Specialized was kind enough to toss a Specialized Diverge Comp my way for Rasputitsa, and (TL;DR), it's a perfect bike for that event. (Side note: stay tuned for our Rasputitsa race report tomorrow!)
What is it?
Part of Specialized's Adventure & Touring line, the Diverge Comp is the middle-of-the-range offering for Gravel enthusiasts. It's got a range of perfectly capable components (largely 105 with a few cost-cutting measures thrown in) and features two most excellent features that made my day at Rasputitsa a lot easier than it would have been if I were on my normal cross bike.
Feature 1: Hella BB Drop
Most of my teammates were on cross bikes, which these days have around 65-70mm of BB drop. (WTF is BB drop? It's the distance that the center of the bottom bracket drops below the the center of the wheels.) The Diverge has 85mm – so in a few cases I was two full centimeters closer to the ground than everyone else. This makes the ride incredibly stable, particularly on descents. So if you saw a big dude bombing a descent and wondered if it was the shots of bourbon that he just took...nope, it was the BB drop.
Feature 2: Future Shock
I was skeptical as hell when I picked up the bike. Yeah, Sagan just won with a Future Shock equipped Roubaix, but I still thought it was marketing BS. Specialized's Future Shock is a steerer-tube mounted suspension device, and holy crap does it work. There's a washboard section early on in Rasputitsa that ejected everyone's bottles (seriously, there were ~100 bottles covering the road by the time I went through, and I wasn't that far back!). The folks next to me were rattled all to h*ck by the bumps, but I sailed through. What's more, it's easily removed from the frame, making service, cleaning, and height adjustment a no-cutting-required snap of the fingers.
There's a ton more to like about the bike, but they're largely things that are changeable/available on lots of bikes in this category: the 38c Trigger tires were great (fast and grippy); the 48/32 front double was the right gearing for the course, even if I missed my Di2; the CG-R suspension post mostly disappeared underneath me (a good thing); hydro disc brakes are correct for this application.
Would I buy one?
Since I primarily race road and cross, and don't have a season of gravel grinders ahead of me, I won't personally be buying one. The suspension is legit, and that BB drop really works. Unfortunately, though, the BB drop has a downside: Cyberia was nearly rideable for me, but I kept dragging my pedals through the edge of the snow-rut. That loss of momentum and lingering concern about pedal strikes does preclude the bike from being useful on a CX course (at least, for me). But if you're doing Rasputitsa, Unbound, D2R2 and Vermont Overland, this is absolutely a perfect bike to get.