At just shy of eleven grand, Specialized’s unashamedly premium S-Works Creo SL is one of the most expensive e-road bikes on the market.
The in-house developed drivetrain and dedicated high-grade FACT 11r carbon frameset and a specification sheet that’s pretty much all prefixed with S-Works means the S-Work’s SL combines pretty much the very best that Specialized has to offer.
Why go electric?
We all wish we could tear apart the Tour de France with the youthful vigour of 21-year-old Tadej Pogačar on the last important day of the grandest of tours. Sadly, however, age and finite fitness levels can stand in the way. But what if you could ride a bike that handled with the same sort of vibrancy as the road-crushing Specialized Roubaix, while giving you a massive 250-watt power boost? A bike you ride just like your own but which, when it comes to the toughest of climbs, helps you achieve elite-level ascending speeds for amateur-level efforts? Welcome to the world of elite e-road bikes.
In the past, ebikes came in two distinct flavours. There’s the mid-mounted (bottom bracket), motor-driven bikes that come with plenty of power and torque but look a little ‘different’ and are fairly hefty in weight.
The other is the lightweight, hub-mounted system that delivers a less intrusive option based around just enough (but possibly not enough) assistance.
More recently, however, the advent of mid-mount systems, such as Germany’s Fazua and Specialized’s in-house developed SL1.1 (that debuts on the Creo) has muddied the waters. These offer low weight and retain the power and torque that’s inherent in bottom bracket-mounted systems.
With the Turbo Creo SL, Specialized has unashamedly aimed for the best of the best, regardless of price.
The specification confirms it has left nothing to chance from nose to tail: a 1x drivetrain that mixes Dura-Ace Di2 with a long cage Shimano XTR rear mech, top-of-the-range Roval CLX50 carbon wheels with an advanced aero profile and shod with S-Works tyres. The bar/stem/seatpost and saddle are all S-Works too, and Specialized also throws in a bottle cage-mounted, range-extending piggyback battery as standard.
The Turbo Creo is most reminiscent of the brand’s iconic Roubaix. The geometry is based around the cobble-gobbling endurance bike and even comes replete with the adjustable Future Shock 2.0 front damper to take the rough out of the road.
There are less eye-wateringly expensive options in the whole Turbo Creo range (starting at £5,500 for the Comp), but nevertheless it is clear that the Creo is aimed squarely at the premium end of the ebike market.
Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL motor range
Running out of battery mid-ride can be one of the biggest concerns for ebike users, and while the Creo can be ridden with the power off, it weighs more than a standard bike, so you’ll have more bike to push up those hills. Specialized hopes to alleviate ‘range anxiety’ with the inclusion of the range-extending battery.
On the Turbo, the SL1-320 battery is claimed to have a 130km range from its 320W/h capacity, to which the range extender adds 65km from its 160W/h battery, for a total 480W/h capacity and 195km/121miles. In our experience, this seems optimistic.
So, with its huge range claims, I wanted to see just how far the Turbo Creo SL could get from its dual-battery setup. I was impressed, managing 172.168km, with 1,324m of elevation, on a warm dry day. In my experience, battery levels can be affected by dramatic temperature changes, with cold weather tending to be more detrimental than warmer days.
However, it’s worth remembering that e-road bikes work best when you are putting in the effort and letting the torque and power setting algorithms do their work, matching your cadence and helping you maintain efforts, rather than expecting the bike to give you a free ride – which will also run the battery down much more quickly.
The Creo’s bottom-bracket mounted motor will drop around 250w of power into the drivetrain at its highest output, and it has three modes, each of which steps up to match your power input up to a max of 240w.
Specialized rates the internal battery to 500 charge cycles – or two years/300 cycles on the battery warranty. A recycling programme is in place, so the Creo’s battery won’t end up in landfill.
Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL frame
The S-Works Turbo Creo SL may look somewhat different to a standard bike with its large down tube and oversized bottom bracket area, but when it comes to on-road dynamics, Specialized has done a superb job.
The weight distribution is spot on, with most of the additional mass of the battery and motor set low down and towards the centre of the bike. Add into that a lower bottom bracket and a long wheelbase (thanks to a slacker-than-standard head angle and more fork offset) that adds stability.
Its shortened up the back end with chainstays of just 425mm – the shortest you’ll find on a mid-motor equipped ebike. This means that the Creo SL rides like a standard bike with a wheelbase that helps it feel nimble.
It also means that Specialized has adopted much wider, mountain bike-like Boost spacing on the hubs: 12 x 148mm on the rear, which helps maintain the ideal chainline for smooth gear shifts, although I’m not sure why it’d adopt the wider 12 x 110mm on the front.
This could be an issue if you ever have to replace the wheels. That said, you’d never look to upgrade from what is a genuinely premium wheelset. On the road, it feels very similar to Specialized’s brilliant Roubaix with the combination of a stiff responsive chassis and a supple, shock-supported front end making for a very smooth ride.
