Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0 Review: Specially Lightweight for Commuting?


The Specialized Turbo Vado SL was designed to Improve Your Commuting. How That Could Be?

The guys behind the creation of this electric commuter bike have quite the experience of making something that works.

After receiving some constructive feedback from customers, they came up with a new design to fulfill some technical issues and the overall performance.

We also love the fact that they are making this version available in different trims and models so that women and men find the right configuration (high and low-step featured).

 

“This almost represents what we get on cars these days”.

 

For sure, the name is straight forward but:

– Vado (refers to being an urban bike with flat handlebars) and,

– SL (super lightweight).

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at what the bike brings to you.

 

Some of Its Special Specs

MOTOR & TOP SPEED

  • Class 2 (pedal assist only).
  • 240 watts (nominal).
  • Up to 25 km/hr (15.5 mph).
  • 35 Nm torque.
BATTERY & RANGE

  • 320Wh, 48v.
  • 130 km (80 miles) with standard battery.
  • Charged in less than 3 hrs.
CONTROLLER & RIDING MODES

  • Turbo Connect Display (TCD).
  • Turbo Connect Unit (TCU – on top tube).
  • Three (3) modes.
  • Attached to the handlebar.
  • Mission Control App using a smartphone.
FRAME

  • Aluminum E5 (special mix with aluminum oxide).
  • High tube and step thru alternatives.
  • 150cm to 200 cm riders (pushing it though).
DRIVE-TRAIN SYSTEM

  • 10 Speed Shimano.
  • 11 – 42 T cassette.
BRAKING SYSTEM

  • Front and rear: Tektro hydraulic piston system.
OVERALL WEIGHT & CARRYING CAPACITY

  • 14.9 kg (32.8 lbs) – with the EQ (equipped) features.
  • 125 kg (275 lb).
TIRES AND SUSPENSION

  • 27″ diameter.
  • Nimbus II Sport.
  • Double wall aluminum rims.
  • No front or rear suspension system.
ADDITIONAL ACCESSORIES

  • Rear and front built-in lights for improved safety.
  • Rear rack ready to be loaded with your preferred pannier.
  • Front and rear fenders.
  • It comes with a budget bell and a 40mm kickstand.

 

Riding the Vado Super Lightweight

You most likely have seen images of this lightweight electric bike. Maybe you have even taken a trip to the stores to see what it looks like in person, right?

One thing that I can promise you is that you would want to ride it at first sight. But then, is the ride worth at all?

What does it feel like to get on one of these pedelecs? Here’s a general overview of what to expect.

 

The design overview

4.0 EQ model

The design of this electric bike is something that should be discussed early on.

You might be wondering what the outline has to do with the ride! With this model though, the design has everything to do with it.

The manufacturer’s choice to keep the battery and motor inside the down-tube pays off in keeping things clean on the frame.

 

“This decision also keeps all the weight centered, providing better stability during the ride”.

 

You will see also that all of its tubes are thin enough to provide the required strength against vibrations and also to reduce the bulkiness of the whole frame.

What I find interesting is the front fork design. Normally you would see a rounded outline in most commuter models but in this case, it has been built with aerodynamics in mind.

Front fork aerodinamic design for wing resistance reduction

 

“Most likely you won’t feel the difference but wait for the windy days and see how you go”.

 

As for the rack, this one comes with a rear one only (which I like because it is not bulky whatsoever). Regardless, if one rack is not enough, you can fit another one at the front as the fork is ready for it.

It is unfortunate that this model does not have a suspension system however, then the “SL” concept won’t be applicable, right?.

 

Any difference with the 5.0 EQ version?

Over this entire review, I’m only discussing the characteristics of the 4.0 model.

Nevertheless, if you are getting the Vado SL 5.0 EQ model, these are some of the main differences:

– You get an improved braking system, which could give you more confidence when riding in urban areas.

– The addition of a head shock on this model to prevent the excesses of front-wheel vibrations from getting through your upper limbs.

