2017 Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 Review

Specialized Turbo Vado 5 0 Electric Bike Review

Summary

  • A high-speed urban electric bike with premium tubular fenders, minimalist rack with integrated light, 600 Lumen headlight, reflective stickers on fenders and rims
  • Available in four frame sizes but only one style (high-step), rigid alloy fork and thru-axles improve power transfer, 11-speed drivetrain for a comfortable cadence up to 28 mph
  • Removable touch-screen LCD with GPS readout when synced to smartphone, integrated Micro-USB for charging accessories, ABUS locking core on battery that can be matched to locks
  • Lack of suspension and all-Aluminum frame may be jarring, longer front fender may increase toe-strikes but lower portion is flexible, kickstand looks great but has a narrow base which could sink into soft terrain

Video Review

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Introduction

Make:

Specialized

Model:

Turbo Vado 5.0

Price:

$4,600

Body Position:

Forward

Suggested Use:

Urban, Commuting, Touring

Electric Bike Class:

Speed Pedelec (Class 3)
Learn more about Ebike classes

Warranty:

2 Year Battery and Motor, Lifetime Frame and Fork

Availability:

United States, Europe

Model Year:

2017

Bicycle Details

Total Weight:

55.4 lbs (25.12 kg)

Battery Weight:

6.6 lbs (2.99 kg)

Motor Weight:

7.5 lbs (3.4 kg)

Frame Material:

Aluminum Alloy, Smooth Welds

Frame Sizes:

15.75 in (40 cm)17.72 in (45 cm)19.69 in (50.01 cm)21.65 in (54.99 cm)

Geometry Measurements:

Medium 45 cm: 17.72" Seat Tube, 32" Stand Over Height, 44.3" Wheelbase

Frame Types:

High-Step

Frame Colors:

Satin Slate with Limon Accents, Gloss Satin Dream Black with Black and Rocket Red Accents

Frame Fork Details:

Rigid Aluminum Alloy, Post Disc Mount, 100 mm / 15 mm Thru Axle, Sealed Bearings Hub

Frame Rear Details:

142 mm / 12 mm Thru-Axle, Sealed Bearings Hub

Attachment Points:

Bottle Cage Bosses, Rear Rack Bosses, Fender Bosses

Gearing Details:

11 Speed 1x11, Shimano Deore XT Shadow Plus SGS cage, Shimano SLX M7000 11-42T Cassette

Shifter Details:

Shimano SLX Triggers on Right

Cranks:

Custom Alloy, 48T, Narrow Wide Chainring, 104 mm Bolt Circle Diameter (BCD), Single Xsync Style 10- / 11-Speed

Pedals:

Custom Specialized Fitness, Nylon Platform with Grip Traction

Headset:

FSA 1-1/ 8" Upper and Lower, Cartridge Bearings

Stem:

Alloy, 7-Degree Rise, 31.8 mm Clamp, 60 mm (S) / 70 mm (M) / 80 mm (L) / 90 mm (XL)

Handlebar:

Specialized Alloy, 9-Degree Backsweep, 4-Degree Upsweep, 680 mm Width, 31.8 mm Clamp

Brake Details:

Tektro Zurich Hydraulic Disc with 180 mm Rotors, Tektro Zurich Levers with Tool-Free Adjustable Reach, Four-Piston Calipers, Integrated Read Switch on Both Levers for Rear Light Bright Mode

Grips:

Specialized Body Geometry XC Contour, Ergonomic, Black

Saddle:

Canopy Comp, Hollow Cr-Mo Rails

Seat Post:

Alloy, 2-Bolt Clamp, 12.5 mm Offset, Anti-Corrosion Hardware

Seat Post Length:

350 mm

Seat Post Diameter:

30.9 mm

Rims:

6061 Aluminum Alloy, Double-Wall, 40 mm Width, 28 Hole, Reinforcement Eyelets, Reflective Stickers

Spokes:

XDB Stainless Steel, 15 Gauge, Black

Tire Brand:

Electrak 2.0 Armadillo, 28" x 2" (700 x 51c) (51-622)

Wheel Sizes:

