Specialized Turbo Vado SL: An Incredible E-Bike (User Club)

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
Strange how subjective these aural impressions are...

Jodi, please listen to this video:
  • 0-19 s: Terrible noise of downhill tyres on pavement
  • 20-38 s: The tyre noise silenced, you can only hear Giant SyncDrive Pro (Yamaha motor)
  • 39-59 s: Vado with Specialized 1.2s motor (Brose TF).
Listen carefully to the Giant/Yamaha motor. If you tell me your Mahle is that loud or louder then I will laugh, as I rode the 1.2s, SyncDrive Pro, and SL 1.1 (Mahle) and can tell the difference. Or, just use your smartphone when you carefully ride your Creo on an empty quiet street to prove the 1.1 being loud :)
 

jodi2

Active Member
We dont need to continue that discussion Stefan, it's to subjetive. Also there are always units that are less or more noisy (like the Shimano motors from the two friends I guess).
I can live quite well with my Creo's sound (my wife even more wither her Vado). But of course if I pass nice&younger woman on acoustic race bikes I would like an absolutely noiseless motor...
 

Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
I have added this text to the review:

Motor Noise
As I hear some complaints of SL e-bikes related to the SL 1.1 motor noise, here is my observation:
  • The SL 1.1 motor is indeed audible. In default Eco mode, the noise is very soft, chirpy. The more support is provided, the louder the motor gets but it never becomes annoying.
  • By comparison, the Specialized 1.2e, 1.2, and 1.2s motors are virtually silent except 100% Turbo mode under very high load; still, that noise is barely audible. Heavily loaded 1.2 motors just want to whisper to you "Hey... I'm here!" I have never tried the 1.3 motor but it is reportedly barely louder under loading.
  • SyncDrive Pro (Yamaha PW-X2) is noisy, with constant whining, still that noise is manageable.
I think the owners of Vado SL or Creo are simply unaware how quiet these motors are compared to other makes.


Yes, I noticed that. Be aware 210 lumens of high-beam is not adequate for night riding. 400 lm is what you use as addition to street lighting, 800 lm is adequate for slow riding in the darkness, 1100 or more is what you need in the forest at night.
I find Eco louder then Sport, don't use Turbo enough to notice. Sport just sounds lower register, Eco whines quite shrilly as if under strain, but then again= hills.
 

Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
Jodi!
Your compatriot assessed SL 1.1 as 3rd most quiet motor of seven. It is not necessarily subjective ;)
Fascinating test. The SL motor sounds exactly as I hear it on my Vado SL! But that Dyname motor sounds very different from all the rest - no whine, more a guttural clicking noise. Must admit I've never heard of this motor. Is it made by Rocky Mountain or a third party?
 

jodi2

Active Member
For me this motor sound is also very rare and it disturbs me more than the others
Also the producer of the video himself says, that he rembered the some motor sound different and more or less intense. So instead of a objective test the video show more how subjective and individual this matter is. I would say Specialized Brose is quite as it's known and, Bosch average, but more I wouldn't dare to say.
This discussions will never end, let's concentrate on other points.
 

rochrunner

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Rochester Hills
New tourism slogan: "Poland, where beautiful women chase you in packs!"

Great ride report, @Stefan Mikes! This is what I wanted to hear to push me over the top toward getting an SL later this year. I might have mentioned that it was just over a month into my ownership of my Vado 4.0 last year that Specialized announced the SL line and I had an instant case of buyer's remorse. But with the pandemic lockdown already in full force, bike shops closed, supply chain interrupted, etc. it was too late to do anything about it.

My original intention with the Vado was to replace my trusty Specialized Crosstrail hybrid, but it became clear early on that it wouldn't fill that role due to its weight and certain aspects of its geometry. Battling a back problem for most of the year, the Vado became my main ride and served that role well, but already this year I'm back in shape and am using the Crosstrail on all of my "senior group" rides since the Vado would be just "too much" with that group.

