidewall, 700x38mm
  • INNER TUBES 700×28/38mm, 48mm Presta valve
  • FRONT WHEEL DT Swiss G540 rim, 24mm internal width, tubeless ready, 24h, Specialized full sealed bearing thru axle hub, centerlock disc, DT Swiss Champion 14G stainless steel spokes, DT Swiss brass nipples
  • REAR WHEEL DT Swiss G540 rim, 24mm inner width, tubeless ready, 24h, Specialized full sealed bearing thru axle hub, centerlock disc, alloy freehub body, DT Swiss Champion 14G stainless steel spokes, DT Swiss brass nipples
  • SWAT Integrated SWAT door, internal storage system
  • FRONT BRAKE Shimano GRX 810, hydraulic disc
  • REAR BRAKE Shimano GRX 810, hydraulic disc
  • Price: £3399

More info from: Specialized.com


Comments (5)

    I’m very interested in one of these to replace my road bike.

    Interesting comments re: sizing. How tall and what inside leg are you Chipps? (If that’s not too personal a question!). I’m a 54cm road bike and have always preferred to run smaller on the road. I’m 177cm/30.

    “Despite the extra inch of suspension under the stem, the bike still needs riser bars…”

    Look way too small Chipps. go up and size and drop the stem length. Go even FASTER.

    I’m surprised you found the bars higher than your road bike. My 2019 Diverge is much higher at the front end than a road bike. The new one appears to be a bit taller again plus it has the hover bars (flat ones on mine). I think it looks excellent though I would be torn between this and a Roubaix!

    Surely you felt the riding position was so aggressive because your riding a size too small, leading you to raising the seatpost too high and creating massive saddle to bar drop?

    Saddle looks waaay too high. Be worth trying the next size up to see if your comments hold true regarding the committing position.

Leave Reply