Vado SL 4.0 - How much off road?

Rook

Member
Region
USA
Hello all,

I'm racking my brain trying to decided between two very different e-bikes, the Vado SL 4.0 vs the Powerfly 4. For those of you who have experience with the Vado SL, how capable is it off road? Meaning, what type of road conditions can it handle and how well does it handle it? I know pavement and hard packed dirt/gravel should be no problem. What about loser gravel, fire roads, plain dirt roads like you find at a Boy Scout camp or regular trails in the woods (not MTB trails)? The LBS suggested you might be able to get 45mm tires with a bit of a tread on it with no fins and that it should handle well with those tires.

I like how light the Vado SL is, both to pick it up and as you ride it. I like that I can get it moving pretty fast and get it uphill even with the motor off, in case I want more of a work out or in case the battery dies during a trip. I like the looks and the feel when riding it and it's a fun bike. I also like that the motor is more quiet that most others I've tried. I don't particularly like that the battery cannot be removed and it's a bit stiff, but that may be due to the fact that I have always road MTBs on the road.

I'm looking for a bike for the following conditions.
  1. Mostly will be on paved roads or on hard packed dirt/gravel biking trails - 80+ % (probably 90+%)
  2. Interested in being able to go off road onto dirt trails like you find in scout campgrounds.
  3. Unlikely to do any real mountain biking trails, or at best very light trails with no real down hills or major obstacles.
  4. It's for fun and riding with the family. We have some decent hills in the area but nothing major.
  5. My wife has a Townie Go and my kids (14 and 10) have older basic mtbs.
Thank you for your thoughts.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
My general opinion is: If you consider riding trails, Powerfly 4 with 100 mm travel suspension fork and thick tyres as well as powerful motor is the right choice. When you just get onto fire-roads, you'll mark my words.

Although I'm a big fan of Specialized, I base my thinking of the fact I own a full power Vado 5.0 (with all-rounder 29/2.0" Schwalbe Smart Sam tyres) and the full suspension Giant Trance E+ 2 Pro (with all-rounder Schwalbe Johnny Watts 27.5/2.6" tyres). I take my Vado off-road only if I really must. While Trance E+ on mixed-terrain tyres is comfortable in any situation.

If you were riding almost only paved roads, you'd appreciate the lightweight Vado SL. Going off-road (in my personal opinion) requires a stronger motor, bigger battery, and a good front suspension. (My Trance E+ has 150 mm travel FOX fork; I've set it up to use up to 100 mm of travel: And that is used up on my regular forest rides!).

Others might have different opinions.
 
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Rook

Member
Region
USA
Thank you Stefan. I appreciate your thoughts. Since I wasn't really planning any actual MTB trails I didn't know if a MTB was really necessary to tackle regular dirt roads.

Part of my question is do you (a) buy a bike best suited for how you will ride most of the time, or (b) buy a bike best suited for the worst conditions you may encounter, even if only occasionally. I've had different LBS people advise me differently.
 
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jimk

Member
Region
USA
I also went through the decision process between the Vado SL and the Powerfly 4. In my case more than 90% of my riding would be on roads and paved and groomed trails specifically my city trail system, which is fairly extensive. The ride from my house to the paved trails include a half mile fairly rugged power line trail which is the only way to get there outside of loading my bike in/on the car for a short drive to a trailhead.

I ultimately decided on the Vado SL since it was ideal for the vast majority of my riding. It has been a pleasure to ride on the on the prepared surfaces and a little rough on the rugged trail but it seems to be holding up quite well.
 

Rook

Member
Region
USA
I also went through the decision process between the Vado SL and the Powerfly 4. In my case more than 90% of my riding would be on roads and paved and groomed trails specifically my city trail system, which is fairly extensive. The ride from my house to the paved trails include a half mile fairly rugged power line trail which is the only way to get there outside of loading my bike in/on the car for a short drive to a trailhead.

I ultimately decided on the Vado SL since it was ideal for the vast majority of my riding. It has been a pleasure to ride on the on the prepared surfaces and a little rough on the rugged trail but it seems to be holding up quite well.

Thank you for the perspective. How rough is the Vado on a rugged trail, and how rugged of a trail is it? Did you make any changes to the Vado SL to make it easier on rougher trails?

Did you think the Powerfly would be too bulky and cumbersome on the roads and groomed trails? The Powerfly's front suspension would help, but it's a pretty low end suspension, and it's a hardtail so any long trip on rough ground would still be a bit rough. The Powerfly FS4 has full suspension and air shocks which is big step up, but it's $1,000 more and more than I really wanted to spend.
 

Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
Thank you for the perspective. How rough is the Vado on a rugged trail, and how rugged of a trail is it? Did you make any changes to the Vado SL to make it easier on rougher trails?

