Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL and Creo SL Expert Evo first ride review

A well rounded, well equipped and ridiculously expensive road bike

From GBP £7,499
Cyclist riding e-road bike

As part of the launch of Specialized’s new Creo e-road bike platform, I got to try out both the S-Works SL model and more gravel-focused Expert Evo model.

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Both bikes share the same Fact11r frame and motor, with the S-Works gaining a few more trick parts over the Evo, but then it’s three and a half grand more expensive than the Evo.

Turbo Creo SL Expert Evo ride impressions

My Evo ride was 40 miles/65km with over a 1,000metres/3,280ft of elevation and aside from a few kilometres riding out of the town, the majority of the ride was on fireroads, forest tracks and some tight and technical singletrack.

The first and overriding feel of the Creo is how natural the power delivery feels. You can certainly feel the boost of power (especially in Turbo mode) but it comes in very, very progressively, enhancing your efforts and not overtaking them.

The same is true when you approach the limit with the power trailing off, so you get none of the jerkiness associated with some less evolved e-bikes I’ve tried.

The bike’s weight (claimed to be a little over 12 kilos) just didn’t feel like a factor because the weight distribution favours the lower half of the bike, and through rooty, slick and slippy singletrack sections the bike felt more planted than I thought it would.

FutureShock stem on road e-bike
The Creo chassis borrows the clever FutureShock 2.0 system from the new Roubaix.
Warren Rossiter/Immediate media

The FutureShock 2.0 unit up front is a welcome addition in the rough. Travelling through more technical sections quicker than I would normally on an unassisted bike, the extra cushioning is a true advantage. The same can be said of the dropper post, enabling you to move around more easily and descend short, steep off-road slopes without hanging up on the saddle.

The Evo came into its own on one particular section, a steep rooty climb from a river bed to the top of the ridge with a gradient in double digits on a less than perfect surface. I put the bike in full Turbo mode, dropped the saddle a little, sat back and used a low gear for the power assistance to help me ‘scramble’ up this loose section without putting a foot down.

I’m not sure if e-road is truly a new sport as Specialized claims, but e-gravel with the extra boost of grip (because you can stay seated for longer) means far less bike-hiking when riding in the wild.

At the end of my off-road adventures, the battery had 43 percent remaining in its combined tanks (main and reserve combined – they run-down in parallel) and I came away seriously impressed by the Evo.

It’s the most natural feeling e-bike I’ve ridden, and despite the modest numbers on the motor output (320wh) when compared to the latest Bosch, Yamaha, or Shimano units, it felt every bit as powerful but with a power delivery that was much more in line with my own efforts and a more natural riding experience.

Turbo Creo S-Works SL ride impressions

The ride on the S-Works SL was a typical Swiss route, taking in 50 miles/80 kilometres of ups and downs with 8,200ft/2,500 metres of ascent.

The S-Works comes with a few more glitzy bits and the impressive CLX50 wheelset and so it’s a bit lighter than the Evo. Out on the road the S-Works feels most similar to the new Roubaix, with the combination of a stiff chassis and shock-equipped front end for a sublimely smooth experience on rolling terrain.

The bike feels impressively quick with you spending most of your time riding beyond the speed limit of the power assistance, with the bike handling like I’d expect and just feeling a bit heavier than a ‘normal’ bike at a claimed 12.2kg.

It’s when you get to the climbs that the Creo makes sense on the road. When the gradient rises the assistance starts to feed in, seamlessly at first but then you do get the boost of power enabling you to maintain a faster cadence rather than wrenching the pedals on seriously steep stuff.

Cyclist riding road e-bike
The Creo SL’s power delivery is impressively smooth.
Adrian Greiter

The toughest climb of the day was at around 10 kilometres where the average gradient didn’t drop below 14 percent. It was a proper wall, and on a standard bike, I would have quickly adopted my norm for climbs like this; sit in, select my lightest gear combo and slowly grind up, paperboying from side to side on the steepest ramps and gasping for breath at any moment of respite.

On the Creo, however, I was still working hard — approaching my max heart rate and putting out power numbers in my top zone — but riding quicker and in a straight line.

Specialized says that riding the Creo is “like you, only faster”, and that’s pretty close to the truth. This is one of the only times I’ve ridden a road e-bike and thought that the bike has helped get me to somewhere I wouldn’t have gone on a standard bike.

