The Specialized Turbo S is Like Biking with Superman’s Legs: Review
Driver (at a stoplight): “Hey! Does that thing have a motor on it?” Me: “Yeah, it does actually. It’s called a Specialized Turbo S. It’s an e-bike.” Driver: “I thought so, I’ve been behind you for the last mile! You were cruising!” Oh yes, this was a very real conversation I had, and one of many similar encounters over the past few weeks. Apparently when you keep pace with road traffic on a bicycle, people tend to take notice. I am of course not tooting my own horn—my cycling chops are far from stellar—but on this thing anyone can feel like a Tour de France rider fighting for a stage win. And boy is it addicting. RELATED: The 2016 Bolt M-1 is a Motorcycle and an e-Bike
Sorry, I’ll rewind for a minute. This is a Specialized Turbo S, a pedal-assist electric commuter bike, and one of a multitude of e-bike options that have come to market in recent years. It’s the top of the line offering from Specialized and houses a big 691Wh battery in its downtube and a torquey 500 watt hub motor in its rear wheel to ensure you’re never out of breath or breaking a sweat while riding again…unless you want to be.
Give it a quick glance and it looks pretty much like any other high-end bike. That is, until you begin pedaling.
It’s worth repeating—riding the Turbo S is like swapping out an ordinary set of legs for Superman’s limbs. The thing absolutely hauls. Slot it into “Turbo” mode using the thumb control on the handle bar and you’ll be tapping into 100 percent of what the battery and motor have to offer.
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Acceleration is stunningly quick and it’s especially noticeable from a dead stop. Simply shift through the gears, of which the Turbo S has 11 (courtesy of a Shimano cassette), and the torquey hub motor fills in where needed, wafting you effortlessly along, and up to a top pedal-assist speed of 28 mph. Yowza.
The bike has three other riding modes too—an Eco, a no-assist, and a regen mode—and they all pretty much do exactly what you’d expect. Eco dials things back, allowing riders to use anywhere between 10 and 70 percent power, which strikes the best balance between no-sweat assistance and conserving battery. I found it to be more than enough assistance for climbing long gradual hills with minimal effort, and while on a 30 mile ride through hilly countryside, it proved to be the ideal cruising mode.
No-assist cuts all pedal assistance, leaving you to ride under your own steam. You certainly could ride for long periods without pedal assistance, but you’ll soon crave the speed that lies only two thumb control clicks away, as I did. And still do.
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And for those long descents, the final mode comes in mighty handy. Pop it into “regen” mode and the hub motor acts as a generator, recovering energy as its spins. The side effect is that it slows you down, quite noticeably, allowing you to keep those fingers off the brakes (Shimano XT discs). On a long downhill descent, about three quarters of a mile, I could actually watch the battery percentage slowly tick back up as I coasted along. 71…72…73…
In a nutshell, when you’re riding a normal bike, there’s always that notion of “oh, if I just pushed a little bit harder I could go XYZ miles per hour.” On the Turbo S however, there is no “if.” You simply are going that fast, and with half the effort.
It really is quite a fantastic machine, and admittedly a sensible one. The Body Geometry grips and handlebar are quite comfortable, as is the bike’s forward seating position and big Nimbus Armadillo tires, which do a pretty good job of soaking up uneven roads. Road bikers will feel right at home.
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There’s even an app for iOS (and Android) phones that connects to the bike via Bluetooth, enabling riders to fine tune their bike’s power response and output, as well as record ride history, plot a bike route, and even estimate the most efficient pedal assist percentage to get you to your destination. Unfortunately my phone lives in the dark ages so I can't say that I tested that out. Needs iOS 8.1 and newer.
So, any gripes? Well, all that battery power does come at an expense. The Specialized Turbo S tips the scales at around 54 pounds, which is a fair bit heavier than what most non-pedelec riders are likely used to. If you must lug your bike up six flights of stairs, this may be an issue.
The second rather unsavory topic is the price. It’s a big one. $7,000. Having ridden the bike for a few weeks, I completely get it. It really is a fantastically well-built machine, but I’ll admit, $7,000 is a good chunk of change no matter how you cut it.
That said, it is a whole lot of bike, and if you’re seriously looking to pedal to work without the sweat (and at lightspeed), you ought to look up a Turbo S.
(I’d like to thank the pedal wizards at Advance Cyclery for setting this Specialized Turbo S up for me!)
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