Did you think the Powerfly would be too bulky and cumbersome on the roads and groomed trails? The Powerfly's front suspension would help, but it's a pretty low end suspension, and it's a hardtail so any long trip on rough ground would still be a bit rough. The Powerfly FS4 has full suspension and air shocks which is big step up, but it's $1,000 more and more than I really wanted to spend.
Hi

I have a Vado SL 4 which I use off road quite frequently. It's definitely capable but perghaps it's a question of comfort? I changed the front chainring to a smaller 38T and the tyres for WTB Nanos which are 40mm. The smaller chainring helps the motor cope better with steeper gradients, giving me more gears off road, the tyres, though not significantly wider then the Pathfinder 38's originally on the bike are both grippier and have a taller profile so have more cushion and are great on gravel or dirt.

I think my bike now probably feels similiar to a gravel bike - so capable when it gets rough but with limits and you do get bounced around a bit if it gets rocky or single track. On fire roads, gravel tracks it's great but rougher roads can feel jarring.

In the same way that a gravel bike can do the rough stuff, at a certain point an MTB with much wider tyres and suspension makes more sense. Hope this helps!
 

jimk

Member
Region
USA
Thank you for the perspective. How rough is the Vado on a rugged trail, and how rugged of a trail is it? Did you make any changes to the Vado SL to make it easier on rougher trails?

Did you think the Powerfly would be too bulky and cumbersome on the roads and groomed trails? The Powerfly's front suspension would help, but it's a pretty low end suspension, and it's a hardtail so any long trip on rough ground would still be a bit rough. The Powerfly FS4 has full suspension and air shocks which is big step up, but it's $1,000 more and more than I really wanted to spend.
Still running the Vado SL stock with the exception of new pedals. It is a little rough but the future shock does help a little. If I was 20 or 30 years younger it would be much easier. The trail is quite chunky, after recent rains it also has a lot of ruts. With the right tires I think the Powerfly would be fine on the paved and groomed trails. Personally, I chose to buy for the 90% and just make due on the other 10%.
 
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Rook

Member
Region
USA
One small fact - the Powerfly is only currently available in a medium frame. I'm 5'10" with a 32.5" inseam. Powerfly medium is supposedly for someone upto 5'8.9" and 32.3" inseam. LBS guy says there isn't much difference between the medium and large and I would be fine on the medium, and if I wanted more reach I could get a longer handle bar stem. Does that seem right or should this be a concern?
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
Rook, let me chime in for a second.

There is a category of people described as "gravel cyclists", weird people if you ask me. They ride bikes similar to the road racing machines on somewhat thicker tyres (still thin), no suspension, non-equipped bikes, and they ride asphalt, gravel and dirt. Going the Vado SL way is resembling gravel cycling. If you do not mind some suffering off-road and are physically fit, go for Vado SL.
 

Art Deco

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Selinsgrove Pennsylvania
One small fact - the Powerfly is only currently available in a medium frame. I'm 5'10" with a 32.5" inseam. Powerfly medium is supposedly for someone upto 5'8.9" and 32.3" inseam. LBS guy says there isn't much difference between the medium and large and I would be fine on the medium, and if I wanted more reach I could get a longer handle bar stem. Does that seem right or should this be a concern?
Sounds like a small concern, but better too small than too large.
 

Saratoga Dave

Well-Known Member
Yeah, that’s me, Stefan! Weird for sure, but my tires aren’t all that thin at 700x50mm on my gravel bike. I just got in from 30 more miles on that new path near us… the other day I rode some of it on my road bike, but a good deal of it is hard packed stone dust and we just had a day and a half of heavy rain, so today I made a conscious choice of the gravel bike. A little soft in places but overall excellent, but there was one interesting single track trail running off into the woods up a steep hill that I was able to go up without much trouble. Could not have even thought about it on the road bike.

I like the Vado SLs very much, but any kind of off-road grade stuff requires torque, lots of it. I’d lean towards the Powerfly. Remember that once you find out how much fun it is to go off route and explore some of these places, you want to do more and more of it! Stefan is an excellent example himself. His expeditions into the forests often make for some pretty good reading.
 

jodi2

Active Member
Very weird these guys, yes... ;-)

Rook, I do not understand why you want to choose between a Vado SL and a Powerfly 4. It's like asking, if I should go for the Volkswagen Golf or for the Pickup.
If you feel fine with 40-45mm tires and no or almost no suspension on your roads only YOU can judge. What you describe with 80-90% road&paths, many people would be fine with a vado SL. But we haven't ridden your paths, if the last 10-20% are terrible, maybe one could like wider tires und more suspension. But if so, why do you want to to switch apart from the bike type also the motor/drive type, from a light ebike with assist drive back to a heavy standard drive&ebike? The alternative to a Vado SL with wider tires and more suspension, so a light ebike hardtail would be something like a Focus Raven2 (or something similiar, I guess there are more hardtails with Fazua now).
Fazua also can be, no, has to be charged outside the bike, you always have to take out the battery (what was one of MY reasons to choose SL, as I don't want this and can charge in the garage).
 

Johnny

Well-Known Member
Hello all,

I'm racking my brain trying to decided between two very different e-bikes, the Vado SL 4.0 vs the Powerfly 4. For those of you who have experience with the Vado SL, how capable is it off road? Meaning, what type of road conditions can it handle and how well does it handle it? I know pavement and hard packed dirt/gravel should be no problem. What about loser gravel, fire roads, plain dirt roads like you find at a Boy Scout camp or regular trails in the woods (not MTB trails)? The LBS suggested you might be able to get 45mm tires with a bit of a tread on it with no fins and that it should handle well with those tires.

