Gear Review: 2018 Specialized S-Works Diverge
A full carbon, adventure-ready bicycle that's a dream on pavement and a beast off it
Just over a year ago we had our first taste of “adventure biking” with Specialized, care of North Carolina and the all-terrain-ready Sequoia. It was a real eye opener. From then on all we’ve wanted to do is ride drop-bar bikes off-road. Luckily, Specialized is doubling down on the adventure category, and recently released an all-new iteration on the bike that launched their category to begin with, the Diverge.
The all-new Diverge is very capable on pavement, and a beast off it. It’s truly a go-anywhere, adventure-ready bike with the sleek design of a road bike and the variable terrain lust of a cyclocross bike, with the addition of fender, rack, and bottle cage mounts throughout. And now, with the all-new 2018 model available, it features tire clearance for both 700x42mm and 650bx47mm tires, an innovative dampening Future Shock for an even smoother ride on rough terrain, frame weights that drop below 900 grams (that’s sub 2 lbs), and an updated, all-terrain specific geometry with a lower bottom bracket, slacker head tube, and shorter chainstays.
For some insane reason known only to the innovation and performance driven designers and engineers behind the exalted brand, the Diverge is available in 13 (!) spec variations, from the $9000 FACT 11r carbon S-Works model all the way down to entry level aluminum framed A1, which will still run you $900. We were lucky enough to be on the top-of-the-line, expensive-as-a-used-car, dream-fulfilling S-Works. And boy if we could afford it, you best believe this would be in our stable in a heartbeat.
One of the most interesting updates to the higher end Diverge models is the addition of an off-road specific Future Shock to the head tube—a feature Specialized introduced to their top end road bikes some time ago. The integrated progressive spring absorbs bumps in the terrain, and improves handling while cornering. It’s a subtle feature that you essentially don’t notice because it works so surprisingly well.
The dropper post was another feature we grew to love. This little trigger-activated device is a mainstay in downhill mountain biking, and does exactly what the name implies—it drops your seat height so you can lower your center of gravity and position your weight over the rear tire during steep and difficult descents. It’s one of those “you didn’t know you needed it till you used it” sort of things.
Another cool addition to the top end models is the integration of a repair kit. The Road SWAT kit, as it were, mounts just above the BB at the confluence of the down and seat tube, and holds a spare tube, CO2, CO2 head, valve extender, and mini tool. You can also stash some cash or keys in there if you want. Think of it as a seat bag, but better.
Of course the S-Works comes equipped with all the goodies from Shimano Di2 derailleur and shifters and hydraulic-disc brakes to an Easton carbon crankset and featherweight Disc wheels with ceramic ball bearings. But we won’t bore you with more detail than that (dig in here, if you want).
Instead, we’ll simply wrap up with this: Previously we stated that if you could only own one bicycle, it should be the Sequoia. Now, after riding some 65 miles of tarmac, gravel, dirt, and tight singletrack, we’re gonna have to swap in the Diverge to end that statement.