However, when I rode a SL briefly a few weeks ago, I realized that it would be the perfect replacement at last, as it looks, feels, and rides very similar to the Crosstrail. In fact, strictly by arm feel picking them up, the SL hardly feels any heavier (the suspension fork on the Crosstrail must add a good bit). My area, or at least what I am inclined to ride on, is very flat and on my Vado 4.0 I rarely ever go out of Eco mode, which is set down to 15% assist. On the SL, pedaling with the assist turned off again didn't feel that much different from my analog hybrid. So this really is a chance to go down to "n-1" total bikes :) .

The real question is one of availability, since what I've settled on is the Vado SL 5.0 ST, and I have yet to see any SL 5.0s at all around here. The 5.0 is attractive to me because of the FutureShock and the added gear ratio range of the 12-speed drivetrain (which would help both me and the motor on my occasional forays into hill country). So I'll shortly be putting down a deposit and then wait and see when something arrives...

By the way, on the issue of noise, the ratcheting clicking from the freehub personally bothers me more than any motor noise, both because my other bikes are virtually silent in that regard and because it's been commented on by at least two people who I have ridden next to.
 

kahn

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
northWET washington
...The smaller (38T) chainring I bought improved matters more and now on a lot of the steep hills I can get over them comfortably on Sport (set to 70%) but there are still some hills, must be 20%++ that take Turbo 100% and every gear just to keep moving. Difference is, I scour maps looking for hills like these to test myself & SL on! Enjoying conquering them. My version of Everesting. On those b**stards, I'll need my fitness to improve yet more to be able to haul anything up other then a bedraggled kitten!

...

I zeroed in on the 38T chainring. I think I might like a bit more ease going up some of our local hills. I don't know if anything really approaches a 20% grade but some of them might feel that way to this old, overweight guy. I also don't know if I'd seek them out (more power to you) but at my age with one hip replaced twice, anything that eases the strain on the hips and knees sounds good.

So, I've a Creo. Is a chainring (if one can be found) an easy swap and does the chain also need replacing or adjusting? What brand did you go with. Appreciate any info you might have.

I do really admire your hill climbing and seeking. I don't think we have maps that show Percent Grade.
 

kahn

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
northWET washington
No, the SL is one of the noisest middle motors (also different Bosch, Yamaha, Fazua) I've ever riden. But I don't know Shimano and Brose yet. And I had sometime company from friends with a very noisy shimano motors, but I don't know which ones. And even if I find the motor relatively loud while riding my Creo, I don't hear much/almost nothing when my wife rides next to me with her Vado SL.
I think it's also something psychologial. If I ride a cheap Bosch or Yamaha ebike, I don't care much about the noise. But my first ride on a Creo was an a 8500 € Creo Expert and the noise did not seem to fit to a bike that expensive and that nice and with such an unvisible and (according to weight/handling) unfeelable motor.
On a 1500 € bike with a ugly big motor the same noise may have disturbed me less...
I read the ad copy about how quiet the motor is on the Creo. My hearing is not the best but there is no doubt that I can hear it quite well even in Eco mode. It gets progressively louder as I increase the power. My other electric bike is a front hub conversion its sound is quieter but also different and it is slightly more powerful than the Creo's motor. More of a hum. I think the Creo is more like a whir. Hard to describe but there's definitely a difference to the sounds. So reading the replies, it seems some of us hear the SL motor more than others or there may actually be a difference between some of them.

But for comparison - the Creo handles much nicer on steeper hills and just corner turns in general than the weighted front wheel motor.

GREAT THREAD by the way.
 

kahn

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
northWET washington
For me this motor sound is also very rare and it disturbs me more than the others
Also the producer of the video himself says, that he rembered the some motor sound different and more or less intense. So instead of a objective test the video show more how subjective and individual this matter is. I would say Specialized Brose is quite as it's known and, Bosch average, but more I wouldn't dare to say.
This discussions will never end, let's concentrate on other points.

edited: Oh, I see the videos on the next page (again, early and I missed Page 3). I think his video captures pretty accurately the sounds of my Creo. But I am pretty much strictly on paved roads and probably hear the motor sounds more acutely.

------------------

I might have missed a reference or link. Is there a video comparing or dealing with motor sounds and volume?

