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Review: Specialized Diverge STR is a Gravel Hover Bike

ride review of specialized diverge str gravel bike
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I’ve had some time to think about the new Diverge STR. I’ve ridden a lot of gravel bikes since I returned it, and none do what the STR can do. But let’s just go ahead and say what you’re likely thinking: Yeah, but look at it.

Personally, I’m a fan of the looks. The way the sloping top tube bends sweetly into seatstays that parallel the downtube’s angle. The little something at the top the seat tube to catch your eye. Even the matte green that sometimes looks like dark blue. I love all of it.

While you’re free to disagree with me on aesthetic measures, I think anyone who’s ridden it would be hard-pressed to disagree on the performance.

On rough gravel and all manner of uneven, unkempt surfaces, the Diverge STR has a way of floating over it. Or, more precisely, of letting you float over it, since its design is of the “suspend the rider, not the bike” philosophy. And it does so without pivots or fuss, just a bit of controlled flex and suspension that disappeared under me.

At the bottom of this is the rest of my ride review. First, here’s a closer look at the features, but I’ve left the tech deep dive in my launch coverage here.

Specialized Diverge STR features

closeup details of specialized diverge str gravel bike

Beyond the full carbon frame (which weighs ~1,100g without the rear damper assembly), the heart of the STR is the dual Future Shock micro-suspension. In the front is a damped 20mm shock inside the steerer that lets the stem compress upon impacts.

closeup details of specialized diverge str gravel bike

Yes, it’s tall and creates a lot of stack height. But I like to run top tube bags anyway, and there are bag mounts there to accommodate such things, and those things tend to fill in that L-shaped gap quite nicely. They also keep snacks at the ready, which is a nice bonus.

The Diverge STR’s Future Shock has adjustable damping, and you should be able to upgrade it as desired to the latest 3.3 version with swappable spring rates if you need a more tunable range.

future shock steerer compression on specialized diverge str gravel bike

20mm may not seem like a lot, but it’s enough, and it works very well. This photo overlay (above) shows it topped out to fully compressed.

closeup details of specialized diverge str gravel bike

The rear Future Shock is an all-new contraption that adds a hydraulic damper to control seatpost flex. Unlike the new Roubaix’s minimal seatpost flex, the STR can bend way back. I have cutaway photos and all the tech in our launch coverage, but the short of it is this:

A main seat tube is captured inside another tube that’s a blend of carbon and glass fibers. Several different tubes are available, and each has two orientations, allowing for lots of flex rates so you can fine-tune it to your body weight.

closeup details of specialized diverge str gravel bike

A blade connects the post to the damper, which has three positions so you can control the rate of flex and return. The damper controls the motion so that it doesn’t spring back and forth too quickly or easily.

flex seatpost comparison for specialized diverge str gravel bike

It also prevents the post from bending too far backward…Specialized says you could get the saddle surprisingly (scarily) close to the rear tire if it weren’t contained.

The photo overlay (above) shows how much flex I could get with the seatpost sleeve recommended for my weight. The shot was taken with me giving all of my weight a little “bounce” onto the saddle.

closeup details of specialized diverge str gravel bike

The rest of the bike is what a modern gravel bike should be. It’s 1x only (2x fans, the comments section is below), with aggressive chain slap protection and muting. That rear port above the axle is a wire port for Di2, not a stealth mount. The STR has no concessions for bolt-on rear racks or mounts because it’s intended as a race bike.

closeup details of specialized diverge str gravel bike

A big BB junction and stout downtube keep power transferring where it’s supposed to go.

closeup details of specialized diverge str gravel bike

A bash guard and extra bottle cage mount hide under the downtube. Not shown, their SWAT downtube storage compartment is accessed from the top side.

closeup details of specialized diverge str gravel bike

The fork does have accessory, rack, and fender mounts.

tire clearance on specialized diverge str gravel bike

Tire clearance is 700×47 (or 650Bx2.1″), but all models come with 700×42 Tracer tires. They’re very quick tires, but not very aggressive, so you may want something with more bite for really loose terrain.

Diverge STR Ride Review

My first ride was on the famed Maple Sally loop near Morganton, NC. It’s a long dirt and gravel climb that tops out and rolls through the mountains before descending miles of curvy, skitchy, and loosely maintained gravel roads. It’s a bomber descent that’s well-earned and super fun. Sometimes a little too fun.

After that it was back home for a couple of months of riding local connectors and gravel trails, plus a little singletrack.

ride review of specialized diverge str gravel bike

When I picture “gravel”, this is what I’m thinking (photo above) – small rocks packed into dirt for a mostly hard but bumpy surface. That’s what most of our local gravel is, with some being looser thanks to a deeper surface layer of rock. Head west, and things get chunkier as you get into forest service roads.

closeup details of specialized diverge str gravel bike

And this is precisely where the Diverge STR shined. The flex and micro-suspension soaked it up, transmitting very little of it to my butt and hands. Since most gravel is a sit-down-and-power-through-it experience, the longer I can remain seated and hammer, the better off I’ll be. It saves energy, and the STR’s engineered flex saves it in droves.

Specialized recommends sliding your saddle forward a few millimeters more than you would on a comparable bike so that you “sag” into the ideal position. I set my saddle height just like normal, slid the seat forward a bit, and it felt great. The rearward flex never upset my riding position, and I never felt like it was throwing off my bike fit. It just felt normal, but smoother.

The STR bikes come with Body Geometry Power saddles, which certainly doesn’t hurt. Those are killer saddles, I highly recommend them.

ride review of specialized diverge str gravel bike

Suspension aside, the bike handles as a race bike should. It’s stable on fast straightaways, but quick and nimble in the corners.

ride review of specialized diverge str gravel bike

And it’s easy to pop up and over trail debris. Sticks and stones will never slow me.

Final thoughts

specialized diverge str in front of mural

Your reaction to the bike’s looks may vary, but if want a fast gravel bike with dialed geometry that won’t beat you up, the Specialized Diverge STR is worth a look.

Specialized has proven over and over again that they know how to make a great bike. And they keep proving that they’re not afraid to try new things. For that, I’m grateful, because even if sometimes they don’t work out, at least they tried. In this case, they not only succeeded in making something that works so smoothly and simply, they also made it work for virtually every rider size and weight.

Specialized.com

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Bikerumor should hire Peter Hilby
Bikerumor should hire Peter Hilby
8 months ago

It’s a Caddy fer sher, I would love the S’works. Or a drop bar bike w/ 2.3′ tires.

silverlining
silverlining
8 months ago

Not quite 2.3” of clearance, but the Lauf Sigla would be close.

jonathan
jonathan
7 months ago
Reply to  silverlining

Seigla almost certainly clears 2.3″ without the legal mud clearance.

Steve
Steve
8 months ago

Salsa Cutthroat could be your answer.

jonathan
jonathan
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Unfortunately the Cutthroat has a crazy high stack.

SteveT
SteveT
8 months ago

Too many proprietary parts that will fail at some point and with the correct tires and psi why would I care about 2cm’s of suspension at the front or rear of the bike? Heck, if i did need some mild front or rear suspension a Redshift stem is a far better solution than a near 1 lb internal suspension that even Specialized admits can not be self serviced by the owner, but must be repaired/replaced only by an authorized dealer. Same with a standard CF seatpost with some flex to it. What a joke. And yes, 1X makes perfect sense for a true gravel bike or a MTB that are encountering true off road muck type conditions regularly. For what this is described as, a very light gravel race bike there is no such need for 1X and 1X is in fact limiting on such a bike despite the marketing propaganda and BS. 🙂

Last edited 8 months ago by SteveT
Troy
Troy
7 months ago
Reply to  SteveT

I’ve been riding the 2018 diverge and i have to replace the future shock after about 7k miles. Then I got smart and tried and succeed on rebuilding the future shock. That seat post suspension things is too complicated for sure, and then to not be able to work on it yourself? What were they thinking?

Matt Gersib
Matt Gersib
7 months ago

I rode a Diverge STR at the Shimano GRX press camp and was equally impressed. One ride isn’t a lifetime of use, but it sure felt awesome on that ride!

Daryl
Daryl
7 months ago

I had a chance to test this bike out a few weeks ago and it feels almost the same as another Diverge e5in the store with the Cane Creek eesilk post and stem… Like nearly identical.

tom
tom
7 months ago

im getting the roubaix.. i just dont need rear travel.

Johnny
Johnny
7 months ago
Reply to  tom

I think most riders share your sentiments. But for those looking to make their lives more complicated and ensure future headaches, we have options in the bike industry like the Diverge. For those with deep pockets to bear the cost of ownership, or maybe turn their bikes over every few years, the Diverge is supported by plenty of marketing to play off the gullibility of those susceptible enough to fall for such gimmicks. Having said all of this, lots of great innovation come from throwing enough darts at the board. This however, is a definite miss.

tertius_decimus
tertius_decimus
7 months ago

Body Geometry Power saddles are killer saddles? What do they kill specifically? Your testicles?

Think twice before using stupid jargon phrases.

S Mountain
S Mountain
7 months ago

harsh

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