So a quick review of the Vado SL after a month’s use.

Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
It’s brilliant. I do have to work. I get out of breath on steep climbs but rarely have to stop and as this is primarily for exercise that’s a good thing.

The Ride - It is stiff, but I’m used to it now. Weight - I know the SL is light for an e bike but unassisted it can feel heavy. I'm getting used to it/don’t notice much anymore. On flat or downhill I mostly have the motor off - or rather, on the setting for no-assist. But I don't torture myself, if it becomes work I just turn on eco and that feels great.

The bars are a bit straight & low for my liking, but I’ve acclimatised - I decided to make no major changes to the bike for a few months and I am getting used to the more aggressive riding position so I’ll see over time. Same goes for the pedals; they're flat sandpaper-type ones and usually they’d be the first thing I’d change but actually I’m getting on well with them, surprisingly grippy even in the wet.

Saddle - Jury is out. I’m suffering and it feels narrow, but that’s also my arse getting used to the milage! Plus the damn rear light is wired through the saddle so not so easy to swap out. I’ll give it another month of riding and see how I feel.

Grips - a revelation. I’ve never had these ergonomic type touring grips before and the pads come in brilliantly when descending providing a really stable platform for my hands when standing on pedals or leaning on bars, feel really safe on the rough potholed lanes here. Love them.

The brakes are brilliant. Just solid. Loads of braking on the steep and muddy hills here and they feel so secure. Used to either mechanical discs or v brakes so the hydros feel powerful.

Tyres - fine, no they’re good actually. The pathfinder 38s. With brakes and tyres if it works I’m not too fussy. Roads are terrible this time of year covered with a layer of greasy dead leaves and mulch and yet on the steep slopes I can stop fine and feel secure on corners with the tyres.

Gears - I’ve always liked Deore. It’s just reliable and solid. However I was shocked at how loud the THUD of changing gears is with the motor. Of course I ease off completely but it’s still a heavy gear change, shows immediately the extra strain the motor puts on the drive train. I’ve already degreased and completely cleaned the chain and will keep doing this regularly. Got some expensive e bike specific lube as well. It’s the future date of replacing the rear block has me concerned as that looks the expensive part of the train.

One BIG change I made today!! I replaced the 44T Praxis chainring with a Race Face 38T - it’s an experiment. On the steepest hills (gradient 20%) I struggle in lowest gear and can feel it in my knees, plus the motor is not at it’s best because I can’t get into a faster cadence. So I’m going to see if the 38T helps me spin more. At the other extreme I’m not overly concerned with 11 - 38 not being enough on the flats, because I just don’t have enough flat wide roads here where I can bomb along in the 11. As I get fitter and my rides get longer I may switch back to the 44T, lets see how it goes.

What else? I used my own mudguards off another bike, SKS Speedrockers - not as pretty but they work v well. I had to gerryrig the rear rack, used an existing narrow Tortec pannier rack i had but found a very clever Salsa seat clamp type mount to attach the rack, which works great. I love the lights always on, especially in this winter, it’s really reassuring.

And one other thing, in winter and on the mostly potholed lanes I ride, it feels robust, solid. The boost hubs and quality components feel tight and nothing rattles. Yeah, it’s a great bike.
 

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Allan47.7339

Active Member
Great write up. I struggled with a sore saddle for years on my road bike. I tried a lot of different saddles to solve the issue without a good result. I finally invested in a bike fit session to cure a sore lower back after long rides and it turned out to be incorrect saddle height which miraculously also cured the sore seat. I did not have any knee problems so I assumed the height was correct but it was about 40-50 mm too high.

If you get a chance could you add a couple of photos of your rack and fender installation? It's a been common question for the Vado SL's for people who couldn't get the EQ version.
 

Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
Great write up. I struggled with a sore saddle for years on my road bike. I tried a lot of different saddles to solve the issue without a good result. I finally invested in a bike fit session to cure a sore lower back after long rides and it turned out to be incorrect saddle height which miraculously also cured the sore seat. I did not have any knee problems so I assumed the height was correct but it was about 40-50 mm too high.

