Winter riding once meant pulling an old road or ’cross bike out of the shed, dusting off the cobwebs and mounting some sluggish winter tires and a set of mudguards. The entire act was merely one of survival, something to maintain a base of fitness, and perhaps sanity, through the short, dark days. But times have changed. We now have the equipment to thrive in any conditions, letting us enjoy riding year-round wherever the road takes us.
Our weapon of choice for the winter months is a gravel bike—and, if there’s an option, we’d choose the Specialized S-Works Diverge. So, when we head to Britain’s Yorkshire Dales National Park, we know exactly what bike to reach for.
Located in northern England, the Yorkshire Dales contains more than 800 square miles of rolling green hills with a few rugged mountains poking out above them. Cows and sheep graze everywhere. Quaint stone buildings dot the pastures and give way to the occasional village where everyone knows each other by name. It’s quintessential English countryside that offers a fantastic breadth of terrain to explore on the S-Works Diverge.
As passage to the Dales, many visitors choose the scenic Settle-to-Carlisle train line, which features a number of bridges and tunnels to conquer the craggy terrain. One structure in particular draws us in while we’re exploring. Dating back to the Victorian era, the quarter-mile long Ribblehead Viaduct has 24 massive stone arches that rise 104 feet above the remote moorland, with several paths meandering below it.
On the day of our visit, the grassy landscape is covered with a fine dusting of snow. No worries—we’ve come with the Diverge, a jack-of-all-trades bike that we can rely upon. Its slack geometry is put to good use as we navigate through the snow, our bike-handling never in doubt. As we ride by the carefully constructed stonewalls that demarcate boundaries, we’re glad to have plenty of tire clearance, both to float over the snowy trails and to jettison the occasional mud the tires pick up. For extended bouts of snowy weather, the bike offers some serious clearance. Maxing out the rubber to 700x47mm or a whopping 650×2.1 inches provides maximum flotation over dirt, sleet and whatever the trails bring.
Despite being equipped for mixed-terrain riding, the Diverge manages to feel not just passable on the varying surfaces we encounter—from dirt to grass to gravel and back to tarmac—but purpose built for all of them, even on snow and up daunting climbs. And in the Dales, despite the tame look of the hills, there are some very steep climbs to tackle. Never ones to back away from a challenge, we make our way toward the highest of the region’s peaks….