The Takeaway: Smoother, better handling, and more capable, the new Specialized Diverge is one of the best gravel bikes you can buy

  • Longer and slacker geometry improves stability
  • More tire clearance: now up to 700x47 or 650x53
  • More cargo mounts on all models, some models have in-frame storage.

Price: $1,100 to $10,000; $6,700 as tested (Diverge Carbon Pro)
Weight: 18.9 lb. (54cm)

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Specialized operates on an aggressive product-development schedule. The brand typically updates its premier models every two years or so. A look at its drop-bar line and one bike stood out as older than the rest: the Diverge gravel bike. The brand’s schedule and gravel’s surging popularity ensured that a Diverge was on the horizon. And now it’s here. Updates include revised geometry, more mounts, and many new features, including in-frame storage on many models. And with so many riders turning to gravel, Specialized grew the Diverge to 11 models priced from $1,100 to $10,000. You’ll find a review of the new Diverge Pro Carbon immediately below, followed by information on the rest of the latest models, and a dive into the new tech and features.

—Five Cool Features—
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Bump Smoother

The Future Shock floats the handlebars with 20mm of travel.

Matt Phillips
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More Clearance

The new Diverge has room for bigger tires—up to 700x47 or 650x53.

Matt Phillips
speciliazed diverge
Dial It

Higher-end models get an adjustable Future Shock with lock out.

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Carry More

Mounts on the fork can carry water bottles or cargo.

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Now With Threads

No more press-fit for the Diverge.

Matt Phillips

Ride Impressions

I received the $6,700 Diverge Pro Carbon ahead of today’s launch. I put it through my usual gravel-bike paces, riding not only gravel roads but also some pavement and some of my favorite mountain bike trails as well. I had plenty to compare the new Diverge against: I own a previous generation Diverge and happened to have seven other gravel bikes in for testing when the new Diverge arrived.

Like a lot of the newer gravel bikes I’ve sampled, the new Diverge is more what I’d call mountain bikey than road bikey. It’s a stable and smooth-handling bike.

In one memorable instance, I was hurtling down a loose forest road at quite a clip when I put myself on the wrong side of the road’s crown with a sharp corner fast approaching. I needed to get hard on the brakes and get on the inside of the crown so I could get around the corner without washing off the road. Between the speed, the crown, the corner, and the gravel, the makings of a very bad time were all there but I was able to get myself through the corner with surprisingly little drama. I scrubbed speed, dipped it into a turn and got over the crown without the bike becoming skittery. The Diverge was all the things I’d want it to be in that situation: predictable, accurate, and reassuringly solid-feeling.

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The new Diverge has sharper lines.
Matt Phillips

It’s also an impressively smooth bike with well-balanced comfort. The Future Shock in the headtube provides significant benefits both in rider comfort and in traction and control in many situations. A dial lets you minimize its axial movement on smoother sections of dirt or gravel if you want but, after going back and forth with it for a while, I left it in its softest mode most of the time. The movement when riding out of the saddle was minimal, and why not make your bike as smooth and comfortable as you can?

I do find the Future Shock better at managing single bumps than successive ones. When hitting things like the staccato braking bumps that are common on the dirt roads around me in Colorado, I found the Future Shock quickly overwhelmed and rendered significantly less effective.

Specialized Diverge Pro Carbon

Diverge Pro Carbon

Specialized Diverge Pro Carbon

$19 at Specialized
  • Smooth ride
  • Stable
  • Handles very well on dirt
  • Not as lively on pavement as the previous generation

On the other side of the bike, the rear end’s compliance is very good. In the saddle, the Terra post offered noticeable give—not as much as Canyon’s leaf spring post or Trek’s IsoSpeed decoupler, but not very far off either. And when out of the saddle, the Diverge’s frame offers better compliance than almost all the gravel bikes I’ve recently tested.

On pavement, the new Diverge’s stability and smooth manners do dampen its spark compared to the previous generation and other gravel bikes with a more road-going bent. It’s still a relatively sharp-steering bike, and the stout frame feels crisp when climbing or lifting the pace. It’s a noticeably better gravel bike—smoother, more stable, more capable in tough terrain—but it does lose some of the sharpness that made the last version such an entertaining and versatile bike on pavement as well as dirt.

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The Terra wheels survived rocky singletrack.
Matt Phillips

As should be expected, the build on this $6,700 bike is excellent. The 1x12 SRAM wireless eTap drivetrain shifted crisply and offered a wide 500-percent range with a sub 1:1 low gear for steep climbs, while the 10-42 high gear had me spinning out around 30mph.

The Roval Terra CL wheels survived my singletrack adventures and doinking more than a few rocks unscathed. I came away with mixed feelings on the Pathfinder tires. They roll well on hard surfaces and offered good cornering bite on dirt. But the center ridge that offers that smooth roll doesn’t provide much braking traction on looser surfaces.

Most Specialized bikes come with house-brand components stem to stern. But this model, and the $10,000 S-Works option, are two of the few bikes in Specialized’s line that come with a non-Specialized parts. Here, you get Easton’s EC70 AX carbon bar with 16-degree flare, because, at this time, Specialized doesn’t have a flared carbon gravel bar. It’s a good model for this bike—it resists twisting on steep climbs, and the wide drops provide a secure stance for navigating tricky terrain.

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In-frame storage for a repair kit and more.
Matt Phillips

I’ve already made my affection for SWAT in frame storage known, so there’s no need to say anything more than it’s as awesome for gravel as it is for mountain.

With new geometry and features that suit the evolution of gravel riding, the new Specialized Diverge earns a place among the best gravel bikes you can buy.

2021 Diverge Models

The new Diverge drops with an army of models. There are 11 of them, priced from $1,100 (Diverge E5) to $10,000 (Diverge S-Works). Nine of the models have drop bars, and there are two flat bar EVO models priced at $1,600 and $2,600. You can scroll through all the models in the gallery below.

specialized diverge e5

Revised Frame Geometry

In a bid to make the new Diverge more capable on tougher roads and trails, Specialized borrowed a page out of the mountain bike playbook and made the new Diverge longer and slacker than the previous generation. A new 56cm Diverge has a 38mm longer wheelbase and a 13mm longer reach than the previous model. Carbon models get a slight chainstay-length increase to 425mm (from 421mm), while aluminum models have 432mm stays to improve tire clearance.

The head tube angle is now about a degree slacker and is paired to a longer-offset fork, which keeps the trail numbers about the same as the previous generation (56cm size: old Diverge, 58mm trail; new Diverge, 57mm trail).

Because of the longer reach, Specialized intends riders to use shorter stems. This can offset the way larger tires can slow handling and make steering more lively. Combined with the somewhat short (for a gravel bike) trail, the shorter stem helps the Diverge feel more nimble on the road.

The bottom bracket elevates slightly on the new Diverge. It’s 5mm taller now, but still quite low, with an 80mm drop. This change improves the Diverge’s performance with 650b wheels (which drop the bike compared to 700c wheels.) The previous Diverge would get crazy low if you dared run 650b wheels.

More Tire Clearance

The new Diverge gets a boost in tire clearance so all models can now, officially, run up to 47mm tires in 700c, and 53mm (2.1 inches) in 650b (previous clearance was 700x42mm or 650b x 47mm). That’s with 6mm clearance in all directions, so there’s room for bigger tires if you dare.

With fenders, clearance drops to 42mm in 700c and 47 in 650b. You can go smaller, of course, though Specialized recommends you avoid anything smaller than 700x28.

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The Pathfinder tires roll fast and smooth on hard surfaces.
Matt Phillips

To boost that clearance, Specialized lengthened the chainstays 4mm and used a solid and flat plate of carbon in the drive-side chainstay. Aluminum models get a special chainstay forging to improve clearance, but, “We couldn’t quite get the same wizardry out of alloy as we could out of carbon,” said Stewart Thompson, Specialized road and gravel category leader. So to get the same tire clearance as the carbon models, aluminum frames need longer stays, which is why they have 432mm stays, and carbon models get tidy 425mm stays.