If you get a chance could you add a couple of photos of your rack and fender installation? It's a been common question for the Vado SL's for people who couldn't get the EQ version.
Thanks Allan. Yes I've changed seat post height a couple of times, think it's helped. I'm not giving up yet ! Though what's annoying is I got a WTB Pure saddle earlier in the summer for my ordinary bike & find that one really comfortable so without the rear light fitting on the Vado SL saddle I would have probably just swapped the WTB over to the Vado soon as I got it. But that built in rear light is very handy. I'll persevere and maybe by the time I have a nice skinny ass it'll feel comfortable!!

- I'll take some pics of the rack fittings and guards later today and get them up.
 

Deacon Blues

Well-Known Member
Most of us on this forum have gone through a number of saddles, looking for 'the one' that fits our butt.
I finally found a saddle for my (non-powered) road bike (Fabric) that allowed me to do 70km rides without any butt pain. I then mounted the saddle on my commuter ebike, with an upright riding position, and couldn't ride for more than 30km without a lot of discomfort.
 

JeffC57

Active Member
I have the Vado 5 SL EQ. The supplied saddle looks like yours and it didn't work for my 175 lb bony ass. It was too stiff. I gave this saddle a try & it is working for me.
It takes a few rides to get it tensioned correctly because the leather stretches. As the leather stretches it can be retightened. It works on the principle of making a hammock for each sit bone. What I noticed immediately was less pain in the butt the next day. It probably won't work for all shapes and sizes of riders but it worked for me.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
Besides, moving the saddle forward or backwards, or even rotating is slightly (the nose down) also can help finding optimum seat position. Having said that, I'll only tell you the best place for Specialized saddles is the garbage can :)

@JeffC57: I've heard a lot of good things about Selle Anatomica; unluckily, not to be bought in Europe now. I stick with Selle Royale, fat/comfy Respiro Moderate models. Good for my fat backside! :) (Although I never rode a saddle that wouldn't become painful after one-and-half hour ride).
 

Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
I have the Vado 5 SL EQ. The supplied saddle looks like yours and it didn't work for my 175 lb bony ass. It was too stiff. I gave this saddle a try & it is working for me.
It takes a few rides to get it tensioned correctly because the leather stretches. As the leather stretches it can be retightened. It works on the principle of making a hammock for each sit bone. What I noticed immediately was less pain in the butt the next day. It probably won't work for all shapes and sizes of riders but it worked for me.
That looks interesting Jeff, but I'll hang on for a while as it's not killing me yet... and I still have the rear light issue. The SL EQ has the rear light on the rear rack or mudguard/fender I think? I've added an extra flashing light to the back of my rack but I like having both on in winter conditions. If I change I'll first try my WTB Pure saddle which I was finding comfortable on a different bike, though as Deacon points out what works on one may not on another bike.
 

Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
Here's some info and pictures of my mudguards/fenders and rear rack mounts. Sorry the bike is ultra muddy, I was just back from a fast muddy & very rainy cycle today trying out my new 38T chainring. More on that later.

The mudguards are SKS Speedrockers, have them a couple of years. Think SKS brought them out once gravel bikes started using bigger tyre clearances and odd shaped frames - You basically strap the guards on with velcro and rubber straps. At first I was very dubious as the whole set up seemed flimsy and temporary but they work well. Too often more traditional bolted on mudguards end up rubbing the tyre or go off centre after a knock. These seem impervious to that and the rubber/velcro fasteners that I thought looked flimsy actually are very good. Designed to fit many different style forks and frames the temporary/elastic nature of the fastenings mean you can easily attach them to a variety of frames, like the aero shape of the Vado SL's forks for instance and easily move them to the best place, but once tightened they stay in place and I've been over some fairly rough roads/tracks. They are not as long as the Specialized ones and I had a concern about the motor being vulnerable to water & mud, but then, they wouldn't sell the non EQ models if this was a danger would they?! The rear guard especially ends partway up the seat tube and uses the motor casing/BB as part of the guard. But in the biblical rain here over the last few weeks they've done really well keeping muddy spray off of me.

