Specialized sought to solve this problem by creating the Diverge Expert X1--the adventurer's dream bike designed to tackle a wide variety of terrain. One bike certainly doesn't fit all, but is this the Swiss Army Knife of the cycling world?
Specialized sent us a test bike to abuse, and we were more than happy to oblige.
Aesthetics/Frame1 of 11
We've taken $10,000 road bikes out for a spin, walked them through the office and photographed them in crowded downtown areas, but much to our surprise, we received more compliments on this machine than any we've previously tested. The matte army-green paint scheme paired with matching bar tape and saddle makes for an understated, yet combative feel.
Price-to-compliment ratio? Solid.
Aesthetics aside, the durable FACT 10r carbon frame was designed with a tall head tube and low bottom bracket for a more upright and relaxed riding position. While this increases stability on mixed terrain, it felt lethargic on paved roads.
Compromises are obviously necessary to create an all-arounder, so this is one area where we'll turn a blind eye. The sheer fun we had on dirt and gravel more than makes up for it.
Shifters2 of 11
The hydraulic SRAM Force hoods have plenty to grab up top and are especially comfortable for those with larger hands. Once we got the hang of shifting only with our right hand, we found it extremely intuitive and wished our daily rig had the same setup.
Crankset3 of 11
The Diverge Expert X1 includes a SRAM Force 1 crankset (46T) and a SRAM BB30 bottom bracket. Clearance over aggressive terrain was never an issue, and the crank felt sufficiently stiff. Specialized included a derailleur hanger in case you want to add a front derailleur, but we enjoyed the lack thereof.
Rear Derailleur4 of 11
The 11-speed SRAM Force 1 rear derailleur provided accurate shifting and was able to rapidly drop down several gears as needed with one right-handed flick. It's not as snappy as others on the market, mostly due to the large jump between sprockets on the oversized cassette, but we had no shifting mishaps once dialed in.
Cassette5 of 11
The 11-speed cassette (10-42t) has a huge range, with plenty of options for a variety of terrain. As mentioned, the substantial jump between sprockets slightly slows the shifting experience, but we had no performance issues when out on the trail.
Vibration Dampening/Wheels/Tires6 of 11
The Zertz inserts and FACT 10r carbon frame smoothed out chatter from mixed terrain nicely without sacrificing power transfer. The tubeless-ready AXIS 4.0 Disc SCS X1 wheelset took a beating with no issues and the thru-axle's added stiffness was a welcomed feature. Our only complaint was the weight, but we'll take the heavier wheelset for increased peace of mind out on the trail. The larger rim width was a nice feature, too.
The Diverge Expert X1 comes stock with Specialized Roubaix Pro 700x32mm tires, and while they were light and durable, we found they weren't nearly aggressive enough for dirt and gravel-dominated rides. The frame has clearance up to 34mm, so we advise swapping out the stock tires with a more high-volume, knobby option.
Saddle/Seat Post7 of 11
The Body Geometry Phenom Comp saddle (hollow Cr-Mo rails, 143mm) is a comfortable stock option, although a chamois is still highly suggested. The CG-R seat post adds an interesting dynamic to the bike--its sizeable offset absorbs large impacts and greatly reduces road (or trail) fatigue.
Simply put, your saddle sores will thank you.
Disc Brakes8 of 11
The Diverge Expert X1 comes equipped with SRAM Force 1 hydraulic disc brakes, and we found the modulation and stopping power in both wet and dry conditions were huge pluses. We had no complaints besides the random squeak or grind noises from moisture or dirt stuck in the caliper.
Internal Cable Routing9 of 11
The derailleur cable and hydraulic brake lines are routed internally for a clean look. It's an expected feature, but still a nice touch.
Parting Thoughts10 of 11
The Diverge Expert X1 proves that simplicity, versatility and performance aren't mutually exclusive. The SRAM Force X1 groupset is accurate and reliable, the disc brakes have plenty of stopping power, and the geometry responds well in a variety of conditions.
While this bike wouldn't be our first choice for a pure road ride, its ability to tackle difficult terrain with stability and confidence makes it a joy to ride. We found ourselves plotting new routes and looking forward to unexpected terrain--Specialized's exact intent when designing this nice addition to their adventure bike category.
Diverge Expert X1, $3,900