Over50's Specialized Turbo Vado SL 5 EQ Chronicles

Over50

Well-Known Member
My first non-Bosch e-bike. It hasn't gotten off to a great start. I don't have the bike yet (tomorrow - maybe) but my service experience with the LBS from date of order to now has been the worst I've ever had for any large purchase. I can't go into all of the details here because I want to keep this thread about the bike mostly. I could have had the bike a month ago - it has been sitting at the LBS for that amount of time due to lack of communication.

Why this bike? I've been interested in a flat bar, light-assist e-commuter for quite some time. Due to being light-assist it needs to be lighter weight. I've followed with great interest the news of such bikes which have mostly been available in Europe only. I've argued with some of you on their merits. I had great interest in the Desiknio with a pinion gear box and hub motor - but I doubt they will ever be available in the US. I had great interest in a commuter with the Fazua system. To me the biggest benefit of the Fazua system, apart from fitting the bill as a lightweight and light-assist system, is its ability to be removed from the bike leaving a functional analog bike. But the Specialized SL motors seem to be getting the better press from reviewers like @Court. And the Specialized SL models have beat the others to market in the US for all practical purposes (i.e. whatever happened to Budnitz's Fazua commuter?). So this bike becomes available and the SL motors are getting good reviews and the Specialized app offers functionality that is really practical and useful for my type of riding. Thus, I had to give it a try. Other advantages include the bike's light-weight, the ability to ride with no power and the modularity of the add-on battery.

The disadvantages of this bike? The first is more about my local options for Specialized products. They aren't great. the experience of ordering this bike and dealing with the LBS has been the worst imaginable. But yes, it is also the first time I've ordered a bike during a pandemic so I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt. The biggest disadvantage of the bike itself is the non-removable (by the owner) battery. Second is the minimal capacity of the rear rack. And aesthetically, in my opinion, it certainly doesn't have the fit and finish of a Desiknio. That's about all I can say about the negatives until I've ridden it.

What will I upgrade? The LBS was supposed to take care of tires and a few other things for me. Strangely they say (after a 3 week wait) that they can't even get tires. So here is what I have planned for upgrades:
  • Seatpost: I wanted the Cane Creek eeSilk. As I posted in another thread, the eeSilk is gone, dead and not coming back anytime soon. For now I'm going with the re-designed Thudbuster ST. The main drawback to that choice is their weight. Later, if I find the ride harsh, I might upgrade to the carbon Kinekt
  • Tires: first choice is Schwalbe Marathon e-Plus but I'm open to suggestions. I want a good dry and wet road tread that can handle some choppy pavement or dirt roads and which has good flat protection. Please offer suggestions. If it is a heavier tire with good flat protection I will forego the Tannus liners. For a lighter tire with medium flat protection I'll use Tannus. I'm sticking with 700x38c. I'll have to mount everything myself and the LBS will not be helpful in this department
  • Range extender battery: on order
  • A set of Racktime Heda panniers - already on hand
  • A Spurcycle bell
  • Mirror undecided - need to buy
  • Pedals - Crank Brothers Stamp 7 Large (trying for the first time)
  • Maybe, off in the distant future:
    • seat - after giving the stock seat a try
    • handlebar - if I need more compliance and vibration dampening over what the Future Shock provides
    • maybe a gravel wheelset of carbon or aluminum - I've become a believer on the benefit of a quality wheelset but I'm still educating myself in this department
    • Spinergy has a gravel wheelset with aluminum rims and they advertise the vibration dampening benefits of their POC spokes - which are not steel
    • DT Swiss has a newer e-bike specific wheelset with aluminum rims
    • a budget carbon gravel wheelset?
Maybe pictures forthcoming this weekend. And later I hope to post some rider opinions on the Specialized SL experience vs the Bosch Gen 4 experience on the Allant 9.9s.
 
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Law

Active Member
Just looked up that Desiknio. Wow, what a beauty in classic trim.

I would import it. makes specialized an ugly sister.
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
I like that bike a lot. I hope to see more lightweight systems like it, on other types of ebikes. Something more off road oriented like a gravel or cross bike with straight bars. A class 1 would be fine, almost preferred with many states limiting off road to class 1. I think the amount of assist advertised could be just right.

Enjoy! Looking forward to reading your trials.
 

Over50

Well-Known Member
  • Tires: first choice is Schwalbe Marathon e-Plus but I'm open to suggestions. I want a good dry and wet road tread that can handle some choppy pavement or dirt roads and which has good flat protection. Please offer suggestions...
.

I ordered the Marathon e-Plus right off of Schwalbe's website. The LBS supposedly ordered tires for me (not sure from where) and almost a month passed before I was able to reach someone by phone. The tires had not arrived. When they checked on it they said "everything is out of stock". They hadn't checked on the order status in the whole month since they supposedly ordered the tires. Anyway, these were among the few tires available at Schwalbe's site. It looks like Schwalbe is out-of-stock on many items and they cite high order volumes on their website. They were out of tubes too. I considered the Energizer Plus tires but they were out of stock in 700x38c.

I updated my original post to add the pedal upgrade: Crank Brothers Stamp 7 Large. First time trying these pedals. A month ago I dropped the pedals at the LBS to be swapped when they put the new tires on. The LBS employee acted a bit put-out by the fact I ordered them off of Amazon. I did so because I hadn't been able to reach anyone at the LBS in the month after putting in the bike order - they wouldn't respond to my voicemail or email. And with the tire experience, it appears I made a mistake by trying to get them through the LBS. Some small businesses may rightly complain about Amazon killing Main Street but geez - I think sometimes its the small business killing itself with unacceptably bad service.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
You'll find the Marathons pretty heavy, @Over50 but that's the price for them being such puncture-resistant. Your choice of Stamp 7 Large is very good (I have them on my Vado 5.0) but bear in mind they tend to injure shins and calves. Be careful. I replaced the Stamps on my Trance E+ with Race Face Ride as much more forgiving ones.

P.S. I recommend you inflate the Marathons halfway the minimum and maximum allowable pressure. These tyres can behave strangely on some specific surfaces such as paving when inflated too much!
 
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Jimbo08

Active Member
Most small businesses are struggling to figure out this new way of doing business. The boom in cycling interest is great, but you need staff and supplies to keep everyone happy. And not all staff were quick to return and help keep up with the overdemands being put on shops right now. And if the staff is more about getting people on bikes vs. the latest ways to communicate with customers via media, someone is going to feel shortchanged in the end. I do know your pain from the customer end, as I have experienced the same at others stores. one of the big building stores let me down big time, but i am willing to forgive a lot. It's not the way the minimum wage staff are used to working. It's been a giant leap for everyone.
Like every other brand, Schwalbe has only odds and ends, if any tires to send to LBS's for now, Even biggest of distributors have no tires.

Sounds like you should cancel your Vado SL order and get the Desiknio. You sound more in love with it. Different bike than the Vado for sure. Cannot travel with it, 25km/h speed limit, single speed, and everything seems al a carte ie carbon fork upgrade, from what I could find on their website. It's a nice looking bike for sure, but I wouldn't say i found it any prettier than the Vado SL. And hub drive?? (I can speak to this as I have had 2 of them)
But each to their own.

Enjoy the Vado SL if you decide to go that way. It is a very nice ride.
 
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Over50

Well-Known Member
...Sounds like you should cancel your Vado SL order and get the Desiknio. You sound more in love with it. Different bike than the Vado for sure. Cannot travel with it, 25km/h speed limit, single speed, and everything seems al a carte ie carbon fork upgrade..

Desiknio has several Pinion options, 6 speed, 9 speed etc...I'm a fan of the bike and brand but I'm not willing to import to USA without dealer or distributor support. Yes, the euro speed limit is a major drawback. That is why I was hoping they would enter the US market via a distributor or dealer. Because then I assume they would modify the tuning to at least Class 1. But if I imported on my own I would have to live with the Euro settings.
 
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Over50

Well-Known Member
You'll find the Marathons pretty heavy, @Over50 but that's the price for them being such puncture-resistant. Your choice of Stamp 7 Large is very good (I have them on my Vado 5.0) but bear in mind they tend to injure shins and calves. Be careful. I replaced the Stamps on my Trance E+ with Race Face Ride as much more forgiving ones.

P.S. I recommend you inflate the Marathons halfway the minimum and maximum allowable pressure. These tyres can behave strangely on some specific surfaces such as paving when inflated too much!
Yes, I think those Marathons will weigh a ton and are probably stiff as heck. I was leaning to the Energizer Plus but Schwalbe was out of stock.

I like the pedals for sure. My Origin8s on my Trek are similar and yes I've cut up my calves and shins several times with those. The Stamp 7s are pretty sweet I must admit.
 

Over50

Well-Known Member
I picked up the bike today and spent quite a bit of time adjusting and monkeying around with it and learning my way around Mission Control and the TCD display. I only left myself time for a 10 mile ride using the stock power settings. Observations and notes in random order:

Motor very smooth and really not much noise in lowest power setting.

Build quality feels great. Nothing rattled. Ride quality was better than expected. Definitely not a Walmart bike as someone characterized it in another review.

Brakes do feel weaker vs my Shimano or Magura bikes. Smaller rotors perhaps plus dual piston. By the end of the ride I had adjusted. I think it just requires a bit more force on the levers.

Shifting and drive train very smooth.

First ride I left range extender at home.

Racktime Heda panniers maybe not a good choice. Yes they plug right in securely but they don't have a good frame to them and perhaps they are too wide for the rack's side rails. I had a loose corner of one work its way into the spokes. In the picture, an observant person might notice they are mounted backwards. With the Racktime system, I can flip the bags and mount backwards. They actually fit the rack frame better and might keep corners out of my spokes. But then the reflective stripes are facing forward. I can resolve that perhaps with some reflective tape. I also cut up some cardboard and gave the interiors more of a rigid frame.

I like the reflective sidewalls on the stock tires. I rode at 70 psi. They have a balloon feel to me. Not sure I like them but haven't drawn a final conclusion yet.

The redesign on the Thudbuster ST I must say is a step forward. I have the original ST on my Terns. I think this feels nicer. Unfortunately though with the redesign they didn't shave weight. I may stick with this one for awhile.

I thought the Future Shock would be too springy. I tested it in the shop standing beside the bike and it moved too much. But in ride position, it was not noticeable and I'm rather pleased with it. They include some extra springs but I'm pleased with the medium that comes as the default.

The ride position was good. A bit more upright perhaps vs my Allant but very comfortable. The medium frame was right for me. Standover height is perfect.

Don't like the stock grips all that much. Will look for an alternative.

Upon return I setup some preset power settings based on what others have posted in the forum. I set a very minimal option of like 5 and 15 % in Eco for riding with my wife. The ability to tune the bike to the rider and type of ride is a huge benefit.
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Over50

Well-Known Member
Consider Ergon GP3. The best of mine.

I ordered the GP3s. I've had them before and I didn't use the horns very much probably because I live in flatlands. But I looked around at various sites and didn't find a better alternative.

I did one 15 mile ride on the weekend with the range extender. And toggled-on the Mission Control setting to "burn the range extender first" - paraphrasing. No issues there - it worked as advertised and my main battery was at the same level on return (burned about 1/3rd of the range extender - so, 45 miles on 160wh by extrapolation?).

Did around 15 miles today sans range extender and used minimal main battery. 45 miles on the odometer after 3 rides. Micro adjusting each time seat and grip settings. I had low expectations for the stock Nimbus tires but today I ran over broken bottle glass. I avoided it with the front tire but the rear ran over a large piece that snapped loudly under the tire. No flat yet.

The panniers are the main point of this update. I think someone else in the forum mentioned using the Ortlieb gravel panniers for this bike. I had a pair of these in storage and dug them out for a try. They are a much better fit versus the Racktime Hedas which I mentioned at the beginning of the thread. The Hedas have the advantage of being a single piece of luggage with a carrying handle and of course fitting into the Racktime rack natively and with an optional lock available (which I have). Plus they look nice. Unfortunately they don't fit the narrow frame of the SL's rack well and more importantly, they don't have a rigid-backing with a protector over the bottom to keep loose corners out of the spokes. With the Hedas, I had a folding lock in one side and it worked its way into the spokes after going over a curb. Well the Ortliebs, being Ortliebs, have the spoke protection (shown in the Ortlieb picture). A critical piece of hardware imo. I add a one layer piece of Gorilla tape to the rack where the Ortliebs will mount, space the hooks precisely such that they cannot slide and that results in a very snug fit with absolutely no rattling. The biggest drawback with the Ortliebs is having to take them with you if snatch and grab theft is a concern. I've been using the Ortlieb Sport Packers on my Allant and I think they would also be a very good match for the Vado SL's minimal rack - but I haven't tested them out yet.
Ortlieb_Gravel_Back.jpgVadoSL5_B_20200803.jpgVadoSL5_C_20200803.jpg
 

Over50

Well-Known Member
You'll find the Marathons pretty heavy, @Over50 but that's the price for them being such puncture-resistant...P.S. I recommend you inflate the Marathons halfway the minimum and maximum allowable pressure. These tyres can behave strangely on some specific surfaces such as paving when inflated too much!

I mounted the Marathon E-Plus tires yesterday. Made a couple of amateur mistakes in the process but overall it was pretty simple. I only did a couple of miles around the block with 70 psi. I think 85 psi is max. The tires roll nicely. I felt they are more rigid versus the stock tires and as I expected, I didn't feel as much sidewall give on turns. But yes, as you mentioned, taking a turn on a concrete roadway and I felt like they might want to slide out from under me.

A few years ago I replaced the stock Kenda tires on my non-electric bike with Bontrager HardCase Ultimates which have a much stiffer sidewall and much less give to them vs the Kendas. It was a very similar experience and feeling on the initial ride with new tires. It took some time and miles but now I have a lot of confidence in those Bontragers. So I'm hoping it is just a matter of breaking in the Marathons with some mileage and finding optimal psi.

MarathonEPlus_VadoSL1.jpgMarathonEPlus_VadoSL2.jpg
 

Over50

Well-Known Member
I did a little experimenting the last two days. Almost identical rides - one on my Vado SL and one on my Trek Allant. My commuting routine used to be a couple of times per week on a fast bike and a Friday (weather permitting) on a slow bike. The slow bike would be a Class 1 like my Tern GSD or a partial commute on my non-electric where I would average about 11.5 mph over 20 miles. II would generally average about 14 mph on class 1 bikes and 16-17 mph on class 3 bikes. I bought the Vado SL to take the place of a non-electric for days when I want to do a full commute but not have to worry about time and to get more exercise. So these two identical rides were less than half the distance of my total commute (15 miles versus about 32 for an average commute). I tuned the Vado SL using a preset that I labeled 'commute light' and wherein I limited to max assist to about 60% of the max possible (i.e. 60% of the 2x you). On the Trek, as I do in my commuting, I used the two lower modes of Eco and Tour - Eco in the residential start/stop sections and Tour anytime I had an open stretch of road. I can't recall what Tour is on the Bosch speed motor but something like 150% (and a lot more torque)?

The Bosch ride was definitely faster but even in Eco sometimes I feel like the torque and assist is too much - and I haven't updated the firmware yet for the higher torque. The Specialized ride felt like a workout and I do think the Specialized motor feels smoother and more gradual in the assist ramp-up. I'm hoping to try another test soon where I do a longer ride on my Vado SL with the range extender using the full capabilities of the bike in terms of assist.

Similar rides on Allant 9.9s (Eco and Tour modes) and Vado SL (tuned to lower assist levels):

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Over50

Well-Known Member
Well it is a new bike with new batteries - can the range really be so good? I fully charged the bike plus the range extender battery for a ride today. I enabled the Mission Control setting to 'fully use the external battery first' (paraphrasing). At about 17 miles, when the 160 WH external battery dropped just under 50% (per the 10-tick gauge), I took a water break and disabled that setting. So at that break, I did a quick extrapolation - 17 miles burned 80 WH - thus, 480 WH would be about 102 miles. I rode mostly 50/50 in the two lower settings of my customized commute setting. The mid-level allowed up to 60% of the bikes max power. I used the full power of the bike only twice for short distances to make green lights - definitely less than a mile of distance. In the picture of the TCD display, I think that is a range estimate in the middle left when I finished the ride at 22 miles - 127 miles - which I think is an overestimate based on my extrapolation (later edit: it is not a range estimate but battery percentage - it reflects 100+ percent when using the range extender). But anyway, over 100 miles of range on 480 WH is pretty good.

I also noticed a discrepancy between the max speed per the TCD display (23.5 mph) and per Strava which obtained data from the Mission Control upload (22.6 mph). I'm assuming the TCD display is based on wheel diameter and a sensor whereas Mission Control is based on my phone's GPS?:

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Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
I also noticed a discrepancy between the max speed per the TCD display (23.5 mph) and per Strava which obtained data from the Mission Control upload (22.6 mph). I'm assuming the TCD display is based on wheel diameter and a sensor whereas Mission Control is based on my phone's GPS?:
This typically happens when the wheel circumference is set wrongly in the bike. For instance, the value is set precisely in my 45 km/h Vado 5.0, and I'm getting a perfect match with GPS readouts. However, the wheel circumference value is completely wrong in my Trance E+. Only the LBS can enter the proper figure.
 

Over50

Well-Known Member
Found this Topeak Cageholder. Looks surprisingly like the range extender battery. So if you aren't carrying the range extender and don't need 2 water bottles then it is a good alternative for carrying a wrench set, a tube, tire levers, keys etc.

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Kivis

Member
Just looked up that Desiknio. Wow, what a beauty in classic trim.

I would import it. makes specialized an ugly sister.
I would hardly call the Specialized an ugly sister, but that Desiknio sure does look nice.