Specialized’s ultra-light 120-mile range e-bike - Turbo Vado SL

There's definitely a learning curve involved in climbing hills with these "properly assisted" bikes. Anyone who's ridden an unassisted bike will likely have the inclination to muscle over the hill by torque. Conversely, an ebike like a regular Vado (with gobs of assist) begs you to crank it to the highest mid-level gear you can muster and let the bike do most of the work.

The Vado SL is in-between. As you note, you still have to work on the steepest hills. But there's a bit more cycling technique involved in the SL. You'll get a feel for your climbing configuration in pretty short order, and be able to find your gear in advance of the hill and pedal more effectively. In (admittedly overly) simple terms, as I've stated before, cadence seems to be the dominant force in an SL's climbing performance, rather than torque.

So, resist the urge to push harder on the pedals and instead, gear to a comfortable setting where you can keep a steady, even cadence and keep your butt in the saddle. That will yield the most efficient assist response in climbing... at least that has been my finding in hilly San Francisco.
Thanks for that Copyrider. I'd read with interest your San Francisco hills account & the SL, very very helpful. So that was in my head when I started riding. But it's one thing knowing the theory, another when I turn a corner and see the potholed wall ahead... I've now done a few more (hilly) rides and am getting the hang. I had to stop on one where I misjudged the steepness and length on a very twisty climb. But it's a road I've never ridden up (never dared attempt it) on my ordinary bike and tried it on a whim and ran out of gears, assist and breathing(!) so had to stop. But other then that one I've been able to get up the rest of the hills I attempt. And that is a real victory. Makes me feel lightheaded. As you say it's keeping a comfortable cadence. On the really steep parts where I'm already in granny gear and with only turbo left as an option I occasionally misjudge it and am totally out of breath by the top. But climbs I did on my first ride in turbo I now do on the middle setting, so with time, and increased aerobic fitness I should be able to judge assist and speed better & keep it comfortable.

The bike still feels stiff and a bit clunky but I'm getting used to it and pushing it more. It's great. The one aspect I haven't got to try is straight, level road speed in turbo, because I haven't gone on any straight level roads yet. As there aren't any within my local 6 -8 mile loops! The only flat ground in my town is the cricket pitch which, I guess was bulldozed flat when built long ago! Next weekend I have time to do a longer spin and will hit the cycle trails beyond my local hills. One thought on that- I never considered speed when I got interested in e bikes. Mostly because of the hills. Even downhill you have to guard the brakes as they are so technical, narrow and blind, cars or worse, amazon delivery vans with the drivers on bare minimum wage and paid per delivery can suddenly appear on bends and the lanes are only car width, often with granite walls or sunken lanes and nowhere to escape. I didn't know about the 15mph limitations versus 28mph? in US until I saw the Court video of him trying out a yellow vado on a Specialised Demo day in California, and the speeds he was getting on the main roads. Wow. That looks a lot of fun. I'd never felt in my lifetime on ordinary bikes that I needed to go faster, or rather, needed an assist but that e bike speed looks interesting and it was a lightbulb moment as to why for commuting, powerful e bikes make a lot of sense.

It also shows that arguments about e bike or natural bike, or between which types of e bikes is just pointless. It's completely horses for courses, with terrain, age, fitness, weight and type of riding all factors. Ride what you like. Personally I'd now love to try the powerful Vado's or Treks or those cool looking Moustache bikes, but will also still ride on my steel framed Croix De Fer some days too. It's all fun.
 

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Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
It is doable for you to ride a 45 km/h (28 mph) e-bike in England but after a lot formalities to be fulfilled, and there are not too many e-bikes in this class in Europe @Rás Cnoic. Ask me if you need.
 

kmccune

Active Member
Interesting,I just found this thread,I consider a 55# EBike lightweight( my "cruiser" is an 82# monster even though it is fairly comfortable its beginning to dawn on me , maybe this bike isn't the best for these steep hills and rough as cob roads( full of "anklebreakers") one thing about these really light EBikes there are friction drive strap on units one could add if greater "Hillability" is desired,I consider a gearset too low if a Chap pushing a standard bike passes you whilst you are pedaling( it amazes me the balance some of these riders have).
 

kmccune

Active Member
In complete agreement with Dunbar. Suspension seat post is the way to go.
When I first got my 2018 Vado 6.0 I thought the ride was going to shake me apart.
Got the Cirrus Kinect and it made a HUGE difference. No bumps now!
Other members have Thudbusters and Suntours.
Ah, ha! Going to check into that , my sore neck thanks you!
 
