The all-new Specialized Diverge STR, a full suspension gravel bike

A first look at the all-new Specialized Diverge STR with front and rear Future Shock suspension.

Specialized Diverge STR
(Image credit: Anne-Marije Rook)

Specialized today unveiled its newest Diverge gravel bike, the Diverge STR, complete with front and rear suspension. By introducing a rear Future Shock, Specialized seeks to further isolate the rider from rough roads and find balance.

He will cringe if he ever reads this, but Chris D'Aluisio is one of the most fascinating brains (and persons!) in the bike industry today. It’s always fun to see what he comes up with. You can see his handiwork in everything from the Cannondale Lefty to just about anything Specialized has produced in the last two decades, including the SmartWeld technology (a.k.a D’Aluisio Smartweld (opens in new tab)), the Venge, the Tarmac and the Suspend the Rider project. 

The latter has been D'Aluisio biggest and longest-running project yet, and one that has ultimately led to the rear Future Shock that Specialized is introducing today. 

“I cannot understate just how much of a project this was,” D'Aluisio told Cycling Weekly with a smile. 

It all started back in 2014 when the Specialized engineers were tasked with trying to solve a simply stated yet diabolically hard to solve problem: how to keep riders comfortable and in control on rough and bumpy rough roads while retaining the snappy acceleration, power transfer and handling we’ve all come love in the rigid, double diamond frame. 

They came up with a “smoother is faster” philosophy, which reasoned that:

- Comfort means less fatigue, especially after a long day over rough terrain, be it the Paris-Roubaix cobbles or the Flint rocks at Unbound

- A smoother ride increases your ability to apply constant, less stochastic power. 

- Smoothness also aids in traction, which in turn aids in speed. When tires stay planted, this increases the rolling efficiency and correlates to greater speed and acceleration.

From this philosophy we saw the emergence of wider tire clearance; a 20mm front-end, spring-loaded Future Shock suspension in the Specialized Roubaix and later, the Diverge; and the lowering of seat stays far below the seatpost clamp, allowing for a highly flexible seat mast and dampened ride. The latest version of the Future Shock 2.0 was released in May 2020 and added a dampener and adjuster to the front-end suspension, but the project continued.

Why? Because as early as 2017, D'Aluisio and his team realized that while the front-end Future Shock did a great job isolating riders from the bumpy surface below, the bike no longer felt balanced. “The front was outshining the rear,” D'Aluisio said.

Chris D'Aluisio on the right riding with CW contributor Josh Patterson

Chris D'Aluisio on the right riding with CW contributor Josh Patterson 

(Image credit: Anne-Marije Rook)

While the dropped seat post clamp and seat post deflection does achieve a decent amount of rear-end compliance, it reached its limits with the increasingly rough terrain common in today's events.

And so back to the drawing board the engineers went. How could they get the rider isolated from the increasingly big bumps below?

“We wanted to get the whole bike suspended,” said D'Aluisio. “So we tried all the typical mountain bike rear suspension systems, but didn’t find any love in this.”

They did, however, find inspiration in the concept of a suspension seatposts.

“We understood that suspension seatpost, that have the action on the top, have a lot of positive things, but a lot of drawbacks too. They don't have a dampener, they have high weight, they're not very good to look at, and they're mostly an add-on, right? But we liked the positives of it,” said D'Aluisio.

And so the wheels in D’Aluisio’s head started turning.

The Specialized engineers were working on a theory around the wheel and rider path when encountering a bump. They observed that “if the front wheel stays on the ground and the rear wheel hits a bump, the opposite direction of that path—the one needed to isolate the rider—is down and back,” D’Aluisio explained. “The direction of travel should be equal to and opposite of the wheel’s path.”

D’Aluisio set to work, creating some rather wild looking prototypes, which Specialized was willing to share. These early prototypes include eccentric bottom brackets, air shocks in the down tube and seatposts with integrated shocks and dampers: