Electric garage: Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 first impressions
I’d been waiting for months for this e-bike, so I was pretty much grinning from ear to ear when I went to pick up the new 2022 Specialized Turbo Vado.
My first impression is the new Vado 5.0 is the perfect integration of the latest electronic technology and high-quality bike components, allowing a smooth confident ride for any commuting and errands duty. It’s so well done that I want to find more reasons to ride.
I’d peg the Vado as Specialized’s generalized commuter bike, personally. The company has a wide selection of variations to suit slightly different commuting needs though. The Vado’s closest cousins are the Como (a step-through frame which rides slightly more upright) and the Tero (the same frame but with knobbier tires for places off the beaten path).
Apart from those clever four-letter words symbolizing brief mission statements (Vado means “I am going” in Latin), Specialized marketing could step up their naming game for search results. The company doesn’t use model years in their naming, yet they’ve made the Vado line of e-bikes for years and the Vado has changed in appearance and specification as technology has evolved. More confusingly, in their Turbo line of e-bikes Specialized makes a lighter version of the Vado, which they’ve named the Turbo Vado SL — for “super light” — which is different from the Turbo Vado in every way except for general riding geometry. The naming makes searching for reviews much more difficult, as a search for “Turbo Vado” will find bikes of different types and years. For beginning e-bike shoppers it’s hard to find applicable videos and written reviews.
More clear are Specialized’s e-bike trim levels, a straightforward series of numbers spanning from 3.0 (base model) to 5.0 (fully equipped). To generalize, as the numbers go up the motors get more powerful, the batteries get bigger, the components get pricier, and more bells and whistles get added.
For years I’ve been an avid road biker and I’ve put tons of miles on my carbon fiber framed road bike, including two RAGBRAIs. Personally, I’d categorize my riding as either touring or commuting. Where I live it’s very hilly. Those that ride this area by the Potomac river valley may even find “hilly” to be understated. There’s no direction out of the neighborhood which won’t be a workout, to say nothing of getting back. The grocery store? Death by hills. The drug store? A brutal slog. Work? Better bring a change of clothes.
My goal with an e-bike is to crush these hills and ditch the car for many errands around town while making commuting a lot more enjoyable on any day, and on some fair-weather days even show up to work already well dressed.
So, what does this $5,000 USD bike get you? The specs say the motor puts out 90 newton-meters of torque at 250 watts and the battery is 710 watt hours. The real world first impression experience is that the Vado rides silent, fast, and quick. Specialized doesn’t do throttles. The Vado is a pedal assist, and the power comes on buttery smooth. In fact, the power comes on so naturally that this bike does one of the best jobs of making one feel like Superman that I’ve experienced. In other words, it just feels like riding a bike but super easy. Specialized says this bike is “4x you”, as in amplifying your own power by four times. I believe it.
Either the bike’s built in computer or the very-nicely done Specialized app named Mission Control let one select different power modes ranging from off (no assist), to Eco, to Sport, to Turbo (full power). So far I went strait to Turbo for the first couple of rides, because I wanted to witness the full experience, but I can see the appeal of the other modes since I won’t need to be in full on hill-crushing mode all the time.
That said, in Turbo mode the power is amazing. A particularly long, steep, building hill near me can typically keep me at about 12 mph on my road bike during the long slope, and then drop me all the way to 7 mph in the steepest part of the crest — all at a hard level of effort. With the Vado in Turbo mode I maintained 22 mph in the first part and was still at 17 mph near the crest. I kept things at about a cadence of 80 — which Specialized says is most efficient — and geared so that I was working moderately. I’ll try more runs and aim to give more data in a full review.
Based on the first few rides, I’d say Specialized’s range figures of about 28 miles in Turbo mode are 100% accurate. Again, I look forward to getting out of the steep hills and into other modes on some longer rides to report more about the range in a full review.
This 5.0 series bike comes with all the technical goodies including integrated lights, fenders, rear rack, front shock absorbers, a seat-post shock absorber, an integrated alarm, and integrated radar. Right off the bat I can tell you the radar is tight! Dots show up along the edge of the screen and move closer to the top dot (the bike) as they approach. The radar’s range is phenomenal. I’ve already seen it track up to four different cars, and I’ve read it can track up to eight different cars. Over just a few rides I’m already sold that this technology is something useful. Over the years I’ve developed a habit of looking back over my shoulder to keep awareness of approaching traffic — and I still think looks back and/or mirrors won’t be 100% replaced. But, the radar paired with one of those habits is exactly right. I’ll aim to capture some video of the radar and other technology in action for the full review.
And finally, the 5.0 series features excellent-level SRAM bike components, which are precise and should hold up well for years. In my experience, the biggest thief of joy in biking comes from crap shifting and braking components, which end up needing all too frequent adjustment and give out at the worst possible times. I’m guessing the majority of e-bike shoppers are drawn up tiers of the Specialized line by the electronics technology, but thankfully they’ll be rewarded with great mechanical technology too. I say kudos to Specialized for upgrading both the tech and mechanical specs in tandem.
I’ll post a review after some more time on the bike. Here are more pictures:
In the Electric Garage series, the Smiling Savage will explore electric propulsion gear and projects.