Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon 2021 Review
Cons: Not the lightest weight, more expensive
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Should I Buy This Bike?
Specialized completely redesigned their Diverge gravel bike for the 2021 model year. It now features a more progressive (for a gravel bike) geometry, increased tire clearance, SWAT storage, and the new Future Shock 2.0 suspension system. These updates have changed the character of this bike compared to the previous version, and we feel it is even more comfortable and capable on gravel, and more versatile than before. The geometry changes include a longer reach, wheelbase, and chainstays, as well as a slackened head tube angle and a longer fork rake. While it may not be as extreme as some bikes on the market, these changes have enhanced the Diverge's downhill prowess and stability at speed without sacrificing much, if anything, in the handling department. Additionally, the new Future Shock 2.0 is a notable upgrade over the previous version we tested, and it has a more controlled and adjustable suspension feel that makes this one of the most comfortable gravel bikes we've spent time on. SWAT storage has finally trickled down from Specialized's mountain bikes, and now you can conveniently store tools, tubes, snacks, and spare layers within the empty space in your downtube. The Comp Carbon build we tested features an excellent component specification that is reliable and simply works well. It may not be the lightest bike out there, but we feel this well-rounded and versatile ride is ready for anything. From racing on the weekend to multi-day bike packing missions, the Diverge Comp Carbon is ready to go anywhere you want.
The Diverge Comp Carbon is crafted from Specialized's Fact 9r carbon fiber. The frame is lightweight and stiff and features a SWAT storage compartment in the downtube. The door of the SWAT compartment doubles as one of the bottle cage mounts, and it comes off completely when opened to reveal a large open space with a zippered storage bag to hold tools, room for snacks, layers, or whatever you choose. The frame has internal cable routing and integrated chainstay protection. The Comp Carbon comes with the new Future Shock 2.0 which provides 20mm of suspension between the stem and the headset with an adjustable damper. This system provides a small amount of cushion for the handlebar only, and it does not change the geometry of the bike as it goes through its travel. The new frame design also features increased tire clearance with space for up to 47mm wide tires on 700c wheels or 2.1' tires on 650b wheels. The frame has mounts for two water bottles within the front triangle, as well as a variety of mounts on the fork, top tube, and rear triangle to accommodate racks and frame bags.
The new Diverge has what Specialized calls, "the most progressive geometry we've ever created for a drop-bar bike." They have increased the frame's reach, slackened the head tube, and included a longer offset fork compared to the previous design. Our size 58cm test bike measured with a 1060mm wheelbase, a 590mm effective top tube, and a long 401mm reach. The head tube angle has been slacked to 71.75-degrees with a 73.5-degree seat tube angle. The chainstays measured 425mm in length, with a low bottom bracket height of 270mm. Our test bike tipped the scales at 21 lbs and 2 oz set up tubeless without pedals.
- Available in Carbon Fiber or Aluminum frames
- SWAT storage compartment in the downtube of the frame
- 20mm of Future Shock 2.0 front suspension
- All-new gravel geometry
- Clearance for up to 700 x 47c or 650b x 2.1" tires
- Fork, top tube, and rack mounts
- Carbon models from $2,500 up to $10,000
- Aluminum models starting at $1,150
The Diverge Comp Carbon has a confidence-inspiring downhill performance and comfortable ride quality. Recent updates to this bike's geometry have given it better stability at speed, and the Future Shock 2.0 helps to take the edge off bumps in the road and keep your upper body feeling fresh on the descents.
The 2021 redesign of the Diverge included a major overhaul of its geometry. While it doesn't look much different, some of these changes were pretty significant and have noticeably improved its downhill performance. The effective top tube length and reach were both increased by 14 and 10mm respectively on our size 58cm test bike. The head tube angle was slackened by 0.75-degrees to 71.75-degrees and the fork offset was increased by 5mm to 55mm. The chainstays were also lengthened by 4 mm to 425mm. All of these changes combined to lengthen the wheelbase by a whopping 35mm to 1060mm, with the most notable change in the location of the front axle. The front wheel is now significantly further forward than it used to be, a change that results in a calmer and more stable ride at speed and when hurtling downhill. It gives the rider the feel of being a little behind the front axle than right on top of it, a welcome change when letting it run down rough or loose gravel roads. Despite these changes, the Diverge's handling still feels quite sharp and direct, and it responds well to rider input. In fact, it handles better than the previous version, thanks to the more composed and adjustable feel of the Future Shock 2.0.
Twenty millimeters of suspension may not sound like much, but the Future Shock 2.0 actually works surprisingly well, especially when compared to bikes with rigid front ends. The previous generation of Future shock suspension had a relatively springy and less controlled feel, but the 2.0 version feels much more controlled and refined. It also has an adjustable damper with a knob at the top of the steerer tube that can be changed on the fly for the conditions or your preferences. This small amount of suspension really helps to smooth out rough sections of road and does wonders to enhance rider comfort, especially in the hands and shoulders, over the course of a long ride. While the addition of suspension is nice, it can only do so much. We found that it worked much better on single impacts, and it had a hard time recovering from successive bumps in the road.
