- A feature-complete urban electric bike with premium tubular-alloy fenders, integrated rack and lights, rims and tires as well as a suspension fork with 50 mm travel
- Available in four frame sizes and two styles (high-step or mid-step), rigid thru-axles improve handling, 180 mm hydraulic disc brakes for excellent stopping power
- Large TFT display panel with integrated Micro-USB for charging accessories, Bluetooth smartphone app for adjusting motor performance and planning trips, bottle cage mount on the downtube
- The Vado 3.0 has a smaller battery and lower top speed than the 5.0 and 6.0 model, longer front fender may increase toe-strikes but is flexible, lower weight capacity on rear rack 48.5 lbs
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 differences between the 3.0 and 6.0 are the battery size, less bright lights, lower top speed and downgraded drivetrain.
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 3.0 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. The all-Alloy frame will be tough, lightweight and stiff, for excellent power transfer and the 50 mm suspension fork here adds comfort. The ergonomic grips, upgraded saddle, and fatter road tires will help as well.
The motor is rated at 250 watts nominal as compared with the Vado 5.0 which says 350 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 (40 Tooth in this case for low-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 remote button pad and LCD display panel to cycle through trip statsand 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 phones showing stats can 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 3.0 is more affordable than the 5.0 and 6.0 primarily because it offers a lower assisted top speed of 20 mph and has a smaller battery capacity. It likely does not weigh much less because the battery cells are the older less energy-dense 18650 type which weigh about the same but don’t store as much energy. You get a 10 speed drivetrain with Shimano Deore vs. the XT with Shadow Plus clutch (to reduce chain bounce) but at lower speeds, this is less of an issue anyway. 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.
- Standard LCD display panel allows you to navigate menus quickly, can sync with the Mission Control smartphone app to tune the bike, and is removable so it won’t take sun damage or get swipped
- 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
- In addition to the four frame size options, the Vado 3.0 is also coming in a high-step and mid-step frame style which is geared towards Women with gender-specific touch points (grips, saddle)
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- eFor those who want to ride at higher speeds but maintain the comfort of having a suspension for, you have to pay quite a bit more to get the Vado 6.0 because the 5.0 does not have a suspension fork
- 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