This review of the Specialized Turbo Vado ebike was contributed by reader John Knott. Thanks John!
This review of the Specialized Turbo Vado is my own thoughts on the bike as an owner. I am a cycling enthusiast and this is my latest new bike. I bought it to replace my car for short journeys, such as shopping and local visiting, and also use it for recreation/fitness on club runs. The Turbo Vado is doing its job so far. Of the 300 or so miles I have traveled on it, about 75 miles have been cycling pleasure/fitness rides, the remaining 225 miles replaced car journeys.
If you are not familiar with the 2017 Specialized Turbo Vado, it has the following:
- Wide, flat handlebars with comfortable Body Geometry grips
- Suntour NCX Hydraulic forks
- Shimano Hydraulic disc brakes
- Shimano Deore 10 gears
- Mid-drive Brose electric motor with internal belt drives for quiet, vibration-free cycling
- A 500 Watt hours battery
- Integrated locking battery unit
- 700C x 43mm wheels/tires
- Mudguards (this is the British name for fenders)
- A really solid side stand
- 300 lumen integrated front light with special aspherical lens, and a rear light integrated into the Racktime pannier rack
- Racktime pannier rack
The Specialized Turbo Vado on the Road
The riding position is relatively upright, as you would expect from a hybrid style bike; I feel very much in control. I purchased an additional steering tube extension to give me an even more upright position.
The riding balance of the Vado is excellent. It has no problems and tracks smooth and rough surfaces with equal security.
The frame geometry has been chosen for long distance comfort and is good for daylong rides.
Off Road on the Specialized Turbo Vado
My bike was delivered with 43 cm mini knobbly tires, which would make it suitable for defined off road tracks, but not for virgin territory. But it is not just the tires that would keep me out of the wilderness, this is a heavy bike that needs to know where it is going.
Range of the Specialized Turbo Vado
Every body that I speak with about my new ebike asks about the range, and quite frankly I can’t give a sensible answer. The reason for this is that the distance traveled between charges varies significantly. Here are some of the factors that determine the range of a full charge:
- My weight
- The terrain of the ride. The more hills encountered, the more often I engage the battery assist and the quicker the charge is used up
- The weather: cold batteries don’t give their charge as freely as warm.
- Do I feel good today, up to the challenge of a good workout, or do I just want to sit back and enjoy the battery assistance?
I chose the Specialized Turbo Vado because it is a properly sorted bicycle. Despite being heavy (54 US pounds), it rides easily without battery assistance. I think this is important. On my first rides I was averaging 100 miles plus between charges, but to do that I was working quite hard, only using the battery assist with steep hills.
I look at battery range in this way: no electric bike can disobey the laws of physics. The Specialized Turbo Vado has a nominal 500 Whr battery driving a 250 W motor. The math suggests that it can do this for approximately two hours. At 15.5 mph, that is about 31 miles. Of course, if I coast on downhills and use my legs to climb the smaller hills it will go much further, but how much I really can’t say.
In practice, for rides over 40 miles, I make sure I start with a full battery, and then, during the ride, use it as frugally as possible. I usually get back with more than 60% still in the battery, but I know that if I run out of energy (hit the wall, get the bonk) it will easily get me home.
Bike Controls on the Specialized Turbo Vado
Let’s get the simple things out of the way first; the brakes and gears by Shimano just work. No “ifs” or “buts”. Just brilliant.
The motor controls and display panel are basic, but sufficient. The removable display unit shows the following:
- State of charge
- Level of assistance chosen; 1 bar – Eco (least assistance), 2 bars – Sport, or 3 bars – Turbo (maximum assistance)
- Riding data such as speed, trip distance, ride time, and odometer.
There is a master on/off switch on the battery and a thumb operated 4-button switch cluster on the left of the handlebars that controls the display and the motor.
A long press on the battery dimple switch switches the battery on or off; five LEDs on the panel show the state of charge of the battery. Within two or three seconds the battery symbol on the display panel lights up, followed swiftly by the other indicators.
When the battery “ON” phase has completed all control is through the 4-button handlebar switch. “+” and “-” increases and decreases the assistance level. The bottom button controls the lights, and the remaining top button controls the ride data displayed.
They have even thought that you might find pushing this 54 pound machine around a bit difficult and provided walking speed battery assistance. Just push and hold down the “+” button and walk away. Neat!
The Specialized Turbo Vado in Use
The startup phase includes two default operations:
- The lights are turned on
- Sport level assistance is selected
Therefore if range is your priority you would turn off the lights and turn off the assistance before moving off. However, for shopping journeys I leave both on.
An unusual consideration with this bike is created by the length of the front mudguard/fender; it is very long and I have to careful not to damage it when negotiating curbs and such like. I have not encountered this problem on any of my previous bikes.
The Battery Unit on the Specialized Turbo Vado
The locking battery unit is stylishly integrated into the frame down tube and can be charged on or off the bike. The lock used is made by ABUS and is uniquely coded. This means that if I wanted to buy a lock for the bike I could get one with the same code as the battery, and thus need only the one key.
The charging port uses magnetism in two novel ways. The first way holds the weather cover over the charging socket. The second way ensures firm and correct orientation of the charging unit plug. It just wont let you connect the charging plug incorrectly. I find this to be reassuring.
I do find that I need to be very careful when reattaching the battery. I haven’t yet mastered the knack of a swift insertion. It is a slow and careful operation to make sure that everything clicks into place. Doubtless this will get slicker as I get more familiar with the action.
Charging the Battery of the Specialized Turbo Vado
The battery charges quite quickly. The last charge took two hours to recharge 80% of the battery. The charging unit does get quite warm: unnecessarily so in my opinion. As a precaution I make sure that it is supported at both ends so that there is air space all around it.
Extras I Have Added to my Specialized Turbo Vado
- Since I bought the Vado to carry shopping, I bought a pair of Racktime panniers.
- Steering tube extension. To ease a neck problem I bought a steering tube extension that enabled me to ride in a more upright position
- My previous bikes have all had some sort of saddle suspension (a necessity in this part of the UK) and I am currently sourcing a suitable one for the Vado.
- The 700 x 43mm mini knobblies supplied with the bike wasted energy and were noisy and not best suited to road use. I replaced them with 38 mm slicks; inflated to 60 psi, they roll along beautifully.
In summary, the Specialized Turbo Vado is a well-built ebike. It feels secure, and provides a great way of getting around. I would recommend it to cyclists who wish to shop, commute, or just get fit.
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