The Specialized Women’s Diverge E5 Comp is a bike that will turn its hand to most types of riding and one that genuinely hits the do-it-all landmark - it's pretty much identical to the men’s bike too. As a jack of all trades, we liked this versatile gravel and adventure bike but it needs tougher tyres before you take it too far off the beaten track.
This bike is the women’s version of the E5 Comp model with the only the paint job and some small spec tweaks marking the difference between the male and female bikes. This is the top spec women’s bike from the Diverge range for the UK and costs £1,500. The 'E5' in the title means this is an aluminium bike with a carbon fork, so if you are after a full carbon frame then you’ll have to look at the similarly specced women’s Diverge Sport with a Shimano 105 groupset.
Spesh design the Diverge around Open Road geometry which is, they say “an adapted road version of modern trail bike geometry made to provide playful handling and predictable steering for gravel bikes”. Compared to some gravel bikes, the Diverge sports more conservative numbers, a 1004mm wheelbase and a 71-degree head angle on this 52cm model.
The Sonder Camino we tested earlier this year has a wheelbase of 1020mm on a 52cm frame but, admittedly they did find the extra 16mm mostly in longer chainstays. The Diverge isn't bucking any gravel bike trends and whilst it's certainly not going long low and slack in trail bike terms, it is about bang on for gravel bikes albeit not as long as some, stemming from the short chainstays on the Diverge - 419mm on this 52cm bike.
Spesh say the bottom bracket is over 5mm lower than last year, the head angle is slacker and the chainstays are shorter for better performance in the dirt. Rather than an adapted trail bike, the Diverge is an adapted endurance road bike with geometry much closer to the women’s Ruby and the Crux cyclocross bike. The Diverge gets a lower bottom bracket than the Crux but an effective top tube more in line with the Ruby giving a more upright seated riding position.
In terms of gearing, the women’s Diverge E5 Comp gets a Shimano 105, 11-speed drivetrain (11-34t) with 48/32t chainrings, a set up I found a little steep for some pinches. As you might expect, the 2x set up gets a little upset by lots of mud but in the most part, it’s a reliable drivetrain that shifts smoothly.
Given the fact that this bike is designed to be used both on and off road the gearing is a good option ensuring you have just about enough gears off road and plenty on road too when the speeds get up. It’s worth noting that my colleague, David, reviewed the lower spec Diverge E5 Sport with an 11-32t cassette and found that gearing perfectly reasonable.
Stopping comes by way of Tektro Spyre mechanical disc brakes which is a little disappointing given the £1,500 you just dropped on this bike. The brakes fitted are either ‘on or off’, whilst they do haul you up but there is very little feel. There are other brands that are better value for money and spec hydraulic disc brakes but of course, buy one of those and you miss out on not only the gorgeous looks of the Diverge but also the Future Shock tech, the frame quality from Spesh and the customer service of buying from a shop.
Other hydraulic disc braked bikes such as the Kinesis G2, Sonder Camino AL Apex 1 and the Vitus Substance V2 are also 1 x specific making them less suitable for road rides and commuting where you might find you run out of gears or experiencing ‘gaps’ in the gearing messing with your cadence.
The Spesh Diverge comes with Axis Elite Disc wheels paired with some roadie Espoir Sport tyres. The bike has more room for wider tyres too, our test bike came with a 700c x 35mm tyre but you can also fit up to 42mm tyres on 700c rims or 650B x 45mm tyres.
After taking the Diverge off-road for the first time with the Espoir Sport tyres I quickly swapped them out for something knobblier. A pair of Schwalbe G-One Bite's in 40mm did the trick to gain grip on the dirt whilst still making relatively light work of the road.
The smooth Espoir Sports will be a great partner for commuting with the 30c width cushioning you somewhat from our quality British roads; it's just the lack of knobs that make them best suited to hardpack only fire road diversions.
There are the usual mounts for water bottles (three in total), both front and rear mudguards and racks, as you’d expect on a bike with these long mileage intentions or commuting purposes.
