Review: Specialized Women’s Diverge E5 Comp

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It’s all in the name: Diverge: ‘(of a road, route, or line) separate from another route and go in a different direction’. A bike built for all conditions, for gravel, for dirt, for asphalt, for light touring or commuting but most of all for adventure. Our Women’s Journalist, Gemma Mollenhauer had the chance to test ride the Women’s Diverge E5 Comp on the iconic Dirty 130 ride at the Gears & Beers Festival held in Wagga Wagga.

Described as an ‘urban tribute to the European cobble classics’, the Gears & Beers Dirty 130 ride played host to over 40km worth of unsealed roads, coupled with 90km of asphalt, taking riders through the rural hills and country roads of Wagga Wagga. Sure to be a beautiful, yet somewhat harsh ride where dry conditions were bound to test the patience of more experienced riders, and wanna-be mechanics alike. I was prepared for the worst. Three spare tubes, one spare tyre, two CO2 cannisters, one multi-tool and my best “please help me face” all set and ready to go.

The first dirt section was carnage. Flat tyres, left, right and center. People sprawled on the sides of the road trying to fix their flat as quickly as possible so as to find a bunch to ride with for the remaining 90km. It didn’t improve from there. Hundreds of flat tyres were to be repaired that day, thousands of curse words and timid “hey wait up’s” along with a couple of beers to wash down the memory and multiple prayers to the ‘Cycling Gods’ that one would never have to repair a flat-tyre again. This however, was not the case for me.

With the Diverge as my trusty steed, I flew through the dirt sections without issue, leaving many a better rider in my dust. image-6.png

Unsealed dirt sections and gravel is where the Diverge shined with Specialized’s Future Shock technology really soaking up bumps and harshness on the front end of the bike. Similar to the technology found on the Ruby and Roubaix, the Future Shock was added to the Diverge line with the idea of increased comfort during adventuring.

With a period of five-years devoted to the creation and perfection of the Future Shock technology, Specialized have really hit the nail on the head in terms of adding a plushness to the overall feeling of the bike.

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This isn’t to say the Future Shock isn’t without its downside. While it certainly took the edge off sharp bumps in the road, it never completely concealed them, similarly to that of the CG-R seatpost it was…mostly comfortable. However while it certainly served its purpose whilst in the saddle, it was clear from the first pedalstroke out of the saddle that this wasn’t what the Diverge was designed for.

Luckily the Diverge comes equipped with 48/32 chainrings paired with an 11-32 cassette meaning spinning up steep climbs in the saddle remains comfortable and easy. Female touch points including saddle and handlebar are a nice addition to the Women’s Diverge, along with a classy paint scheme of ‘Satin Cast Berry/Mint’.

With the idea of creating a reliable and versatile machine, the Diverge features mechanical disc brakes and generous tyre clearance. Now allowing tyres up to 42mm wide (up from 35mm on the model’s predecessor) the increased number of surfaces the Diverge can handle really comes down to your imagination and bike handling skills.

Although the mechanical discs certainly weren’t as impressive as hydraulics and certainly lacked the bite, the lack of maintenance for this style of brakes only adds to the reliability of the bike itself and certainly won’t cost you as much for upkeep. For me the mechanical discs were only marginally better than rim-brakes and without the modulation hydraulics offer, still caused my arms to fatigue on long descents. While in my experience mechanical disc brakes do improve with time, if you’ve got the funds and the upkeep knowledge, upgrade to hydraulics.

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While on paved roads the Diverge felt somewhat sluggish in comparison to my S-Works, Amira with its Future Shock technology, disc brakes and wide tyre clearance, it came as no surprise that the steering and handling of the Diverge was well suited to mixed terrain. Although clearly stable and reliable, I found myself quickly missing the responsiveness and snap of my road bike whilst on sealed roads, this sentiment only too quickly forgotten upon hitting the gravel.

Specialized designed the Diverge to be "one bike that shreds gravel and dirt and crushes through road miles with equal expertise." And while the Diverge E5 Comp isn’t without its pitfalls, it does certainly fit the criteria. With its compliance, versatility, huge tyre clearance and inventive Future Shock technology, Specialized have designed the diverge to be a versatile, low maintenance and comfortable machine well worth considering as your first adventure bike.

Kudos should also be give to Kidsons Cycles for nabbing a Diverge E5 Comp for me just in time for the Gears & Beers festival.

Summing up:
Specialized have done a fantastic job updating the Diverge, with the new model certainly more comfortable and versatile than it’s predecessor. In particular the Diverge E5 Comp ticks boxes in comfort, versatility and overall feel with its use of Future Shock technology, disc brakes and generous tyre clearance. Where the bike looses out however is in the additional weight added by the Future Shock, and a lack of value-for money in comparison to its competitors.

Performance:
While the Women’s Diverge E5 Comp was comfortable and sturdy to ride on the dirt, it certainly lacked the snap and responsiveness on sealed roads and felt particularly sluggish up climbs. Mechanical disc-brakes lacked the bite of Hydraulic’s and while the Future Shock certainly reduced vibrations and overall fatigue on the arms and back, the aluminum frame was stiff and somewhat harsh to ride when accustomed to the flex of carbon.

Value:
As an all-round adventure bike, the Diverge E5 Comp is priced at $2400 and while I would’ve been more than happy to pay the extra for Hydraulic-disc brakes, the price-tag is reasonable especially for newcomers to the sport. While it is hard to see this bike as value-for-money when competitors are offering the same price for better groupsets and brakes. In saying this, the addition of the Future Shock really does add something special to the Diverge and is worthwhile trying before deciding your best option for an adventure bike.

Overall:
The Women’s Diverge E5 Comp certainly fits the bill of a multi-purpose, entry-level adventure bike. Reasonably priced, reasonably fitted out and a slick paint-job give the bike an almost value-for-money feel. For me, however to pay an extra $1600 for the model up wouldn’t be unreasonable, nor a bad idea. FACT 9r Carbon, coupled with Hydraulic disc-brakes equal increased comfort, lightweight and further responsiveness in handling. If I were serious about buying an adventure bike, I’d bite the bullet and buy the model up just for these small upgrades. 


Diverge E5 Comp Specifications 

Frame: Specialized E5 Premium Aluminum
Size options: 44 - 56
Fork: Diverge disc, FACT Carbon fiber, flat-mount disc, 12x1000mm thru-axle
Rear Derailleur: Shimano 105, 11 speed
Front Derailleur: Shimano 105, braze on
Brakes: Tektro Spyre, flat mount, mechanical disc
Cassette: Shimano 105, 11 speed, 11-32
Wheelset: Axis Elite Disc
Tyers: Espoir Sport, 60 TPI, wire based, 700x30mm
Cranks: Praxis Alba 2D
Chainrings: 48/32
Handlebars: Specialized Shallow Drop
Chain: KMCx11EL, 11 speed with missing link
Bottom Bracket: Praxis M30 BB
Saddle: Women’s Body Geometry Myth Sport
Seat Post: Specialized Alloy
Weight: 9.5kg (without pedals)
RPP: $2400
Retailer: Specialized Retailer stores

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