The Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0 EQ wants to go—it wants to go faster. And it makes you want to pedal faster. It’s like one of those cars that you know is going to get you in trouble because its comfortable cruising speed is already above the speed limit. And yet, with a battery buried in the frame and a minimized motor bulge, it somehow remains a sort of sleeper.
The Vado benefits in every way from Specialized’s decades of experience in bike manufacturing. Whereas some other brands come in and start on e-bikes from scratch, you can see and feel the cycling pedigree in this electric bike.
The Vado has three separate modes and, like most riders, we immediately started testing it at its fastest level. With the greatest amount of pedal assist, the bike feels absolutely eager. It wants to help you accelerate up to speed quickly—and that top speed comes on impressively fast, especially when you consider what it is. We topped 28 mph while riding on the flats, and it didn’t even feel like we were working. It absolutely flies.
On one particular test ride back from the beach, we realized we had a meeting due to start in 35 minutes and we were 30 minutes from home. But that was 30 minutes on a regular bike; the Vado made it in 17. But even at those high speeds or navigating slowly down the driveway the Vado still feels nimble thanks to a relatively light e-bike weight of just under 37 pounds (16.7 kilograms).
That’s even more impressive when you consider the 240Wh motor that gives you 180-percent pedal-assist, meaning it nearly doubles the effort you put in. We felt that power on uphills, passing electric scooters and nearly passing the vehicle traffic next to our bike lane. Of course, with this speed, comes power needs. The fastest speed drains your entire battery in about 24 miles. But if you want range, you can select the medium mode for a top speed around 23 mph and a 30-mile range, while the lowest setting has a speed around 20 mph with an unbelievable range of about 70 miles.
While the speed and range change, you really feel these settings in the acceleration. In the fastest mode the bike almost pulls out from under you—it wants to go. In the medium setting the bike still pulls, but at a tamer level. In the lowest setting the Vado lightly helps you get up to speed and you only really notice the power when it helps maintain speed. We found this setting most useful when on crowded bike paths where the higher settings can at times feel like too much power so close to pedestrians.
The geometry is great for fast or long-haul riding. The positioning is relaxed without being lackadaisical and allows you to sit upright comfortably. It’s perfect for wearing a backpack on the way to work. The saddle is comfortable with light padding and a recessed center to relieve pressure on long rides. It gets out of your way, letting you pedal even though you might not be wearing your chamois while you run errands.
The bike has a slew of features we loved that makes this a great bike to ride every day, even multiple times a day. The handlebars have a great textured grip that work well when wet but are smooth enough to not irritate on long rides, and rather than being just cylindrical they have an expanded platform for more palm support. The thumb shifters are easy and intuitive to use as you click through 10 gears as the bike accelerates, and the disc brakes are plenty strong to confidently slow the bike down quickly, even at top speed. It’s easy to change between ride modes thanks to buttons on the bars or downtube, and we particularly liked that Specialized included a button to send you straight to the fastest setting.
The bike comes with sleek fenders that we found impressively solid, a narrow rear rack ready for panniers or baskets, a robust kickstand, a small bell (though we found it much better suited on quiet bike paths than on the road) and bright, incorporated front and rear lights that we loved—you’ll never have to ride in the dark.
The Turbo Vado has very few negatives, though we wish it had a digital display to show speed and battery life clearly. The top tube does have a 10-bar light-battery-life-and-setting indicator, but we found its lights to be too small to clearly differentiate. We could only accurately distinguish between eight, seven or six bars left while fully stopped and squinting. We also found that the matte paint, while great looking, was susceptible to scrapes and scratches that made using locks or sliding into bike racks a stressful endeavor.
With a price tag of $3,500 this is no entry-level bike. It’s best for someone looking for top-of-the-line appearance, finish and performance who doesn’t want to be passed by anything. It’s not every e-bike that can rock back into an e-assisted wheelie on an uphill!
The Turbo Vado impresses in that the “e” part never gets away in the way of the “bike” part. The bike systems and electronic systems only enhance your ability to enjoy the other. Once you get on the Turbo Vado, you might start taking the long way home to keep the rush going. It’s just fun.
Weight: 36.9 lbs (16.7kg)
Class: 3 (max assist speed of 28 mph)
Battery: Specialized 320Wh
Minimum Tested Range: About 24 miles (175 lb rider, mostly flat)
Maximum Tested Range: About 70 miles (175 lb rider, mostly flat)
Charge Time: About 2.5 hours
Target Audience: Riders of any experience who want a polished, top-of-the-line bike
What We Loved: Speed, range, comfort
What Didn’t Hit: No speedometer, delicate paint
What We Tell Our Friends: This thing hauls ass