The Diverge is part of what Specialized call their Adventure range, a bike that's designed for the road less travelled and long, all-day rides over rough roads with an endurance-focused geometry and clearance for up to 35mm tyres should you wish. And that's something it does incredibly well, fast and with a silly grin on its face.
The Diverge comes in a range of models, in both carbon and aluminium. The Comp may sit at the bottom of the carbon range but shares the same FACT Carbon frame and forks as the other plastic models but with componentry more suited to its price.
What we have here is the 2016 model, but the 2017 version doesn't see many changes. It's had a visual overhaul with a carbon/darksilver colour scheme that verges on stealthy, and it has DT Swiss wheels that are very similar to the AXIS 4.0 wheels here. The £2,600 price up there is for the 2017 version - in fact such has been the fall in the value of the pound that when we originally posted this review it was £2,400), but if you're a middling size (54, 56 or 58) Specialized dealers we've checked on line are listing 2016 bikes for £1,875.
Buy Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon 2016
Buy Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon 2017
Find a Specialized dealer
It's a tidy looking frame with bolt-thru axles front and rear and all cables routed internally, although that kink in the top-tube ahead of the seat-tube is a bit of a grower. There are water-bottle bosses on the down and seat tubes, the former being a set of three bolts to give you a choice of cage position, or to use Specialized's MTB SWAT storage box. There are discretely hidden holes front and back of the frame for a full complement of mudguards and racks should you wish. The front and rear mech cables have in-line adjusters by the bars for handy on the fly adjustment too.
The fork and seatstays have Zertz inserts incorporated into them, a feature designed to absorb road buzz that's been a distinctive element on those Specialized bikes destined for all-day comfort for some time now, so they must be convinced it works.
Adding to that comfort is the flexible Specialized CG-R FACT carbon seatpost, which cossets your bum both on the road and for the off road riding that's the Diverge's real purpose. Designed to flex under the force of an impact from the road without changing the cockpit dimensions of the bike it has, let's be frank, the kind of looks that only its mother could love. Someone quipped that it looked like that it was squatting to have a poo on the top-tube, which is a little harsh, but it does actually work, and work well, and despite its chunky looks it's not a heavy component that would cheerfully save a pound if you binned it. It really does isolate your arse from a lot of road buzz and much more noticeably, gravel vibration, adding greatly to the comfort of bike, noticeable over the course of a long day in the saddle.
It can make the rear end feel a little woolly if you're a rider that likes a bit of feedback, and there are times, especially when you get tired, that it feels like you might have a slow puncture. Another more tangible downside is that it does such a good job of isolating you from the road or bumpy track that you're somewhat divorced from the potential severity of what's going on under your wheels and smacking into your tyres, so over-excited pinch punctures are a hazard. Swapping it for a standard alloy post immediately highlights the CG-R's effectiveness and definitely gives the Diverge a more 'riding by the seat of your chamois' feel which you may or may not prefer. The clam-shell seat clamp is a pain to adjust by the way.
The Specialized Body Geometry Phenom Comp saddle is comfortable enough, although well cushioned all over it's done so quite firmly so has little squish to it. Even with its cut out hole and channel which are posterior features I never usually get on with, care for or even feel the need I didn't want to immediately swap it, but of course your bum may feel differently.
Shifting and braking are controlled by non-series 685 STIs and disc calipers. The shifting when matched to the long cage 105 rear mech is a little clunky, especially if you're used to the quiet 'schnik, snick' of higher-end and tighter cogged Shimano groupsets but it hasn't skipped a beat out of the box. The discs come fitted with finned pads and Ice-Tech rotors to help with heat dissipation and the feel, modulation and power of the brakes is absolutely spot on.
Do we need to have the discussion about disc brakes on road bikes still? I'm ambivalent to the whole thing, I have a variety of bikes with both rim brakes and disc brakes and can easily adjust accordingly but the level of control that discs allow you in all conditions is what makes them so special. On a bike like the Diverge that will find itself in a wider range of situations than just mooching along a bit of smooth dry tarmac, it's not about power. There's enough of that to go around and the brain soon adapts to how much to pull the lever (here's a tip – not much) for the desired effect. Rather, it's about predictable control: fingertip predictable control. Especially useful when heading into a gravelly corner at full chat.
A small component highlight is the Praxis Works TURN Zayante chainset. The cranks come with hollow forged arms and Pro-Compact 50/34T rings. With the 11-32t Shimano 105 11-speed cassette, that gives a wide spread of gears and should mean you can winch up most things, even off-piste. These are linked together by a KMC X11, 11-speed chain with a reusable MissingLink. There are a few large gaps in the gear range that can get annoying if you're trying to maintain a steady cadence on the road. That's the trade off for a gear range that comes into its own away from tarmac, if you've bolted racks and panniers to the bike, or strapped trendier more rugged bike-packing gear to it.
The remit of the Diverge is to take the road less travelled and then turn off it. It's built for long days in the saddle over whatever terrain you might encounter: tarmac, rough roads, dirt tracks, a little bit of that current buzz-word gravel. The Diverge caters to the increasing number of people who are venturing away from tarmac on their road bikes and riding the burgeoning events that mix together on and off road sections for a fun and challenging day out. The UK might not have the vast web of gravel roads that these bikes are aimed at in the States but get your map out and you'll find there are enough off-the-beaten-tracks to keep you busy with a hint of imagination and trust in your tyres. And there are more than enough poorly maintained roads to keep you busy in the meantime.