(as an aside, you might realize with my series of replies that on the west coast of the US, it is just morning and I've read this thread :))
 
Last edited:

jodi2

Active Member
My other electric bike is a front hub conversion its sound is quieter but also different and it is slightly more powerful than the Creo's motor. More of a hum.
Hub motors generally make less noise, without gear/gearbox they even don't need to make any sound with good controller/electronics. Stromer bikes for example have a rear hub motor with about 3 times the power (and the battery) of the SL drive and year hear absolutely nothing. Great to pass pretty women an race bikes if different to SL bike, motor and battery wouldn't be very obvious to see... ;-)
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
The known fact is the internal transmission of Brose/Specialized 1.2 series motors is done by a carbon-fibre belt ;) Someone owning a current Vado/Como 5.0 could tell me whether the 1.3 motor is equally silent (I don't know).
 

BEC111

Active Member
Excellent write up. Your experience mirrors mine quite well. I’ll add a few things I’ve learned after having my SL 4 EQ for a year.
I found the initial riding position to aggressive for my senior back - I’m currently 73, 72 when I got the bike - and had to raise the handlebar. Not easy with the precisely trimmed cables. I added a cheap suspension seat post from Satori, mostly for a very uncomfortable segment on one of my most frequent rides. Also changed the grips to GR2s so I could change my hand positions.

I also recently followed a suggestion I found on a different thread. I modified the support levels to 35/100 and 55/100 for ECO and Sport modes. Now I can ride in ECO mode using the gears to maintain my preferred cadence (75-80) spinning up before an ascent to get more boost as additional assist kicks in for a few moments. I found this smoother and more responsive than hitting the assist buttons or the boost button. I don’t feel the increased assist no the assist dropping off. Doing so does affect battery usage, but less than manually increasing assist and forgetting to lower it again.

As for motor noise, I agree it’s a bit louder than some of the other ebikes I’ve seen/heard but most of the road bikes that pass me are louder. Tire noise and the wind from their slipstream. I generally ride between 15 and 20mph and the roadies pass me going 25-30. And right now, the Cicadas are louder than the airliners passing overhead on their landing patterns.

I do occasionally miss not having the power of the heavier bikes my ebike riding group cohorts ride, but I doubt I could get those beasts into the back of my CR-V to get to the routes where that extra power would matter. I’d have to get a hitch rack and one that can hold those bigger bikes costs almost $800. And even with that I’d not be able to get the bigger bikes onto the hoist that lifts the bike off the floor of my garage.

Bike riding was much simpler when I was 15. Just pull the bike out of the garage and ride.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
I totally agree with you Bec, and find the info on assistance levels very useful.
I not only love my full power Speed Vado for the pleasure riding it gives me; it is just a must if I want to group ride with strong cyclists. And a spare battery is necessary, too. I'm afraid to buy an SL because I might like it too much! :)

How strong is the rack in the EQ?
 

BEC111

Active Member
I totally agree with you Bec, and find the info on assistance levels very useful.
I not only love my full power Speed Vado for the pleasure riding it gives me; it is just a must if I want to group ride with strong cyclists. And a spare battery is necessary, too. I'm afraid to buy an SL because I might like it too much! :)

How strong is the rack in the EQ?
The rack is adequate for my limited needs. It’ll hold about 15 kilos I believe. I don’t carry more than 5 or 6.

My usual group members mostly ride analog bikes, and are old farts like me. I also ride with an ebike focused group. On the flats I’m easily faster than all of the legal class 1 or 2 bikes except on the steepest hills where the higher torque can be obvious. With most of the older folks on analog we’ve been riding as a way to socialize with neighbors during the pandemic so we go pretty slow, occasionally going off on our own.

My fun speed is 15-20 mph limited by other trail users and companions. The young roadies pass me easily but I can keep up with them when they slow down. They can easily ride 20-25. Some dare to go faster but there are usually too many slower riders, walkers, skaters, horses, children and of course deer, gophers, snakes, fox, turtles and for now about a billion cicadas. They hurt when you hit one at 20 mph.
 

