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by James Huang
June 15, 2017
Photography by James Huang
Specialized today announced major overhauls to three popular road bike families — Diverge, CruX, and Allez. This time around, Diverge establishes more of an identity as a dedicated gravel machine, while CruX now refocuses more tightly on cyclocross racing, without the burden of having to fulfil multiple missions.
The entry-level Allez aluminum road bike range hasn’t been ignored, either, with a new upscale look and features that promise to give newer riders a more premium experience as they begin exploring a new sport.
Gravel and adventure-type riding was only just starting to gain a firm foothold in the mainstream cycling world when Specialized debuted the original Diverge in 2014, and with that range’s product development occurring even a year or two prior to that, it’s fair to say that few knew exactly where the category was headed.
Fast forward to 2017, however, and gravel riding has become the hottest subset of the road cycling world as an increasing number of people begin seeking new avenues far away from the dangers of vehicular traffic. Those three years have also seen the category quickly mature in terms of how people are riding on gravel and what sort of equipment they want, and the latest Diverge has similarly evolved to better serve those users.
Specialized says the Diverge gravel range is the fastest-growing category in the company catalog, and it’s clearly taking the segment even more seriously for 2018. The biggest change is a drastic 10mm drop in bottom bracket height, with as much as 86mm of drop on certain sizes to provide extra stability on loose ground.
As with the latest-generation Roubaix endurance bike, Specialized has abandoned the Zertz elastomeric vibration dampers from the previous Diverge and replaced them with a proper FutureShock suspension cartridge that sprouts from the top of the fork steerer to better handle the rougher terrain modern gravel riders are more likely to see. The bottom bracket has also been lowered by a full 10mm — the drop is now a ground-hugging 86mm — for extra handling stability on loose ground, and a wider BB386EVO press-fit bottom bracket helps the new frames clear 700c tires up to 42mm in width (or 650b ones up to 47mm-wide).
Additional features include flat-mount disc brakes and 12mm thru-axles at both ends, front and rear fender and rack mounts, and fully internal cable routing that will even accommodate stealth-style dropper seatposts.
In a first for the Diverge family, there’s now a flagship S-Works model to top the range built with an 880g carbon frame (56cm, claimed) and a lustworthy collection of high-end parts that bring the total claimed weight down to just 8.4kg (18.5lb).
CyclingTips Australian tech editor Matt Wikstrom has already been riding a 2018 Diverge Comp model for the past three weeks, and you can find more information and a full review here.
The dropped seatstays are said to allow the seat tube to flex a bit more than a more conventional setup to provide a comfier ride. A prominent cutout behind the seat tube provides extra tire clearance while still keeping the chainstays reasonably compact.
Up front, Specialized has adapted its FutureShock system for gravel use, featuring a progressive coil spring better suited for rougher terrain as compared to the softer and more linear springs used on the Roubaix endurance bikes.
Certain Diverge models will come equipped with short-travel dropper seatposts.
The dropper seatpost remotes have been adapted for drop-bar use. Accessing the lever from the drops is a bit awkward, but very easy from the hoods.
Fender and rack mounts are standard at both ends.
Tucked into the front triangle above the bottom bracket is a handy SWAT storage box.
Underneath the handy hatch is a mini-tool and money clip…
…while removing the cover completely reveals a flat repair kit. It’s all quite tidy and pleasantly free of rattles.
Specialized is equipping all of its Diverge models with 700c wheels and tires from the factory, but they will all also be compatible with 650b Road Plus setups.
Women’s models will use the same geometry as the men’s versions, but with specific touch points (handlebars, saddles, crankarms, etc.) and finishes.
The stock 38mm-wide Specialized Trigger tubeless tires work quite well on a wide range of surfaces.
Flat-mount disc brakes are featured at both ends, along with 160mm-diameter rotors for a little extra stopping power.
For gravel riders on tighter budgets, there’s also a new Diverge AL with a welded aluminum frame instead of the molded carbon fiber one, but the same fork and FutureShock front suspension.
With the new Diverge now more purpose-built to serve the gravel market, the longstanding CruX line was free to refocus more keenly on its core purpose: cyclocross racing.
The latest version loses a big chunk of weight, with Specialized claiming a new 56cm S-Works frame now weighs as little as 930g to help ease the pain of run-ups. Tire clearance has been optimized around UCI-legal 33mm-wide tires (although the 6mm of space around them will allow for slightly bigger rubber), and while the mostly front-end geometry once again prioritizes nimble handling and agility over stability, rider positions have gotten a bit more aggressive.
Whereas the Diverge gravel bike has undergone a complete revamp for the 2018 model year, changes to the narrowly cyclocross-focused CruX range are somewhat more subtle visually.
Stack heights remain the same as before, but cockpit reach has changed almost across the board, with larger sizes seeing bigger changes. While the 52cm size is a scant 1mm longer than last season’s model, the 61cm grows by a more significant 9mm.
