The Specialized S-Works Diverge is probably one of the most exclusive gravel bikes on the market. As an innovator, it offers a number of technological features that you won’t find on any other bike. But does that automatically make the Diverge the best gravel all-rounder of 2021? Read on to find out.
A quick overview of this group test: The best gravel bike 2021
Developed as the perfect vehicle to escape the stress of everyday life, Specialized rely on a proprietary suspension system for their S-Works Diverge to generate added comfort and speed. Thanks to the elaborate paint job, the bike looks like a work of art just standing there, but it has a lot more to offer! The Diverge relies on Specialized’s Future Shock 2.0 system, which is integrated into the steerer tube, suspending the entire cockpit of the gravel bike. With up to 20 mm travel, the system’s damping can be adjusted with a flick of the hand by rotating the dial on the top cap of the stem. The Diverge offers clearances for up to 700 x 47C (700 x 42C with mudguards) or 650 x 54B tires. This still leaves 6 mm on both sides of the tires for mud. Thanks to the longer front frame triangle compared to the previous model, you’re unlikely to encounter any toe overlap, even on the smallest frame size! Instead of a hollow tube, the drive side chainstay around the area of the tire is solid. This trick allowed the engineers to keep short 425 mm chainstays while still offering plenty of tire clearance, all without having to drop the chainstay like the OPEN WI.DE. or 3T Exploro.
Specialized S-Works Diverge
Seatpost X-Fusion Manic Dropper 0 mm
Brakes SRAM RED 160/160 mm
Drivetrain SRAM RED eTap AXS mit Eagle AXS XX1-Schaltwerk 42 (10–50)
Stem S-Works Future Stem 100 mm
Handlebar Easton EC70 AX 420 mm
Wheelset Roval Terra CLX
Tires Specialized Pathfinder Pro 38C
Size 49 52 54 56 58 61
Weight 8,66 kg
Future Shock 2.0 suspension with damper in the steerer tube
SWAT box in the down tube
Bolting points for mudguards and luggage racks
Bolt-on points on top of the top tube, on the underside of the down tube and on the fork; 2 per side
|Seat tube||390 mm||430 mm||470 mm||500 mm||530 mm||560 mm|
|Top tube||529 mm||542 mm||558 mm||573 mm||589 mm||605 mm|
|Head tube||99 mm||104 mm||116 mm||133 mm||159 mm||185 mm|
|Chainstays||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm|
|BB Drop||80 mm||80 mm||80 mm||80 mm||80 mm||80 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,019 mm||1,026 mm||1,032 mm||1,042 mm||1,059 mm||1,076 mm|
|Reach||365 mm||374 mm||383 mm||392 mm||401 mm||410 mm|
|Stack||571 mm||577 mm||592 mm||610 mm||634 mm||659 mm|
If there is such a thing as warp speed gravel, then the S-Works Diverge is ready for it.
Integrated into the downtube, the convenient SWAT box offers storage space for smaller items such as a light jacket, spare tube, mini tool, and a CO2 cartridge. The SWAT box is located under the bottle cage in the down tube and, with a little practice, can even be opened and closed while riding. Stowing things here also makes far more sense than a conventional saddlebag in terms of weight distribution. The spec of the € 10,999 gravel bike is consistently geared towards performance, featuring a 1×12 SRAM RED eTap AXS drivetrain combining an Eagle AXS XX1 rear derailleur, 42 t chainring and 10–50 t cassette. The 50 mm X-Fusion Manic dropper post gets the saddle just far enough out of the line of fire in tricky situations. You also get a pair of 700 x 38C Specialized Pathfinder Pro tires fitted on the Roval Terra CLX wheelset. In size 56, our test bike weighs 8.66 kg.
Lively, agile, direct, precise and yet sufficiently stable on the straights. This is how our test riders unanimously describe the excellently balanced, road bike like handling of the Diverge. Regardless of whether you’re in winding terrain or going through an open high-speed corner, the S-Works responds to rider input with razor-sharp precision and directness, on asphalt and gravel alike.
While this allows experienced gravel fans to play with the terrain, beginners are likely to be overwhelmed, especially when riding downhill as the bike does not forgive any major errors, doing exactly what the rider tells it to. The bike’s direct character is echoed in its light-footed and quick acceleration. The Diverge just seems to want to go, excelling on flat terrain and in the mountains with a very high level of efficiency. The only factors that might limit the speed of this gravel bike are the grip of the tires in very loose terrain or the rider’s skills. The Future Shock 2.0 system offers lots of comfort. However, due to the dropper seat post, the compliance of the rear can’t quite match the front. While there is an imbalance in comfort, it’s nowhere near as pronounced as you might assume. It is impressive how well the rear triangle absorbs impacts without any obvious special damping features. The only real niggle is that the dropper post remote kept coming into contact with our testers’ thumbs while riding, especially as the question of whether you really need one on such a sporty bike will be very personal. The Diverge is more than capable of instilling the rider with confidence even without the dropper post.
Tuning-tip: those who want the best in gravel race performance can save the weight of the dropper seat post and replace it with a conventional one. Otherwise, the build is great as it is.
The Specialized S-Works hits the sweet spot between asphalt and off-road performance. Its liveliness and acceleration remain unmatched in this group test, making it perfect for all ambitious and experienced gravel racers. While the handling is superbly balanced, beginners and more relaxed riders will be overwhelmed by its razor-sharp precision and direct response. Ultimately, it is the more good-natured handling of the OPEN WI.DE. that takes the victory from the S-Works Diverge.
- quick acceleration and very high efficiency
- balanced handling
- all-round capabilities
- storage box in the down tube
- maximum fun factor for experts
- direct and precise handling can overwhelm/tire out beginners
- positioning of the dropper remote
Not sure which gravel bike you should buy? This guide will help you for sure: gravel bike buyers guide.
You wonder what tires to put on your gravel machine? We recently tested the best gravel tires against each other in our gravel tire group test.
More information here: specialized.com
Get an overview of this group test: The best gravel-bike 2021 – 13 models on review
All bikes on review: 3T Exploro Race EKAR 1X13 (Click for review) | ARC8 Eero (Click for review) | BMC URS 01 ONE (Click for review) | Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 (Click for review) | Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap (Click for review) | Fustle Causeway GRX600 (Click for review) | OPEN WI.DE. (Click for review) | Ridley Kanzo Fast (Click for review) | Ritte Satyr (Click for review) | ROSE BACKROAD FORCE ETAP AXS LIMITED (Click for review) | ROSE BACKROAD AL GRX RX600 1X11 (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Diverge | Trek Checkpoint (Click for review)
No, it’s not about perfect race tracks, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along high-speed passages need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret “Smooth tarmac” bikes as follows: Hard efforts at high speeds with a maximum efficient bike on a consistently well-paved road. Effort-joy ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
… also known as bike riding. Broken-up roads in the hinterland, deadlocked gravel roads, loose surfaces – sometimes muddy, sometimes bone-dry. For this, it takes bikes with super all-round, handling and wearing qualities uphill and downhill. Effort-joy ratio: 50:50↩
If you want to use your bike almost every day, you usually do not need an extremely tuned racing machine. Solid components, which are able to cope with the rigours of continuous usage in any kind of weather, are part of the basic equipment. At the same time, the bike should have practicable details: integrated fenders/assembly options, luggage racks/attachment points and a light system or at least the option of installing bike lights. The position on the bike should be rather relaxed, the overall comfort high, so that the Afterwork Ride becomes a cure and not a curse. Effort-joy ratio: 30:70↩
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Words: Photos: Valentin Rühl