Specialized Diverge Expert E5 Evo review: Fun, not so fast, with flat bars



Highlights of history

  • What it is:A flat bar gravel bike that is actually designed for flat bars.
  • Frame characteristics:E5 aluminum frame with carbon fork, Future Shock 2 handlebar suspension, threaded bottom bracket.
  • Weight: 10.31 kg (22.73 lbs), medium size (56 cm), without pedals and accessories.
  • Price: US $ 2,600 / AU $ 4,500 / £ 2,600 / € 3,500.
  • Tops :Incredibly fun and inspiring manipulation on a versatile flame platform.
  • Low :Slower than most gravel bikes.

The Specialized Diverge E5 Evo is a gravel bike that doesn’t really want to be a gravel bike. He wants, desperately enough, to be a mountain biker. She stretched, widened, flattened, leaned on her back, leaned back to be just what she is. Who is a gravel bike.

It’s fun, the same way mountain bikes are fun. It’s confidence-inspiring and comfortable, and will be limited primarily by your skills, not its own attributes. But it still exists in an odd crossover space between two different types of driving, which means it won’t work for most people. For some runners, however, it will be about perfect.

Is that your father’s hybrid?

Specialized Diverge Evo frame

The Diverge Evo is built on an aluminum frame with a carbon fork and uses Specialized’s Future Shock 2 head tube suspension system. It is not a “real” suspension, although there is a steel coil spring and an oil damper inside. Instead, it just helps insulate your hands from the frame, not your frame from the ground. That makes you believe it improves traction, although to be fair it’s hard to analyze how much of the improved off-road grip the Future Shock was and what the super knotty front tire was.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. It works wonderfully, and I think it’s the best app for the Future Shock concept, which generally seems unnecessary on the road. This makes the front of the Diverge considerably more comfortable than other gravel bikes.

The aluminum frame is very stiff and can accommodate a 700 × 47mm (or 650 × 54mm) tire.

The carbon fork has extra brackets on both sides for more bottle cages or a burrito rack or whatever you want. Small rack and fender mounts adorn the fork and stays as well.

The bottom bracket shell is threaded, cable routing is internal through the frame (but not the bar or stem), and there is nowhere to attach a front derailleur.

The shaping of aluminum has come a long way.


Evo, in specialized language, translates to “more fun than the original version”. Part of it comes down to part specification changes, but most of it comes from small but significant geometry changes. Evo versions tend to be tuned for rougher, rougher and faster descents, and the Diverge Evo is no different.

In this case, that means extending the reach by about 30mm on most sizes, shortening the stem by a similar amount, then lowering the angle of the head tube to 70 °. Depending on the size, this is a drop of 0.5 to 1.75 ° compared to the Diverge non Evo. It is considerable. It’s softer than my cross country bikes in the early 2000s.

The front adjustments come straight from the mountain biking world, which has been steadily expanding reach figures and loosening head tube angles for a decade, to the point that the Grim Donut created by our Pinkbike colleagues don’t even look this crazy more. The result is a bike that places the front wheel farther in front of you while still retaining enough space in the cockpit. It’s a winning formula for off-road driving.

The chainstays are also a bit longer, from 425 to 432mm in all sizes. It also makes the bike a bit more stable.

It’s not necessarily a winning formula on the road or on smooth gravel and dirt. I will come back to this below.

Specialized only offers the Diverge Evo in three sizes, and there is currently no carbon version either. And yes, Specialized really associates the geometry chart with the image of a drop bar bike. Whoops. Photo: Specialized.

Diverge Evo Specialized Construction and Specifications

It would be silly to specify a loose gravel bike with road components, and Specialized didn’t. This is a 1x only with no option for a front derailleur and comes with a Shimano XT 12 speed cassette (our test bike had a 10-51T; Specialized’s datasheet lists a 10-45T), an XT rear derailleur and an XT shifter.

The 40 tooth crankset and front chainring are from Praxis and work very well. No complaints about the drivetrain – it’s a good match for the expected surfaces this bike will see.

The same can be said of the brakes. Magura’s MT4s are a somewhat unusual, but excellent choice. I initially assumed their presence was just Specialized trying to save a few bucks over the Shimano options, but credit is due: someone at Specialized clearly mounted them and identified them as a perfect match for traction. Reduced available with gravel tires.

I have found that strong brakes can overwhelm narrow gravel tires in low traction situations. The modulation is what you want, and the modulation of MT4 is superb. Ten points for this specification decision.

These Magura MT4s are a spec highlight. They are excellent.