Lastly, there is a female-specific Myth saddle and a full Specialized finishing kit which makes for a well set up cockpit that looks neat too. Ladies get a narrower handlebar width, size specific cranks and different stem lengths relative to the riders and size of bike. For example, this 52cm model has a 400mm wide bar where the equivalently specced men's bike gets a 420mm wide bar.
One of the really exciting things about this Diverge is the inclusion of the Future Shock – a suspension system inside the fork steerer. A cartridge inside the fork steerer houses a progressive coil spring with 20mm of travel to take care of front end damping duties. This is specced on this model and above but can’t be retrofitted to cheaper models as the top tube shape differs slightly to accommodate it.
The Future Shock is borrowed from the Roubaix and Ruby road endurance bikes and the general goal is to isolate handlebars and hands from the bumps and vibration of the track/road/trail. The Diverge bikes get a more progressive spring than fitted in the road bikes to help it handle bigger impacts without ‘bottoming out’, to coin a mountain bike term.
On fire roads the Future Shock goes some way to smooth out vibrations and takes the sting out of smaller holes and bumps, you’ll still notice them but the feedback is less severe meaning you can maintain a direct path and traction more easily. The spring doesn’t dive either under braking or when riding out of the saddle.
In fact, the only time it is overwhelmed is when rammed into a deep hole or steeply sided puddle and then there’s an audible clunk as the spring is completely compressed. That said, impacts that big aren’t designed to be dealt with by the Future Shock; it’s there to smooth the ride and lessen fatigue, which it does well. The bike comes with three different springs too so you can choose one based on your weight and riding style.
Is it worth it? It’s certainly not a necessity but it’s well worth choosing the Spesh over another similar specced bike to get the extra arm saving squish, especially if you have a particularly big adventure in mind.
The Diverge has been a very handy partner in crime over the last few months, its been a reliable and comfortable bike with which to explore newfound gravel tracks around the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley. It’s an accomplished commuter too; the alloy frame isn’t glaringly harsh to ride and it’s pretty efficient too, weighing 9.5kg (20.9lbs). The carbon fork up front helps curb the weight somewhat whilst also keeping the front end stiff for precise cornering.
Take the Diverge off road and it will spin out for miles on gravel, it climbs well and it is well mannered on the descents too. If you are used to riding mountain bikes then the 71-degree head angle, short chainstays and short wheelbase is going to be a bit of a surprise but get down on drops and the Diverge is a capable descender in gravel terms, especially with the confidence given by an upgrade to some wider tyres. Those wider tyres also pay dividends too when taking the bike onto sloppier ground where the Diverge is fun to take out of its depth and play on the singletrack. It won’t be the fastest you’ve ever ridden off road but it’ll be a barrel full of laughs where the Future Shock will help cushion you from smaller impacts making the ride that much more predictable.
In summary, the Diverge E5 Comp is a multitalented bike, if you are looking for something that you can commute on in the week and take bike packing or gravel riding at the weekend then this bike could be right up your street, albeit with a change of tyres for the latter. It’s not the best value bike but it is one that is thoughtfully specced to adapt to both plentiful road riding with added gravel and you do get the added comfort from the Future Shock tech.
If it were my money and adventure was high on my list of priorities then the Diverge in this spec isn't the ideal partner, the 2x drivetrain will get clogged in the mud, the brakes are lacking feel and it's hard to balance these shortcomings against the benefits of the Future Shock. I'd be tempted to splash £500 more and get the hydraulic disc brakes and the carbon frame of the Women's Diverge (£2,000) then upgrade to a 1x drivetrain in time to replace the 10spd Tiagra of that bike.
This Diverge E5 Comp makes sense If I were going to spend a majority of my time on the road and if I were to commute on it daily on rougher roads and tarmac, then it'd be a great teammate. The 2x drivetrain would keep me spinning along and the brakes would do their job adequately, plus there's added comfort of the Future Shock for when you do adventure off the beaten track.
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