Unlike on the Diverge, Specialized hasn’t paid much mind to smoothing out the older CruX’s rather firm ride quality. While the down tubes have been slightly undersized relative to the previous generation, the stays are still comparatively chunky and straight to maintain the bike’s sharp and snappy feel when accelerating. Borrowing a page from the Tarmac, however, Specialized has switched to an internal seatpost binder that effectively increases the amount of exposed seatpost by 20mm in an effort to allow for more flex.
New bridgeless seatstays and smooth, shelf-free contours throughout should lend the revamped CruX very good mud-shedding abilities, too.
Other changes are more minor.
Both ends once again utilize 12mm-diameter thru-axles (with a standard 142mm-wide rear hub), but the disc brakes now attach to the frame and fork using the now-current direct mount interface. Cable routing is fully internal as before, and Specialized is sticking to the narrow-format OSBB press-fit bottom bracket shell here, at least for now. Given the increased use of single-ring drivetrains for cyclocross these days, last year’s riveted front derailleur mount is now gone (although users can still run two-ring cranksets with a clamp-on front derailleur).
The frameset loses a considerable amount of weight (a staggering 300g or so, according to Specialized) and there’s no longer a rim-brake option, but the geometry is essentially carried over from before.
Tire clearance is optimized for 33mm-wide tires, although with a minimum of 6mm of space all around that leaves a little wiggle room to run fatter rubber.
The bridgeless seatstays remove one key area for mud build-up.
Specialized has moved to the common 142x12mm rear hub dimension for the rear end of the 2018 CruX.
As on the current Tarmac, Specialized has moved to a recessed seatpost binder bolt that effectively increases the amount of exposed seatpost sticking out of the frame for a softer ride.
Specialized hasn’t bothered to engineer any unusual flex features into the rear triangle on the CruX, instead leaving that job mostly to the tires and seatpost.
The chainstays are big, but not unusually so. More importantly, there are no shelves or ledges where mud can easily build up. Internal routing for the rear brake hose keeps things that much tidier.
Internal routing is featured all around.
Specialized says it has refined its cyclocross tire range with more flexible casings and improved rubber compounds.
Once reserved for Specialized’s premier race machines, the Allez label has since found a more humble home in the company hierarchy. Save for the outstanding privateer-focused Allez Sprint range, the standard Allez moniker is now used for entry-level road bikes that historically have offered plenty of value, but little emotional appeal.
Specialized is hoping to change that image a bit for the revamped Allez range — not just in terms of perception, but also performance.
The Allez remains Specialized’s entry-level range for traditional road bikes, but the company is making a concerted effort at giving the collection a more upscale look and feel.
The new Allez E5 Premium frames — used on the Allez Elite, Allez Sport, and Allez models — incorporate more complex tube shaping than before, including a flared seat tube and tapered head tube that aren’t regularly seen at these price points. The dropped seatstays supposedly help the seat tube flex a bit more on bumps than traditional setups for improved ride comfort, too, while internal cable routing through the main triangle lend a more finished and upscale appearance.
More importantly for new riders who perhaps haven’t yet developed the strength and endurance of more seasoned cyclists, Specialized has also focused on reducing the bikes’ weight. Full-carbon forks save a significant amount of mass over the aluminum-and-carbon forks usually found here (including on the previous-generation Allez), for example, and Specialized claims weight advantages as high as 450g (1lb) relative to a comparably equipped Trek 1.1.
Will all that be enough to get someone buying their first road bike to feel like they just bought a Tarmac? Maybe not, but if it lowers the barrier to entry for even a few people getting into the sport, it sure can’t hurt.
Front ends feature tapered head tubes with internal headsets. The full-carbon forks that reside within are somewhat of a rarity at these price points; heavier forks with carbon blades and aluminum crowns and steerers are still more common.
Claimed weight for the full-carbon forks on the new Allez is a very respectable 350-370g.
Offset seat clusters with dropped seatstays are said to allow for more seat tube flex and, thus, a smoother ride on rough pavement.
Fender mounts are included both front and rear, a smart nod to practicality in this more value-minded segment of the market.
The butted aluminum tubing boasts a fair bit of shaping throughout, including sculpted chainstays, flared seat tubes, and ovalized top- and down tubes.
Internal routing through the main triangle makes for a tidy aesthetic.
All of the new Allez frames will come with threaded bottom bracket shells.
The top-end Allez Elite comes equipped with Shimano 105 shifters and derailleurs.
The Praxis Alba crankset is a smart spec, with solid-forged aluminum crankarms, a smooth-spinning 30mm-diameter aluminum spindle and oversized bearings, and positive-shifting forged aluminum chainrings.
The Specialized Espoir tires are decent, but noticeably stiff and somewhat slow-rolling. Upgraded tires would do wonders for the bike’s overall performance, and at a nominal cost, too.
The Tektro Axis brake calipers can’t match the power or feel of better name-brand options. Still, at this price point, they’re a decent piece of kit.
It’s refreshing to see more attention being paid to this end of the market.
The rear hub is disappointing with its glacially slow 15-tooth ratchet. The rear end is slow to react after coasting once you start pedaling again.
Pricing and availability for all of the new models is to be announced.