28 in (71.12cm)

Tire Details:

30 to 65 PSI, Armadillo Anti-Flat Technology, Gripton Compound

Tube Details:

Presta Valve

Accessories:

Custom Specialized Rack with Racktime Snap-it System and Integrated Rear Light (22 kg / 48.5 lb Max Load), Tubular Alloy Fenders (Extra-Long Flextender Multi-Plastic Lower Piece), Integrated Specialized Headlight with Aspheric Lens Technology (12 Volt, Two-LED, 600 Lumen, IP67 Rated, Aluminum Die-Cast Body, Stem Mount), Custom Specialized Side Mirror (Alloy and Glass), Rack-Integrated Specialized Backlight with Lightguide Technology (12 Volt, 8 SMD LED, Clear Window, IP67 Rated, Plastic Injected Housing, Aluminum Rack Attachment Studs, Inner Cable Routing in Left Stud), Plastic Chainring Guard, Transparent Slap Guard Sticker, 40 mm Spaced Standard Rear-Mount Kickstand, Electronic Horn (Mounted Below Bottom Bracket), Optional Replacement Battery Pack $800

Other:

Locking Removable Battery Pack with ABUS Locking Core, 1.9 lb 42 Volt 4 Amp Charger with Rosenberger Plug (Magnetic EnergyBus Standard), Optional 1.3 lb Portable 1.6 Amp Travel Charger, IP67 Water and Dust Protection Rating on Battery Pack, Battery Stops with 4% at Top and Bottom to Avoid Straining Cells, Internal Cable Routing, Shimano CN-HG601 Chain

Electronic Details

Motor Brand:

Brose, Rx Street Tuned, Custom for Specialized

Motor Type:

Mid-Mounted Geared Motor
Learn more about Ebike motors

Motor Nominal Output:

250 watts

Motor Peak Output:

530 watts

Motor Torque:

90 Newton meters

Battery Brand:

Samsung, LG

Battery Voltage:

36 volts

Battery Amp Hours:

16.8 ah

Battery Watt Hours:

604.8 wh

Battery Chemistry:

Lithium-ion

Charge Time:

4.5 hours (7 Hours with Optional Travel Charger)

Estimated Min Range:

30 miles (48 km)

Estimated Max Range:

80 miles (129 km)

Display Type:

BLOKS Removable Adjustable Angle 2.2" Backlit TFT Touch-Screen LCD (Buttons: History / Back, Home, Menu) with 5 Volt Micro-USB Female Plug, 5 LED Charge Indicator / Power Button on Battery

Readouts:

Battery Level (5 Bars or Percentage), Assist Level (Off, Eco, Sport, Turbo), Trip Distance, Odometer, Available Range, Ride Time, Clock, Rider / Motor Power, Watts, Cadence, Elevation Profile, Distance Climb, Slope, Map

Display Accessories:

Independent Button Pad near Left Grip (Set, +, -, Light / Horn), Hold + for Walk Mode, Long-Press Set Twice for Settings Menu, Mission Control App (Bluetooth, iOS and Android)

Drive Mode:

Advanced Pedal Assist (Speed, Cadence and Torque Sensing, Eco: 20%, Sport: 50%, Turbo: 100%)

Top Speed:

28 mph (45 kph)(15.5 MPH in Europe)

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Written Review

On May 18, 2017 I was invited to a Specialized press event in Palo Alto California where the new Turbo Vado 6.0 was shown off. Before this event, I had created a placeholder review here as a way to study because Specialized had posted details about the new models on their website. Unfortunately, many of those details changed and the event did not feature the 2.0, 3.0, or 5.0 model. In short, the main difference between the 5.0 and 6.0 is the fork. The 5.0 features a rigid Aluminum alloy fork that likely weighs less than the Suntour suspension but may not be as comfortable at high speed. This model costs roughly $200 less.