Of course, what goes up must come down and the S-Works impressed here too. On a long, typically sweeping alpine descent the Creo was a brilliant experience. The heavier weight makes it descend quickly and the low centre of gravity means it’s fantastically stable.

The only issue I had was with the braking. For a bike like this, discs are a must, and 160mm rotors have been specced front and rear, but I still found myself reaching the limits of their performance. High speed, late braking, and plenty of it means that plenty of heat can build up and by the time I was getting to the lower reaches of the descent, the brake performance wasn’t quite what it was at the top.

I’d like to see the front rotor upped to a 180mm (especially on larger sizes) to counter the extra weight of the e-system. It wasn’t that I ever felt the braking was a danger, it’s just the noise generated and the feel at the lever wasn’t as impressive as the bike’s all round performance.

At the end of this ride I’d completely depleted the reserve battery and was left with the main battery in the mid-thirties mark, so I’d expect a range of around the 65–75-mile mark dependent on topography of course — which is something I’ll return to when my test bike arrives on home soil very soon.

Specialized Turbo Creo early verdict

Cyclist riding road e-bike
The Creo is one of the most naturally feeling e-bikes we’ve tried to date.
Adrian Greiter

Overall, the Creo is a massively impressive platform. The way in which power is delivered is superb and the dynamics and handling of the bike impress too.

It’s not perfect, however — alongside the braking niggles, I also found that the bike’s communication with my Garmin Edge 1030, although easy to set up for e-bike, cadence, speed and power, didn’t quite deliver everything I wanted it to. The range field on the head unit was blank and the battery power would only read from the main battery and not the reserve pack.

I asked Specialized about this and it expects some of these omissions to be sorted in future updates, working closely with Garmin on the communications between units.

The biggest issue, however, is the pricing. With an entry point of over £7k and the S-Works at over £10k this isn’t a bike for every rider. I’m sure pricing will come down eventually once Specialized has recouped some of the development costs on the bike and the motor system, but until then any experience of the Creo will probably come from hire centres for most of us.

Specialized Turbo Creo specifications and pricing

Turbo Creo SL S-Works

  • Frame: FACT 11r carbon, Open Road Geometry, front/rear thru-axles, fully integrated down tube battery, internal cable routing, fender/rack mounts, Boost 12x148mm
  • Fork: Future Shock 2.0 w/ Damper, Smooth Boot, Boost 12x110mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc
  • Gears: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 levers, Shimano XTR Di2 Shadow Plus rear mech (46/11-42)
  • Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace R9170 disc
  • Wheels: Roval CLX50 Disc
  • Motor: Specialized SL 1.1
  • Battery: ANT+/Bluetooth, Specialized SL1-320
  • Stem: Future
  • Bar: Specialized S-Works Hover carbon
  • Chainset: Praxis, Carbon M30, custom offset
  • Tyres: Specialized Turbo Pro 28mm
  • Saddle: Body Geometry Power Sport saddle ti-rails
  • Seatpost: S-Works FACT carbon 27.2mm, 20mm offset
  • Extras: Reserve battery, charger
  • Price: £10,999 / $14,000

Turbo Creo SL Expert Evo

  • Frame: FACT 11r carbon, Open Road Geometry, front/rear thru-axles, fully integrated down tube battery, internal cable routing, fender/rack mounts, Boost 12x148mm
  • Fork: Future Shock 2.0 w/ Damper, Smooth Boot, Boost 12x110mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc
  • Gears: Shimano Ultegra Di2 levers, Shimano XT Di2 Shadow Plus rear mech (46/11-42)
  • Brakes: Shimano Ultegra R8070 disc
  • Wheels: Roval C38 disc
  • Motor: Specialized SL 1.1
  • Battery: ANT+/Bluetooth, Specialized SL1-320
  • Stem: Future Stem
  • Bar: Specialized Expert Hover alloy
  • Chainset: Praxis, Hollow forged M30, custom offset
  • Tyres: Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss Ready, 700x38mm
  • Saddle: Body Geometry Power Sport saddle ti-rails
  • Seatpost: X-Fusion Manic Dropper
  • Extras: Reserve battery, charger
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  • Price: £7,499 / $9,000