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by Iain Treloar
May 8, 2020
Photography by Iain Treloar
The launch of the third-generation Specialized Diverge has brought with it a number of surprises, with more models, new geometry and a flat-bar gravel bike amongst them. Not content to let the bike designers have all the fun, Specialized’s tyre division has come through with a new model released alongside the Diverge range.
Featuring an entirely new tread pattern for Specialized, the tubeless-ready Rhombus comes specced on the flat-bar ‘Evo’ models, which gives a clue about its intended use – for rowdier, more category-bending off-road excursions. Meanwhile, the tamer Specialized Pathfinder is equipped throughout the dropbar range.
While the two tyres share the same casing, compound and puncture-protection belt, the Rhombus differs from the Pathfinder with a far more aggressive tread pattern. A central band of narrow knobs gives way to angled transitional knobs, and finally, a chunky, widely spaced pattern on the shoulder.
That burly tread and puncture-protection belt comes with something of a weight penalty – they weigh in at 590 g in a 700×42, which is the only sizing available. That’s a bit heavier than similar offerings from competitors, although to be fair, I’ve had largely positive experiences with the durability and puncture protection of Specialized’s tyres in the past, so the added bulk may prove a worthwhile trade-off.
I’ve been riding on a set for a couple of weeks and while I’m still getting my head around them, early impressions are mostly good. They seated easily when setting them up tubeless, which is an important first hurdle to clear. The added grip offered by the tyres allowed me to ride rough sections of trail that I slide out on normally – especially up steep inclines – and there was a greater sense of control on technical terrain.
The Rhombuses handled predictably, for the most part, although there was a bit of a learning curve in the way they gave ever so slightly before catching in fast sandy corners. They’re also quite noisy, with the tread holding onto mud pretty tenaciously before flinging it up into the underside of the downtube with merry abandon.
On smooth trails and paved roads – which aren’t their ideal terrain, obviously, but are a part of life on many gravel rides – I found them a bit more of a mixed bag. They don’t feel enormously sluggish, especially for the aggressiveness of the tread pattern, but they are discernibly slower-rolling than a tyre like the Pathfinder, or popular all-rounders like Schwalbe’s G-One or Panaracer’s GravelKing SK.
Those tyres are soundly outperformed by the Rhombus on gnarlier terrain, but any tyre choice is a series of compromises depending on where and what you’re riding, and the Rhombus feels fairly narrow in how it’s targeted – say, grade 4 and 5 in our Gravel Gradient.
On the right terrain, though, these are a good option to have in the arsenal; a bit of extra grip and a bit of extra protection are good attributes in any tyre if you’re not looking for trouble. Heading into winter with a reduced scope for wandering thanks to current events, that kinda works for me.