The original motto for Specialized Turbo e-bikes was "It's you, only faster." That still holds true for the new line up of Vado, but now the big S has incorporated user friendly features and a new tagline "Busy lives call for faster bikes." We've already had a go on the Euro friendly 25km/h version, but here's our report on the full blown 45 km/h Vado 6.0.
Specialized called upon its years of bike fit knowledge when building the Vado e-bikes. The credo that the bikes had to be fun to ride came from the top of the company with founder and president Mike Sinyard saying "It can't feel too pedestrian."
Specialized leveraged its Body Geometry to dial in the correct geometry with a 70-degree head angle and a very low center of gravity, and there are thru-axles front and rear, which is very welcome because e-bikes are heavy and put a lot of stress on axles, hubs and wheels.
The Electrak tires feature Specialized's Gripton compound which is a surprise. The compound felt soft and supple, so much so that I checked my tires' air pressure more than once. As a bonus, the Gripton rubber elicits a high-pitched squeal upon lock up.
In the US, the major bike brands are pushing two classes of e-bikes: Type 1 which assists up to 20mph, and Type 3 that assists up to 28mph. What separates those from Type 2 e-bikes is that they're pedal assist, whereas Type 2 has a throttle.
While the Vado shares the same motor with the Levo mountain bike, it's tuned differently and has a unique battery. The Vado battery is comprised of the same cells as a Tesla car battery, just a bit less numerous at 40 vs. 7,000 for a Tesla.
Initial ride impressions
Impressively, the Turbo Vado felt like a bike. That's not faint praise, I've ridden numerous e-bikes that have felt awkward and cumbersome. From the first few pedal strokes it was easy to feel that the Vado was well balanced and very neutral handling.
The Turbo Vado 6.0 is classified as a Type 3 e-bike. The 350-watt motor can increase your pedaling input by up to 320 percent. Luckily that boost comes in a smooth, linear rush that's akin to the feeling of a powerful, naturally aspirated car that continues accelerating smoothly and predictably. Other e-bikes often come on with a kick, similar to a turbocharged car that can be gutless until the turbo spools up and then snaps your elbows straight.
Many people remarked how quick it was from a stand still. Getting going from a stop I could definitely feel the platform of the motor that I was pushing against. Because of that I found it to be a bit heavy and slow for the first three to four pedal strokes unlike a light, responsive bike that winds up nearly instantly as you smash into the 1:00 to 4:00 o'clock part of the crank rotation.
Up front, a Suntour fork was on board for 50mm of squish. It felt a bit underdamped even with the preload knob cranked to max, however I'm not the right demographic (I'm very picky about suspension), but for the intended audience and their use it should be more than appropriate.
I felt the same about the TRP Munich disc brakes. I actually spoke with the mechanic about bedding in the pads to the rotors, which he (rightfully) believed was already done, and it turns out the brakes' lack of bite and power was a conscious choice made for the intended e-bike rider.
I was most impressed when I rode the Turbo Vado 6.0 up a 7 percent climb and could see the entire group of riders flying up the hill. The pace at the front was well over 20mph and even the non-cyclists rolled to the crest of the hill smiling, riders were a bit shocked too at how easy it was to ascend such a steep road.
My co-worker Oli got to ride the non-US Turbo Vado 4.0 and called it an e-piphany. I wouldn't go that far, but it is a very well sorted urban e-bike that shows there's still plenty of room for innovation and refinement in the category.
Specialized Turbo Vado US range
- Turbo Vado 2.0: $2,700, men's and women's available, 50mm Suntour fork, 460Wh battery, 250W motor, 20mph max assist, no rack or fenders
- Turbo Vado 3.0: $3,200, men's and women's available, 50mm Suntour fork, 460Wh battery, 250W motor, 28mph max assist, includes rack and fenders
- Turbo Vado 5.0: $4,600, men's only, Turbo Evo rigid fork, 604Wh battery, 350W motor, 28mph max assist, includes rack and fenders
- Turbo Vado 6.0: $4,800, men's and women's available, 50mm Suntour fork, 604Wh battery, 350W motor, 28mph max assist, includes rack and fenders