The tires themselves, 42mm Specialized Rhombus Pros, are on the gnarled end of the gravel spectrum. They’re slow as hell on the road, but hold onto the dirt well and can even take a little mud.

These tires are wrapped around DT Swiss G540 aluminum rims, which are not lightweight but have a nice internal width of 24mm, which is perfect for 40-47mm gravel tires.

The Diverge Evo also has a dropper post. X-Fusion’s 50mm Manic Dropper is durable (I’ve had one on another bike for a year with no issues) and offers just enough movement to spread the saddle if you become slightly growing [gravel-rowdy, get it? — Ed.]. Another good match for the intended use of the bike.

My only issue with the dropper posts on gravel bikes (beyond weight) is that they don’t flex much. You lose a lot of comfort all day for the rare times you might need a dropper. This is not an exchange that I am personally prepared to make.

The only major change we made to the original specs was the addition of CushCore tire inserts. I have been using CushCore on my hardtail for a while and it opened my eyes completely changing the way I ride this bike. The problem with the Diverge Evo’s progressive geometry is that it makes you go faster through nasty stuff, but the tires can’t keep up. There is a mismatch between the capacity provided by the geometry and the punishing capacity of the tires. The inserts add weight but have a dramatic effect on the Diverge, inspiring confidence through thick tracks without tangibly affecting rolling resistance. It’s a necessary upgrade if you live in a place with rough trails.

A Shimano XT drivetrain does the job. A 10-51 cassette offers a wide range.

The bars. They are flat. Do you want that?

This isn’t really the place to rehash the “should flat bar gravel bikes exist” debate, so let’s continue on with the premise that they should. It’s worth trying to define who will like them, however.

The combination of long, loose MTB-inspired geometry, short stem and wide handlebars means you’re considerably straighter on the Diverge Evo than when sitting on the hoods of drop bar gravel bikes. more traditional. You are also wider your hands are at the ends of a 750mm long bar. Gravel isn’t usually hyper-focused on aerodynamics (although there are a few exceptions), but that straight, wide stance is unmistakably and noticeably slower when trying to go fast on a smooth surface.

Like you do on a mountain bike, you find yourself in these situations by putting your hands near the middle of the bar, near the stem. But the reach at this point is so short that it quickly tires your triceps. It is not sustainable.

The stance is also a bit odd and even slightly flabby out of the saddle, especially uphill. Anyone used to the feel of a mountain bike likely won’t be bothered, but roadies will find the feeling unsettling, as if the bike wants to go off in any direction it chooses.

Unsurprisingly, the flat bars excel off-road. There’s a reason mountain bikers use them (don’t send me pictures of John Tomac, you’re not John Tomac). Flat bars provide better control, safer handling and a more natural hand position on the brakes. All the good stuff off-road.

It is flat.

It was very clear in group testing when every rugged section of the trail saw anyone on a drop bar bike get clogged immediately.

Most importantly, the flat bar makes the Evo fun. That’s the main argument for gravel bikes like this, honestly. You can make some performance arguments, but those pretty quickly turn into “OK, well, just grab a hardtail then”. Because the Evo is basically just a bad mountain bike. But it’s also a super fun bike.

Above all, the geometry tweaks on the Evo really make it work for flat bars. Throwing flat bars on any old drop bar gravel bike results in a cramped cockpit with poor handling. You have to use a longer stem and that brings your weight forward and makes the bike jumpy, negating the benefits of the flat bar to begin with. But a flat bar on a gravel bike designed for flat bars is a revelation.

What is this bike? I still don’t really know. Maybe it’s a ten-year-old mountain bike without a suspension fork, or a fancy hybrid, or a really terrible road bike.

But do you know what it really was? It was the most fun bike in our field test. It was the slowest in a lot of situations, it’s worse in many ways than a cross country hardtail, it’s not even that light. It is deeply confusing. But it was fun. It made me smile. So maybe none of this matters.

More information can be found at www.specialized.com.

Our Field Test group bike tests are by no means paid events, but are always only possible with outside support. CyclingTips would like to thank the following sponsors for this round of the Field Test:

Disclosure: One of the investors in Outside Inc. – the parent company of CyclingTips – is Zone 5 companies, which is not technically owned by Specialized, but Specialized is the “sole sponsor” and is at least partially managed by current and / or former Specialized employees (it’s complicated, and we have no idea how it all works) it works). Zone 5 Ventures has no influence on our editorial coverage at CyclingTips, but the optics are lousy, so we thought you should know that.



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