As of this writing, Specialized still has the 2015 Turbo X models in stock at their warehouse at a significantly reduced price ($2500-2700 depending on your negotiating tactics). Contact your local Specialized dealer and ask them to order you one!
About the Rider
I am 43 years old, 5’11” and weigh a very light 125 pounds (56.7Kg). I have been weekend joyriding with a 1980’s Nishiki Sebring for years. I probably not the average e-bike owner. I didn’t get the bike for health and fitness, I got it for transportation. I’ve wanted to get rid of my car for years. With a steady 9-5, lots of evening activities and a tendency towards getting all my shopping done in one big trip, my bicycle was not conducive with my busy schedule.
Sure, on the weekends, when free time was more readily available, I would hook up my cargo trailer and make runs to the grocery store. But on a weeknight, that would never happen. Meeting my friends out on the town? I didn’t want to show up full of sweat. Same for family gatherings.
The Turbo is my excuse killer. Until I have a year or so with it, I won’t be making any rash decisions about getting rid of my car. But even if I don’t, if I can extend its life and relegate it to purely long freeway trips and oversized cargo trips, my investment will be considered worth it.
Lord Vader, your bicycle is ready
Back in 1996, Chevrolet released an SS version of their Impala automobile. Their advertisements in magazines simply had the tagline, “Lord Vader, your car is ready.” The ad even said “you have just three color choices: black, black or black.” This is the impression I get looking at the Specialized Turbo X for 2015.
The bike, as Specialized calls it, is draped in “Nearly Black” and “Satin Black” finishes. The color evokes a feeling of stealth. If the Navy Seals had a tactical bicycle—this is what I’d picture it to look like. With the exception of the chrome brakes, chain, valve stems and a small part of the suspension fork, it is almost entirely black (or nearly black). In fact, I think it looks far cooler than the 2016 Turbo X, which has a glossy dark black finish. If you think the color black is the coolest color, this bike is going to please you in every way shape and form. You would almost hate to get any chrome or other shiny colored accessories for it. Even glossy black would stand out on this bike.
An Urban Commuter Stealth Fighter
I think what attracts many to bicycles like the Turbo X (gearless hub motor and integrated down-tube) is the feeling of stealth. It doesn’t immediately scream e-bike. The GoSwiss motor is dead silent. If you hear noise back there, it is the tires you are hearing. Nobody is going to pick your bike out of the crowd as an e-bike because of noises.
The biggest dead giveaway is the lighted power button and status LEDs. These do not turn off, although the four status LEDs decrease in number as the battery drains. This is not something that most people will notice (especially during daylight hours).
The second giveaway is the battery cutaway in the down tube. The battery itself is darker then the down tube so it stands out, but at a glance it looks more like a decal. The bike has many other subtle color stripes ranging from darker blacks to light grey. This helps make the battery cutout appear more like a pattern than a component.
The bike weights about 50 pounds depending on the frame size yet is extremely well balanced. Nothing like a bike with a battery mounted on a rear cargo rack. The weight is low and distributed nicely between the seat.
You only feel it when you are lifting it straight up or leaning it past about 45 degrees. Standing over the bike and holding it between your legs, you can easily tilt the bike side to side without any effort. It doesn’t feel like you’re going to lose grip of it. You’re not going to get fatigued standing over it and having a long chat with your friends.
That being said—if you need to carry this up stairs, lift it on to a bus bike rack, or walk it up a steep incline—you are going to feel the weight. Also, if you are the type of person who will turn your bike while stationary, by lifting the rear of the seat, you will notice a bit more heft. It is not hard to move, but it takes some getting used to. Finally, if you ride this bike without any pedal assistance, you are also going to notice the weight (as well as some drag from the gearless motor).
The battery on the Turbo X is about 8 pounds of that weight. So you can get this bike down to just above 40 pounds. But the back end with the motor will still have some significant heft to it.