The component specification of the Comp Carbon build we tested was largely excellent on the descents. The Shimano GRX hydraulic disc brakes were definitely a highlight, and these powerful stoppers felt way better than the brakes on most other bikes we tested. Due to the increased power and easy lever feel of the GRX brakes, we found ourselves able to brake from the hoods almost as effectively as when we were in the drops. The Specialized Hover Adventure Gear handlebar was quite agreeable and had a nice 12-degree flare, although we felt it was a little on the narrow side for dedicated gravel riding. We really liked the rolling speed of the Pathfinder Pro tires on mixed pavement and gravel rides, although we found the lower profile tread to feel a bit under-gunned in looser or rougher conditions.
The Diverge Comp Carbon is a solid climber. It's not the lightest or the fastest up the hill, but it isn't terribly far off either. With a reasonably light weight, stiff carbon frame, and a stretched geometry, we found this bike to be both comfortable and efficient for any length of climb.
While climbing, the most noticeable geometry changes from the previous version of the Diverge were the increased length of the effective top tube and the corresponding increase in reach. Our 58cm test bike had a 401mm reach measurement, a full centimeter longer than other models we tested. Combine that longer reach with a 100mm stem and 20mm of seatpost setback, and this bike felt a fair amount longer than any other model. Thankfully, the rise designed into the Hover handlebar brings the bars up a little higher than usual, so you don't feel too stretched out, but we'd probably get a shorter stem to bring the bars a little closer if we were keeping this bike. We didn't notice the slackened headtube or lengthened fork rake having any effect on uphill handling, and the front end felt nice and planted on steep climbs. The 73.5-degree seat tube angle is about the norm for this style of bike, lining the rider up for direct power transfer down into the pedals. The rear end also feels nice and stiff without feeling punishing, with little energy wasted through unwanted flex. That said, it doesn't feel quite as snappy or lively as some other bikes we've ridden, a slight tradeoff for its increased comfort through compliance.
Speaking of comfort, the new and improved Future Shock 2.0 also impressed us on the climbs. While the previous version had a tendency to bob around and feel too springy during out of the saddle efforts, the 2.0 version has a much more controlled feel. Even with the adjustable damper all the way in open/softest setting, it never felt annoyingly loose or too active. Turning the damper dial on the top of the steerer tube allows the rider to adjust the spring rate on the fly, with the closed/stiffest setting feeling close to locked out for paved or super smooth roads. At the rear end of the bike, the shorter seat tube length leaves a good amount of the carbon seatpost exposed which inherently has a little bit of forgiving flex in it. The seatpost helps to take the edge off of vibration, but it can still feel pretty harsh over washboard or larger bumps.
Overall, we found the components of the Diverge Comp Carbon to perform well on the climbs. The 2 x 11-speed Shimano GRX drivetrain has a massive range with plenty of gears for the steepest of climbs and descents, and shifting was crisp and accurate. We did feel, however, that the jump from the 48-tooth big chainring to the 31-tooth small ring was quite large, and it required some serious forethought when shifting between them to keep a steady cadence. It didn't take long for us to fall in love with the Body Geometry Power Sport saddle. This saddle proved to be especially comfortable, no matter the length of the ride, with an excellent shape and a generous anatomical relief channel/cutout. The Pathfinder Pro tires were a bit of a mixed bag on the climbs. We really enjoyed their rolling speed on pavement and smooth, hard gravel roads, but we found that they didn't provide a ton of traction in loose or rough surfaces.
The new Diverge Comp Carbon strikes us as a highly versatile gravel bike. This bike is ideally suited for any type of gravel riding you have in mind, from casual spins with friends to hardcore training and racing. Clearly this bike was designed with gravel riding in mind, but Specialized also went out of their way to add a plethora of mounts to the frame and fork to make it a capable bike packing rig. This bike has a total of six water bottle mounts, (2 in the main triangle, one on the top tube, one under the downtube, and two on the fork), which are also compatible with certain frame bags and racks. The rear triangle is ready for a rear rack, and fender mounts have been also been cleverly hidden front and back. Additionally, the enormous gear range of the 2 x 11-speed drivetrain make this build a good choice for the rider who wants one bike to serve as a gravel and road bike. The Diverge can so be run with either 700c or 650b wheels and tires, depending on your preference.