Having ridden the Turbo Vado 6.0 model for more than 20 miles and conducted an in-depth interview with the Head of Brand-Turbo from Switzerland (posted above) I feel that you can begin to get a sense of the bike. Once I am able to spend time with this specific product in person, I will update this review. In the meantime, I suggest that you dig into the Specialized Turbo Vado 6.0 review here. Portions of that original work that I feel are relevant have been maintained below:

What follows is a preview of the Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 electric bike based on information available publicly through the official Specialized website and associated PDF manual here along with my own knowledge and experience using the Brose mid-drive motor system. Specialized uses this same drive system on their Turbo Levo mountain bikes, and while it may be tuned differently, you can see the hardware in action on those other reviews here. Specialized is recognized as one of the “Big Three” bicycle manufacturers to sell in the United States including Giant and Trek. They have a broad network of dealers that expertly assemble and service bicycles and e-bikes. Over the years, they have been a leader in suspension technology including the Horst Link four-bar rear suspension for mountain bikes and CG-R Carbon Seatpost for city and road bikes. I was a little surprised then to see that this high-speed version of the Vado (capable of reaching 28 mph as a Class-3 electric bike) did not come with a suspension fork or suspension seat post. It would be incredible to see something like the Lauf carbon suspension post put to work here… unfortunately it doesn’t look like they produce a straight 1-1/8″ with 15 mm thru-axle version, all Lauf are tapered :) The all-Alloy frame will be tough, lightweight and stiff, for excellent power transfer, but not necessarily comfortable. The ergonomic grips, upgraded saddle and fatter 2″ Elektrak tires will help (compared to 1.85″ on the Vado 3.0) but it could still be a rough ride if you encounter a lot of cracks and potholes.

The motor is rated at 350 watts nominal as compared with the Vado 3.0 which says 250 watts but the physical hardware is likely the same. Both are probably capable of producing 90 Newton meters of torque and are extremely responsive. The Brose system measures rear wheel speed, pedal cadence and pedal torque which improves shifting smoothness and increases range if used properly. Unlike Bosch, the chainring is standard sized (48 Tooth in this case for high-speed operation) and it has a plastic outer guide to keep pant legs relatively clean and snag-free. This is important if you’re a commuter, and I was a bit surprised that the chain does not include a longer cover.

Activating the electric assist settings on the bike is a one-step process. After the battery has been mounted to the frame, you press a small power button near the top of the pack. Here, you can see five LED lights flicker on indicating charge level. These lights function whether the battery pack is mounted to the frame or not. The charging port is located just below and to the left of the power button which is an excellent position in my opinion because it won’t be exposed to as much water or dust when riding (even though the pack is rated at IP67). It also stays clear of the left crank arm and allows the magnetic power cord to pop out easily if tripped over (hopefully without tipping the bike). Note that the locking core used here is made by Abus and that they have a program for matching keys to their folding and u-locks if you send the key code. Now that the bike has been activated, you can use the touch-screen display panel or independent button pad to cycle through trip stats, navigation or record trips and cycle through three levels of pedal assist power. Additionally, Specialized offers a Mission Control app that lets you plan trips to arrive with a specified charge level remaining. This app can also fine-tune the motor performance. Given that Bluetooth and GPS require more energy than standard phone functionality, it’s wonderful to see a Micro-USB port built into the display interface (likely offering 5 Volt at 1 Amp). This means you can maintain or charge your phone while riding. Ideally, you’d mount the phone to your handlebar with an aftermarket part.

The Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 charges more for high-speed operation and a larger battery capacity primarily… but you also get an upgraded 11-speed drivetrain, upgraded handlebar and grips, upgraded saddle, nicer tires, and much brighter lights front and rear. The bicycle looks professional and blends perfectly with the black grips, spokes, crank-arms, fenders, and rack. They’ve done their best to hide the battery and motor inside the downtube, much like their Turbo Levo models, and I feel like they’ve mostly succeeded. Thankfully, despite being mostly dark colored, the fenders and rims feature reflective stickers to keep you visible in early morning and late night commutes. It’s a stealthy looking electric bike and very quiet when riding, even at higher speeds. Brose motor systems are smooth and efficient, offering excellent torque and power. The pedals are plastic platform “fitness” style with a grippy sand surface for good traction whether you’re wearing sport shoes or office shoes. And the rear rack uses standard gauge tubing which is compatible with clip-on panniers. Note that you only get a single support stay on the sides of the rack so a hardback pannier with an adjustable lower clip would be the most stable choice. One final highlight is the two pairs of bottle cage bosses on the high-step frames for use with a bottle holder, mini pump, or folding lock. When traveling fast and far, the likelihood of encountering a flat or needing to do a repair increases but the upgraded tires are thick and have a puncture protection lining.

