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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.
Diverge heads deeper down the gravel path
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.
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.
CruX refocuses on racing
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.
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).
Entry-level Allez gains a more premium look and feel
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 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.
Pricing and availability for all of the new models is to be announced.