The rear rack is a cheapish Tortec Velocity hybrid bought originally on Amazon. Pulled it off another bike. Like it because its very narrow and yet robust. Searched here and on google for a clamp to attach to the seat post as the Vado Sl stays are very low and have no threads or holes. There is another thread on here that looks at attaching racks to the vado SL and that was helpful. There were a number of seat clamp/rack mount combinations online I found, but with the Vado Sl's concealed seat clamp, the lip on these style clamps wouldn't work for me. The Salsa one is the only one I could find designed to fit on a seat post but not be a seat post clamp - interior of the ring is smooth. It's the:

Salsa Post-Lock Rack Mount 27.2 Black

initially when looking for this it was sold out everywhere I looked online in UK. Wondering if that's the popularity of the new Vado SL and minding the pennies type buyers like me who decided not to fork out an additional £200 for rack, guards and kickstand?!
I eventually found it in Canada! and a shout out to the bike shop there; Bicicletta CC, they were brilliant, it arrived five days later, very neatly packaged with a free sticker : )

Be careful if you are going this route to get the right seat post size as Salsa make a few different sizes.

Here's the muddy pictures - and one showing the gradient of the hills here!
 

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Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
Just for your info Ras: Mid-drive motors are sealed. No worries. Of course it is good to keep the motor chamber clean for good ventilation but there are no reasons to worry. 9I have seen how Specialized and Giant motors looked like on my e-bikes and even rode through deep water-holes that actually immersed each of these motors).

Ride on!

P.S. Are you climbing 20% grade inclines? Cool!
 

Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
Just for your info Ras: Mid-drive motors are sealed. No worries. Of course it is good to keep the motor chamber clean for good ventilation but there are no reasons to worry. 9I have seen how Specialized and Giant motors looked like on my e-bikes and even rode through deep water-holes that actually immersed each of these motors).

Ride on!

P.S. Are you climbing 20% grade inclines? Cool!
It was just a niggle because the Specialized own-brand mudguards seem particularly long, to stop spray hitting the motor I guess, but really it would be crazy if water could leak in easily - you are brave going through water that covered them though!!

And yes we've got a lot of 20% hills near here, or sections of hills that steep - and today I tried out the new 38T chainring I swapped for the 44T - what a difference. What an amazing difference. It now seems to hit a sweet spot; I can pedal faster, so the motor seems happier and I don't run out of gears as I feel I'm getting more assist & probably am with a faster cadence. I'm delighted. It just makes these steep slopes - comfortable. Yes I'm on the lowest gear (so now 38-42) and on Turbo but I'm not glancing at the handlebars hoping there is one more gear I somehow missed, or that I'm still only in Sport, and can hit the turbo button, as the bike grinds slower and slower and I run out of breath! I'm not that aerobically fit yet so have to ride within myself on these slopes with control & patience so I don't 'blow up', but when the road gradient crept upwards, on the 44T chainring it was just too hard to press and everything slowed. Today I only had time to do a short 14 mile/23km loop, but there was still 572 meters climbed and it was great, all hills conquered and no slowing to a stop.

One thought struck me while riding - Several manufacturers have similiar models with different spec. So like Specialized and the Vado SL 4 and the more expensive 5. But I notice that often the more expensive model has a larger ratio of gears; the Vado SL 4 has a 42T largest cog, the 5 has I think a 45T and 12 gears over 10.

So is it they think that rich people live on hills and poor(er) people on the flats?!!

