Everything old is new again. That phrase seems to ring true in many facets of life, including the bicycle industry. Many of the most successful modern ideas have been attempted before – to varying degrees of success. The idea of a gravel specific bike is one of those concepts.

Specialized 1989 RockCombo ad

For Specialized, that came in the form of their 1989 RockCombo – a bike that was well ahead of its time.

Specialized 1989 RockCombo handlebar

Specialized 1989 RockCombo drivetrain

Outfitted with an “ATB Drop Bar” running Suntour Bar-con shifters and BPX BRS aero brake levers, the bike offered a wider gearing spread with an XCD 7 speed 13-30 cassette mated to a 28/38/48t triple crankset.

Specialized 1989 RockCombo frame

While the RockCombo ran 26″ wheels, it opted for 1.5″ wide Specialized Hardpack tires to fit with the “gravel” concept.

Modern RockCombo

Specialized 1989 RockCombo themed diverge

Things are a little different now. Frames and forks are carbon. Disc brakes actually stop. And drivetrains have fewer chainrings but more cogs. Other than drop bars and skinny tires, modern gravel bikes share little in common with the bikes of the RockCombo days. But to honor their gravel heritage, Specialized just unveiled these custom Diverge gravel bikes for Alison Tetrick, Ian Boswell, and Laurens ten Dam to race at Unbound.

Specialized 1989 RockCombo themed diverge Specialized 1989 RockCombo themed diverge

Specialized went to great lengths to match the RockCombo paint, but with modern touches to reflect the current Diverge frame construction.

Specialized 1989 RockCombo themed diverge



  1. I must be getting old because I now find these throwback concepts to be pretty awesome. This is really well done by Specialized. Now I want to know if my mom still has my teal 1990 specialized hard rock hanging in the garage….

  2. You can get those 80s/90s MTBs for cheap, I got one for 15EUR (MBK Ranger High Tech), Columbus Tubing, LX Mountain Groupset, decent wheels, etc… If you need better brakes, you can use Tektro CR720 cyclocross rim brakes, they brake very well. No need to waste your money into this gravel craze.

  3. Great looking bike, old and new. What about Bruce Gordon or Bianchi Project 7 bikes (albeit more of an early 29er than a drop bar gravel bike)?

    • From what I gather those Pathfinders are a pretty tough tire. Besides, it’s the riders choice anyway. Gravel has the most diverse amount of opinions about gear for the course from any cycling genre. Maybe somebody else on the team is rolling Rhombus or Trigger tires. Doesn’t matter really, run what you brung.

    • Looks like Boswell and Ten Dam were running the same Pathfinders. 1st and 2nd. Still surprised?

    • Those tires look a lot like the Clement x’ploro MSO tire which at least before every brand had a million tires, was THE tire for DK200. The MSO were a little more treaded than these, but unless there is rain, Unbound doesn’t need super chucky tires, just puncture resistant. A little reduction in rolling resistance really adds up over 206 miles. When I did it, there was only like 2 miles of pretty rough gravel, the rest isn’t anything crazy.

  4. Funny I worked in a shop in back in 1999 I remember Specialized couldn’t give these away nobody wanted them they were on close out and they had them for years.

  5. I think this looks pretty 1/2 assed. How hard would it have been to modify the build to at least resemble that of the Rock Hopper with more silver bits, and even just some white bar tape? As it sits, the super stealth build just cancels out the vintage aesthetic of the paint. Also, the Diverge type on the downtube doesn’t even look like the correct typeface, and is just too big.

    • Name a top line group that comes in silver…
      Did you miss the part that these are pro bikes for Unbound?

  6. A lot has changed and at the same time not really soo much better. I’d wager a decent athlete could could finish unbound in a similar time in either of those bikes.

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