You're not here to read about drop-bar bikes, I know, but things are getting a bit murky over at Specialized with the debut of their new Diverge gravel range that includes two longer and slacker EVO models, both sold with a flat handlebar. And a dropper post. And room for 27.5" x 2.1" rubber. And basically the same head angle as their 2018 Epic mountain bike. The Diverge EVOs even have front suspension of sorts.
You can get the deep dive on the curly-bar models
from Dave Everett on CyclingTips, but we'll stick to the two EVO grountain bikes here. And I promise I'll never use that word again.
Diverge EVO Details
• Intended use: ???
• Wheel size: 700c
• Compatible w/ 27.5" x 2.1" wheels, tires
• Future Shock w/ 20mm travel
• Aluminum frame
• Dropper post w/ 50mm travel
• Head angle: 70-degrees
• Sizes: Sm, med, lrg
• More info: www.specialized.com
The E5 Expert EVO sells for $2,600 USD, while the Comp EVO version costs $1,600. Both come with an X-Fusion Manic dropper post with 50mm of travel, but you'll find Magura MT4 brakes, a 12-speed Shimano XT drivetrain with carbon cranks from Praxis, DT Swiss G540 rims on the Expert model.
The Comp gets hydraulic disc brakes from Tektro and an 11-speed SRAM NX drivetrain.
Both Diverge EVO bikes are assembled around the same aluminum EVO frame that has a 70-degree head angle (one-degree slacker than the non-EVO version) and a much longer reach combined with a relatively short stem. The size-large flat-bar EVO gets a 440mm reach and 80mm stem combo, whereas the size-58 drop-bar Diverge sees a 401mm reach and 110mm stem. The idea with the EVO geometry is, of course, to keep the roomy cockpit while pushing the front wheel farther out in front of the rider, just like we've seen mountain bikes doing for many years now. That should make them more fun than some of us might expect, and Specialized even uses the phrase, ''... sending technical singletrack...
'' on their website. Their words, not mine.
Single-ring drivetrains aren't nearly as ubiquitous in gravel, a world where you might be doing 50mph down an old logging road one minute and then going 1mph up an old singletrack the next, but that's what you'll find on the Expert and Comp EVOs; they're both 1x-only frames. And while there's room for 27.5" x 2.1" rubber, a set of 700x x 42mm tires come stock. They also skip the handy SWAT hole in the downtube that the carbon fiber, non-EVO Diverge bikes get, but you will find front suspension on both. Kinda.
Specialized's Future Shock 1.5 is half-hidden inside the EVO's headtube, with the proprietary stem moving up and down by 20mm to suspend the rider rather than the bike.
No, it's not intended to mimic the action of a proper fork, but rather improve comfort while keeping the look sleek and without adding too much weight. I realize that it sounds like I'm describing a suspension stem, and it sort of is a suspension stem, even if the folks as Specialized probably don't see it that way. That's also selling the Future Shock a bit short, I think.
''The Future Shock is designed for road riding, not off-road trails,
'' Specialized says, ''so the system needs to be incredibly active.
'' Inside, you'll find a coil spring (enduro ready!) instead of some squishy bumper, but not the external adjustability of the newer Future Shock 2.0 that's used on the pricier drop-bar bikes. If a change is needed, riders can swap out the spring to stiffen or soften the action.
So, what the heck are these Diverge EVO things: Are they just high-end hybrids with better geometry to shred the bike paths? Five-year-old mountain bikes with not enough tire clearance? Or something you'd want to take on a proper mixed-terrain adventure? At least we're not short of options these days.