Specialized Diverge Sport Review
Cons: Non-tubeless tires, 2x drivetrain, limited tire clearance
Our Analysis and Test Results
Should I Buy This Bike?
Specialized makes many versions of their Diverge gravel bike and the Sport model we tested falls towards the lower end of the price spectrum for their carbon-framed models. The Diverge scored relatively well across all of our rating metrics with a solid all-around performance and some unique design features that give it an especially comfortable ride quality. Specialized has incorporated their unique Future Shock suspension design on the front end of this bike, giving it 20mm of road-smoothing travel to take the edge off of rough roads and chatter. The composite seat post also provides a little relief in the form of compliance to help keep your hindquarters comfortable too. It doesn't strike us as the fastest or racy-est bike out there, but it certainly offers a level of comfort that the other bikes we tested can't match. Testers found the component specification to be pretty nice for the price, with a drivetrain and tires that make this bike well suited for pounding pavement or smooth gravel roads alike. While it didn't win any awards in our test, we feel that it is a quality versatile gravel bike and a great option for the rider who prioritizes comfort.
The Diverge Sport comes with Specialized's FACT 9r carbon frame and fork. This is a lightweight and stiff carbon fiber frame that has Open Road Geometry. Specialized claims that this is the "road version of modern trail bike geometry", think longer, lower, and slacker. They have also added a new Future Shock into the front end that is integrated into the steerer tube and provides 20mm of suspension travel to smooth out rough sections of road or trail. This design is coil sprung and the suspension action occurs between the stem and the head tube, so the fork itself doesn't move and the geometry of the bike remains the same even while the suspension is active. The frame has 3 water bottle mounts, internal cable routing, and clearance for up to 700 x 42c or 650b x 47mm tires. The Diverge comes in six sizes, 48, 52, 54, 56, 58, and 61cm.
Our measurements showed the Diverge had a 575mm long effective top tube length and a 390mm reach. The head tube was 72.5-degrees with a 73.5-degree seat tube angle. It had a low 268mm bottom bracket height with a 1025mm wheelbase and 422mm long chainstays. It tipped the scales at 21 lbs 5 oz with tubes and without pedals.
- Available in Carbon Fiber (tested) or Aluminum frames
- 20mm of Future Shock front suspension
- Open Road Geometry
- Internal cable routing
- Fender and rack mounts
- Available in S-Works frame only for $4,000
- Carbon builds ranging from $2,500 up to $10,000
- Aluminum builds starting at $1,100
The Diverge delivers an especially comfortable ride on the descents. It has a very similar geometry to our top-rated gravel bikes with the addition of 20mm of Future Shock front suspension to help smooth out the ride. The carbon frame is stiff and steering and control remain responsive even with the front suspension system and the Diverge feels right at home ripping down mountain roads on both pavement and dirt.
The Diverge is the only bike we've tested that has any sort of front suspension. The Future Shock design was first seen on Specialized's Roubaix road bike and now appears on all but the least expensive alloy models of the Diverge. While 20mm of suspension doesn't sound like much, it's way more than none and much more effective on bigger hits than a compliant handlebar. This coil-sprung suspension system comes with three different spring weights that you can change out yourself(as well as detailed instructions), though we kept the stiffest spring in there throughout testing. Testers found that this suspension worked well and helped to reduce hand fatigue for a more comfortable ride. Since the suspension travel occurs between the stem and the top of the head tube, it doesn't affect the bike's geometry and the handling remains precise even while the suspension is active. If you're coming off a rigid bike, like most gravel bikes, this suspended feel takes a little getting used to but is welcome on long descents or rougher roads.
The geometry of the Diverge is similar in many ways to most of the other bikes in this review. The top tube and reach make for a roomy cockpit and the head tube angle is 72.5-degrees. Interestingly, it has the shortest wheelbase and chainstays and the lowest bottom bracket in the test. Testers noted that it felt very maneuverable in tight terrain at lower speeds, and it performed great at high speeds on mellower terrain. It's got an almost snappy feel in tight corners, and we've seen skilled riders rip up singletrack trails on this bike with some more aggressive tires. It felt marginally less stable than some on steeper and rougher terrain, although it doesn't really feel twitchy, perhaps the suspension helps balance that out. While the low bottom bracket likely helps this bike's cornering abilities, one needs to pay attention when pedaling through anything chunky to avoid pedal strikes.