Pros:

  • Interactive TFT touch-screen display panel allows you to navigate menus quickly, can sync with the Mission Control smartphone app to display GPS, track routes, and record elevation, you can also engage with it using the handlebar remote to adjust assist level or cycle through standard trip stats like odometer, trip distance, ride time and range estimator
  • The display panel interface has a Micro-USB port offering 5 Volts and 700+ milliamps of power so you can charge a phone and use the Bluetooth Mission Control app from Specialized while riding without draining your battery too much, the app allows you to plan trips and adjust motor performance characteristics at a deeper level
  • Sturdy tubular fenders hug the tires to keep you dry and clean, the front fender is extra-long featuring a multi-plastic (sort of rubberized) Flextender to keep your feet and shins dry, if this portion of the fender is kicked or collides with a curb it bends naturally, Specialized calls their new fenders “drytech” and has tested them in a wind tunnel to simulate how water responds at ~20 mph, the top portion of the front fender features a plastic wall to spread water to the sides vs. out to the front and up into your face… this can happen when air is pushed quickly forward at high speed
  • The fenders and rack were very quiet, even though the Flextender portion vibrated and bounced around a bit, it didn’t produce much noise at all and the custom cargo rack felt sturdy but didn’t add much width or length to the bike, I like how it’s minimalist and integrates the brake light
  • Integrated lights help you see and be seen in dark riding conditions, the headlight is mounted underneath the stem keeping the cockpit clean and points where you steer, the rear light is at the very end of the rack so it won’t get blocked by panniers or trunk bags and it goes extra-bright when either brake lever is pulled
  • In addition to integrated LED lights, there are several reflective stickers on the fenders and rims to increase your visual footprint in dark riding conditions, this is especially important given the optional black / grey color scheme
  • The Brose mid-drive motor is extremely compact and quiet, it has a carbon belt inside that transfers power from the planetary gear, it feels smooth and is very responsive… the base of the bottom bracket has vents to allow air to pass directly across the motor casing and cool it
  • Excellent weight distribution with both the motor and battery mounted low and center,
    the frame is totally custom so the electronics blend in and wires are internally routed, the battery doesn’t stand out thanks to a paint-matched shell
  • I like how the battery tips out towards the left side vs. going up and down because it will reduce frame bumps when mounting and dismounting the battery
  • Available in four frame sizes for improved fit, I was riding the Medium for this review ant it handled very well in a default “upright” position but the stem can be flipped and spacers put on top vs. below if you want a more aggressive aerodynamic body position
  • The Men’s high-step Vado frame has two sets of bottle cage bosses (in the traditional spot on top of the downtube and below the top tube) This is especially useful if you want to mount a folding lock, mini-pump or other accessories without adding panniers or a trunk bag
  • Specialized offers a solid two-year comprehensive warranty with lifetime on the frame and has a vast network of dealers who can provide expert fitting and maintenance
  • The bike frame was designed to feel stable and I was able to pedal down a hill at 40+ mph comfortably, Specialized uses Body Geometry fit data from over a decade of research and includes gender-specific Body Geometry saddle and grips for improved comfort
  • The battery pack and display are removable so you can store them safely and charge them conveniently, I’d suggest removing the battery when carrying the bike or using walk mode to help climb stairs, the locking core is made by Abus and they can match folding locks to the same key for convenience and reduced clutter if you want
  • The charger has a magnetic interface so it won’t knock your bike over as easily if the cord gets tripped over,
    the cover for this plug on the bike is also magnetic and has a little rubber leash so it won’t get lost so easy
  • High-end 11-speed drivetrain makes it easy to start and climb or maintain the ~28 mph top speed, The Shimano Deore XT Shadow+ derailleur keeps the chain tight on bumps to reduce bouncing and slipping with a one-way adjustable clutch (this drivetrain has traditionally been reserved for mountain bikes), the same clutch can make removing the rear wheel easier if locked so the derailleur doesn’t spring back
  • Unlike the Specialized Turbo Levo e-mountain bikes that also use the Brose drive system, for the Vado models the battery actually locks to the frame (the mountain models just have a 15 mm thru-axle holding it in place) and the charging port has been elevated to the top of the pack to stay clear of the cranks vs. the Vado where it’s very low, basically under the bottom bracket
  • The battery mounts from the top left side so putting it on and taking it off is less likely to bang the top tube and has allowed for a lower top tube on the Women’s model
  • The drive system uses freewheels to decouple when pedaling unpowered (or above the top assisted speed) which is likely what other Brose ebikes do as I did not notice a difference… but Specialized was emphasizing this
  • Unlike most other bikes with kickstands, the Vado put a 40 mm mounting bracket on the inside of the left chainstay to make it look sleeker… even the stand looks tight and sleek
  • With great power and speed come great responsibility! and for that you get Tektro Zurich hydraulic disc brakes with 180 mm rotors and quad pistons that reduce overheating
  • In addition to having a plastic chainring guard (that keeps your pants or dress clear of the front sprocket and oily chain), the sprocket itself uses a narrow wide tooth pattern that grabs the chain better to reduce drops and noise

