Specialized has always designed fantastic bikes for rough-er roads — perfect for the tarmac that most of us ride on a daily basis. It has designed and build several incarnations of the Roubaix, built to take on the teeth-rattling cobbles of Northern France at the Paris-Roubaix race. It also offers a great choice of performance cyclo-cross bikes in the Crux range.
The Specialized Diverge sits somewhere between the two; an adventure road bike designed for all-day rides — commute to work, weekend rides into the countryside, occasional racing, cyclocross, etc. The bike is built to tackle any surface it encounters.
Disclaimer – This review has been written keeping in mind our Indian context — the roads we ride on, erratic drivers, animals & pedestrians walking on the road, etc…
Specialized has been building its aluminum bikes out of two different proprietary aluminum – Specialized A1 Aluminium for its entry-level and mid-range bikes and Specialized E5 Aluminium for the premium, race-orientated models. The Diverge is built from A1 Aluminium.
The beefy Specialized FACT carbon fork comes with an alloy crown and allow steerer and features the same Zertz inserts (high frequency shock absorbers) as found on the Specialized Roubaix. While the Zerts absorb high frequency vibrations the carbon fork on the other hand takes care of the low frequency but bigger bumps to give the rider a super smooth and comfortable ride.
The attractive frame, the stealthiest of the range, has a tough anodized black finish, except for a silver Specialized logotype along the bottom of the down tube and a red detail at the bottom of the fork. The cabling is mostly external except for the rear brake cable that routes internally through the down tube. To top things off, the bike comes with a brazed-on mech hanger.
The versatile Diverge has plenty of clearance for wider tires. It comes kitted with 30C (can be taken up to 38C for a smoother/comfortable ride), and has well placed and super useful mudguard and rack fittings.
It’s interesting to see how the Diverge relates to its stablemates in terms of geometry. The wheelbase is longer than the Roubaix — making it an even more stable ride, but is shorter than the cross-specific Crux. Curiously, the bottom bracket on the Diverge is set higher — giving it higher ground clearance and different handling dynamics — than on that all-out ‘cross bike.
The Specialized Diverge uses a Shimano Claris 8-speed gearset. There is a long cage derailleur to handle the combination of compact 50/34T chainset and 11-32T cassette that should get you over most hills, whatever the surface. Shifting quality of the Claris has improved drastically over the years with Shimano trickling down high end group-set technology into the Claris. The only area I found a shift delay was in the front derailleur moving the chain from 1st to 2nd chainring, not a biggie on longer endurace rides. The rear mech performced exceedingly well at most speeds/slopes I threw at it. The shift experience was almost as good as a Tiagra derailleur on my other bike! Excellant.
The bike was beautifully finished with components from the Specialized stable – a Toupe Sport Body Geometry saddle and matt black Roubaix bar tape with Gel inserts beneath the tape. Super comfortable.
In the past year we have seen the introduction of disc brakes on road bikes to improve braking in two ways
- Disc brakes by themselves are well know to brake in the worst of conditions
- Wider tires allow for better grip on road when the brake are applied.
The Diverge uses Tektro TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes with dual pivots (both pads move independently to grip the disc).
The Diverge comes equipped with slick looking disc-specific road wheels – the Axis Classic – which come with an aero profile and relatively low spoke count. The silver spokes are a nice touch too, giving the wheels a distinctive look. The Diverge runs the Specialized Espoir Sport tiers – 30mm tires designed for high mileage training, Gripton rubber compound, 60TPI casing, wire bead, double BlackBelt protection. A perfect recipe for the ride experience this bike was built for.
Read more about the Specialized Gripton compound – http://bit.ly/1PwCfuh
On the road the Diverge rides like a road bike.
It may not be the lightest model on offer, but it’s no heavyweight either — it’s responsive, handles with confidence in the corners and the wheels maintain their speed well. It climbs pretty well too, although the combination of the all-up weight and wide, grippy tires means you push at pretty much the same intensity all the way up the hill, never quite gaining the upper hand. The Diverge offers a good riding position, with the front end not feeling too high off the ground, which can often be the case with some endurance bikes.
But how does it perform when the tarmac ends? Well, those road-based Espoir tyres are never really going to offer much grip on slush and grass but on broken roads, dirt tracks and gravel they perform well. By altering tire pressure that fits you best, one can get achieve a much smoother ride.
The ride quality of the Diverge itself is really interesting and engaging. The damping effect of the front fork with Zerts keeps the worst of the bumps from reaching your hands without any loss of control and the rear wheel stays planted firmly on the ground. The saddle is comfortable too, adding to the fun of riding hard on bad roads. Handle bar equipped with gel insert beneath the bar tape, makes for an exciting ride — no matter where you’re going.
The brakes were undeniably very sound mechanically, but took some time to sharpen up, with the front still noticeably outperforming the rear by the end of my 5 days of test. I have often found that similar brakes can take a long time to bed in, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt. Without question, the Diverge A1 is the road bike made for Indian conditions.
Although the Diverge is predominantly a road bike, its capacity to leave the tarmac means you may find yourself in a situation where you have to walk some unrideable trail or cross on obstacle. It’s therefore worth investing in some mountain bike shoes with their tougher, walking-friendly soles and recessed cleats. I am keeping in mind the brevet riders when I talk about the type of shoes & pedals
You’ll need pedals to match; Shimano’s SPD system is ideal with a broad range that offers some excellent pedals. Alternatives such as Crank Brothers’ Egg Beaters.
Click below for pedals and shoes:
Without question, the Specialized Diverge A1 is a perfect road bike for Indian road conditions. With the introduction of disc brakes on road bikes, braking in any given condition is a confidence booster. The high tire clearance in the fork & seat-stay means you can add chunky tires and mudguards to battle the worst of winter. An all-round good choice when looking for a road bike that can do it all.
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WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CYCLING
Having started cycling quite late in life, I love riding whatever I get my hands-on! I love the sense of accomplishment I get every time I ride my bike and the fact that I feel younger with more saddle time. I enjoy riding my road bike hard on gravel and am looking forward to someday riding The Paris-Roubaix challenge.
DISCIPLINE: Mountain Biking & Gravel Road
CURRENT BIKE(S): Specialized Allez Comp & Specialized Rockhopper Pro
DREAM BIKE: S-Works Stumpjumper FSR & CruX Expert X1
OTHER PASSIONS: Dogs, Cooking, Photography & Travel