The components of the Diverge Sport all work relatively well and we were especially impressed by the power and consistent feel of the Shimano 105 hydraulic disc brakes. These brakes felt the most powerful with the least fade of all the brakes we tested making it easier and more confidence-inspiring to control your speed. While we liked the Sawtooth Sport tires in most situations, we didn't love the fact that we had to run tubes in them. To avoid flats we had to run higher pressures than we would have liked and ride downhill with a little more caution than we would with a tubeless setup. Aside from the front suspension, the handlebar felt wide enough with a nice 12-degree flare for comfortable hands and precise steering.
The Diverge Sport is a quick and capable climber. This bike feels fast and efficient, and it climbs nearly as well as the more expensive competition. The geometry is comfortable, the frame is lightweight and stiff, and the compliant composite seat post provides a bit of forgiveness for long days in the saddle. The Diverge is ready, willing, and able to eat up some vertical.
The Diverge isn't quite as lightweight as the zippiest climbers we tested, but the 21 lb and 5 oz weight is by no means a crippling issue. Sure you'll notice a little weight difference if you ride it back to back with the Ibis Hakka for example, otherwise, this bike feels lightweight with an energetic feel that responds well when you put power to the pedals. The geometry is nearly identical to some of the other bikes in this test, and the seated pedaling position is comfortable with direct transfer of power straight down into the pedals. The composite seat post also has a small but noticeable amoung of aft flex which takes the edge off bumps in the road yet doesn't result in a noticeable loss of power in the pedal stroke. While we generally loved the front suspension on the descents, it took some real getting used to when climbing. Our testers are uphill hammerheads who alternate regularly between seated and standing efforts. When seated, the suspension goes unnoticed but aggressively attacking a climb out of the saddle results in some suspension bob. We doubt this suspension movement results in any loss of power, and we're sure you'll probably get used to it over time, but it doesn't give that same direct and efficient feel as bikes with rigid front ends.
The Diverge Sport comes with a 2x11-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain. We've noticed that most gravel bike manufacturers are offering their bikes in both 1x and 2x drivetrain configurations, so obviously there must be quite a few consumers out there who still want a front derailleur. Our testers are not those consumers, and while we can't argue that the 2x drivetrain on the Diverge works just fine we would much prefer a 1x setup. When climbing, we found ourselves having to shift the front derailleur quite often as we were in between the range provided by each front ring. Admittedly, the 2x setup is probably better from some riders, especially those who will spend a lot of time riding pavement on this bike, we just found it to be annoying. The Sawtooth Sport tires have a versatile tread that works nearly as well on pavement as a road tire, while also providing solid traction on firm dirt surfaces. When the dirt conditions got loose, however, these tires don't quite claw into the surface like some more aggressive tires. This is a bit of a tradeoff and you can easily swap out the tires to meet your needs or match the conditions and terrain you ride.
The Diverge strikes us as a relatively versatile bike. We could see this being an excellent option for the rider who wants one bike to serve as both a gravel grinder and a road bike. This bike is light and fast enough to be suitable for everything from casual gravel tours with friends to the occasional gravel race or event, and the 2x11-speed drivetrain offers a huge range that would work well for road riding. The fork is also equipped with rack mounts, adding to the Diverge's bag of tricks and making it a solid candidate for bike touring and gravel bike packing.
The Diverge Sport occupies the comfortable middle ground in this review in terms of its weight. At 21 lbs and 5 oz with tubes and without pedals, it is still relatively lightweight, although it is over 2 pounds heavier than its lightest competitor. Obviously, this bike would be lighter without tubes in the tires, and assuming a weight of approximately 4.5 oz per tube, it stands to reason that you could reduce the weight of this bike by 9 ounces right off the bat by setting it up tubeless. Unfortunately, the Sport build comes with Sawtooth Sport tires that are not "2Bliss" ready, so setting this bike up tubeless would require an upgrade to the tires. Other factors that add a touch of weight to the Diverge are the Future Shock suspension system as well as the 2x drivetrain.
The Diverge Sport has a pretty solid build kit that performs well when the rubber hits the dirt. The Sport specification is by no means high-end, but this is a thoughtful and functional spec that helps to keep the price of this carbon-framed rig below the $3K mark.
Our test bike came equipped with a full Shimano 105 2x11-speed drivetrain. This includes everything from the shifters, rear derailleur, cassette, and the hydraulic disc brakes. Specialized spec'd a set of Praxis Alba cranks with the standard 48/32 tooth chainring combo paired with an 11-34-tooth cassette. The brakes are flat-mount with 160mm rotors front and rear.