It is doable for you to ride a 45 km/h (28 mph) e-bike in England but after a lot formalities to be fulfilled, and there are not too many e-bikes in this class in Europe @Rás Cnoic. Ask me if you need.
Thanks Stefan - I still feel immense guilt over buying the SL. It has opened my eyes to the e bike world, so in the futures who knows? Maybe I'll buy the right lottery ticket...
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
Thanks Stefan - I still feel immense guilt over buying the SL. It has opened my eyes to the e bike world, so in the futures who knows? Maybe I'll buy the right lottery ticket...
The SL wouldn't be good for me (my health requires a lot of assistance). Still, the SL is a great e-bike. Ride it a lot. Your shape might improve over the time and then it would be me who is jealous about your SL :) Honestly, I'd like to own such a lightweight e-bike...
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
@Rás Cnoic: One story might cheer you up. I was cycling in Jizera Mts on the Polish-Czech frontier together with my strong brother last Summer. I was riding the "heavy" Vado 5.0 because I had two batteries for it (for the range), and he rode my Giant Trance E+, an e-MTB because of the single and smaller battery. My brother was so strong he had to use a little bit more of assistance at a very steep climb. Besides, the e-MTB has had proper gearing for mountain rides. He climbed the hill easily. I had to downshift to the granny gear, apply the 320% Turbo with 520 Wh max power and made the hill with a big difficulty. A roadie who cycled with us had to walk his bike... :)

1603126335040.png

The roadie after having had his bike walked up for a while. Can you see the effort on his face? :) Mind you, my brother and me completed the climb before him!
 
Last edited:

Copyrider

Active Member
Thanks for that Copyrider. I'd read with interest your San Francisco hills account & the SL, very very helpful. So that was in my head when I started riding. But it's one thing knowing the theory, another when I turn a corner and see the potholed wall ahead... I've now done a few more (hilly) rides and am getting the hang. I had to stop on one where I misjudged the steepness and length on a very twisty climb. But it's a road I've never ridden up (never dared attempt it) on my ordinary bike and tried it on a whim and ran out of gears, assist and breathing(!) so had to stop. But other then that one I've been able to get up the rest of the hills I attempt. And that is a real victory. Makes me feel lightheaded. As you say it's keeping a comfortable cadence. On the really steep parts where I'm already in granny gear and with only turbo left as an option I occasionally misjudge it and am totally out of breath by the top. But climbs I did on my first ride in turbo I now do on the middle setting, so with time, and increased aerobic fitness I should be able to judge assist and speed better & keep it comfortable.

The bike still feels stiff and a bit clunky but I'm getting used to it and pushing it more. It's great. The one aspect I haven't got to try is straight, level road speed in turbo, because I haven't gone on any straight level roads yet. As there aren't any within my local 6 -8 mile loops! The only flat ground in my town is the cricket pitch which, I guess was bulldozed flat when built long ago! Next weekend I have time to do a longer spin and will hit the cycle trails beyond my local hills. One thought on that- I never considered speed when I got interested in e bikes. Mostly because of the hills. Even downhill you have to guard the brakes as they are so technical, narrow and blind, cars or worse, amazon delivery vans with the drivers on bare minimum wage and paid per delivery can suddenly appear on bends and the lanes are only car width, often with granite walls or sunken lanes and nowhere to escape. I didn't know about the 15mph limitations versus 28mph? in US until I saw the Court video of him trying out a yellow vado on a Specialised Demo day in California, and the speeds he was getting on the main roads. Wow. That looks a lot of fun. I'd never felt in my lifetime on ordinary bikes that I needed to go faster, or rather, needed an assist but that e bike speed looks interesting and it was a lightbulb moment as to why for commuting, powerful e bikes make a lot of sense.

It also shows that arguments about e bike or natural bike, or between which types of e bikes is just pointless. It's completely horses for courses, with terrain, age, fitness, weight and type of riding all factors. Ride what you like. Personally I'd now love to try the powerful Vado's or Treks or those cool looking Moustache bikes, but will also still ride on my steel framed Croix De Fer some days too. It's all fun.
Sounds like you have it well figured out. Nice SL, by the way. Very sleek in matte black!

My entire city is 7 miles x 7 miles, so as you might imagine, plenty of hills within my 6-8 mile loops as well... :) Funny, I've been climbing a couple of SF's 20%+ grades (very hard work) and with most of the weight on the back wheel, it's so steep the front comes up a little and there's a surge of power that *almost* induces a wheelie (if not for the cadence/torque sensors cutting power when they notice it happening). Now that's a steep climb! LOL.

As to the speed on flats, a regular Vado goes like a racehorse. It's actually quite easy to maintain 28mph on the flats, and a few mph more if you're really working.

I don't have a speedo on my SL, but have checked my speed a couple of times for reference. I'm working a a bit harder to maintain 28mph, and am pretty much capped there. Sweet spot for the SL on the flats for me seems more in the 25-26 mph range.

I should note that I had a nice, 3-point firmware update on my old Vado right before it was stolen. That made the bike noticeably faster (and much more power-hungry). I loved the performance, but it seemed a little over-boosted at the time.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
I edited my post.
The rider has to be really strong to keep at 28 mph even if the bike allows it. My brother can, provided it is a downwind ride.
 
