2016 Turbo X: First week (and beyond) commuting impressions

Hello - I purchased a 2016 Turbo X (small) a week ago. I have commuted on it four times since then. My commute is a little over 28 miles one-way, on the W&OD trail through Loudoun and Fairfax counties.
In short - The Turbo X has surpassed my expectations, especially in terms of the range per charge. Range anxiety is a non-issue.
Commute Summary for the first week:
Day 1: ECO 30%. Maintained about 18 mph. Arrived at work with 68% charge remaining.
Day 2: ECO 40%. Maintained about 19 mph. Arrived at work with 52% of charge remaining.
Day 3 and 4: ECO 50%: Maintained 20 to 21 mph. Arrived at work with 38 to 42% of charge. I used Turbo mode on one hill and to lose a road biker (going up a long incline) who was drafting me close for several miles.

I really like the Rock Shox fork, the parallelogram suspension seat post, and the overall seamlessness of the assist. I'm enjoying my 56 mile round-trip commute on the Turbo X. Very glad I went for the model with suspension as it really makes a huge difference on such an "endurance" commute.

Notes:
  • I weigh 175 pounds
  • I'm 51 years old.
  • I carry a laptop, lunch, charger, a few tools, pump, patch kit and tire irons, and sometimes work clothes.
  • I use hybrid Shimano SPD pedals (platform on one side, SPD on the other).
  • I use a Night Rider Lumina 700 helmet mounted light. Planet Bike Flash tail light (Want to get a much brighter, larger, and slower flashing tail light I see some of the top road bikers using...don't know the brand).
 
At 5:30 to about 6:45 (when I'm on the trail) I almost have the trail to myself. I encounter about 2-3 commuters heading west, and pass one or two heading east on my way in. One time I left at 6:00 and by the time I reached the Herndon area there was a noticeable increase in bike commuter traffic heading east - but still lightly traveled.

In the afternoon (between 3:30 and 5:00) there is more traffic, but still light. I notice more walkers...people just getting outside for some exercise. A bit more bike traffic, but nothing like on the weekend. Overall I feel I have a semi-private highway for commuting. I can go for 5+ miles and not see anyone.

I think the most dangerous road crossings are Catoctin (Leesburg), Belmont Ridge Road, Sterling Blvd, and of course Wiehle. Fortunately, I found VDOT and County website plans for W&OD overpasses planned for Whiele (seems delayed) and Belmont Ridge Rd (2018 as part of expansion of Belmont Ridge Rd and the new rt. 7 interchange that just broke ground). In the morning I don't see any traffic at Belmont ridge (about 5:50 am).
 
No negative feedback yet. Folks seem to realize this is about avoiding using a car to commute. A few times road bikers draft me.
 

opimax

Well-Known Member
I live off the trail , only way for me to go any where is to go on the trail. Only once has someone said you are riding and electric bike and you aren't allowed, I just let Mr Lycra go ahead . Other times if I am going too fast for the conditions I may get some comments. More are becoming positive in general than they used to be. I am generally extra polite. No one seems cares what you ride if they aren't threatened or scarred of your riding style.
 

Jim123

Member
StormTrooper2, why don't you like being drafted off of? Not like it will make you more tired as usually would happen lol.
 
The drafting doesn't bother me....it's the stopping with them behind me that bothers me. If I have to stop quickly they will run into me. I've had bikes drafting me twice, and one time the bike was about 2 feet behind me. The brakes on the X are very effective and the mass of the motor and my loaded Topeak rack bag far to the back keeps the rear wheel planted. The X stops very quickly.

BTW...I tend to cruise at 19-21 mph west of Rt. 28. Things get more congested east of 28 - more road crossings, more pedestrians and cyclists, etc. So I cruise 15-18 mph east of Rt. 28.

Very nice ride this morning with the tail wind (should be beautiful going home...unless the winds keep up). Everyone must have thought today was going to be a wet day on the trail. The wind overnight dried the trail. Almost had the trail to myself this morning (as usual I had to ask a few deer to move off the trail).
 

Allan47.7339

Active Member
Allowing someone to draft would generate some goodwill for ebikes. On the other hand both riders need to know what they are doing. The lead rider has to alert the following riders to hazards and ride consistently. It also not not polite to draft without asking. I don't consider more than a bike length drafting.
 

Mike A.

New Member
I have almost the same commute. I live in Leesburg and go to McLean. I was planning to do a self build but now I'm leaning towards the Turbo X. Good to hear that the battery on the Turbo X is up to the WO&D task. The Turbo S price is a bit too much for me to take.
 