The Diverge Sport rolls on a set of DT R470 Disc wheels. These wheels are stiff, fast-rolling, and have a higher quality feel than most of the wheels on the other bikes in this review. The 700 x 38c Specialized Sawtooth Sport tires were a pleasant surprise. Despite their very rounded side to side profile, testers found them to perform quite well on the dirt while also rolling very fast on pavement. This is thanks to the smoother center tread that carries speed well on firm surfaces, and the sawtooth-esque siped shoulder tread that effectively grabs and hooks up when cornering in mixed conditions.
The cockpit of the Diverge is one of the most interesting aspects of its build. Integrated into the steerer tube/stem interface is a Future Shock suspension system that allows for up to 20mm of travel to absorb shock and vibration feedback into the hands. This shock design is compliant vertically and does not appear to sacrifice steering control through any sort of lateral play or give. It takes a little getting used to, but it absolutely helps to prevent hand fatigue from high-frequency vibrations. Specialized has spec'd an alloy stem that clamps their Adventure Gear Hover handlebar that has a comfortable 12-degree flare. Specialized has also included a carbon seat post that also has a bit of compliance engineered into it with a comfortable Body Geometry Toupe Sport saddle.
Specialized makes a huge range of Diverge models to suit varying needs and budgets. It comes in both carbon (tested) and aluminum frames, and whether you're willing to spend $1,000 or $10,000, Specialized has a Diverge for you. They also make men's and women's versions of most models with slightly different sizing, touchpoints, and colors to suit varying needs.
The Diverge Sport we tested is one of their least expensive carbon-framed options. The Diverge is the entry-level carbon model which retails for $2,500 and features the same frame as the model we tested, but comes with a lower-end spec that includes a 2 x 10-speed Shimano Tiagra drivetrain and Specialized Axis wheels. The Diverge X1 has a similar build and price, but comes with a SRAM Apex 1 x 11-speed drivetrain. Beyond these affordable carbon-framed models, Specialized makes numerous more expensive versions up to the eye-popping and fully tricked-out S-Works Diverge SRAM e-Tap AXS that retails for $10,000.
The aluminum-framed versions feature the same geometry as the carbon models, but they are built around Specialized's Premium E5 Aluminum frameset. The most expensive aluminum model does have the Future Shock suspension, but the lower-end models do not.
The base model is the Diverge E5 which retails for $1,100. It comes with a 2 x 8-speed Shimano Claris drivetrain, Tektro mechanical disc brakes, and a Specialized Axis Sport wheelset. The E5 Elite is the middle of the range at $1,600 with a 2 x 10-speed Shimano Tiagra drivetrain and Tiagra disc brakes. The E5 Comp costs $1,900 and comes with the Future Shock suspension, as well as a full Shimano 105 drivetrain and brakes.
Whether or not you'll need or want to upgrade anything on the Diverge Sport will depend on where and how you ride it. If you're the type who uses this as a paved road and smooth gravel rig, then the stock setup may serve you well. If you're using it as more of a gravel-only bike, then we would probably be inclined to change a couple of things.
While the 2 x 11-speed drivetrain is great for road cycling, our testers much prefer the simplicity and noise reduction of a 1x drivetrain. On rough dirt roads, the 2x drivetrains tend to make a lot of noise, and testers find themselves shifting between the two front chainrings more often than they'd like on climbs or rolling terrain.
While we were pleasantly surprised by the performance of the Specialized Sawtooth Sport tires, we feel they are best suited for pavement and smoother gravel conditions. Anyone riding on rougher gravel or in loose conditions will likely find the limitations of these tires pretty quickly and something with a more aggressive tread pattern may be preferred. Specialized did not print "2Bliss" on the side of these tires, so we are assuming they shouldn't be set up tubeless. People taking on serious gravel rides will likely want to upgrade to a tubeless setup.
With a retail price of $2,800, we feel the Diverge Sport is a relatively good value. There aren't too many carbon fiber gravel bike models selling for under $3K, especially from big brands like Specialized. At that price, you're getting a high-quality carbon frame with unique technology in the Future Shock front suspension and the compliant composite seat post, plus it has a relatively nice build. We feel this bike represents the best value to the rider seeking a road and gravel bike, as the geometry and drivetrain spec seems well suited to both disciplines.
The Specialized Diverge Sport is a reasonably priced carbon fiber gravel bike that has an especially comfortable ride quality thanks to some unique design features. The Future Shock provides 20mm of front suspension and the compliant seat post helps to smooth things out on the rear end of the bike. We feel this is a great one-bike quiver that can easily pull double duty as a road and gravel bike and handle some light duty racing or endurance events.
— Jeremy Benson, Dillon Osleger
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