– On top of that, there’s a 12-speed drive-train to help you climb into higher gears better and faster.

I don’t see any obvious improvement from the EQ (equipped) models on the ride though.

Note that you can get either the versions 4.0 or 5.0 as equipped or not. In the case you choose to lose the EQ model, you can always upgrade the e-bike by yourself later in the future.

 

Read More: eBike Frame Material Overview – Steel, Aluminum or Carbon?

 

Motor, standard battery, range and their enhancements

The battery and range are a good place to start for any e-bike.

Battery, motor and extended battery electric Vado SL

On the spec sheet, the brand mentioned that they have equipped this unit with a 240W electric motor and a battery rated 320Wh.

That sounds too low and seems like they are just trying to fit into the legal system around e-bikes today. However, this motor and battery can get fast (as fast as 15mph – 25 km/h) and quickly too (35Nm).

According to the manufacturer, this model slaps an 80-mile range (130 km/h) on this unit.

 

“That is exciting but you can only get up to that in the Eco drive mode”.

 

Once you start toying with the different drive modes (all three (3) modes are discussed in the Speed section), you wouldn’t be getting up to that range anymore.

Fortunately, there is support for range extenders, which can give you a 40% range boost. That means getting as much as 120 miles on an Eco-drive mode.

 

NOTE

The brand offers a separate battery that can be installed on the seat tube section. I would recommend, though, to read the reviews about this enhancement.

 

For all the range it brings to the table, it is impressive that you can charge this bike in some 3 hours or less.

Lest forget, I love that the motor here is not just a generic addition but custom-fitted to the bike. That is probably why it can be rated so low yet perform so well for the unit too.

It also shows how much attention to detail the company has paid to ensuring all of the parts work together for an impressive user experience.

 

Read More: Electric Motor Bike Guide – What to Know About Them?

 

Efficiency of the tires and assistance modes

From the design section, we already mentioned how the v5.0 model comes with head shocks for better shock management in the handlebars.

Let’s break down these facts.

 

Commuter style tires

“No matter which one you get – whether the 4.0 or 5.0 – you get sturdy Nimbus II sport tires that get the job done”.

 

The tires look like a crossover between a hybrid and an electric road bike, so they handle fair and rough terrain quite okay.

A concern on the tires stems from the mode of threading on them. Having a smoother mid-line and threaded outer area makes it tricky to lean in and out when riding on smooth tarmacs. At least that is my feeling.

Regardless, make sure to try this riding style out under the Eco mode so that you get familiar with the various friction levels around the tire.

 

The pedal assist you would get

Speaking of Eco mode, that is just one of the three (3) main modes on this commuter electric bike. Besides that, there are also Trail and Turbo.

The Eco mode is set to give you 35% pedal assistance while the Trail mode takes that up to 65%. Once you get into Turbo, you are in 100% pedal-assisted mode.

 

As with everything else, I recommend trying it out in the different modes to see which one you are comfortable with.

 

One thing to note is that starting the bike sets it to the Trail mode automatically.

You can adjust that from the center console (on the head tube) or left handlebars, even when in motion.

I have found the handlebar adjustment mode the most natural for when you are riding anyway.

 

How has safety been considered by the brand?

Besides the safety of the rider, this city commuter eBike is also designed to keep itself and parts safe. That is something I love to see on a sizeable investment like this one.

As I have mentioned before, the battery and motor are kept in the down tube of the frame.

Besides that design spec saving some space on the outside, it also ensures that you don’t have to worry about knocks, water splashes, mud, or any such damage to these important components.

The downtube also leads into a small vent that keeps the motor and battery well aerated. That helps to keep them working optimally for longer.

 

The traction

Switching over to the rider, all that weight concentrated in the bottom middle means better stability during the ride.

 

An extremely lightweight bike also improves the ease of manoeuvrability, giving the rider a better promise of responsiveness.

 

Again, the tires!

Moving to the tires, despite of mentioning you should take a bit of extra precaution at the start, I love how threaded they are on the outsides to improve their grip and traction on the road.