The Diverge Comp is relatively lightweight, but it does weigh a couple pounds more than the lightest bikes we tested. Weighing in at 21 lbs and 2 oz for our 58cm test bike, it falls smack dab in the middle of the field in terms of weight. It turns out that features we love like SWAT storage and Future Shock suspension add a little weight, so comfort and user-friendliness are a bit of a tradeoff in this case. While we certainly wouldn't classify the Diverge as heavy, it can't quite compete with the competition in this metric. That said, it doesn't feel particularly heavy while riding, though the additional pounds may make a difference over the course of a long ride or race.
The Diverge Comp Carbon comes equipped with a very nice build that performs well. While the Comp specification is very far from the top of line, it feels excellent and functions perfectly. It also helps to keep the price of this bike below the $4K mark.
Specialized has equipped the Diverge Comp Carbon with Shimano's new GRX gravel specific drivetrain and brakes. It comes with a 2 x 11-speed GRX RX810 drivetrain that has a huge range and shifts crisp and clean as we've come to expect from Shimano. The cassette is an 11-34T which is paired with a 48/31T front chainring combo. Speed control duties are tasked to powerful GRX 810 hydraulic disc brakes and centerlock 160mm IceTech rotors.
The Diverge Comp Carbon rolls on a pair of DT Swiss G540 tubeless-ready rims with Specialized hubs. These sturdy wheels are laced up with DT Swiss Champion 14G stainless steel spokes and DT Swiss brass nipples. A matched pair of Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss ready tires with tan walls come stock on the bike. It comes with tubes, but converting it to tubeless only requires some tire sealant and tubeless valve stems, a quick, affordable, and worthwhile upgrade. The Pathfinder tires have a very smooth center tread that rolls very quickly on paved and smooth dirt road surfaces. A little textured tread on the shoulders of the tire help them have a little cornering bite, but they are far from aggressive.
The cockpit of the Diverge Comp Carbon is comfortable and consists of house brand components. A 100mm alloy Future stem clamps a Specialized Hover Adventure Gear alloy handlebar with a 12-degree flare. The handlebar is wrapped in thick Roubaix S-wrap foam handlebar tape. A Roval Terra Carbon seatpost with 20mm of offset supports a Specialized Body Geometry Power Sport saddle with steel rails. This snub-nosed saddle has a large anotomical relief channel and cutout and we found it to be impressively comfortable.
Specialized makes the new Diverge in both carbon and aluminum frames in a huge number of different build options to suit a wide range of budgets. The Comp Carbon model we tested is toward the lower end of the carbon models in their lineup.
Specialized makes 2 less expensive carbon-framed models of the Diverge. Both the Sport Carbon and the Base Carbon feature the same geometry, a Fact 8r carbon frame, and Future Shock 1.5 suspension, but they do not have the SWAT storage feature. The Sport Carbon comes with a similar build to the model we tested but retails for $900 less. The Base Carbon costs $2,500 and comes with a SRAM Apex 1 x 11-speed drivetrain and Apex hydraulic disc brakes. Beyond these more affordable models, Specialized makes 3 more expensive carbon models ascending in price up to the top of the line S-Works Diverge that will set you back a whopping $10,000.
Specialized also produces 5 affordable aluminum-framed models of the Diverge which share the same geometry as their carbon siblings. Three of the aluminum models comes with drop handlebars, and two, known as EVO models, come with flat handlebars and dropper seatposts. E5 aluminum Diverge models range in price from $1,150 to $2,600.
The Diverge Comp Carbon comes thoughtfully built and doesn't really need any upgrades. Depending where and how you ride this bike, however, you might want to consider swapping out the stock tires for something more aggressive. The Pathfinder tires work very well on firm and smooth surfaces, although they don't have a lot of bite when things get chunky or loose. Otherwise, those looking to shave some weight from this bike would be wise to consider upgrading the stock wheels to a lightweight carbon fiber model.
The Diverge Comp Carbon is the most expensive gravel bike that we've tested. That said, we still feel it is a solid value considering its all-around performance, versatility, great build kit, and quality carbon frame. Innovative features like SWAT storage and Future Shock suspension only add to this bike's user-friendliness and comfort. If the Comp Carbon model is out of your price range, the Sport Carbon model costs significantly less and only sacrifices features like SWAT storage, tubeless ready tires, and the adjustable Future Shock damper.
The 2021 Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon is an excellent gravel bike. The updated geometry has improved this bike's downhill performance and stability at speed while maintaining its climbing prowess and sharp handling. The improved Future Shock 2.0 works well and helps to make this one of the most comfortable grvael bikes we've tested, and the addition of SWAT downtube storage is an excellent user-friendly feature that we thoroughly enjoyed. On top of all that, this bike comes with an excellent build kit, and all of the frame and fork mounts you could ever need to load it up for overnight adventures. It may be a touch heavier than we'd like, but that wouldn't stop us from recommending this highly versatile gravel rig to anyone.
— Jeremy Benson