When it came to updating the Diverge this year, Specialized started with a clean sheet of paper and took the bike to another level, moving the goalposts considerably and prompting us to debate just what an adventure bike requirements are. The radical 3T Exploro went off in pursuit of speed with an aerodynamic frame, while Specialized has sought to provide as much comfort and control for taming rough trails as possible.
Key to the new bike is the Future Shock. It's the same setup as first introduced on the Roubaix, and consists of a spring housed inside a sealed cartridge and located at the top of the steerer tube. It's intended to isolate the handlebars and the rider from shocks and impacts that would normally pass up through the front wheel, fork and into the frame and rider, but get around the stack height raising issues that become of fitting a suspension fork.
With my sceptical head on I'll admit to thinking the FutureShock sounded like an overcomplicated gimmick when it was first announced… and lots of the internet seemed to agree.
But after quite a lot of time riding both the Roubaix and more recently the new Diverge, I have to confess to actually warming to it. On the Diverge it makes a lot of sense, especially if you're going to take the Diverge into the wilderness and ride off-road a lot of the time, as the bike is designed for.
While the 20mm of suspension travel isn't a lot, it's enough in a lot of cases to smooth out rough off-road trails littered with bumps, roots and rocks. The spring is firmer than that found in the Roubaix so it handles bigger impacts well. You certainly don't notice the handlebars moving around alarmingly, it's all very subtle. Even climbing out of the saddle doesn't involve the handlebar bobbing up and down.
There's no damping like a proper suspension fork, but fortunately, the small amount of travel ensures that it gets away with it. There's no easy way of adjusting the FutureShock, other than taking it apart and fitting a different spring. It'd be nice to be able to tune it to suit different rider weights more easily than it currently allows.
The versatility that made the original Diverge so appealing remains with this new bike. You can still fit a set of mudguards and it'll take just about any tyre you want, there's nothing to stop you fitting a fat slick for more road-focused riding. In fact, with two sets of wheels and tyres, you could conceivably have two bikes to cover a wide gamut of riding scenarios.
David Arthur, Features Editor, Bespoke Cycling