2013 Specialized Turbo Review


Technical Specs & Ratings





Class 3




Hydraulic Disc



324 Wh

324 Wh

47.5 lbs / 21.57 kgs

Video Reviews

Written Reviews

This review is for the prototype and 2013 version of the Specialized Turbo electric bike. In 2014 a new model was introduced with improved battery range, display mount and lighting.

In 2009 a team of Specialized engineers in Switzerland began work on what would eventually become the Turbo. On March 28, 2012 it was revealed publicly and began testing in select markets across Europe including Spain. A refined version of the bike was showcased at Interbike 2013 with launch plans tentatively scheduled in the US for Q1 2014. The Specialized Turbo is a feature rich offering designed to captivate and push the limits of what electric bikes can do, specifically around top speed. The Turbo melds state of the art technology with sophisticated, proven Specialized design techniques… and marketing ;)

The Turbo is beautiful with its integrated battery pack, concealed cables, small backlit control unit, magnetic EnergyBus connectors on the battery and motor (like your Apple laptop) and carbon fiber accents on the brake levers, clamps and kickstand. It features regenerative braking for increased range and reduced wear on disc brake rotors. It utilizes oversized thru-axles to stabilize riding at high speeds which also make wheel removal and alignment easier. For safety, the bike features built in front and rear LED lights that continue to run even if the battery is fully drained, leveraging a capacitor and current from the hub motor. The LCD unit is even designed to work with third party ANT+ compatible electronics such as heart rate monitors. The list of features is immense, but so is the price point at $5,900 USD (and that’s way down from $7,255 which was shared in 2012).

So how does the Turbo compare with other currently available electric bikes? In my opinion it’s more polished than the Stromer ebikes but offers a very similar drive package. It accelerates more smoothly and looks cooler… but of course it costs more. The motor driving the Turbo is a seemingly-small 250 watt gearless design running off a 36 vot 9 amp hour Lithium-ion battery pack. These numbers sound average when compared with other mainstream ebikes but the specs are misleading. Even though the Turbo advertises 250 watts, the continuous output is closer to 500 with a peak of ~700 and because it primarily offers pedal assist mode and uses firm smooth tires, like a road bike, it feels very responsive. Also, the battery chemistry was chosen to optimize charge and discharge rates giving it added torque at takeoff.

The Specialized Turbo is light enough to lift (barely) and the frame and tires are fairly standard in size and orientation so it works well on car and bus racks. It wouldn’t be ideal for someone who lived up or down stairs due to the 21.54kg weight (47.5lbs) but it’s better than a lot of other ebikes. Also, because the battery pack is removable you can get it down to ~40 pounds when you do have to lift it. As mentioned earlier, part of what makes this bike feel so great is the battery pack position (low and centered) stiff frame and firm tires. It rides like a road bike and the electric drive only heightens the feeling of speed and control. I’m also a big fan of the double tap trigger shifter that only uses one lever and is positioned on the right side of the handle bar. The cockpit is clean, intuitive and easy to engage with.

Imagine riding around the streets of San Francisco nonstop for one hour. It feels like a normal bike, maneuverable and responsive, but you’re passing cars going uphill! You can cut across parks and never have to think about parking as you would with a vehicle or motorbike yet you won’t get sweaty either… unless you choose to dial down the power assist. It’s the best of both worlds, you lift the bike onto a rack at the front of a bus and zip across the Golden Gate Bridge then carry it up the stairs to your apartment for safe keeping. To see this dream fully realized, check out the commercial below shot in San Francisco with pro road cyclist Daniel Velasco on the Turbo.


So what about speed? The Turbo went through testing in Spain while Specialized and other bike manufacturers worked with the US government to find a solution that would allow ebikes to reach higher top speeds. The result is a whole range of ebikes that now reach 28 miles per hour in pedal assist mode. Two of my favorites are the Easy Motion Neo bikes by BH and the E3 Dash by IZIP coming in 2014.

What does this bike mean to the industry? Well, Specialized already has an amazing network of dealers in the US who can show, demo, sell and service this bike. It means more people will get exposed to ebikes and that’s a great thing for traffic, parking and the environment. To me the Specialized Turbo signals an inflection point in the world of transportation for Western markets. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent by Specialized to enter the ebike scene and gauge interest. Can ebikes be cool and fun? Will people be willing to pay for them and change their lifestyles with the changing economic and environmental times? Can cities and governments adapt as market forces drive interest in new kinds of high performance vehicles? I sure hopes so…

If you don’t mind paying extra for a bike that looks awesome, demonstrates high performance and is easy to mount onto most car racks and bike racks, the Specialized Turbo could be a great fit. It’s the Tesla of electric bikes for now (high style, performance and price) and just like many high end sports car it’s not the most comfortable ride. Keep this in mind if you aren’t used to riding road bikes with stiffer tires and frames. The Turbo comes from one of the largest, most trusted brands in the world of bicycling and leverages proven technology designed to perform under high stress, high speed situations. While it does offer a limited throttle mode (activate by holding the + button down for two seconds on the button pad, then use the + button again to engage at will) it’s designed to be ridden in pedal assist mode and uses high-sensitivity torque sensing technology to be responsive and smooth. Everything from the frame and drive system are dialed in for maximum efficiency and it really shows. Heck, it even has a water bottle cage mount built into the top of the battery pack. That’s attention to detail.


  • Reasonable weight, balanced design with low center of gravity
  • Wirless computer and control switch, easy to access next to the right grip
  • Regenerative braking and negative-mode for downhill charging
  • Full fender and rack mount eyelets
  • Battery pack locks to bike, battery can be charged on or off frame
  • Battery charger is silent, no fans required
  • Battery pack charges in under 2.5 hours and has a higher discharge rate for increased acceleration
  • Battery pack has threaded holes built right in for mounting a bottle cage
  • Built in front and rear LED lights with capacitor for use when battery is completely empty
  • High end components that will last, support and service available through vast network of dealers


  • No shock absorbers (though Specialized has a proprietary seat post shock called the CobL GobL-R and any currently-available Thud Buster would smooth things out)
  • Very expensive at $5,900 USD, but considering the S-Works bikes and other high end non-powered offerings from Specialized, this makes sense
  • Primarily setup for pedal assist only, limited throttle functionality

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