Mike,
I was tempted to convert an early 2000s REI Novara "comfort bike" with seat post shock and a decent entry level RockShox fork and a top-end Bionx motor and battery kit (the one with the motor in a large gray disc). It's a great kit. But the Novara is just an average entry-level bike I use around town or towing my kids behind in a trailer. The following sold me on the 2016 Turbo X:
  • The refinement - the quality, engineering, and integration still impresses me.
  • Purpose-built frame (super strong and stiff)
  • Recent higher capacity - and well integrated - battery. Range has not been a factor. NOTE: I carry the charger and charge at work. I arrive at work or home with about 40% charge remaining.
  • The higher end components, particularly brakes up to the task of stopping the considerable mass of the bike, me, plus my laptop and other gear, and the really comfy air-adjustable RockShox fork and PostModern parallelogram suspension seat post were nice bonuses.
I haven't ridden it much in December due to very wet weather or needing to do some after-work errands, appointments, and Xmas shopping. But the cold is NOT an issue. In the mid to upper 20s with good wind-blocking clothing (including on my head) I stay comfy chugging along at 50% ECO mode (but, my toes get cold about half way to work, even with overshoes...so 30+ is where I think I'll draw the line). I'm looking forward to getting back in the routine of riding it at least 2-3 days a week - more often when the days get longer.

My biggest concern with riding in the dark (especially the morning...about 5:30) are deer and rabbits running in front me. I don't see them until they enter my headlight beam. I have a NiteRider Lumina 700 mounted on my helmet. I'm constantly sweeping the sides of the trail with the beam looking for eye flash from the deer. I talk to them..."Good morning deer...watch out deer". If you don't have to ride in the dark you'll miss out on this excitement.
 
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Mike A.

New Member
My biggest concern with riding in the dark (especially the morning...about 5:30) are deer and rabbits running in front me. I don't see them until they enter my headlight beam. I have a NiteRider Lumina 700 mounted on my helmet.

I have the same concerns early in the morning in the WO&D. I have the same light as well! I've had my fair share of close calls with rabbits. I really love being on the trail virtually alone in the dark.
 
I do enjoy having the trail to myself...and riding east into the sunrise can be a spectacular way to start the day. One of the big advantages of starting out at 5:30 is little if any traffic at the Catoctin Circle, Belmont Ridge Road and Ashburn Rd. crossings. Belmont is scary at times due to high speed traffic, but generally the cars respond to the crossing-sign flashers and stop. Catoctin Circle is by far the most dangerous. Seems during the day some drivers ignore the traffic light - the drivers that run the light don't accelerate during the yellow...they just maintain speed through the yellow and into the red (clearly deliberately ignoring the light). I've seen several near misses (and heard about worse). Some drivers make eye contact while they continue on...so there is a bit of a toxic motorist/cyclist thing going on. None of this is an issue at 5:50, when I ride through there. On the trip home I don't trust the traffic lights (I put my headlamp on high at the Catoctin crossing...) BTW...part of the new interchange and road widening project on Belmont Ridge is a new W&OD overpass - Nice! (Plans for Belmont Ridge Rd. are widening it to a 4-lane median-divided road. The W&OD bridge is therefore a necessity...so I think we will see this one built on schedule).
 

Corey

New Member
Thanks for your riding updates. I too ride the W&OD in from Vienna to Arlington, with some city streets thrown in, and have been considering the same bike (Turbo X). I go back and forth about the Rear vs Mid drive, and as much as I want to love mid drive, the Specialized just seems well thought out and put together. Anything you can expand on that you wish you started with, or something that you now regret. I currently commute in now (15 miles each way) at that same time and can relate to the rabbit dilemma. I've ridden about 10 e bikes and been back to a couple of brands a few times, but always think about the X. Hoping to order something by February and begin the commute cycle after the worst of the DC weather has past.
 
