Triathlon Plus - - The Bike Test -

£1,100 spe­cial­ized­con­cept­store.co.uk Vi­bra­tion-re­duc­ing tech­nol­ogy makes this an off-road favourite

THE DI­VERGE Elite is a brood­ing, stylish study in stripped­back, off-road ma­chin­ery, pack­ing the Amer­i­can com­pany’s own vi­bra­tion-re­duc­ing tech­nol­ogy in the forks and seat­stays, plus a Spyre me­chan­i­cal disc set-up and long-last­ing groupset com­po­nents. FRAME AND FORKS The Di­verge’s alu­minium al­loy frame features Spe­cial­ized’s Smartweld tech­nol­ogy. Not only are the welds very smart, but the ends of the top­tube and down­tube are rolled be­fore be­ing fixed to the head­tube. This cre­ates stiff­ness at the front end of the bike, but al­lows the tubes to be kept thin­ner, and there­fore lighter, else­where, to achieve our size 52’s all-up bulk of 9.82kg. It’s lighter than the Gi­ant, but ef­fec­tively in a size smaller, so we’d still ex­pect the car­bon-fi­bre Any­road to come up lighter in an equiv­a­lent frame size. The Spe­cial­ized also features vi­bra­tion-re­duc­ing rub­berised ‘Zertz’ in­serts on the fork legs and seat­stays. The top­tube is slop­ing, though not as se­verely as the Gi­ant’s, which has the same ef­fect of less­en­ing the size of the rear tri­an­gle while main­tain­ing a fat, stiff down­tube. THE KIT The Spe­cial­ized’s com­po­nents are more of a mixed bag than our other two bikes’ mov­ing parts. A dip into Shi­mano’s lower-spec Ti­a­gra groupset parts list has specced much of the Di­verge, with this kit sup­ply­ing the front and rear de­railleurs, the gear shifters and the 11-32 cas­sette. Al­lied to a Praxis chain­set that favours the 48/32 ar­range­ment, rather than the 50/34 com­pact set-up of our other bikes, it does miss out on the higher gears, but ar­guably of­fers the eas­i­est gear­ing of all three ma­chines when the go­ing gets tough or steep. This bike, ow­ing to its Ti­a­gra spec­i­fi­ca­tion, has 20 gears, com­pared to the 22 of our oth­ers. Thank­fully, the Di­verge uses the same brak­ing set-up as the Gi­ant – TRP’s me­chan­i­cal Spyre kit. It needs only two fin­gers on the lev­ers to mod­u­late speed and is easy to main­tain. Where the Spe­cial­ized dif­fers from the Gen­e­sis and the Gi­ant, is in its tyre choice. The Amer­i­can firm’s Espoir rub­ber is fit­ted, in a 30mm di­am­e­ter, which gives away 10mm to the CDA’s. It is only lightly treaded, so in tech­ni­cal sec­tions of trail or by­way, you may find your­self strug­gling for trac­tion.

THE RIDE Like Gi­ant’s Any­road, the com­par­a­tive light weight of the Di­verge al­lows us to get a lick on down flat trails in con­fi­dence, and is the best of the bunch if cov­er­ing dis­tance at speed is top of your pri­or­i­ties. Thank­fully, its me­chan­i­cal disc brakes are more than up to the job of slow­ing it in a con­trolled fash­ion, to ac­count for un­ex­pected ob­sta­cles or trick­ier sec­tions of off-road ter­rain. How­ever, the tyres rob the ride of a great deal of con­fi­dence. Hit an off-cam­ber sec­tion of slimy trail, and it’s squeaky-bum time, as you ad­just body po­si­tion to main­tain bal­ance and allavail­able grip. What the Gen­e­sis will hap­pily splash through as if it’s on tank-tracks rather than tyres, the Spe­cial­ized baulks at. Which is a shame, be­cause in hot­ter climes or bet­ter weather, it would be a blast. As long as your route isn’t too tech­ni­cal, you’ll cover ground with ease on the Di­verge, and soon no­tice its han­dling is eas­ily up there with some of the best off-road ma­chines we’ve tested. It’s not as ra­zor sharp as a cy­clocross bike, thanks to its more re­laxed ge­om­e­try, par­tic­u­larly its raked-out forks, but it’s the flat-out grin ma­chine of our bunch if you’re in need of an adren­a­line hit. That said, much of the time was spent de­scend­ing out of the sad­dle, try­ing to get all-avail­able weight over the rear tyre to pre­vent it slip­ping.

“As long as your route isn’t too tech­ni­cal you’ll cover ground with ease on the Di­verge”

30c Espoir rub­ber is a good on/off-road com­pro­mise, but not for mud

In­ter­nal cable rout­ing is ex­tremely neat

Vi­bra­tion-re­duc­ing in­serts at the fork tops

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