To this end the Diverge has what Specialized call endurance-focused geometry, so you might expect things to be just a little bit more relaxed than your road bike, settling somewhere between that and a cyclo-cross machine, head angle a little slacker than normal, higher bottom-bracket, longer wheelbase, a slightly taller head-tube, that sort of thing. In Specialized's case it means transferring a lot of numbers from their Roubaix road bike across to the Diverge; the size 56 stack and reach numbers of 590mm and 387mm are the same for both models, as is the effective top-tube of 565mm and the wheelbase is identical too.
The Diverge head and seat angles are also the same as the Roubaix but the head tube length is shorter, the same as Specialized's racier Tarmac. So it's not some casual heads-up all day cruiser; on the contrary it's quite sprightly and happy to canter about a bit should the need arise. Despite this the Diverge still manages to find clearance for cyclo-cross friendly 35mm tyres should you want to put some on, or room for mudguards over road tyres.
One of the ways they've managed to do this, more specifically at the back is with their SCS design concept. SCS stands for Short Chain Stay and it's Specialized's way of fitting a standard width road disc brake thru axle hub into a rear end that isn't several post-codes long and still juggle a decent chainline, heel clearance and Q-factor on the cranks in the mix. It all fits in nicely and it doesn't feel like you're dragging the rear wheel behind you, unfortunately it means that you're forced into accepting a new 'standard' of rear wheel – hooray – but adapters that come with the bike let you fit a standard quick release road disc wheel in the bike should you wish to swap.
Not that you should. The supplied AXIS 4.0 Disc SCS wheels have taken a hell of a hammering. They've handled roads, gravel tracks, roads that were more like potholed gravel tracks, Strada Bianche and Alpine forest tracks and have come out the other side remarkably unscathed. The only scar's been the rear one requiring the tiniest bit of a tweak to massage it back to true. They're not the lightest wheels you could strap on, and their weight can sometimes be felt on a climb, but for rugged reliability and the sort of use the bike cries out to be used for they get full marks.
They come with Specialized Roubaix Pro 700x25/28mm tyres, which come up a full 28mm on these rims. With 120TPI sidewalls, a folding bead and BlackBelt protection they're good for anything you might want to throw at them. On the road they feel fast enough, a little more sedate than your race rubber and more than happy to keep up with the Sunday ride, but sturdy enough to take a sharp right down the gap in the bushes and embrace what you really probably shouldn't tackle on road bike. You do have to display a certain amount of finesse, though; these aren't a cyclo-cross tyre. These have done a goodly amount of 'stuff' and they're holding up remarkably well with little in the way of wear, holes or nicks.
The bars and stem are Specialized branded again, alloy and unfancy, but they do the job. The bars have a now pretty much omnipresent shallow drop of 125mm and a 70mm short reach keeping drops and controls close for off-road control and on road comfort. The Roubaix bar tape is nicely textured and grippy, although it does soak up rain quite well. Sticking with the comfort brief of the Diverge the tape has gel strips hidden underneath it to keep your palms isolated from buzz and bumps, but it crosses the line between comfy and vague once in a while.
It seems like everyone's got a bike that sits somewhere between an cyclo-cross bike and a road bike at the moment, be it an Adventure Bike, an All Road bike, a Gravel Bike, Beyond Road, Gnarmac weapon or whatever new genre it is they want to call a bicycle that has road DNA but can take in a bit of rough and tumble as well. It didn't take long to work out that the Diverge is great for Dicking About, although we suspect the Specialized marketing department might baulk a little at that, how about 'Hooligan Road'? That sounds more like the Diverge's personality and potential advertising tag line.
On the road, thanks to it's Tarmac-esque low head-tube and Roubaix angles it pretty much feels just like a normal road bike, but more comfortable. Despite being promoted as all all-day endurance bike it's not an easy-going relaxed cruiser, push and it will eagerly push back. And unlike your scrawny road bike you can happily smash the Diverge through potholes and power over crappy roads without any compulsion, or getting beaten to bits. Put some mudguards on, winter bike, done.
It's not a race bike, although with some quicker rubber on you could make a reasonable fist of it, its Roubaix and Tarmac parentage will see to that. It's not a cyclo-cross bike but you can fit cyclo-cross tyres in there and point it off-road. It's not an Adventure Bike or whatever it is you want to call it but you can strap bike-packing bags to it and head towards any horizon. It's not a touring bike but, oh, you get the idea. And, whisper it, its all-day endurance tag makes it a spectacular audax bike. It's rare that a bike can be adapted to so many uses and not be compromised somewhere but somehow the Diverge manages to do it, and do it very well.
You may have figured out that I like the Diverge, but I actually bloody love it. I like my road bikes but I also like my cyclo-cross bikes and I like my mountain bikes, and because of this I often find myself on my road bike bouncing around on inappropriate terrain. The Diverge makes this stupidity a lot easier without your riding jollies being jeopardized by the bike being a tedious slug on the road. A friend who borrowed it said it's the sort of bike that makes you want to move house because it opens up a vast web of riding possibilities. Bit of Flanders, section of Strada Bianche, poxed tarmac, random 'where does that go' moments? Bring it on.