Corey - I wanted to like the mid-drives. I rode the Trek with the Shimano mid-drive. It was under powered and way too noisy (think of a mechanical gear sound much like a child's wind-up toy robot would make...a disappointing effort by Shimano). I rode the new I-Zip E3 dash mid-drive and thought it was MUCH better than the Trek (quieter and more torque and power - a great value bike). But in the end I settled on a few conclusions: 1) mid-drives may be popular in Europe because riders use them for shorter commutes instead of cars or public transit and want the lowest cost/best value for their short commuting needs, 2) European riders may encounter hilly streets (mid-drives have mechanical advantage over rear hub motors), and 3) bike shops and DIYers like mid-drives because they are easier to service/replace. One bike shop sales person told me their mechanics would rather work on a mid-drive rather than taking apart a wheel to remove a bad motor. I don't fault any of these motives. I'll also accept that mid-drives are better balanced and it's easier to fix a flat tire (though Specialized has made it really easy on the Turbo...and the Kevlar-lined tires are a nice bit of puncture protection). I was also concerned that the extra torque a mid-drive puts on the chain would lead to early wear and possibly premature chain failure on the trail.

Rear hub-motors are PERFECT for the W&OD. The best way I can describe it is to say rear hub-motors are for absolutely silent Autobahn cruising - for this type of riding a relatively flat ride is ideal (I should note the Turbo does well on steep hills, but this isn't its strong point). So buying the Turbo X with hub motor and suspension was the BEST option for a 30 mile (one-way) commute on a smooth old railroad bed. I would not want a Turbo without suspension for this distance. The X is perfect for long distances...very smooth.

I ride a 2015 Trek Domane 4.5 one the weekends and all summer for fitness (I'm a teacher). For awhile I did a hybrid commute with the Trek. I'd load it in the car the night before, with all my stuff. I used the same ToPeak seat post beam rack I use on the Turbo. In the morning I'd put on my bike clothing and drive to Ashburn and park at the old train station (the popular BBQ joint). The distance was perfect...12 miles one-way. BUT...it was a complicated and time-wasting process in total (loading, unloading, putting gear on, taking it off..etc.). I never got to the point where it felt efficient (I like getting on the Turbo in the garage, and getting off the Turbo in the garage...simple...efficient). If my commute was just 12-15 miles one-way I would not buy a Turbo or any e-bike. I do 20 to 30 miles whenever I ride my Domane, so 12-15 miles each way isn't far enough for me to feel spending $4500 on a Turbo to be necessary. I wouldn't mind having it - but I couldn't financially justify a Turbo if I wasn't realizing significant fuel savings and also getting a good bit of exercise (no need to go for a ride after work if I ride 60 miles to work and back). This leads me to the one more rationalization I used to justify the Turbo purchase.

I would love to own a Tesla Model X. But I can't afford one and really I wouldn't buy one even if I could - I'm too practical. But I would buy the upcoming Tesla Model 3 or possibly the new Chevy Bolt EV. But here's why I chose the Turbo instead (at least until I retire 7 years from now): Even if I bought an electric car I'd still have to sit in traffic on Route 7 or the Greenway/Dulles toll roads (and pay tolls). The time sitting in the car at the peak of rush hour makes my commute about an 1 hr 10 min. Riding the Turbo ANYTIME takes 1 hr 30-40 min. So the choice was easy... Turbo X is expensive, but way less than a Tesla or the Bolt. Instead of dealing with people texting and driving I deal with rabbits and deer. Instead of sitting in stop-n-go traffic I cruise on what often feels like a natural world miles away from the actual urban rat race just beyond the trees that buffer the trail. I get to work/home in relatively little additional time and get my daily exercise (not to mention the mental health benefits of cruising through green space almost the entire way). Oh...and eventually the fuel savings, oil change savings, tire wear savings, and increased value of my car with lower miles on the odometer, will more than pay for the Turbo X :)

People often say "$4,500!!! You could buy a motorcycle!" I say "Yeah...and I'd be way more vulnerable among those texting while driving, still have pay for license and registration, insurance, gas, oil, etc." They still don't get it...and this is fine. Part of the pleasure and reward of being an early adopter is having the trail almost to myself in the morning and lightly traveled in the afternoon. Now I avoid the W&OD on the weekends...too crowded.
 
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Allan47.7339

Active Member
Nice writeup on the decision process.

As far as rabbits, squirrels and cats, I assume we are too quiet and they don't really hear us approaching in time to react correctly. I usually ring the bell or shout if I see one ahead. They usually look startled.
 

Cory151

Active Member
Great write up!! I loved the Turbo I tested in nearly every way, I do wish the bike would power all the way to 28mph instead of pulling power at 26mph but this is extremely minor, and does not detract from the beautiful build quality from one of the worlds best bike manufactures. Make sure and do an update to this post after you hit a couple thousand miles.
 

Mike A.

New Member
If you see a guy on a Cannondale Six Carbon 1 drafting you next week well before sunrise say hi...it will be me. :)