Ben rode the Specialized Diverge E5 Comp for 6 months to find if it stacks up as a hot contender for your ultimate commuter or gravel sled.
Venturing onto skinny tyres to test the Specialized Diverge E5 Comp to see if it can take the gong for best commuter/gravel whip for those dedicated mountain bikers.
- Premium Aluminium Frame
- Future Shock Progressive Suspension, 20mm
- Tektro Mechanical Disc Brakes
- 2×11 Shimano 105 groupset
- £1,600.00 RRP
It seems that 2019 has been the year that gravel bikes officially became a ‘thing’ and every major brand now has at least one model. The Diverge range of bikes from Specialized goes from budget offerings at just over a grand all the way up to mega bucks builds that will empty your bank account quicker than that email telling you your account has been compromised and you need to transfer your money out.
Frame and Build
The E5 Comp sports and aluminium frame and cuts a familiar silhouette. Nothing fancy, nothing crazy, just a well made, well thought out functional frame. It has nice touches like internal cable routing, and I really liked the paint job. It has a carbon fork which is typical of most road and gravel bikes these days and it runs on an Axis Sport Disc wheelset.
The E5 comes fitted with some decent quality, tough tyres complete with reflective strips for commuting. At only 30mm wide I was keen to get these swapped for something bigger, more comfy and more capable. Out the box the bike is ideal for road and occasional fire road use, but with a set of 42mm Specialized Pathfinder Pro tyres fitted it was way more comfy and capable in a wide range of situations. It also made the bike look way coooler.
The main talking point on this bike is obviously the suspension. All 20mm of it. When I first saw this and bounced it up and down in my garden, I did a bit of a face-palm. I thought it was just a gimmick, reminiscent of Cannondale’s Headshok. What are they playing at? Luckily, as you will find out, I was wrong.
Predictably, when compared to my mountain bikes, this thing whizzes up the hills. The riding position is upright and not too aggressive, so it is comfy enough to grind out big rides and epic climbs.
The 2×11 chainset is obviously not as cool as a one-by setup, but to be honest on this sort of bike it just gives you plenty of gear range to get up some pretty steep stuff. Bear in mind that many people will be using panniers and possibly bike-packing gear with bikes like this and you can see that 2×11 is a sensible gear choice. Shifting from the Shimano 105 groupset was bang on throughout.
It is on rougher country lanes, over cobbles and on fire roads where the Diverge’s unique Future Shock suspension came into its own. Don’t think of it as providing loads of well damped grip like on your Fox 36s, but just think of it as extra comfort and wrist preservation for when you bang through a pothole or over some rock.
The frame doesn’t feel flexy, but it also doesn’t feel overly stiff or harsh. The whole package adds up to a well balanced and pleasant ride over a variety of surfaces.
The Tektro brakes had a fair bit of bite to them and were consistent performers in both wet and dry conditions. It is easy to compare braking power with hydraulic 4-pots on my MTB, but this is pointless as brakes like that would just overwhelm the available tyre grip and lock up your wheels in a flash.
When bumping along country lanes or gravel tracks the only thing that really lets the Specialized down is the noise from the chain slapping the front mech and chainstays. It is pretty rattly and annoying compared to a well prepared MTB off road. I also found the bars quite narrow to actually have much control when the tyres left the tarmac.
I had no problems with the Specialized Diverge E5 Comp throughout the test period. It basically still looks and feels brand new even after about 700 kilometres of riding.
The only other gravel type bike I have ridden is the Nukeproof Digger that I reviewed last year. The Digger is going to look more familiar to MTB riders with its hydraulic discs, single ring, wider tyres as standard, and wide bars for more control and space to breathe. Both bikes are pretty similar money and feel pretty similar to ride, but they are a bit different.
For purely road and commuting I would probably go for the Specialized with its double chainset. If I was going to get off road a bit more then the Digger would be my choice. It just feels solid and easier to ride, even given the E5’s 20mm of suspension travel. I also really felt comfy and at home on the wider bars on the Nukeproof.
What do we think?
On the whole I found the E5 Comp to be a fast and efficient commuter and training bike. It just gets on with the job in a no-fuss kind of way. Most of the time I didn’t really notice the suspension which is a good thing. It doesn’t bob or feel vague, it is just there if you need it, which I liked.
- 20mm of suspension
- Comfy ride
- Paint job
Could do better:
- Wider tyres as standard
- Noisy off road