Cons:

  • I love that the Vado 5.0 has wider tires but am not sure how comfortable the rigid frame and fork would be on longer rides if there are any cracks or bumps, I would definitely consider a 30.9 mm suspension seat post like the BodyFloat Kinekt or Specialized CG-R Carbon Seatpost
  • The rear rack looks sleek (with fewer support arms) but doesn’t support as much weight as most standard racks I see on other ebikes, you get 48.5 lbs (22 kg) vs. 55 lbs (25 kg) capacity
  • You pay a premium for what amounts to a larger battery and higher speed on this model versus the Vado 2.0 and 3.0 which also have suspension but just can’t go as fast
  • This doesn’t seem to be an issue for most riders who reduce pedal pressure as they shift gears (because the motor controller measures torque) but you don’t get shift sensing like Bosch and some Impulse motors which could result in more mashing if you’re not careful, I saw this happening a lot on our media ride… people would slow down for stop signs and lights just before hills (or on hills) and then clunk the gears hard shifting down as they started from zero which is bad for the chain, sprockets and derailleur
  • Unfortunately, the tires on the Vado models do not have reflective tape on the sides, this reduces your visual footprint which is a bummer (apparently it’s a requirement in the EU) but at least they put reflective stickers on the rims
  • I don’t think the battery has an integrated handle, so be careful taking it off the bike and carrying it around, it’s sensitive and should be handled with care
  • The bike takes a moment to power on after pressing the on/off button at the top of the battery pack, I feel like you have to press that button for a full second and the display isn’t immediate to light up or turn off… it just feels annoying compared to some others like Bosch
  • Unlike the 2.0, 3.0 and 6.0 models, the 5.0 appears to only be available in the Men’s high-step

Resources:

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Comments (23) YouTube Comments

Doug Ruby
3 years ago

Any idea when they will actually do the formal introduction in the US? When will you get to ride one?

  Reply
Court Rye
3 years ago

Hi Doug, yes I do! Specialized is holding an event on May 18th in California… so I’ll be there meeting with people and filming. It might take a day or two to process and post here but that’s the timeframe :D

  Reply
Roadrash
3 years ago

Looking forward to your report. I just picked up a Turbo S on closeout, however, it had a few issues and was returned. Spesh was out of the Turbo in my size, so i preordered the vado. I was told a delivery date in mid june. Looking forward to your review.

roadrash
3 years ago

Court, they now show a 6.0 model with a suspension fork. I think that you are a fan of the suspension fork, i had a 5.0 on order, do you think i would be better off with the 6.0 model. Looks like a better shifter and maybe different brake. I dont know if that is a good fork or not. Thanks for some advice.