The 13.7kg weight never feels like an issue when whizzing along, and the light aero wheels provide plenty of fast fizz over rolling terrain. The handling is superbly stable and, despite getting a sense of the weight when cornering, it’s so well balanced it actually feels planted and rapid when leaning into an apex.
Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL geometry
|Seat angle (degrees)||74||74||73.5||73.5||73|
|Head angle (degrees)||72||72.5||73||73||73|
|Seat tube (cm)||44.75||47.75||50.25||52.75||55.75|
|Top tube (cm)||53.9||54.8||56.6||58.1||60.6|
|Head tube (cm)||14.55||16.35||18.55||21.7||25|
|Fork offset (cm)||5||5||5||5||5|
|Bottom bracket drop (cm)||8.05||7.8||7.8||7.55||7.55|
|Bottom bracket height (cm)||26.45||26.7||26.7||26.95||26.95|
Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL ride impressions
It’s when the road rises and you get into proper climbs that the Creo makes wonderful sense. The assistance feeds in subtly at first, just a gentle bit of help. When it’s in sync with you and you can feed off the power meter display on your head unit (the Creo has a built-in power meter), it encourages you to put in maximum effort and to try to push a faster cadence.
Specialized’s tag line for the Creo is, You Only Faster; and that certainly holds up when you’re climbing.
The SL impresses downhill, too, with the low-centre weighted balance of the frame inspiring confidence and the bike feeling so stable, even when swinging from one lean angle to another through S-type bends.
The Dura-Ace brakes and 160mm rotors do a decent job of controlling and stopping, although when I tried the Creo on long alpine-type descents I did find I could seriously warm up even 160mm rotors. If I was intending to use the SL in the mountains regularly, I’d be tempted to switch in a mountain bike 180mm rotor up front for extra security to counter extra weight.
The top tube of the Creo contains the Turbo connect unit, featuring Ant+ and BLE connectivity, a Ride mode switch and an on/off switch, and battery charge level LED indicator, with twin visibility for both range extender and internal battery.
The bike can talk to the compatible head unit of your choice or through a phone and the Mission control app. The app offers power personalised through sliders within it, giving infinite motor tuning to your own preference.
You can alter both support and peak power in each mode. Off the shelf, Eco is set at 35/35 for support and peak, Sport 60/60, Turbo 100/100 – support mode is how much support you receive in conjunction with your own power input (up to a 100 per cent total), while peak power is the max power in each mode (from 100 per cent total – 240w)
The Creo’s power delivery coming from the centre of the bike feels very natural, and with the combined power meter, it’s easy to gauge your effort versus that of the bike.
The mid-mount system is wider than a standard bottom bracket, which means Specialized has to run a 1x drivetrain for chainline accuracy. It combines a 46t chainring with a wide-range 11-42 cassette (borrowed from Shimano’s XTR mountain bike group).
The gear range may have a few larger jumps, but I didn’t find it a hindrance. The chainline is excellent: so quiet and efficient, chain security is good even on rougher terrain, and the Di2-assisted shifts are clean and crisp every time.
The one thing I noticed with the Creo is motor noise. It’s not a racket, but compared to an ebikemotion X35 motor, you can hear its efforts. You could easily ride a Cannondale SuperSix EVO Neo alongside non-ebike riders and they’d be hard pushed to know you were on an assisted bike. With the Creo, they’d guess from the low hum of the motor – although when the system was off, I was impressed with the lack of drag in the drivetrain, not something I’ve found on other mid-mount designs from the likes of Bosch, Yamaha or Shimano.
Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL overall
Specialized has achieved something brilliant with the Creo. It is a massively impressive machine, with the power delivery smartly achieved and matching your efforts seamlessly.
Its handling is endurance bike gold, comfortably smooth yet with handling to excite but not frighten. Its communication with a Garmin and the Mission control app is impressive.
It does, however, cost a huge amount, but you’ll never need to upgrade anything and, if you can afford the best, then look no further.
|Price||AUD $19000.00EUR €12499.00GBP £10999.00USD $13500.00|
|Weight||13.7kg (XL) – with range extender battery|
|Features||Charger: 48v charger, Range extender battery|
|Available sizes||S, M, L, XL, XXL|
|Cranks||Praxis Carbon M30 chainset with 46t ring|
|Fork||Future Shock 2.0 carbon|
|Frame||Fact 11r carbon|
|Handlebar||S-Works Carbon hover|
|Motor||Specialized SL1.1 custom lightweight motor with SL1-320 320w/h battery|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano XTR di2|
|Saddle||Body Geometry S-Works Power|
|Seatpost||S-Works FACT carbon|
|Shifter||Shimano Dura-Ace di2|
|Stem||S-Works Future stem with integrated computer mount|
|Tyres||S-Works Turbo 28mm|
|Wheels||Roval CLX50 Rapide carbon|