Specialized Turbo Electric Bike

Having become hooked on an electric bike for transport via a Golden Motor Magic Pie 3 conversion kit some time back I recently upgraded to the Specialized Turbo.

There are already some great comprehensive reviews of this bike online so I won’t attempt to cover all these points. I’d like to focus rather on the difference between this bike and other electric bikes. In all cases I’m comparing the bike primarily to my converted e-bike above. I’ve also test ridden the Whisper, Evolution and A2B Metro bikes to which many of these comparisons also hold.

  • This bike behaves in every sense like a normal bike (that just goes faster/requires less effort). It’s nimble, responsive, it handles well, it’s fun to ride.
  • Coming from a bike with a thumb throttle I was unsure about only having pedal assist mode. The torque sensor is so sensitive that your feet become your throttle – just like a normal bike – more pedalling equals more power. This is important because it makes a big contribution to making this bike feel like a normal bike to ride. There’s nothing to think about other than pedalling and steering. Your hands are free.
  • The brakes are fantastic. This is important because you’re often travelling faster than you might without assistance, knowing you can stop quickly makes it a more enjoyable ride.
  • The computer is beautiful in its simplicity. Toggle up and down switches between Full Assist, No Assist and Eco Mode. Eco Mode is great for those rides where you’re unsure of your range – guaranteeing that you’ll greatly extend it – saving power for the hills. Toggle left and right and you get percentage battery remaining and trip distances.
    • Testimony to the level of detail in the design – the trip computer automatically resets itself upon charging the bike. You never need to think about reseting it to track your range.
  • Eco Mode is (at 30% default, adjustable) is more than enough to offset the increased weight of the bike on the flat, perhaps not quite on the hills.
  • A single sprocket at the front and a huge gear range contributes to simplicity. A nicely designed chain-guard on the front is great for commuting in work clothes.
  • It’s silent – most other electric bikes I’ve ridden emit a high pitch whine from the motor. You quickly notice it’s absence.
  • It has regenerative braking which is activated by the rear brake lever. Difficult to know what this is contributing, you can’t feel it kick in and I’m quite certain it doesn’t start working before the pads make contact. Given the choice I’d like to be able to boost this up a little.
  • There’s very very little resistance in the motor. You notice there’s some if you pick the rear wheel up and spin it whilst stationary – but once you’re moving it’s imperceptible.
  • Compared to my previous bike which had a little more grunt – I notice it’s definitely slower on the hills but still faster than I could climb them on my own on a light weight road bike with a fraction of the effort. On the flat I find I’m travelling at more a less the same speeds – the lower power is easily compensated for by the lower weight and rolling resistance.
  • The charger is silent – great for charging at work or at home in your lounge room.
  • Between the 2013 and 2014 models they increased the battery capacity (ie range on a single charge) by more than 40% with the batteries being interchangeable. Hopefully this is an indication that future capacity upgrades or corresponding weight reductions follow.


It’s an expensive bike, I sold our second car to justify it and it’s early days but no regrets so far. Savings on registration, insurance, parking, public transport and taxi fares should quickly make a material dent in the price tag.

What’s most exciting is that this technology will inevitably make it’s way down into more mainstream models – when it does – electric bikes and cycling along with it will really take off in hilly cities like Sydney!

Update December 2014

I’ve now had the bike for around 6 months and have travelled just shy of 3,000kms and still can’t speak highly enough of it.

  • The regenerative braking and power cut out trigger from the rear brake stopped working. The dealer replaced the computer unit on the handle bars under warranty to resolve the issue.
  • More recently after being caught in a heavy down pour of rain the lights stopped working and power to the wheel was intermittent. I’m quite certain water made it into the computer on the handle bars and will likely need replacing. The power delivery is fine having dried out but the lights remain out.
    • It shouldn’t happen on a high end bike but having manufacturer support to resolve it is fantastic.
    • I’m considering a cover for the unit to keep it out of heavy rain.
  • Brake pads – the bike seems to eat them. I’m getting 1000-1200kms per set (front and rear).
  • Riding in high gears over bumps easily sends the chain off the front ring. Without compensating for it this can happen every ride. Only having a single front sprocket there’s a huge range on the rear which it seems the derailleur just can’t keep up with.
    • I’ve raised this with the dealer and the only fix available is a mountain bike front sprocket but this has a lower tooth count.
    • I manage it by flicking into lower gears over the bumps I know cause problems, slowing down or cutting an angle over them and keeping tyre pressures close to but not above 50 PSI.
    • I’d love to see a better fix for this.
  • I’ve adjusted eco mode up to 50%. Once you’re down to the last 20% you’re forced into eco mode. Pushing it up to 50% still gives me the range to get home on my commute but with a little more assistance.
  • Since power is controlled by the pedalling force, being light on your feet and easy on the acceleration seems to have a material effect on range.
  • I installed a Thudbuster ST soon after purchase which really improved the ride. It’s a heavy bike and a stiff frame which was a little too jarring for commuting.

See also

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