The All-Purpose Road Bike

Specialized delivers a new breed to bike shops with its new Diverge. Dubbed an "all-conditions road bike," Specialized designed the Diverge to extend your ride when the pavement ends. Specialized road product manager Chris Wehan says the engineering team added disc brakes and fatter tires to boost control and comfort, while tweaking frame geometry so the Diverge still feels like a performance road bike. Fender and rack mounts make the bike ready for anything from rainy commutes to cross-country treks, but you can just as easily strip the accessories and duke out your weekend shop ride.

We tested the Carbon Di2 model of the Diverge, which included burly mountain-bike style wheel axles, a front and rear light set, and dropper seat post not found on other Diverges.  The USB-chargeable Flux Expert lights provided welcome visibility and powerful illumination on dark rides. And Specialized, who earned its reputation for eking out every advantage, wind-tunnel tested the teardrop-shaped tail light to ensure it didn't add drag. The Command XCP dropper post then reinforces the bike's off-road capabilities. Developed for cross-country mountain bike racers, the post drops the saddle 35mm with the flick of a thumb switch to lower a rider's center of gravity and ease technical descents and trails.

The Diverge Carbon's frame uses Specialized's FACT 10r carbon fiber — a material used throughout the brand's high-end road and mountain bikes. Several more affordable Diverge models rely on aluminum frames, but Specialized uses the same geometry throughout the line and designs the frames to feel the same to riders, albeit with a little more or less weight, regardless of material.

In fact, across the Diverge line, from the aluminum $1,100 A1 to our $8,500 Carbon Di2, the same mix of playful and high-performance characteristics persist. Those fat (for a road bike), slick 30c and 32c tires significantly boosted control, and our speed, around paved hairpin turns, over loose, rocky singetrack, and through frozen slush and snow. Specialized's Wehan says the only disadvantage to the wider rubber is wind resistance, though that's largely negated when drafting. The frames also have clearance for 38c tires, if riders want even more cushion and contact with the road.

The description of the Diverge might strike some as too similar to cyclocross bikes, which feature road-bike style drop bars and knobby trail-friendly tires. But compared to Specialized's Crux 'cross rig, the Diverge has a shorter wheelbase and lower bottom bracket that keeps in line with road bikes. The Diverge is also designed to be more comfortable, says Wehan, than race-oriented cyclocross bikes.

While the Diverge may not be ready to race cyclocross or keep up with a full-suspension rig on harrowing trails, it offers a level of utility that's difficult to match with anything else from your local bike shop. It's a commuter, a winter bike, a gravel grinder, and even a capable mountain bike — it's all these things and still returns to pavement to perform like a pure road bike. [$8,500; specialized.com]