Or is it like H G Well's Time Machine with the muscular Morlocks & feeble Eloi - rich people need the extra gears whereas poorer people tough it out!!
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
This is the matter of thorough design, Ras. The sense of the purpose. "Full power" Vados are urban commuter e-bikes. Interesting comparison of EU e-bikes (some of them are not available in the UK):
  • 2017 EU Vado 5.0, S-Pedelec. 48T chain-ring, 11-46T cassette, Specialized 1.2s ("speed") motor of 250/520 W of power, 80 Nm torque
  • 2020 EU Vado 6.0, S-Pedelec. 48T chain-ring, 11-42T cassette, Specialized 1.2s motor (as above)
  • 2020 EU Vado 5.0, 25 km/h. 48T chain-ring, 11-42T cassette, Specialized 1.3 motor, 250/550 W, 90 Nm torque
  • 2020 EU Vado 4.0, 25 km/h 40T chain-ring, 11-42T casserre, Specialized 1.2 motor, 250/520 W, 72 Nm.
Note that two first e-bikes have been designed for speed. If you can maintain 76 rpm cadence at the top gear, you will reach 45 km/h (28 mph). The last e-bike is made to comfortably reach 25 km/h (15.5 mph). You don't need high-speed gearing there. The smaller chain-ring compensates for lower torque of the motor. EU Vado 5.0 is a strange animal: It is too powerful for the 25 km/h limit - but it has a similar climbing capability as the 4.0 despite of different chainrings. (The 1.3 motor is actually a MTB-rated one).

No "full power" Vado is a climber (although I could make 13.5% incline in Turbo and at 48-46 gearing). The thinking of Specialized is: "Vado is an urban e-bike; if you want to climb, buy yourself a Levo (or Levo SL)" :D
 

Allan47.7339

Active Member
20% is very steep on a Vado SL! It looks like a really nice road for a workout. The 45T rear cog on a 5SL would not make as much difference as your 38T chainring. The 12 speed allows for more even gear steps in the mid-range but you would still be looking for another gear or two on that hill. Your steep 23km loop will really show off your fitness gains as you get more km/miles.

The long front fenders will help keep your feet dry and spray off the chainrings and frame. The earlier Specialized Turbo had fenders designed in dry California for looks not function and were too short. The Vado SL EQ fenders are much better and about the same as your installation. The EQ fenders could still be a little wider to keep water from spraying past the sides but it would only appeal to people who frequently ride in wet weather. The current fenders are probably a good market compromise.
 

Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
This is the matter of thorough design, Ras. The sense of the purpose. "Full power" Vados are urban commuter e-bikes. Interesting comparison of EU e-bikes (some of them are not available in the UK):
  • 2017 EU Vado 5.0, S-Pedelec. 48T chain-ring, 11-46T cassette, Specialized 1.2s ("speed") motor of 250/520 W of power, 80 Nm torque
  • 2020 EU Vado 6.0, S-Pedelec. 48T chain-ring, 11-42T cassette, Specialized 1.2s motor (as above)
  • 2020 EU Vado 5.0, 25 km/h. 48T chain-ring, 11-42T cassette, Specialized 1.3 motor, 250/550 W, 90 Nm torque
  • 2020 EU Vado 4.0, 25 km/h 40T chain-ring, 11-42T casserre, Specialized 1.2 motor, 250/520 W, 72 Nm.
Note that two first e-bikes have been designed for speed. If you can maintain 76 rpm cadence at the top gear, you will reach 45 km/h (28 mph). The last e-bike is made to comfortably reach 25 km/h (15.5 mph). You don't need high-speed gearing there. The smaller chain-ring compensates for lower torque of the motor. EU Vado 5.0 is a strange animal: It is too powerful for the 25 km/h limit - but it has a similar climbing capability as the 4.0 despite of different chainrings. (The 1.3 motor is actually a MTB-rated one).