I like how light the Vado SL is, both to pick it up and as you ride it. I like that I can get it moving pretty fast and get it uphill even with the motor off, in case I want more of a work out or in case the battery dies during a trip. I like the looks and the feel when riding it and it's a fun bike. I also like that the motor is more quiet that most others I've tried. I don't particularly like that the battery cannot be removed and it's a bit stiff, but that may be due to the fact that I have always road MTBs on the road.

I'm looking for a bike for the following conditions.
  1. Mostly will be on paved roads or on hard packed dirt/gravel biking trails - 80+ % (probably 90+%)
  2. Interested in being able to go off road onto dirt trails like you find in scout campgrounds.
  3. Unlikely to do any real mountain biking trails, or at best very light trails with no real down hills or major obstacles.
  4. It's for fun and riding with the family. We have some decent hills in the area but nothing major.
  5. My wife has a Townie Go and my kids (14 and 10) have older basic mtbs.
Thank you for your thoughts.

Not much if any. As much as I love Vado SL it is the wrong choice for your needs.

Get an emtb. For pavement you can get a different set faster rolling tires.

If you want a lighter capable bike you may also consider E-caliber.
 

Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
Very weird these guys, yes... ;-)

Rook, I do not understand why you want to choose between a Vado SL and a Powerfly 4. It's like asking, if I should go for the Volkswagen Golf or for the Pickup.
If you feel fine with 40-45mm tires and no or almost no suspension on your roads only YOU can judge. What you describe with 80-90% road&paths, many people would be fine with a vado SL. But we haven't ridden your paths, if the last 10-20% are terrible, maybe one could like wider tires und more suspension. But if so, why do you want to to switch apart from the bike type also the motor/drive type, from a light ebike with assist drive back to a heavy standard drive&ebike? The alternative to a Vado SL with wider tires and more suspension, so a light ebike hardtail would be something like a Focus Raven2 (or something similiar, I guess there are more hardtails with Fazua now).
Fazua also can be, no, has to be charged outside the bike, you always have to take out the battery (what was one of MY reasons to choose SL, as I don't want this and can charge in the garage).
I'd agree with all this. It's very hard to put ourselves in your shoes. With 80% roads yes I'd say from my experience the Vado SL would be fine especially if you want a work out, which was my rationale for buying a light bike with small motor - that I would need to do a lot of the work. I'd say I ride 70% roads 30% gravel/bridleways/tracks. But like Jodi2 says I wonder if there is a half way house between both bikes? Are you picking Trek & Specialized because of local dealers for instance, as there may well be a Vado SL level bike but with wider tyre clearance and more MTB characteristics. The Fazua equipped bikes or some of the Shimano Steps motors. Not sure what's available in US, but Giant, Focus, Canyon, Cube (they have so many different models!!) might all be worth a look. So many models these days but having local support is important.
 

Rook

Member
Region
USA
Thanks for all the different perspectives and thoughts. I think my hang up on the Powerfly is the weight. When I test rode that I also test road the Trek Supercal. I really liked the Supercal's weight and ride. The Powerfly felt heavy and no where near as soft of a ride and it's making me question how comfortable it would be on a several hour ride down biking roads with the family. I attribute that to the weight and entry level suspension, maybe that isn't accurate, but that's why the weight of the Vado SL caught my eye. Maybe, as suggested, the answer is N+1, meaning trick out the Vado SL as a sort of gravel bike, and get a full suspension off road MTB.

I am stuck to LBS brands, at least for the E-bike. That means Trek, Specialized, Giant, Cannondale. Stock is super low as well with Giant and Cannondale being virtually sold out and only a couple of eMBTs in stock. I was looking at Canyon to buy online, but the lack of local support has me questioning that. It might be just fine for an analog bike as they use all the same parts as everyone else.

Is it possible to switch out the front fork on the Vado SL to a suspension fork?
 

Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
No you are right, having the back up of a local dealer with an expensive e bike is very important I think. You are just stuck with post Covid supply issues which can be really frustrating. You know I have no idea about replacing front fork on the SL! Not a bad idea, especially if you got a nice air fork. Never crossed my mind. And of course there are all the suspension handlebar stems & seat post options. Plenty of discussion on here about these options. For tyre width the issue is at the back, not the chain stays, there seems decent room there, no it's the cross bar on the seat stays, it's very tight there. So check if a 47mm would fit there. I've scratched my head as to why Secialized didn't leave more room there?! I suppose they marketed the Vado SL as a city & commuting bike so didn't think about bigger clearances unlike on their gravel bikes for instance. But the bike is brilliantly tough. I've ridden mine all winter in the UK in rain, sleet, through mud and floods and on all kind of gravel tracks. It's strong.
 

Rook

Member
Region
USA
According to Specialized, the Vado SL can hold a max tire size of 42mm. Does that sound right? When I measure the space in the frame there appears to be more than 2" of space, closer to 2.5". I assumed that a 47mm would work fine.