Specialized Turbo Vado SL: a Featherweight Urban Electric Bicycle


Easy E-Biking - Specialized Turbo Vado SL e-bike, helping to make electric biking practical and fun
Photo courtesy of Specialized

The American brand is updating its urban electric city bike in a very light version powered by a home-made engine.

While Specialized took a while to embrace the electric bike wave, its latest productions attest to its willingness to catch up. After racing bikes (Creo) and mountain bikes (Levo), the American brand is tackling another project: renewing its urban electric bike. 

The Turbo Vado, one of the biggest brands in urban bikes, is now available in an SL version. These two letters “super light” are synonymous with significant weight loss and, consequently, the switch to an ultra-compact in-house engine.

The first surprise of this Vado SL comes from its design. Specialized didn’t just take the frame of its urban bike and upgrade its powertrain. A lighter, faster e-bike has special needs. That’s why the geometry of the Turbo Vado SL is exclusive to this new model and designed with its specific needs in mind. 

It should be noted that this geometry does not vary according to the e-bike’s trim levels. Whether you choose a sporty, lightweight version or a classic version equipped with a luggage rack, mudguards, and a kickstand, the riding position and comfort are identical. 

Easy E-Biking - Specialized Turbo Vado SL e-bike, helping to make electric biking practical and fun
Photo courtesy of Specialized

Finally, the other aesthetic lies in the absence of a suspended fork. Specialized has opted for the Future Shock 1.5 system, which is a cartridge in the handlebar area that absorbs various jolts thanks to a 20 mm travel. 

A 15 kg urban electric bike

Unsurprisingly, the Turbo Vado SL uses the Specialized 240W engine from the Creo and Levo SL, a component weighing only 1.95 kg and capable of delivering 35 Nm of torque. 

The result is quite impressive since the new model weighs 15 kg, where the average e-bike is usually 23 kg. Although the engine is not as powerful as a conventional Turbo Vado, the weight savings should make this SL version stand out. 

Read also: Cowboy 3: a sturdy, lively, and connected city electric bike – in this article. Vanmoof Electrified S3/X3 review: finally, an ideal city e-bike? – in this article.

That’s the American manufacturer’s gamble: to offer an electrically assisted bike with a much better power-to-weight ratio than the competition. 

Indeed, the SL engine has another advantage which, combined with the lighter weight of the bike, should make it even faster. Indeed, one of the concerns of conventional electric motors is how they behave once the maximum assistance speed is reached. 

Easy E-Biking - Specialized Turbo Vado SL e-bike, helping to make electric biking practical and fun
Photo courtesy of Specialized

This so-called disengagement phenomenon varies from one engine to another, but in most cases, it prevents you from going over 30 km/h without exerting any significant effort. According to Specialized, the Turbo Vado SL’s engine benefits from a very significant disengagement that allows for very smooth pedaling.

As for the battery, it is housed in the lower tube of the Vado SL and is not removable (unless the engine is disassembled). With a capacity of 320 Wh, it would, according to the manufacturer, allow reaching a range of 130 km with optimized settings. 

As on the classic Vado, it is possible to add a 160 Wh battery extender to extend the range up to 200 km, which is very impressive by all means.

Is the mobile app finally useful?

The Turbo Vado SL will also be able to count on a fairly complete mobile app. In fact, in addition to the classic functions such as navigation or the monitoring of statistics, it allows you to plan your routes and optimize the use of the battery during your rides. This Smart Control option also comes with the possibility of fine-tuning the settings of the different assistance levels.

The Turbo Vado SL, therefore, promises to be a particularly interesting urban e-bike. It doesn’t replace the Turbo Vado, which is designed for long trips, but it could well represent a new alternative for shorter, even specifically urban journeys. 

Tailored for home-to-work commutes, Specialized’s latest model will be available in two versions and four trim levels. All have the same aluminum frame (a carbon fork is reserved for premium models) and the same battery/motor torque. 

Read also: Can e-bikes replace cars on home-to-work commutes? – in this article. And, Five transportation alternatives to combat climate change – in this article.

It is the level of accessories and additional equipment that justifies the price differences between the entry ticket at 2999 euros (Vado SL 4.0) and the top-of-the-range version, the Vado SL 5.0 EQ at 4199 euros.

Here is a quick video, testing Specialized Turbo Vado SL e-bike:

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