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). 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 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. 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 32km/h, which is fast enough for most folks around town or on rail trails. I did find the limiter a bit annoying in the sense that the bike tended to ‘hunt’ at around that 31-32km/h range as the power cut out and in again. This is really noticeable on the flat where you naturally get to that speed because of the motor. I am told that there will be a mod available that will up the speed limit to 45kmh [dealer told me this is done by Specialized before shipping the bike to you]. Sweet! I found it easy enough to pedal along at around 34km/h with no assist and on my more undulating 2nd test ride I had no issues with the speed limiter. It’s also less dramatic in Eco or Sport mode than Turbo. In fact, Sport is my preferred setting in general. I do really like the Brose drive system – 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 Nov 2017), 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 July and has the speed tune with a 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. 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
- If you are happy with 32km/h (for the time being) it will reward you up hills
- You don’t mind paying for quality and sophistication
And who shouldn’t?
- In a way the target market for previous Turbos – you should wait for the upcoming 5.0/6.0 if high speed is your requirement
- 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.
Here are some video clips from my tests