Small touches like this help riders gain more confidence in their rides, no matter the terrain.

 

Improved visibility

When riding at dusk or complete darkness, you get bright headlights fitted with the unit.

It doesn’t matter which trim level you get, Specialized has the headlights in there for you.

While these headlights are great for the city and urban riding, you might need to get brighter ones if you will be riding through a fog, the woods, or such other low visibility areas during later hours.

 

Check with the brand which ones are suitable to work with the system.

 

The choice of brake lights and riding lights can make the difference for a cyclist traveling in the dark hours of the day too.

 

“For those that will get the EQ model, there is an additional fender light that comes on the rear”.

 

Speed matters

If you have been following, you know that the top speed of this Turbo Vado SL is around 15mph (25 km/h).

I say ‘around’ because you can go faster but only after the motor has stopped providing assistance. This is all in line with the safety regulations of the manufacturer.

 

I’m not discussing that here since such higher speeds could be unsafe – and you would be breaking laws in most regions too.

 

A good way to regulate your speed is to keep to the limits of the various riding modes (Eco and Trail) beneath the Turbo mode.

If you are only commuting to and from work, to the store, and other urban areas close to you, I don’t see why you would need the Turbo mode as frequently anyway.

 

Connecting your e-bike to the “Mission Control App” opens up a lot of speed tuning options for you to try.

 

For one, you can adjust how much pedal assistance you get at the different standard drive modes, what speed you can max out at, and more.

You can simply tell the system how far you want to commute and it chooses the best settings (from drive mode to pedal-assist) to enable you to achieve the range without using up the battery.

If you want to learn more about the app, check the brand input here.

 

How It Fits According to eBike Regulations (US, EU, and AU)?

The company was smart enough to keep the motor under 250W, which is usually the cut-off rating for the legality of pedelecs and e-bikes of this category.

The speed limit is also aptly chosen to ensure the street-legality of this e-bike. Thus, you can ride it alongside other analog bikes without having to get a license or such other special permits.

While you can go more than 25 km/h though, the motor won’t support you above that speed. It is thus safe to say that, even though you could go over the assisted limit, the unit will be still legal in the US, EU and AU.

 

Read More: Electric Bike Laws – Be Aware of Them Before Riding One.

 

Is the Specialized Turbo Vado SL Worth Buying?

From my perspective, short answer is Yes.

On the design front, I think the company could have done something more with the negative space on the unit.

You might also be concerned by all of the wires sticking out till they go into the tubes.

However, those are just small concessions to make for a generally good-looking, street-legal, and safe commuter electric bike.

In contrast, I love the basic modes that come with it, the charge time compared to the range it offers as well as the option to tweak the assistance to taste via an smartphone app.

As if that is not enough, it slaps an extremely lightweight yet sturdy build on deck, pairing that with good rider and bike safety for effect.

Lastly, the brand has been known to help with changes, repairs, and fixes for free to users who have complained of factory defects in the past.

 

“This is not a surprising approach from a well known company within the electric bike industry”.

 

That does not tie into the features of this Vado SL model, but it is surely a nice thing to know that they are not going to leave you high and dry when you need them most.

Whether it is your first e-bike, your next one, or you have been wary of them in the past, I believe that you cannot go wrong with either the Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0 or 5.0 for commuting purposes.

Image courtesy of Specialized


 

Specialized Turbo Vado SL

4.55

Frame & Components Quality

4.8/5

Braking Performance

4.4/5

Speed & Torque

4.4/5

Controller & Assistance

4.5/5

Battery Range

4.8/5

Overall Weight

4.8/5

Portability & Maneuverability

4.3/5

Warranty

4.5/5

What we like

  • ✅ Super lightweight compared to other eBikes in the same commuter category.
  • ✅ It comes with generous features including a basic bell.
  • ✅ There is frame designs available for women and men alike.

What we do not like

  • Tire seem to be a bit thin so grip may be not the best.
  • Only one frame colour available.
  • Extended battery option may not be as efficient as it seems.