Smoothing Out the Bumps

Most Diverge models get Specialized’s Future Shock suspension system, which suspends the handlebars with 20mm of travel. The S-Works, Pro, Expert, and Comp Carbon models get the Future Shock 2.0, which has hydraulic damping, and a dial which lets the rider adjust the firmness of the system on the fly. The Diverge Comp E5, Diverge Carbon, Diverge Sport Carbon, and both Diverge EVO models use the more straightforward Future Shock 1.5, which does not offer hydraulic damping or the dial adjustment. The two least expensive Diverge models—the Diverge E5, and the Diverge E5 Elite, do not get Future Shock.

A gravel bike gets much of its comfort from big floaty tires, and the Diverge is no different. Most models have the Future Shock for additional comfort, and Specialized also built some smoothing features into the frames.

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The Terra seatpost smooths bumps effectively.
Matt Phillips

“On the frame side, our dropped seat stays are a big help, and the chainstays are just a few millimeters longer as well,” said Thompson. “As a whole, feedback from riders has been that the new bike is smoother and more compliant in the rear end than the last one.”

Two models—the Expert Carbon and Pro Carbon—get a new Roval Terra carbon post designed to provide additional seated compliance. The Terra post is better looking, lighter, and comes in more offsets (zero and 20mm) than the funky looking CG-R (AKA Cobble-Gobbler) post it replaces.

In-Frame Storage

Starting at the $3,800 Comp Carbon, Diverge models get SWAT in-frame storage. Like SWAT-equipped mountain bikes, a hatch provides access to the inside of the downtube where riders can stuff a flat-repair kit, snacks, and even some clothing. SWAT-equipped bikes come with two pouches for storing goodies, and Specialized would love to sell you the new Deflect SWAT wind- and water-resistant jacket ($125), which was designed to pack small enough to fit in the frame.

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Storage bags keep contents organized inside the downtube.
Matt Phillips

More Mounts

As well as adding in-frame storage to some models, all new Diverge models get additional mounts. There’s a bento-box mount on the top tube, and a mount on each fork leg to fit a water bottle or cargo cage. The new Diverge can also take a front rack, rear rack, fenders, and there’s a mount under the down tube for an additional bottle or gear.

Carbon Frame Weights

Specialized added a whole lot to the new Diverge without adding a lot of weight. The new 11r frame (S-Works) weighs about 995 grams according to Specialized, about 75 grams more than the old S-Works frame. But the new 9r frame (used by the Pro Carbon, Expert Carbon, and Comp Carbon models) weighs 1,095g; that’s about 55 grams lighter than the previous generation. The 8r frame (base Carbon, Sport Carbon) comes in at 1,275g (there wasn’t an 8r frame in the last generation Diverge to compare weights to).

EVO Models

In addition to the drop-bar Diverge, there are two flat-bar EVO models. You can think of the EVO models as an aggressive gravel bike or an ultra-light mountain bike. These models have different geometry than the drop bar Diverge—more relaxed steering angles, lower bottom bracket, and longer reach and wheelbase—and knobbier Rhombus tires. The EVOs only come in small, medium, and large sizes, but otherwise get the same feature set—including 20mm-travel Future Shock—as the other Diverge aluminum models.

diverge evo geometry
Diverge EVO geometry
Headshot of Matt Phillips
Matt Phillips
Senior Test Editor, Bicycling

A gear editor for his entire career, Matt’s journey to becoming a leading cycling tech journalist started in 1995, and he’s been at it ever since; likely riding more cycling equipment than anyone on the planet along the way. Previous to his time with Bicycling, Matt worked in bike shops as a service manager, mechanic, and sales person. Based in Durango, Colorado, he enjoys riding and testing any and all kinds of bikes, so you’re just as likely to see him on a road bike dressed in Lycra at a Tuesday night worlds ride as you are to find him dressed in a full face helmet and pads riding a bike park on an enduro bike. He doesn’t race often, but he’s game for anything; having entered road races, criteriums, trials competitions, dual slalom, downhill races, enduros, stage races, short track, time trials, and gran fondos. Next up on his to-do list: a multi day bikepacking trip, and an e-bike race.