Turbo Vado SL Ride Report

Turbo Vado SL Ride Report

This Turbo Vado SL ride report was written by my colleague, Steve Gluckman. Steve is an industry insider. His takes on bike tech have found their way into Bike Hugger posts practically from our beginning.

Turbo Vado SL
The Vado at Seattle Center this Summer

Having worked on several ebike launches, including the Tern HSD, I asked him to ride the Turbo Vado SL, and this is what he told me in an email after doing so. Steve and I are both  interested in ebikes that are more like regular bikes in appearance and weight. That’s an expected product evolution from the bulky battery and motor bits bolted onto frames to an integrated approach, as Specialized took.

The strongest selling point of the Turbo Vado is the weight, at 33 lbs it’s the lightest ebike in its class.

Below is what Steve told me about the ride.

Turbo Vado SL Ride Report Overall Impression

Lightweight bikes are so much fun to ride. At 33 lbs. the Specialized Turbo Vado SL certainly qualifies as lightweight by eBike standards.  The Turbo Vado SL is nimble, well mannered, and inspired me to get out of the saddle and charge up hills which no eBike has done before. Certainly not from a fitness lets-go-fast perspective as opposed to O-M-G I have to get out of the saddle or risk tipping over (my neighborhood is hilly!)

Ed. note: so is mine.

Turbo Vado SL Charger
Turbo Vado SL Charger


  • The compact motor that is less obtrusive compared to most mid-drives
  • Reasonable Q-factor
  • Battery integration is well executed. Harder for thieves to steal + looks more like a regular bike
  • Pedals smoothly with the motor turned off, feels virtually friction-free.
  • Motor reasonably quiet. At low speeds, it produces a bit of a whine. At higher speeds and with more wind noise the motor is very quiet
  • The absence of huge LCDs providing over-information is ice
  • Love the simplicity and clean design of the controller
  • The simplicity of the battery management display integrated into the top tube is also a love
  • Cable management is well-executed
  • Charging port easy to access and well-executed
  • Charging kit presentation with a dedicated molded-foam hard case not an afterthought
  • Lights nice and tidy
  • Gearing from high to low is well suited to the power output. I found the gearing low enough on the steepest hills to keep from bogging down and at the other end didn’t feel like I was spinning out on the flats with a strong tailwind
  • Daytime running lights help improve visibility and the absence of an on/off switch means there is one less thing to worry about.
Turbo Vado SL Control
Turbo Vado SL Control


  • The ride feels harsh and unrefined. One of the challenges with eBikes is everything tends to be overbuilt out of necessity from the tires on up. All the extra beef adds up to a harsh ride and of course added weight. The product team did an admirable job keeping the weight within reason but the harshness prevailed
  • The SL model I tested was specd’ with a stout rigid alloy fork the more premium EQ model comes equipped with a carbon fiber fork and Specialized own Future Shock which presumably helps dampen the ride.  On the SL every hit was transmitted right up through my arms and butt
  • The saddle was definitely on the racy side. It was comfortable when I was wearing padded shorts but there are times I just want to jump on a bike like the Vado SL in my street clothes to run a quick errand. When I did ride the bike that way the saddle was inadequate
  • My biggest complaint about the bike is that there is no way to toggle the lights on and off. While I appreciate the always-on aspect from a visibility standpoint from a power management standpoint having the lights on all the time reduces battery management capabilities by the user. The worst aspect by far of this feature is that the lights are on when the user is recharging the bike. Beyond being a nuisance in my workshop the front light generates a fair amount of heat with no cooling effect when the bike is stationary.

Ed note: the harshness of the ride stood out to me as well and is likely mitigated by tire choice and pressure.

Learn more about the Vado in this video from the launch.

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