2016 Specialized Turbo S Review

Highlights

Technical Specs & Ratings

General

2016

Turbo S

$7,000

Class 3

High-Step

28.0

11

Hydraulic Disc

Hub

500

702 Wh

702 Wh

54.5 lbs / 24.74 kgs

Components

1-1/ 8" Campy Style Upper Cartridge Bearing, 1-1/ 2" Lower Integrated

Crank Brothers Cobalt 2, Alloy

Specialized Flat Top, Double Butted Alloy, 12-Degree Backsweep, 31.8 mm

Specialized Body Geometry XCT, Lock-On

Aluminum Alloy

30.9

Body Geometry Turbo, Hollow Cr-Mo Rails, Integrated LED Light

Specialized Bennies, 6061 Alloy Body, Sealed Cartridge, 4.5 mm Removable Pins

Hydraulic Disc

Shimano Deore XT Hydraulic Disc with 180 mm Rotors, Shimano Deore XT Levers

Video Reviews

Written Reviews

The Specialized Turbo S is the fastest, most powerful electric road bike available from Specialized and for 2016 they’ve improved the drivetrain, doubled nominal motor power and increased battery size by ~40%. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies however, the price has increased from $6k to $7k, weight has gone up from ~50 lbs to ~54.5 lbs and regen mode can now only be activated through the display pad vs. pulling the right brake lever. I love that this latest iteration is launching with a smart phone app that intelligently plots your course and conserves battery power to ensure that you “make it” to your predetermined destination. Also, the integrated display is much easier to appreciate now that it’s independent from the right brake lever (each can be angled to improve ergonomics and reduce glare). All things considered, this is one of the coolest looking, highest performing electric bikes available anywhere. It was the first purpose-built electric bike I saw in the US to legally reach 28 mph in pedal assist mode back in 2012 and it’s still one of the only ebikes I know of that includes a bottle cage mounting point along the downtube. They really focus on the details at Specialized… and the beauty. while the Turbo, Turbo X and Turbo S are only available in high-step designs, you can get them in four frame sizes and dealers are trained to help you with fit during purchase. Also, it comes with an impressive three year comprehensive warranty (lifetime on the frame).

Powering the Turbo S is a near-silent, high torque gearless direct drive hub motor from Go SwissDrive. This thing delivers all of the benefits of gearless hubs (quiet, durable, capable of regeneration) and eliminates some of the cons… primarily the lack of power at low speed. This thing accelerates well and flies at high speed. You can definitely hit and maintain ~28 mph and that’s awesome for people with long commutes or a simple desire to go fast. If you do plan on commuting, definitely check out the fender and rack kit being offered through Specialized and consider the smaller, lighter weight travel charger. the rear wheel connects to the frame with a 12 mm thru-axle for improved stiffness and strength and there’s no quick release but there is a quick-disconnect in the power cable running to the hub. This is super helpful for those moments when wheel or tire maintenance is required. To be clear, in 2014/2015 the Turbo S offered 250 watts nominal on a similar motor and for 2016 it’s putting out 500 watts nominal. Awesome. another big step up is the 11 speed Shimano Deore XT drivetrain (the 2014/2015 bike offered a 10 Speed SRAM drivetrain). You’ve got plenty of gears here for pedaling at a comfortable cadence at a range of speeds and I like the trigger shifters. Also, the front chainring features an aluminum bash guard and plastic chain guide to reduce drops and increase durability while keeping your pant leg clean ;)

Powering the Turbo S is a beautifully integrated Lithium-ion battery pack with premium Samsung cells. These cells are incredibly energy dense and are designed to output power more rapidly (to support the high-power motor and higher top speeds). It has a higher C-Rating than some other packs. Compared with the 2014/2015 Turbo S this one offers ~40% higher capacity and does weigh a couple pounds more but is physically the same size! It looks beautiful and keeps weight low and center on the frame. It locks to the frame for security and can be charged there or off the bike if you prefer. In either case, the charging cable uses a magnetic interface so it won’t knock the bike over if you accidentally trip on the cable. Awesome all the way around… I love that there’s an LED power level indicator and diagnostic readout on the pack and that you can tighten a bolt at the bottom bracket (remove the kickstand then look below) to secure the battery more snugly over time. The icing on the cake is the bottle cage mounting points mentioned earlier.

