Specialized Turbo Vado review: smooth electric bike brimming with tech Leave a comment


The Specialized Turbo Vado 4.0 electric bike (Credit: Metro.co.uk)

If I were King of the Universe one of my first, and no doubt most unpopular decrees, would be to ban all car use not for haulage, commercial or long-distance purposes.

Shifting mobility from four wheels to two benefits us financially, biologically and environmentally.

And with products like the Specialized Turbo Vado available to buy, there’s really no excuse for relying on a two-tonne motorised armchair to get yourself from A to B.

If you’re not ready to go all-muscle, then opting for an electric bike is an excellent way to commute, visit the shops or get to an appointment.

This aluminium frame bike from Specialized boasts a 250W motor and a 710Wh battery that helps nudge you along. Although electric bikes are limited by law in the UK to 15.5mph, I was able to get theTurbo Vado – with a bit of extra effort – well up to 25mph on a flat surface.

Let’s do the downside first: this is an expensive machine. Prices for the 4.0 model that Specialized loaned me to test sit at £4,300. For a top-level electric bike that’ll last you years, that’s pretty reasonable. But there’s no getting around that with the cost of living continuing to bite, it’s a lot of money.

The Turbo Vado has great oversized tires that handle tarmac beautifully but can also be taken off-road (Credit: Metro.co.uk)

But part of the attraction of this bike, at least for me, is the amount of tech that comes along for the ride.

It boasts a companion app (called ‘Mission Control’) that lets you disable the motor as an anti-theft device. There’s a built-in Garmin Radar device mounted on the handlebars that’ll detect cars up to 140 metres behind you and show you their position on the screen.

Naturally, there’s also real-time ride information available there such as speed, distance and the current battery level.

The ride computer is mounted directly in the centre of the handlebars and is easy to see at a glance. You can control the level of assitance from the motor with two buttons on the left handle which cycle you through ‘Eco’, ‘Sport’ or ‘Turbo’ mode.

The ride computer is centrally mounted, bright and easy to read while moving (Credit: Metro.co.uk)

During the course of your ride, you’ll be shown as much or as little information as you want. However, the computer does have a habit of beeping at you which could prove distracting for some riders.

Once you kick off, it takes a fraction of a second for the pedal assist to cut in and help out. Even if you’re not a natural cyclist you can be up at a decent cruising speed very quickly. Getting away from lights with a burst of acceleration is extremely smooth and there’s no juddering or shaking as the motor powers up.

Actually riding the bike is a very comfortable experience thanks to the 80mm front suspension fork and high-volume tires. During my testing time, I never really took this bike off-road – as for me it became a commuter vehicle. But given speed bumps, potholes and uneven tarmac, I was very thankful for the suspension engineering and moulded saddle that gave a smooth ride.

There’s an SRAM 11-speed derailleur system consisting of a single ring in front and super-wide-range gears in the back.

Here’s the rear wheel motor (Credit: Metro.co.uk)

Keeping with the technological prowess of this bike, there’s no manual gear switching needed – it does it all automatically and lets you concentrate on just pedalling harder or softer as required.

As with any electric bike, range is going to be a key question. Thankfully, the Turbo Vado delivers in spades. You’ll get a massive 90 miles of range on a single charge of the hefty battery. And, at any point, you can switch off the electrics and pedal as nature intended to conserve the battery power.

The battery is hidden in the frame and can be locked away (Credit: Metro.co.uk)

If you intend on using this as a commuter bike, then there’s a very handy rear rack preinstalled that can support up to 27kg of weight. There are also built-in lights that – what else – turn themselves on automatically when it gets dark.

This will obviously save you having to remember to charge external lights but it also comes with an overabundance of safety. I was pleased to see the lights flipped on even in the middle of the day when I entered a dimly-lit underground parking complex.

Given the size and shape of this bike, it’s not really the best option for sporty zooming or off-road exploring. To my mind, it’s the perfect commuter vehicle or downtown runabout that’ll get you to the shops or the office without breaking a sweat.

The fixed rear rack also has a built in red light that comes on automatically (Credit: Metro.co.uk)

However, it’s important to note this bike doesn’t fold down – so you may encounter some restrictions if you want to take it onto a train during peak travelling hours.

It’s also fairly heavy at 24kg (and that’s before you’ve loaded your bags on the back) so opt for the lift if you’re going up and down from a train platform. But lets just take a minute to appreciate the built-in Drytech mudguards that do a very good job of stopping the spray from soaking your clothes.

Finally, the Turbo Vado’s excellent disc brakes mean stopping in an instant isn’t a problem.

There’s a school of thought out there that using an electric bike is somehow ‘cheating’ and it doesn’t count as proper exercise. That idea misses the fundamental point that people use bikes for things other than exercise. And while I wouldn’t look at the Turbo Vado as a way of torching excess calories, I’ve never experienced a more pleasurable way to get around the city.

The Specialized Turbo Vado is just a great way to get around (Credit: Specialized)

If you can overcome the initial hurdle of the price, and see this machine as in investment then there’s almost no downside to it. While some may need a foldable bike for storage/train reasons, those looking for a standard e-bike will be well rewarded by the Turbo Vado.

It’s well-built, comfortable to ride, packed with technology and security features and reasonably future-proofed. If I was to become humankind’s ultimate ruler and displace everyone from the comfort of their cars, I’d also want to make sure each one of them had one of these to ride around on.


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