All bicycles are adventure bicycles, but some just prove to be more adventurous. How steel, aluminium, carbon and rubber can combine into a machine which appears to have a wanderlust I can’t explain, but the Specialized Diverge certainly does.

The Basics

Bike: Specialized Diverge 2016 Model
Frame: Aluminium
Fork: Carbon
Wheels: Alex Elite Disc
Tyres: Specialzed Trigger Pro (38c front & 33c rear)
Drivetrain: Shimano Tiagra
Brakes: TRP Spyre-C (Mechanical disc)
Extras: Specialized SWAT storage system
2018 Model: Specialized Diverge Comp E5

One of my early additions, after removing the Espoir Sport tyres, was the Specialized SWAT storage box. Attaching to the down tube under the bottle cage it houses a tube, CO2 canister, CO2 adapter and a presta to schrader valve adapter – for those times when you want to inflate your wheels at a petrol station rather than hacking with a pump. The SWAT multi-tool is housed below the seat tube bottle cage.

The Ride

It’s versatile and hardy. I’ve clocked up over 3 500km on my Diverge since I bought it in September 2016. In that time I’ve ridden a 185km longest ride on it and completed two three day tours, one on road and one very much on gravel/jeep track.

The Diverge is most at home on smooth gravel roads.

I’ve taken it off the beaten track in search of back roads and ended up hike-a-biking it more than once over a fence or through a field because the jeep track came to an unexpected stop. On the tar it rolls well and having ridden with a group of 30 roadies in the Cape Classic 380, a three day road tour from Montagu in the Western Cape, I know I match the group on all but the longest climbs on it. That being said the aluminium frame and wheels designed to soak up gravel hits don’t make it the lightest bike on the market by any means. At 10.8kg it is by no means light.

The weight does lead to an added sense of security once you head off the asphalt however. The aluminium frame and inexpensive wheelset means I never feel too precious about the bike and will gladly push its limits – as I did on the three day, rough road, Bikamino recce.

Initially I had a set of 33c Trigger tyres all round. But I’ve subsequently increased the front tyre to a 38c Trigger.

The other benefit of the Alex rims are the fact that they ship tubeless ready. Though the initial set of tyres the Diverge was specced with were unfortunately not road-tubeless compatible. Since then I’ve worked my way through a Specialized Trigger Pro 33c tyre on the rear wheel and bought a set of 38c Trigger tyres. (I also have a set of Specialized Roubaix tubeless road tyres.)

Most Boland gravel rides feature at least 50% tar to link the various fun sections.

There are three things any would be gravel grinder should know before buying a gravel bike, be it a Diverge or anything else. Firstly gravel tyres can be hard to come by. Most shops do not carry large numbers in stock and the brands don’t even import very many. This is changing slowly, and has been exacerbated in my case by the fact that I can’t fit more than a 35c tyre on my rear wheel – so my options are currently very limited. Secondly, tyre clearance on gravel bikes is the primary limiting factor to the comfort on rougher roads. If you want to do pure gravel road riding you will ideally need something which can take 40c and bigger rubber. And finally, road-tubeless rims tend to be a little more lightweight in their construction than their mountain bike alternatives; it seems an obvious point. But what isn’t obvious initially is that some sealants react with aluminium and will gradually eat the valve hole wider. The thinner walled aluminium road-tubeless wheels will therefore start leaking air and sealant around the valve within about two years; unless the gap between the valve and the hole is thoroughly plugged with tubeless tape – thereby limiting the opportunity for contact between the ammonia in the sealant with your rims.

A bovine stamp of approval.

Despite the tyre related hassles I absolutely love the Diverge. I often go through months of not riding my mountain bike and only riding it, because the direct feedback from the road provides such a pure cycling experience. It can be bone jarring at times, but mostly it’s just great fun.

Adventure awaits.