Specialized Turbo

This is my bike. I love my bike. I bought it because it’s faster than everything else and because it doesn’t look like an ebike. Cyclists are weird like that.

[Edit: this model is no longer made – you might still find one in a dealer or second hand. ]

The first thing anyone who rides this bike feels is “whoa this is fast”, and “wow that really doesn’t feel like an ebike” because it doesn’t. Power uptake is as natural as it gets, and being absolutely silent creates an illusion of being constantly downhill. It rewards the cyclist, adding to the rider’s input rather than making up the difference.

The Turbo is also not the bike for everyone. It’s deliberately ‘racy’ and in my case the bars are lower than the saddle (no, it’s not a ‘seat’) and has a rigid fork. I have to stand up and crank up my driveway, because the direct drive rear hub motor isn’t torquey like a mid-drive or even a geared rear hub. It also cost twice as much as other bikes, with an RRP of $5500 plus $300 for the ‘city kit’ of mudguards and rear rack. Add another $200 for the extra charger I bought so that I could charge it at work and we have a $6k ticket. But I have no regrets. ElectricMeg and I often say we have never regretted buying the best sporting equipment, and while this isn’t strictly a ‘sporting equipment’ buy, it sort of is too.

I wasn’t going to drop that sort of money without a thorough test in the ‘real world’. Saint Cycles allowed me to take the beast home so that I could do a trial commute. I was blown away to find that I was 15min faster on my 27km commute than on my carbon roadie. What was more remarkable was how much fresher I was at the end of the day. I figured that I was saving around ~$4000 a year by biking so the purchase price was a reasonable investment. My only concern was range – I used 2/3 of the battery each way. The solution is relatively simple – charge at work and at home.

The Turbo is clearly a well specced bike, with (mostly) premium componentry and finish. The lighting is good with Supernova V6 up front and a slickly integrated light on the rack and on the saddle. Typically you have to choose either, but a simple wiring mod I did myself has both lit. Useful when you are carrying gear on the rack that may obstruct one of the lights. Gear shifting is SRAM X7 10sp and changes smoothly and reliably. The brakes–Formula C1 with 180mm rotors–hmm, these work well at stopping but really they are horrible. They squeal and spares are hard to come by. Why Specialized, why? I’d rather have the Tektro Aurigas that ‘lesser’ brands equip if you can’t afford a set of SRAM, Shimano or even Maguras like the Euros seem to love. [Edit: I have managed to sort these out with different pads. But my original point remains]

I find the ride position good, grips nice, saddle OK and even the home-brand tyres seemed OK. The observant might notice a set of Schwalbe Energizer Plus tyres in the pics, a recent addition. They have transformed the bike in many ways adding a level of damping to the ride that was missing before. This relative lack of damping had resulted in a nasty speedwobble under some conditions, but is gone with the Schwalbes. [Edit this was caused by my carrying a backpack on the rack. Switching to panniers has cured it]. I have to admit that the handling with the original tyres was more natural feeling and offered (weirdly) better traction in the wet despite being slicks. I guess that was what the designers were aiming for.

So is this the fastest bike in the West? Almost… I have been caught up or overtaken on three occasions. Once by a home-built with 1800W who easily gapped me without even pedalling, once in the fiercest tail wind ever by local ‘machine’ Phil on his roadie, and once by Chris from Specialized on the venerable Turbo S (he is so dedicated to customer service the he didn’t actually overtake me). It can go somewhere around 42kph on the flat with a bit of hard pedaling; a bit more with a tailwind and perhaps 38-39 in a headwind.

This bike has really transformed the way I view commuting. It’s fast. It’s fun. It’s a sport. So thanks Specialized for making the Turbo for me, and I hope that your next generation is even better and doesn’t lose the sportiness.

Who should buy this bike? Someone looking for a sporty ebike ride that doesn’t include very steep climbs, and who isn’t afraid to pay for the best.
Who shouldn’t? Someone looking for a more upright position, who prefers riding more sedately, or who faces large climbs.

What else could you look at? In New Zealand we see few ‘speed pedelecs’ ie bikes capable of up to 45kph. A Smartmotion will take you to 35kph so a Pacer is not too far off and also a great choice. I also rode a Focus Aventura that thought it had 20″ wheels so could do around 38kph. It felt nice to ride and had great battery range. I have heard of a number of people buying Focus/Kalkhoff bikes and ‘dongling‘ them to get better top speed. The motors and batteries are up for it. [Edit: same is true for the Bosch Performance line motors]

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4 comments

  • Thanks Barry for your efforts in writing about E bikes, I am enjoying the articles.

  • Hi Barry… Thanks for finally posting a review of this, your own bike…
    Quite frankly… it sounds like it is completely suited to my (sporty?) desires…. but sadly, my budget is lacking… I’m currently riding a (very good quality when new, Including Shimano 600/Ultegra gear-set) +20 year-old road-bike for a 17km each-way commute…

    It was a “toe in the water” affair, and I can afford a little more to upgrade… but sadly +$5k is not my region of spendature…

    Frankly… I’m looking at $1500- $3000 (stretch!!!)… And, also, in my late-40’s, I’m looking to increase my sportiness/fitness level (from a below average, but not complete couch-potato level)… rather than reduce it…

    I like the speed and responsiveness of the 700c road bike, but it has no easy way to fit a rack or panniers… and the skinny high-pressure tyres are not very comfortable and also puncture-prone…

    Occasionally I commute on my wife’s Mongoose 26″ MTB… it’s heavy and slow, but I like ditching the backpack and using the cargo carrying panniers on the rear rack…

    I’m considering an “entry level” smart-motion, Pedego or similar “quality” e-bike (but not a trade-me no-name) , set up for commuting… or a un-assisted cyclo-cross bike (shaped like a road-bike, but with room for fatter tyres, and mounting lugs for racks/panniers) with Shimano 105 (or better?) componentry…

    Do you have any comments or suggestions to help steer my choice… ?

    Cheers,

    Fletch.

    • Hi Fletch,
      A bike like the Smartmotion e-Urban would suit your functional needs. Those are $2.5k and are a nice bike, go fast ‘enough’ at around 35kph etc. But given that you are coping fine on a 700c bike now I’d be inclined to stick with ‘acoustic’ and find a nice flat-bar hybrid/commuter bike with maybe 32c tyres (eg Durano Plus that are fairly puncture proof). I’ve seen some really nice Cannondales out there, not sure how much they cost though or where to get them.
      Unfortunately finding nice commuter bikes is hard in Auckland. Which is why you see so many roadies and mtbs being used. A pity, because they don’t really fit the purpose. I’d be inclined to go to somewhere like Rode who are more urban-oriented than the rest.
      Hope that helps…
      Barry

    • Love our Pedego bikes, very luxurious

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