This week’s bike of the week comes from one of the biggest bicycle makers in the world, and that is Specialized. This means you’ll find plenty of dealers nationwide, though you may also purchase online. I always confident recommending bikes from the major brands, just because I know you’ll likely be able to find service and parts long after the sale. Specialized makes a number, of what they call gravel bikes, and the Diverge Elite E5 is one of the best for performance and value.
- Huge Tire Clearance
- Carbon Fork for Comfort/Weight Savings
- GRX Drivetrain
- Hydraulic Brakes
- Dealer Support
- No Proprietary Parts
- Not Tubeless Ready Wheels
The Diverge Elite E5 is priced at $1999, and that gets you a gravel drivetrain in the Shimano GRX, and hydraulic disc brakes. In contrast, the standard Diverge E5 comes with the Shimano Claris drivetrain and mechanical disc brakes, and it’s priced at $1299. The Shimano Claris drivetrain lacks a clutch for better performance off-road, but if you plan to ride primarily on pavement or less technical off-road trails, then it can be quite capable. I think many riders would be happy with the cheaper E5, but the Elite E5 gives you a few more features that might be worth the extra cost.
Shimano GRX Drivetrain – Built for Gravel
Probably the most important feature is the Shimano GRX drivetrain. This is going to give you a derailleur with a clutch, which will help prevent chain slap and chain drops when going over bumpier terrain. It’s going to be a little tougher in general out on the trail, too.
The 11-36 tooth cassette and 2x chain ring up front (46/30T) provides excellent range for moderate hill climbing. It allows the rider to maintain a comfortable cadence when pedaling and plenty of choices in gears, being that there are 20 to choose from.
Some prefer a single chain ring for simplicity, as many mountain bikes are set up this way, but for a gravel bike that is meant to be ridden on the road too, I recommend having more gears as opposed to less. You’re just more likely to find that sweet spot for the cadence and speed you’re looking for. The standard Diverge E5 with the Shimano Claris drivetrain is a 16-speed with not quite the range as the Shimano GRX, but still adequate.
The other notable difference between the E5 and E5 Elite is hydraulic brakes. I’m fine with mechanical brakes, but have to admit that hydraulic brakes have better stopping power and require far less maintenance.
Aluminum Frame and Carbon Fork
Other than that, if you’re trying to decide between the two, there aren’t many other glaring differences. Both have what Specialized calls a premium E5 aluminum frame and a carbon fork. The wheels are also the same, and are outfitted with Pathfinder Sport 700 x 38 mm tires.
Both have a frame geometry that is designed for gravel riding, which means a little longer reach and a little longer chainstay for steady hill descents. This is a comfortable geometry for long rides, which makes this a good touring bike.
There are several mounts on the frame for accessories and water bottles, so you can bring quite a bit with you on your rides and adventures.
Choice in Wheel Size – 700 c or 650b Tire Clearance
The Diverge E5 is also versatile in that it can run 700 c or 650b wheel sizes, with up to 47 mm clearance for 700 c and 2.1″ for 650b. It comes with 700 c x 38 mm width tires, but having the ability to go up to 47 mm in a 700 c wheel allows riders to find more comfort and off-road capability from their bike. That’s the beauty of a gravel bike!
The downside to a gravel bike is that they’re not as fast as a road bike, and not able to handle rougher conditions as well as a mountain bike, but they’re incredibly versatile. If you only have one bike (heaven forbid :-), then a gravel bike is the one to choose.
If I were to choose between the Diverge E5 and the Diverge E5 Elite, I’d go with the Elite, if it fit my budget. It’s usually cheaper in the long run to purchase a bike with the components you’re really looking for than to upgrade later, but the standard E5 is also a very good choice. $700 isn’t a small amount of money, and if you can save that much and still ride away on a good performing bike, it’s worth considering.
Again, if you’re primarily going to be riding on pavement and milder gravel trails, then the Shimano Claris drivetrain on the E5 is good enough. If you’re going to be off-road more, then the Shimano GRX groupset will perform better.
As an alternative, if you’re looking for a gravel bike with the Shimano GRX drivetrain, the Co-op ADV 2.2 from REI offers it for several hundred less. I reviewed it recently, and gifted it to my daughter, and I was very much impressed with it.
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