Pedal Assist—What it is like to ride
In his review on electricbikereview.com, Court says “it just zips.” The first time you step on the pedals in Turbo Mode, it feels more responsive than stepping on the gas in my car (granted, my car sucks, but that’s a different review). It is an exhilarating feeling. Anyone who has hesitations about a motor rated at 200 nominal watts can just ignore that statistic. There are 350 watt geared motors that feel far less zippy than this bike.
Turbo Mode, I almost might describe, as being too zippy for unimpeded use. Especially for a novice e-bike rider. I feel like this mode is easily saved for hills or strong headwinds. The best analogy I can come up with is anyone who has ever driven one of those big cars back Pre-90’s where the power steering was so loose, you hardly felt like the steering wheel was connected to the wheels. I feel that way in Turbo Mode on the flats. You almost want more resistance to give your legs a stronger connection between effort and result. You will still zip up to the 20-plus MPH range in varying levels of Eco Mode, but for me, the Eco’s feel more connected.
My personal preference is Eco 50. It feels like my old road bike, except when I look at the speedometer, I’m going way faster than I’m used to for the amount of effort I exert. Eco modes are also perfect for busy and shared bike paths where other bikers and pedestrians are around. Because Turbo Mode gives you so much boost, depending on your gear selection, it may catapult you into a crowd if your foot slips.
Regardless, I can’t stress this enough. If you are shying away from this bike because of the motor power rating, you need to take it for a test drive. Motor watts are like megapixels on a digital camera. A big number is meaningless without knowing the quality behind that number and the efficiency in which the drive train applies that power to the road. This is Specialized, after all—a company that egotistically prides itself on fast racing bikes. If you think they’re going to sell a bike called the Turbo with a touted top speed for 26 MPH and put a weak, incapable motor on it, you’re mistaken.
On the road, the bike feels light and nimble. Almost feather light. Any feeling of weight just disappears. I think it has to do with the fact that you are reaching higher speeds faster than on a traditional bike. It is those lower speeds that generally feel less stable and Turbos feel like they skip over that step. Depending on the gear you’re in, grade, and terrain, you can easily achieve 5 MPH per revolution in Turbo Mode.
The Turbo on Flats
On flat paved roads or trails, the Turbo is just as capable as any other e-bike out there. You will be going fast. The speed-to-input energy ratio compared to any other e-bike I’ve tried is going to be negligible.
To maintain that feeling of “assisted” pedaling, anything from Eco 60 to Turbo is going to feel pretty good. Eco 30-50 range has a really good foot-to-drive system force connection. Eco 10-20, as Court described, feels more like a normal heavier road bike. Assistance off feels pretty heavy and it really brings to bear that you are riding a 50-pound bicycle.
If you ever got stranded without power, this bike will be a chore to get home. It won’t be impossible, but you are going to probably stay in the top 3-4 lower gears.
The Turbo on Small Hills (1-5% grade)
The 200 watt motor on this bike is perfectly suited for smaller rolling hills. Even if they are long hills, this motor will do you proud. If they are very gradual, you probably won’t even feel the need to shift gears and the speed reduction will be negligible. You will notice you are on a hill, but you won’t get that burning sensation in your legs telling you to switch gears.
The Turbo on Medium Hills (5-15% grade)
On Medium hills, you will probably be inclined to shift. Maybe not to the lowest gear, but certainly not in the highest. In a lower gear, you can probably maintain a 17-19 MPH speed with little or no effort. If you are willing to sacrifice speed and get into one of the lowest gears, you won’t break a sweat climbing a medium hill. You can even stop and start again without standing on the pedals to get moving again.
Side Note: Not standing on the pedals is something I am still getting used to. You really don’t need to. In fact, I’ve gotten myself into trouble at intersections with this non-e-bike habit—especially in Turbo Mode. Standing on the pedal produces a lot of power. The motor is going to add your power to its power. This will be quite a jolt forward and if you have to stop, your body position probably won’t be ideal for fast braking and re-balancing (you tend to tilt your bike when performing a standing start).