Papa G

Member
I had never believed in the whole Specialized SL thing until I could ride an SL myself. My ill legs can deliver 70-80 W on average (with short burst of far more if I have to). I have got used to the "full power" modern e-bikes, the 24 kg (or heavier), mid-motor, and integrated removable battery machines that I can (yes) lift upstairs but never raise any of them to the shoulder level. Yes, full power e-bikes can travel fast (especially S-Pedelecs or derestricted ones), can climb very steep hills too but it is hardly possible to pedal them unassisted or past the limiter. And they eat the battery at the rate that forces me to carry a spare for any long (read: 80 km or above) trip. The Warsaw Specialized Brand Store signed a rental agreement with me on last Saturday, charged the rental fee (28 EUR or 34 US$ equivalent), and let me ride a Vado SL 4.0 non-EQ size L for a day.

Sizing
Vado SL Step-Over is a tall bike. My own "standover height" is 78 cm (30.7"). With the M frame, I could straddle the top tube with safe clearance but I was actually touching it with my private parts for size L. I'd love the reach of the size M; I was leaning over the handlebars a little too much to my liking but, interestingly, too large frame didn't compromise ride safety of comfort for me. I was genuinely surprised with that! (The store had the non-EQ size L Vado SL as the only available demo option for Saturday so I had to take it or leave it; the size M 4.0 EQ e-bike was on display for sale).

Motor Noise
As I hear some complaints of SL e-bikes related to the SL 1.1 motor noise, here is my observation:
  • The SL 1.1 motor is indeed audible. In default Eco mode, the noise is very soft, chirpy. The more support is provided, the louder the motor gets but it never becomes annoying.
  • By comparison, the Specialized 1.2e, 1.2, and 1.2s motors are virtually silent except 100% Turbo mode under very high load; still, that noise is barely audible. Heavily loaded 1.2 motors just want to whisper to you "Hey... I'm here!" I have never tried the 1.3 motor but it is reportedly barely louder under loading.
  • SyncDrive Pro (Yamaha PW-X2) is noisy, with constant whining, still that noise is manageable.
I think the owners of Vado SL or Creo are simply unaware how quiet these motors are compared to other makes.

Riding Unassisted
Nothing different to any 15 kg (33 lb) traditional bike. No "motor drag". I would be able to pedal the Vado SL easily in flat battery situation without suffering (albeit rather slowly). I'm sure any healthy cyclist could ride the SL with the assistance OFF as the primary riding mode on flats and in absence of headwind. Vado SL feels a traditional bike in any aspect!

Riding Assisted
ECO mode feels the most logical assistance level to ride Vado SL, especially for the European 25 km/h version. It was just enough for me to feel a 25-yo again riding a traditional bike (I have never been a strong person). The feeling how lightweight the SL is, is incredible. The pedalling experience is so natural that you never even think you are on e-bike! There is excellent acceleration property: just push pedals stronger and you start moving fast! The SL was the first e-bike I could ride where staying in Eco mode on the flat felt fantastic, without the need of even thinking of going for more support. Also, I could use the derailleur sparingly. In full power heavier e-bikes, I utilize the derailleur in wide range from low gears to start the ride to high gears to move fast. Vado SL moves so easily from the cold start that I only used the derailleur to maintain my favourite cadence but not to make the cold start easier, for one.

Sport mode: Ideal to ride soft inclines, and to counter moderate headwind. I hardly ever used the Sport mode for the demo ride.

Turbo mode: Very useful! In urban environment, it allows climbing obstacles such us overpass without even increasing your heart-rate. I found the Turbo mode useful in countering storm headwind (very very strong!) I experienced on my route. Not sure how good the SL would be in real hilly environment though.

Full-power e-bikes give the edge when you really need tons of power; the SL is decidedly not as powerful. It is a very natural bike instead, helping you ride under circumstances that would turn your trip into nightmare on a traditional bike.

Riding past the speed limiter
That was a hilarious experience! If that's the 25 km/h limiter then you hit the speed limit very quickly. What happens next? Just pedal and ride faster on your leg power! On a full power e-bike, riding past the speed limiter means "hitting the wall". It is not so with Vado SL. Yes, you can feel it is harder to pedal (because you have lost good watts that had assisted you) but it is just like riding a traditional bike! Nothing different!