  Reply
Court Rye
3 years ago

Interesting, I’m heading to their HQ in a couple of days to learn more… will update when I can!

  Reply
roadrash
3 years ago

Thanks court and thanks for everything you do, i love this website. I went in and changed my order to the 6.0. They show early june for the 5.0 and mid july for the 6.0. I have enough money on the books for returning the turbo S, i really am having a hard time waiting, but you really seemed to dig the turbo X cause the front fork. If anything changes from your review, i can always go back, but i am relaying on your expert opinion.

Doug
3 years ago

News!!! I want news! Actually, my local Specialized dealer is going to have an “ebike” day with Specialized rep in attendance. Apparently he/she will be bring bikes (I hope Vado). If I get to ride one, I will let you know!

  Reply
Court Rye
3 years ago

Awesome Doug! The 6.0 review is nearly done (should be by end of day) and I shot a couple of other fun videos to post soon as well :D

  Reply
Mark
2 years ago

What happened to the regen mode from the older Turbo is the Eco mode adjustable and what is the Sport mode?

  Reply
Court Rye
2 years ago

Hi Mark, the new Turbo Vado models use a Brose mid-drive that is not capable of capturing regenerated energy when braking or coasting. It’s a more efficient system overall if you shift appropriately, and I believe it’s lighter, but it doesn’t offer regen. This new drive system has a different display interface and different levels of assist as well, it’s a complete overhaul. I hope this helps! Check out the Vado 6.0 review for a closer look with more actual ride testing in the video.

  Reply
Mark
2 years ago

Thanks for the regen info. Is the Eco mode adjustable as in the old Turbo and what is the Sport mode?

Albano
2 years ago

Hi Court, I am planning to buy a speed bike to ride dailey to work. One way trip is 37km (23miles). Which bike do you prefer/advise the Stromer ST1x or the Specialized Vado 5.0.
Which one has the biggest range?
Best regards

  Reply
Court Rye
2 years ago

Hi Albano! I would probably choose the Turbo Vado for range. The Brose mid-drive motor is very efficient compared to a hub motor, because you can shift gears and empower it through mechanical advantage. It is also very quiet, much like Stromer, but leads in availability from dealers across the US. Stromer is carried by some independent electric bike shops, but I believe that you can order the Vado from any Specialized dealer (and there are quite a few). It may be easier to get service and warranty support from Specialized too. I hope this helps, I personally own a Specialized Stumpjumper and had a Turbo Levo in 2016/2017 which I enjoyed very much and never had an issue with :)

  Reply
Brad
1 year ago

Hi Court, I’m looking a the Vado 5.0 and 6.0… and not knowing (right NOW) the need for a front fork suspension, can’t I save some money by buying the 5.0 – knowing that the Suntour suspension fork is less than 200 USD if I want to add one later?? Regards.

  Reply
court
1 year ago

Hi Brad! That’s a reasonable strategy. I wasn’t able to look at the 5.0 and 6.0 back to back, so there may be some other minor differences that could add up to over $200, but your approach makes sense. Just double check the stats and maybe ask about the price of an aftermarket suspension fork plus installation. Whatever you decide on, I hope it works great and you enjoy the ride!

  Reply
Brad
1 year ago

So I picked up the Vado 5.0 and I couldn’t be happier! I think you should actually ride it – to properly compare it to the 6.0… I found the 6.0 to feel a little “heavy” up front, and while doing some downhill turns at speed, I felt a little bit of loss of control (even on lock-out). The Vado 5.0 didn’t feel that way at all! My experience is that the Vado 5.0 feels lighter and more nimble overall… A great ebike!

Also the rear racks of the Vado’s are narrow – so it takes a special bag to properly fit (or clip into the rack)… otherwise you’ll have to velcro the bag to the rack. And, there are no pannier clips on the lower part of the rack/fender assembly.

Kyle Richardson
7 months ago

The rims are 30 mm wide.

  Reply
Court
7 months ago

Thanks Kyle! Perhaps that will be updated on my more recent Turbo Vado review… or do you own the 2017 version?

  Reply
Kyle
7 months ago

I own the 2017 Vado.

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