Specialized Creo SL Expert EVO
Bam! and they’ve done it again. Specialized has created a genre-busting ebike and done it incredibly well. They have engineered their own motor and battery system (Creo in Latin means ‘create’). It is stealthily integrated and also nicely compatible with their Mission Control app, allowing infinite tune options. The clevers in Switzerland have added only 3.7kg including battery, allowing the S-Works version to come in under 12kg. The Evo gravel version I rode came in around 13.5kg. While this might sound heavy for a road bike, it is still a very light bike and never felt like anything other than a top-end road bike. Instead of going down the “more power” ebike route, the Big S has taken a Lotus-like approach, with just enough power perfectly delivered in a lightweight package. Respect is due. This approach is a sign of e-maturity.
I feel I have to answer the question on everybody’s lips: “Who on this green earth would want to ride an e road bike?” Actually, it’s the same question I asked myself about eMTBs a few years back, and look where we are today. The answer is: “Because it makes it easier, and that means that more people can participate as equals and anyone can go further.” So this means spouses riding together, older people with injuries riding with their mates, and less fit people keeping up with the more fit. Equality. Oh, and it’s a ton of fun anyway. I’ve got a nice road bike, a nice ebike and a nice MTB. I’d really like one of these so if I had the money, I’d rush out and buy one. n+1
The EVO versions of the Creo are the same frame and motor but with a ‘gravel’ setup. They all share the same geometry and the ‘Future Shock’ impact-absorbing headset (it worked really well on the cobbles and gravel by the way). The EVOs add wider tyres, 50mm dropper seat post and flared handlebars. It’s the build I would opt for personally. Remember, these aren’t race bikes so running skinny tyres seems a bit limiting (rims are the same so you can always slip on your GP5000s if you really want to). I spent some time off-road and it was fun.
The ‘Expert’ build features Ultegra disks and Di2 shifters and an XT Di2 rear derailleur. You won’t find a front derailleur on any of the Creos. Wheels are Roval, the C38 ‘value’ carbon wheel. It all worked magically.
The ride is sublime. If you’ve ever spent time on a quality road bike you’ll recognize the zen-like feeling you get when it’s just you, a simple lightweight bike and the road. I was worried that the motor would come between me and that feeling but it didn’t. There is ‘just enough’ power so that you still get that road-bike buzzy feeling and a work-out, but the assistance is there for when you want it. Initially I rode mostly in Eco mode (35%) and in the second part of the ride when it was more hilly, I rode in Sport (60%). You toggle through the modes using a button on the top tube. A longer push turns the assist off, and in that mode it just feels like any road bike. I felt the urge to stand up and crank – a uniquely roadie feeling – and the bike encouraged me back. But if I wanted it, Turbo mode pushed me up the steep inclines without too much effort.
Geometry is comfortable. The higher stack and relaxed head angle makes for a relaxing ride and I felt happy on the top or in the drops. The EVO option lets you drop the seat post so you don’t have to feel awkward on the gravel descents. I also appreciated the extra comfort from tubeless-ready 38mm tyres (can go up to 42mm).
The battery is a modest 320Wh 48V affair that can be augmented by a bottle-cage mount 160Wh, which is included with your $20k S-Works and around $750 for the rest of us mortals. It weighs a kilo. The material claims some great distances from the battery, but that may be the case for other countries where assistance stops at 25km/h. Here they are limited to 45km/h so you can’t really expect the same range as 95% of your ride will be powered compared to maybe 50-60% under EU rules. I flattened the battery in 65km of mixed riding with some big hills thrown in. If I were riding in a bunch I’d probably have got 80km or more as I would more likely have ridden with less assist. If battery anxiety is an issue, worry no more! You can set a distance in the Mission Control app and let the clever electronics eke the most out of your battery. Or you could ask the shop to restrict you to 25 (noooo…)
My only minor niggle was that my one foot rubbed a bit against the crank. There is a fairly wide q-factor (effective crank width) and the Praxis cranks seem to makes this a bit worse. I could live with it and maybe adjust my cleats a bit.
Did I mention how stunning the paint-job is? You should be able to see it in the photos.
A lot of the early press has been about how much the bikes costs. But what they might be ignoring is what any road bike with Specialized’s high-modulus Fact11r carbon, carbon wheels and an Ultegra or Dura-Ace Di2 build would cost anyway. The Expert-level (Ultegra Di2) build will come in at $12,700 for the road and a few hundy extra for the EVO (due to the dropper post). The S-Works (Dura-Ace and more carbon contact points) is $20k and includes a range extender battery. An alloy Comp-level build (I imagine mechanical 105 componentry) will be $7600 and the Comp Carbon $10k. You can’t get one yet but the upper-level bikes will be available in October and you should be able to get your Comp-level bike under the Xmas tree.
Will Specialized sell tons of these? Perhaps not given the entry pricing. Have they created something special? Yes, this is the start of motors and batteries ‘right-sized’ for their task. Whereas many ebikes (or almost all eMTBs) carry power and capacity for any eventuality, the Creo only carries ‘just enough’. I like that.
Robin-who-writes-better-than-me has a review on NZ Cycling Journal
Thanks to Specialized NZ for arranging the bike. I feel privileged.