Anecdote: I was riding leisurely on a good straight asphalt road. Suddenly, a pack of three beautiful female roadies took me over at high speed. I instantly switched the Turbo mode on and started chasing the girls. What an experience! I broke past 25 km/h and pedalled unassisted with the maximum leg power burst I could manage. Strava tells me I reached 38 km/h (unassisted!) I couldn't catch up with the girls but got so close they must have heard my "WOOOOW! You're amazing, girls!" exclamation before I gave up :)

Battery consumption
The bike appears to not be eating the battery charge at all! :) Now I can believe Specialized marketing claim you could make 100 miles on a single charge (if no upwind and flat terrain). As long as I and friend rode slowly and leisurely, the 7th battery status bar with which I started the Eco mode ride didn't want to disappear for long kilometres. Of course, Sport and especially Turbo mode eat more but... I used 3 bars (of 10) for a 41 km trip, part of which was ridden in Turbo mode for emergency reasons.

Handling, comfort, brakes, gearing, equipment
Vado SL must have been designed by some geniuses. Almost every aspect of the e-bike is extremely well thought. Handling of the bike on the ride is just fantastic.

Despite of lack of any suspension on Vado SL, the e-bike is surprisingly comfortable even on surfaces far from ideal. If I bought an SL, I would probably only did these upgrades:
  • Rear-view mirror
  • TCD display, or a smartphone handlebar mount
  • Pedals of my choice
  • Better lighting.
Did you hear me saying: "suspension stem", "suspension seatpost", "better grips", "better saddle" or "better tyres"? No. I could live with stock components for a longer while. I especially liked the Specialized stock tyres, and even the saddle was not that bad!

Brakes: Reliable, performing excellently in torrential-like rain!
Gearing: Certainly ideal for flats. (Cannot say anything for riding an SL in really hilly conditions).

Lighting of Vado SL is laughable and can only serve as daily lights. The weakest point of that otherwise excellent e-bike.

EQ vs non-EQ. Step-Over vs. Step-Through
For the Poland's condition, the EQ version is the must, although one could think of fitting MTB mudguards, and the rear rack is not really necessary for fitness rides (because Vado SL is indeed a fitness e-bike). I would just feel better with proper fenders and a rack. If one plans no swapping the seat-post for a suspension one, the tail-light placement under the saddle in non-EQ is smart, and the tail-light of the non-EQ is indeed not bad!

The exciting news is the Step-Through Vado SL shall appear in our market sometime in August. I'm strongly interested in buying Vado SL 4.0 EQ ST size M, White Sage colour!

View attachment 90242
You can actually put the SL on your shoulder and carry it upstairs!

Battery charging
The only downside of the SL is the fact you have to charge the battery on the bike. Making it awkward for touring (staying in hotels).
Terrific review Stefan. Your experience with a traditional Vado adds a lot of credibility to your review for those of us with traditional Vados. I’ll look forward to your follow-up updates once you’ve gotten your new Vado SL.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
@Papa G, I'm torn. I've found my Speed full power Vado being the best e-bike of all I own, the most universal one, especially with my ill legs. Vado SL won't be fast, as my state of health is not going to improve, not mentioning the 25 km/h speed limiter I wouldn't like to defeat (simply to maintain the impressive SL battery range). I can agree to ride slower and enjoy the landscape more because the SL is so beautiful and it feels so natural and so modern!

I was thinking of the SL main battery. It is 320 Wh but 48 V. Meaning, it is just 6 2/3 Ah. With the 4 A charger, the charging time would be not longer than, say, 2 hours. I could wait to December for Vado SL of my dreams. Yet if I get some good earning soon, I might consider a white SL 4.0 Step-Over size M that is waiting to be bought. Why wait till December?

Decisions, decisions... (The famous Johnny Bravo phrase) :D
 

kahn

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
northWET washington
Two hours 35 minutes for the main SL battery. Three hours 20 minutes for the RE. And 3h 20m to charge both at the same time. I haven’t used a stopwatch, that’s just what Specialized says, if charging time is important to you.
The main charger comes with the cable that can charge either battery, one at a time. Or you can get a Y-adapter that plugs into the main charger cable and charge both at the same time.