Specialized Turbo Vado 3.0 – The tech-savvy younger sister
The 3.0 version of the new Vado is the ‘City-tune’ version in the Vado range. That means it is optimised for range, assistance up hills and everything you need up to 32kph (20mph) (this has subsequently been bumped up to a 45kmh limit). It has been a while in gestation – around 2 years in development and 9 months since announcing to the world that Specialized’s European team were having a new baby, we now have one we can buy and ride.
The family lineage is evident in the frame design and geometry, but the electric architecture is all new. The older Turbos were ground-breaking designs featuring fast direct drive rear hub motors, whereas the younger sister has a sophisticated Brose mid-drive motor like her off-road cousin Levo (the Levo MY 2018 and Vado 5.0 has the v1.3 motor, the Vado 3 has the v1.2). The battery in the older generation had the brains making them expensive and a bit fiddly (firmware upgrades could ‘brick’ the battery if they went wrong) while Vado’s battery is just a battery. The brains are in the remote this time, a neat unit by Bloks that clips on and off like a Garmin Edge — and about the same size.
Does this change pay off? Yes, the bike rides a lot better. No more jarring as you go over a bump, Vado hops and skips along with poise and balance. She corners confidently and feels more sophisticated than the more macho older bro. She is super-versatile, confidently riding up the steepest hills, going off-piste and fanging it down hill. I have done a good number of kms on this bike over a variety of terrain including off-road, and I love its handling. Well balanced and assured. It’s reasonably light weight too. Just saying, this lady now tops the leaderboard on my mega steep Liverpool St climb which was almost effortless compared with every other bike tested. She managed all the hills with ease including Shaw Rd in the Waitakeres (it’s the first time I have actually enjoyed riding up it).
What we have here is a nice spec supporting a Brose “250W” motor and a 468Wh (13Ah) battery that will be good for around 60km at full speed when new. Having said that on my hilly test run I only achieved 40km, but the battery was brand new and one tends to get better range after a few cycles as verified on subsequent journeys. Full speed is limited to 45km/h (when I tested it the limit was 32kmh) but it will probably cruise around 40kmh. Bearing in mind it will chew through more battery at that speed. It has Turbo/Sport and Eco modes, with Sport is my preferred setting in general. I do really like the Brose drive system which in my opinion is currently by far the best motor on a commercial ebike – it is quieter than Bosch, has plenty of torque and has a zero-drag freewheel. When I did run out of juice I rode it like a normal bicycle, and I didn’t feel at all hard done by. I even gapped some roadies at the traffic lights (disclaimer: they had no idea it was a race, the unsuspecting fools…).
I wasn’t able to test the Bluetooth Mission Control app as it isn’t ready yet (due Jan 2018), but I assume it will be similar in function to the one for the Turbo S and Levo. That allowed for some tweaking of power levels and acceleration profiles. It’ll also be able to remind you to take your bike in for a service and if you opt in, to send anonymised diagnostic info to Specialized. In the other models, you are able to set a route and tell the app to adjust power levels to ensure the battery would last. The Bloks computer/display is nice and big and visible, but I miss the range estimate feature that the Bosch bikes have. The 5.0 and 6.0 models will have a more sophisticated headunit that seems to offer more Garmin Edge-like features including navigation (via a smart phone) and Ant+ integration.
I found the parts selections to be great. The ride position was comfortable (and familiar as I ride the previous Turbo daily), and all very well sorted. The Shimano brakes work great this time around with good modulation and power. The pedals are interesting, flat with sandpaper for grip like a skateboard deck. They seemed to work even in the wet, and this way your shins aren’t under threat from sharp pegs or teeth and you can wear shoes with thin soles. The light is now a goggly-eyed alien that projects a thin slit of light to avoid blinding oncomers. I wish more riders had these.
The mudguards or fenders deserve special mention. Rather than being available as an accessory for the naked bike of the previous generation, these are well designed and integrated. The front mudguard goes down almost to the ground, the profile is wide and there is a special aero channel up front to keep spray to a minimum. My first ride was in rain and I can attest to their effectiveness, and similarly my off-road adventure where it was a bit muddy and my shoes stayed clean.
There will be more models along soon, a few of the 5.0 will be onshore in October and has the speed tune with a v1.3 45km/h motor, bigger 600Wh battery and better parts selection, bigger price tag, but with a rigid fork. I look forward to riding that. Some other markets get a 4.0 (higher spec than 3.0) and we might also get a 6.0 (a 5.0 with a suspension fork). I am told that the suspension fork will be available aftermarket at a reasonable price.
RRP is $5800. I think this is reasonable value – especially now with a higher speed limit. The Brose motor is the best in the business. You’ll likely get better customer support from Specialized and their dealers than with many of the competition. My own experience with the older Turbo has been superb. As an example, in my first ride I had a minor electrical issue from water incursion. Specialized has already recognised the issue and sent out replacement parts (ie a recall). You won’t get that with your cheap Chinese-sourced ebike.
Who should buy this bike?
- It has wide appeal and will go urban and light trail
- You prefer a bike that looks and rides like a hardtail mountain bike but flies up hills and will serve you well come rain or shine, road or trail
- It will reward you up hills, especially the very steep ones
- You don’t mind paying for quality and sophistication
And who shouldn’t?
- If you want the very fastest and best – you should wait for the upcoming 5.0/6.0
- You think that paying more than $5k for a bike is nuts. (It’s not really, look at what the average MTB rider in Rotorua, Queenstown, Nelson or Chch spends on a bike without a motor, or for that matter the minimalist road bikes out there.)
What else should I look at?
- Other Euro-style mid drives from Moustache, Haibike, Kreidler, Kaklhoff/Focus, Scott, Trek, Merida. Just make sure that their speed (often 25km/h) and fit is OK for you. If you test ride this bike you will be very disappointed by a competing 25km/h bike if it is for commuting.
Here are some video clips from my tests