@Rás Cnoic: One story might cheer you up. I was cycling in Jizera Mts on the Polish-Czech frontier together with my strong brother last Summer. I was riding the "heavy" Vado 5.0 because I had two batteries for it (for the range), and he rode my Giant Trance E+, an e-MTB because of the single and smaller battery. My brother was so strong he had to use a little bit more of assistance at a very steep climb. Besides, the e-MTB has had proper gearing for mountain rides. He climbed the hill easily. I had to downshift to the granny gear, apply the 320% Turbo with 520 Wh max power and made the hill with a big difficulty. A roadie who cycled with us had to walk his bike... :)

View attachment 69127
The roadie after having had his bike walked up for a while. Can you see the effort on his face? :) Mind you, my brother and me completed the climb before him!
Well I guess I was like that roadie a couple of months back - was climbing the hill into town, a brutal one cut out from cliffs of granite. Anyway I was on my normal bike with my 12yo son on his, both in granny gear and both really suffering. we'd stopped once already and I was now determined to get to the top even if it killed me. On my last legs I heard this growing whirr-whirr, whirr-whirr, coming from behind me- and this little old lady zoomed past me on her e bike! Effortlessly, so I reckon she was well used to the hill and plus was keeping her cadence high. I didn't resent her passing me, I was more marvelling at her ease. I moved here about 16 years ago and back then I rarely saw anyone cycling, because of the hills I guess, just the odd touring bike or roadies on long weekend spins. Now there are several e bike owners locally, plus loads more tourists passing through, and locally it seems mostly older folk who e bike all over doing the shopping in town, living in small hamlets a few miles out from town on the moor or heading to their allotments (gardens). It's lovely to see. A real revolution.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
On my last legs I heard this growing whirr-whirr, whirr-whirr, coming from behind me- and this little old lady zoomed past me on her e bike!
Just fancy the shock of the locals at the bottom of extremely steep road near to Kraków who could see me riding up the hill like a rocket on my Trance E+

-- Hey, this guy is crazy! He wants to make that hill!
-- Look! He's making it!
-- A real Cossack of him!
:D

Nobody even tries to cycle up there. I admit I fell on the grass at the hill-top and was breathing heavily but the SyncDrive Pro and the 36-51 gearing made that possible for me, an elderly, ill person... :)
 
Fair--I should have probably said, "28mph indicated" on the TCD and with my firmware updates. :)
I think I'll only resent the lower 15.5mile limit if I find on flats or straight downhills that I'm hitting the limit and it is spoiling my fun! I won't be using the SL for commuting so it's for exercise and fun really. But I am hoping over winter to go on some big adventures - have invested in plenty of wet weather gear so I have zero excuses not to ride. I picked the matt black as I liked how mean it looked(!) plus the Specialized logo is discreet, that appealed to me. I like Specialised, my boy is riding my Ritchey steel 1997 rockhopper, but the bike cost so much I didn't want it to scream 'expensive'.
 

kmccune

Active Member
ahem, sometimes its best to reconsider whom is the stronger sex,I have been around some absolutely amazing woman and some disappointing Guys( come on, you had to let me beat you at that) I guess its good to keep people guessing, the one thing I have realized if you are uncoordinated everything is harder- when you train its also your nervous system as well,I was thirteen years old before I could ride a bike,I could balance , my legs wouldn't go, don't ask me why, still cannot swim properly( don't float worth a darn- can go a little farther then my first breath will take me, after that I cannot breath till I get out of the water) So I stay out of the drink, and get on my Bike and put out my few watts worth.
 
Have you tried riding past the speed restrictor, Rás?
No, not yet. I have been turning it off on top of hills and they are steep and twisty going down so I'm not pedalling much at all. Next weekend there is a long 20k bike trail - a rail trail as I've heard them called on these forums, in Uk they are generally just cycle paths. Anyway same idea, it's an old railway bed and is very straight. Has a slight drop heading one way and so I'll bomb along it and see what it's like past 15.5miles, if I hit that speed. I don't have a display and usually keep phone in pocket but I do have an all weather phone mount for the bars so i might attach that and have Mission Control on.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
The feeling of riding past the 25 km/h speed restrictor is a sad experience for "full-power" e-bikes. You pedal hard, you approach, say, 28 km/h and the e-bike leaves you alone. It is like hitting the wall. What I can read on these Fora is the Specialized SL e-bikes feel very differently past the speed limiter, feel very natural and no "wall effect" is there. I'd be very interested with your own experience!
 

BEC111

Active Member
The feeling of riding past the 25 km/h speed restrictor is a sad experience for "full-power" e-bikes. You pedal hard, you approach, say, 28 km/h and the e-bike leaves you alone. It is like hitting the wall. What I can read on these Fora is the Specialized SL e-bikes feel very differently past the speed limiter, feel very natural and no "wall effect" is there. I'd be very interested with your own experience!
I’ve occasionally been able to get my SL up to to 28mph and past it. (Not too many places long enough to get up to that speed without needing to slow down for pedestrians, slower riders or stop signs.)

I haven’t noticed that “wall” at the top speeds. I have felt it if I‘ve been running at Eco or Sport, hit turbo to pass someone or top a hill and then return to a lower assist level. Then there can be lots of resistance then. It goes away after a while, I think as the cadence and torque balance with the assist.
 

Kivis

Member
So far I am not hitting 28 MPH but I haven't yet a long enough straightaway. Heck 24 MPH is pretty fast to me. Really bought the Vado SL 5.0 EQ for the assist in the 12 to 22 mph range anyway. And for that it is awesome.