The Turbo on Larger Hills (15% grade+)
I don’t have a lot of large hills in my area. Certainly none of significant length. The few I’ve found are fine in low gears. You certainly feel some resistance in the pedals and your speed will probably be under 10 MPH. You are going to feel that familiar non-e-bike burn in your legs (still less than you’re used to). If you take the approach of just strolling up the hill, you are going to be fine for shorter distances. For people who live in areas with long climbs, you may need to consider motor overheating.
The Turbo X (and base Turbo) are rated at 200 watts nominal and 750 peak. That peak power is nice, but the motor cannot sustain it for long periods of time. Since I don’t have any hills to test it on, I cannot give any feedback as to whether or not the Turbos are good choices for long large hills.
I’m not entirely sure why Specialized added their throttle feature to the bike. It really isn’t usable except for short, under 50 foot, little jaunts. As Court said in his review, it is could be nice for going through puddles, but the stuttering feeling you get once it his 11 MPH is not sustainable. The bike itself isn’t jerking forward and back, but the motor will kick in—stop—kick in—stop. It reminds me of that kid sitting behind you in the air plane kicking your seat. It doesn’t hurt your forward momentum, but it is very annoying.
If you are looking for an e-bike with a throttle, this is not the bike for you. This bike is for people who want to always pedal.
Arguable, the worst part about the 2015 Turbo X and similar models are the brakes. The Formula C1 brakes are the biggest corner cut for cost and are probably going to make you want to replace them. Don’t get me wrong. They will bring this heavy bike and its passenger to a screeching halt. But they are highly prone to squeaking. So loud, I don’t even use my bell, I just hit the brakes and pedestrians jump out of the way…100 feet up the road.
There are many guides on quieting squeaky brakes, but as a 2015 base/Turbo X rider, you just need to come to terms that your brakes are not the best in terms of noise. The best solution that many have found is to simply replace the sintered (metallic) brake pads with organic pads.
My front brake doesn’t squeal (yet), but my rear brake is very loud. So I’ve replaced the rears with Kool Stop organic brake pads (about $20US on Amazon). This leaves a sintered pad in the front, which is better for wet braking.
The Suspension Fork
The RockShox 50mm suspension for is a joy for anyone, like me, who has been riding rigid bike frames for years. While the amount of travel is small, compared to most mountain bikes, this fork is perfect for curb jumping. On the left-hand fork is a pressure guide to help you adjust it for weight. It uses a standard Shrader valve. The remote lockout works well and has a push-button release.
The bike comes with a number of minor accessories. The bell is okay, but sounds duller than I prefer. Not like the classic “ring-ring” sound. It does ring, but it fades pretty quickly. Maybe I have it tightened down too hard.
The mirror comes with left-hand and right-hand mounting arms and is surprisingly durable. The angle of the arms have a bit to be desired. The way I have it mounted in my photo lets me see my arm in the right-half and cars in the left. You could swap the arms and mount it below the handlebars, but you would have to bend it (the arm is a pretty sturdy piece of metal, so nothing you can bend by hand, unless you’re pretty strong). I would have preferred if Specialized made the mirror with a convex (outward bow) surface. The angle of view is not very wide and you are going to see cars well behind you or cars near you.
The lights are nice and bright. The headlight has decent coverage and good adjustability. The metal housing makes it feel very durable. The rear light, only being three LEDs is much brighter than I had anticipated. The fact that they do not turn off does not bother me. I always welcome more visibility day or night. If they bother you while charging, then you can always charge the battery off the bike.
The grips are fairly comfortable, but not my favorite. I will probably replace them. The single screw locks them nice and tight and I haven’t had any problems with them twisting on me. They were very easy to remove to slide accessories on and off.
The pedals have a decent amount of grip and should be fine for most people.
The bosses on the bike for mounting hardware (racks, water bottle cages, etc) are good quality and standard size. Because of the frame configuration, the disc brakes in the rear don’t protrude much, so you don’t necessarily need a disc brake compatible rear rack. I still got one (Ibera IB-RA5) because I like the clearance for strapping stuff around the rack frame.
- 500 Mile Update
- Additional Thoughts...for people who've never ridden an e-bike.
- Turbo-X Winter Ride