Operating the Specialized Turbo S is fairly intuitive, once the battery is charged and mounted to the frame you press the circular power button at the top of the pack and the diagnostic lights do a little dance. If anything is wrong with the system the lights will blink and you can interpret them using the manual. It’s a neat touch that empowers you as an owner to keep your bike performing optimally. From here, the backlit LCD display near the right grip also comes to life showing your speed, battery level and assist setting. There are three modes here including Turbo, Custom (you choose 10% to 70% power) and Regen. Even though this is primarily a pedal assist electric bike there is a secret throttle mode built in. Just use the little rubber joystick to arrow up to Turbo mode then press up and hold it there… after a second the bike will accelerate forward to ~11 mph then cut out. It’s a neat little extra that could be handy for zipping through puddles or getting some speed from standstill. I love that the 2016 model display is separate from the right brake lever. This means you get higher quality brake components (Shimano Deore XT) and that you can set the angle of the levers without worrying how it will impact the display (or glare). The only downside here is that with this new setup there is no longer a brake lever motor inhibitor so regen can only be activated by clicking down on the joystick. It’s not nearly as fast or convenient as the old system, I feel like a lot more energy could be recouped (and brake pad wear reduced) if regen was wired into both brake levers. Also, with older versions of the Turbo you could power off the LED lights and that’s no longer the case… If the bike is on, the lights are on and that means increased wear and annoying light pollution indoors if you charge with the battery on the bike.

The Turbo S is an amazing electric bike, it’s fast and solid with high quality parts all around. I personally like the Turbo X because it has a suspension fork (and a suspension seat post for 2016) and costs quite a bit less but offers lower power and top speeds. Considering that motor power and battery size has been nearly doubled for 2016 on the Turbo S and that it’s still available in four sizes and with such a generous warranty I remain impressed and excited. Riding at higher top speeds can drain your battery faster due to drag and I really feel like the larger pack is going to be appreciated by users… especially those who get the commuter pack with fenders and rack. Even the tires have been upgraded for 2016 and I like the red accents on the frame. This is a cool ebike… if you can afford it ;)

Pros:

  • For a gearless direct drive motor the Go SwissDrive offers a lot of torque at low speed and is even more powerful on the 2016 model (it used to be 250 watt nominal and is now 500 watt)
  • The motor is extremely quiet, offers power regeneration and features a quick disconnect point in the power cable making maintenance much easier
  • Custom double legged kickstand stays out of the way while riding but offers great stability when parked (as long as you’re on a flat surface) and is useful for stabilizing the bike when doing front wheel maintenance, I love that the front wheel offers quick release
  • Built in diagnostic system checks the motor, battery, lights and display each time you power on the bike, the LED’s on the battery pack blink to alert you to any issues
  • This is one of the few electric bikes I’ve seen with an integrated downtube battery that also features a bottle cage mounting point! Awesome feature for those of use who want to stay hydrated or add a mini pump or lock accessory without adding a rack
  • Awesome matching fenders and rear rack available through Specialized, perfect for people who live where it rains or plan on carrying gear to work and back, the rack repositions the rear light so it isn’t blocked by gear
  • Upgraded Shimano Deore XT 11 speed drivetrain and Shimano Deore XT disc brakes with heat sinks built in, premium performance and durability
  • The display panel and button pad are now a separate piece (not integrated with the brake lever) this means you can position and angle them independently for more comfortable viewing and braking
  • Integrated LED lights add an element of safety, they are sleek (the tail light is integrated into the saddle or rack if you get that option) and they seem very sturdy
  • Extra large battery capacity with ~702 watt hours for extended range, this is especially important given the higher top speed of the bike where drag is increased
  • Battery pack can be charged on or of the bike for convenient fill-ups at the office, the included charger is super fast but also larger and fairly heavy, they sell an optional travel charger that might be worth grabbing if you plan to bring one along to top the pack off along the way
  • Excellent three year limited warranty that covers the motor, control systems and battery (though the battery coverage decreases with the life of the bike), you also get lifetime warranty on the frame

Cons:

  • Regen mode can only be activated by clicking down on the joystick (two or three clicks depending on which power mode you’re riding in), there are no motor inhibitors built into the brake levers (in part because they are very high quality levers)… it’s too bad though because that would be a faster and more intuitive way to activate regeneration while riding
  • If you’re wearing a long jacket while riding the Turbo S it may hang down and block the saddle LED light and if you want to change the seat or post it may interfere with the wiring for the light and require some custom ajustments
  • The lights are awesome to have but I wish they could be turned off… either to ride more stealthily at night or during the day or for when it’s parked inside charging, you can take the battery off to charge separately and this will keep the lights from activating but if you charge on-frame they will light up which might wear them out faster and can be annoying if you want to reduce indoor light pollution
  • The bike has a solid feel and the frame is stiff which equates to power and speed when pedaling but can also be jarring at high speeds, especially because there is no suspension, consider a 30.9 mm Thudbuster or other seat post suspension
  • Throttle mode cuts out at ~11 miles per hour (better than no throttle but less than 20mph legal limit)
  • The 2016 Specialized Turbo S costs ~$1,000 more than the 2014/2015 model but features a battery that is nearly 40% larger and delivers upgraded drivetrain (with an extra gear 11 vs. 10) and the smartphone app

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