No "full power" Vado is a climber (although I could make 13.5% incline in Turbo and at 48-46 gearing). The thinking of Specialized is: "Vado is an urban e-bike; if you want to climb, buy yourself a Levo (or Levo SL)" :D
That's why I spent a long time thinking & researching what e bike to buy, with these hills and so on. I should have test ridden different types but Covid made that tricky, and I did consider an eMTB but it felt overkill, plus the SL versions are expensive and the full throated full suspension ones is just not me. It makes sense, as your listing of models shows, to have different gear ratios depending on the motor capability and intended use. Though with the Vado SLs both the 4 and 5 have same motor and battery the 1.1, just that the 5 has carbon forks, the stem suspension/future shock, better rims and of course the 12 speed XT derailleur and 10-45T block. So not sure why the 5 has a different gear ratio when both are being sold for a similiar - urban - purpose?

In fact calling them commuter or city bikes made me pause because of course I'm not in a city. But after a dozen years previously living in London & Dublin I know how harsh a daily city commute can be on a bike so reckoned the SL would be tough enough & it seems to be.

Looking ahead, there are wonderful off road trails around here, ancient old by-ways and bridleways. I venture on some of them but am careful as bike is not really designed for this kind of rough stuff. Maybe by the Spring I might look at trying/buying a set of 650b wheels with some wider 47 tyres. Specialized mention this on their site as a possibility and it would make the bike more comfortable off road. I notice that some of the similiar specced bikes coming out recently have the option to swap 700c/650b, like the new Orbea Vibe bikes. It's a good idea for a go anywhere bike. But that's in the future, lets get through winter first!
 

Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
20% is very steep on a Vado SL! It looks like a really nice road for a workout. The 45T rear cog on a 5SL would not make as much difference as your 38T chainring. The 12 speed allows for more even gear steps in the mid-range but you would still be looking for another gear or two on that hill. Your steep 23km loop will really show off your fitness gains as you get more km/miles.

The long front fenders will help keep your feet dry and spray off the chainrings and frame. The earlier Specialized Turbo had fenders designed in dry California for looks not function and were too short. The Vado SL EQ fenders are much better and about the same as your installation. The EQ fenders could still be a little wider to keep water from spraying past the sides but it would only appeal to people who frequently ride in wet weather. The current fenders are probably a good market compromise.
When I was researching i was frustrated actually how few reviews mentioned if the test bike was good on hills! Curt's reviews are great but he doesn't do a lot of cycling in them. It was hard to find the right bike. Interesting you say the 45T wouldn't make as much difference - I went looking for a 40T chainring but couldn't find one at the moment, and there seemed to be plenty of 38T (MTBs?) so went for that as it was cheap and immediate. So far its made a big difference.

What I like, and the big difference from doing these hills (with my weak fitness level) on my ordinary bike is before I had to stop 3 or 4 times to get up some of these 20% hills. Jesus it was like an Everest expedition; base camp, ridge camp etc. Heart pounding, totally out of breath. I'm sure it is great exercise, but it hurt and the anticipation of how hard it would be played on my mind and unless I took my bike in the car to ride somewhere flatter, I had to face these hills every day. Couldn't keep it up. Now on the Vado SL and even with the 44T, I don't stop, or rarely. I can get over the hills and now am exploring loads of roads I never dared venture up. So in terms of exercise it's not as heart pounding, but by fighting through to top of hills I'm still out of breath & legs feeling it and of course I go further and I go out often. That's got to be good. the 38T just makes it more comfortable/faster/higher cadence. Damn its fun!
 

Deacon Blues

Well-Known Member
Back in 2016 I bought a set of Specialized fenders for my Diverge. They worked great, but mine must have been an early production set, because I had to re-drill one of the holes for the rear fender and the mudflap for the rear fender was cockeyed and could not be straightened.
 

EdinburghJim

New Member
I like the look of these drytech fenders. They're v similar to my adapted £35 sks ones. I bought a replacement fork bridge fitting for the front fender, attached it further round than normal, and so now the fender hangs lower at the back, shorter out front. Bit like an sks Longboard fender, but for narrower tyre. I added an extention flap for the front of the front fender (cut from a bit of plastic, you could use a milk carton), just to stop high-speed splashback, just takes some dremel holes and a few zip ties. The Drytech ones look ideal too, of course. All fenders should have this much coverage, I reckon.