Danger. High Voltage. Specialized invited us to the USA to test out the new Specialized S-Works Diverge 2018. Arguably a major evolution of the previous iteration, this gravel-adventure bike sports a myriad of revolutionary features and exciting updates to its spec and frame and boldly steps forward as the newest benchmark within gravel. So, is there some serious adventure on the cards?

Warning, high voltage!

We could harp on for hours about carbon lay-up, stiffness values, aerodynamics and complex technologies, but we’ll spare you the nitty-gritty and plough onwards with AC/DC’s High Voltage and give you the answers to the 9 most important questions on the new Specialized Diverge.

1. What’s so special about the Diverge 2018?

Let’s not beat about the bush: the Specialized S-Works Diverge 2018 isn’t the first bike with in-built suspension, a dropper seatpost, wide tires, a 1×11 drivetrain or disc brakes. However, team those factors with its off-road-orientated geometry (such as the bottom bracket, now 5 mm lower than the previous model) and you’ve got yourself a veritable do-all weapon.

GRAN FONDO founder Robin Schmitt gets air in the bike park.
Drop it like it’s hot.

2. So what’s the bike best suited to?

We were majorly taken aback that not only did we come out unscathed from a day at a bike park with the Diverge, but more so that the bike actually delivered a stellar performance there. But while this new all-rounder perhaps isn’t the ultimate tool for berms, drops and jumps, it’s fair to say that it’s capable of packing some punches and taking on burly trails without batting much of eyelash – which is exactly what Sagan has previously demonstrated.

When roadies head off-road – with baggy shorts, knobby tires and suspension.

There’s good news for gravel riders with a predilection for tarmac, as the new Diverge is a whippet over the asphalt, which presumably stems back to its decent total weight of 8.50 kg (frame size 56) and revised geometry with its lowered bottom bracket. Yet, divert the Diverge onto gravel tracks or flowing singletrack and you’ll see it really come alive.

Vroooooooom. Sorry, too quick for the camera.

3. How does the bike give you so much confidence?

Way more than just a great frame with certain select components, the Diverge 2018 has an impeccably curated spec that lends it the ultimate performance both on and off the tarmac. This marries with the great geometry to generate an incredibly balanced handling package. Highlights of the spec are as follows:

Specialized Future Shock: With a small shock unit for suspension in the steering tube, the Diverge is able to absorb hits and bumpy gravel tracks with ease, making for a super comfortable ride. We’re also major fans of the riser bars on the Diverge!
These hydraulic Shimano RS805 disc brakes deliver great power and proved easy to modulate. Thanks to their direct mount, the calipers are stylishly integrated with the fork.
Shimano XTR Di2 derailleur with an 11–40t cassette. Shadow+ is responsible for keeping the chain securely on those lovely Easton cranks with a 42t chainring.
Not only do the 700 x 38 mm Specialized Trigger Pro tires come tubeless ready on these Roval CLX 32 Disc Carbon wheels, the tires also have great side lugs and an aggressive profile so there’s little shortage of grip when off-road.
The Specialized Command Post XCP results in major confidence-inspiring assets, seeing this 35 mm of drop making a significant difference on the descents.

4. Why would you need a dropper post on a road bike?

While it might sound like a nominal height difference, the actual act of pushing the button to drop the seatpost by just 35 mm makes a major difference by granting far more space on the bike. This option is invaluable on technical descents as it lets you shift your weight around more freely to maintain balance on the bike. Even on gravel descents, this 35 mm of adjustment helps your stability significantly. Plus, it’s also easier to get on and off the bike when the saddle is lower.

High …
… Dropped.
The dropper post is controlled by this remote control on the underside of the bars.

5. Why don’t you need a saddle bag on the S-Works Diverge?

Be gone, saddle bags! Borrowing from Specialized’s popular SWAT box, the new Diverge has a Road SWAT Kit down in the ‘black box’ near the bottom bracket with room for a CO2 cartridge, spare tube, multitool and tire levers. While it’s strategically located to optimize weight and benefit the bike’s handling, Specialized recognized the box might not be to everyone’s taste so there’s also the option of removing the box without a trace. It’s kept incredibly firmly in place so there’s no likelihood of it turning into a rider-driven boombox.

The Road SWAT Kit offers space for…
…CO2 cartridge, spare tube, multitool and tire levers.

6. What tires can I ride on the Specialized Diverge?

The Diverge 2018 can take tires up to 700 x 42 mm, and there’ll still be enough tire clearance in muddy conditions depending on your wheel choice. If the conditions are really tough, then the bike can also be ridden with 650b x 47 mm mountain bike tires too.

7. What are the key stats for the Specialized Diverge 2018 – weight, geometry, build specs?

Our test bike was a size 56 and weighed in at 8.50 kg. Them women’s and men’s models share the same frame but sport different componentry. The sizes range from 44 to 61 cm, but not all models will be available across all the sizes. Pricing and availability of the bike models also depend on the country e.g. the S-Works model we tested is not only available as frameset in Germany. So please check specialized.com.

S-Works frameset
Specialized Diverge Men Expert
Specialized Diverge WMN COMP
Specialized Diverge Men Comp
Specialized Diverge MEN E5 Comp
Specialized Diverge WMN E5 Elite
Specialized Diverge MEN E5 Elite
Specialized Diverge MEN E5 SPORT

8. What’s the difference between the Diverge and the Specialized Roubaix?

The new Diverge is defiantly more off-road. Its intentions are visible in the geometry and the tire clearance as well as all of the features we’ve touched upon above. Unlike the Roubaix, we’re yet to encounter any issues with the Future Shock suspension, which isn’t necessarily due to the progressively tuned suspension on the Diverge, but simply related to how you end up riding the bike. It’s a bike that’s primed for cruising, letting you really indulge in the gravel sections. Unlike the Roubaix, the Diverge is far less likely to encounter a sprint around the Hell of the North’s velodrome or high-speed cornering on tarmac hairpins, which means that we aren’t particularly fazed by the lack of dampening and adjustment for rebound or compression on the Future Shock.

9. Is there any else worth mentioning about the Specialized S-Works Diverge 2018?

It’s damn good-looking. Sounds a bit frothy, but once you take a closer look at the Diverge’s paintjob Satin Gloss Oil / Light Silver, then we reckon you’ll be as smitten as us.

Conclusion: First Ride Review Specialized S-Works Diverge 2018

The new Diverge marks a bold but fairly logical step for Specialized. They’ve adopted clever detailing, woven in innovative features and curated a well-considered spec for its purpose to create a bike with great handling and a top-notch performance. If anything, this bike is the biggest statement to date about the blurring of boundaries between road and mountain biking. We’re stoked for more test rides and adventures with this bike!

More information: specialized.com

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Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: Robin Schmitt, Joe Buck, Balz Weber