The 2022 version of the Specialized Como, as tested here, is virtually a new e-bike compared to the previous version.
Whilst it is still a city bike rather than one geared towards out and out sporty performance, Specialized have emphasised comfort and convenience even more - most noticeably by bringing in a totally new frame design with a lower step-over height to make the bike even easier to get on and off.
And the new Como really is very easy to get on and off - Specialized say it is their lowest step-through frame yet, with the stepover height dropping from 526mm to 355mm (measured on the large size frame).
To further enhance comfort and convenience the Como now comes with smaller 650c (27.5”) wheels but with large volume 2.3” wide Pathfinder tyres. That’s more volume than before, which gives more comfort. There is also a Suntour Mobie A32 steel-sprung suspension fork with 80mm travel and a sturdy looking thru-axle.
Como gearing will be a choice between Enviolo ‘stepless’ hub gearing with belt drive (as on my test bike) and a SRAM 1 x 9 derailleur system. The Enviolo belt drive option makes a lot of sense on what’s clearly designed as a city bike par excellence – it’s zero maintenance in regular use as belt drives are pretty much ‘fit and forget’, whilst the stepless system is designed to be both easy and intuitive to use and doesn’t need indexing like derailleur gears, so you should never get missed or slipping gears (as can happen with badly-indexed derailleur systems).
Other changes include a welcome upgrade in battery capacity, with my ‘entry level’ model packing a frame-integrated 530Wh battery with 710Wh available on higher spec Comos.
Like its predecessor, the Como uses a Brose-based mid-drive but with Specialized’s own software, produced in collaboration with a Swiss team of electronics engineers. There are two main families of mid-drives used by Specialized – the ‘full power’ option as used on this bike and SL models which are less powerful but lighter (SL stands for superlight and these drives are produced in cooperation with Mahle, not Brose). My test model was the full power 3.0 version rated at 50Nm of torque – relatively modest for a mid-drive – with the 4.0 and 5.0 full power versions offering 70Nm and 90Nm respectively.
The Como exudes solid construction and sleek, smooth design and looks like it’s made for day-in and day-out city use for many years to come. The funky looking handlebars are reminiscent of the design Moustache pioneered and frame-concealed cable runs complete the very neat, modern look.
The frame itself looks massively strong, with meaty looking welds joining the motor casing to the huge down tube that houses the battery and to the seat tube and rear chainstays.. Even the new MIK HD rear rack is a solidly engineered thing, with a one-piece welded construction with oversize frame members. The metal Drytech mudguards are about as sturdy as you’ll find on any e-bike too.
The not inconsiderable 28.19kg weight of the bike (25.09kg for the large framed model plus 3.1kg battery) reflects this all round supersturdy construction as well as the presence of the meaty Enviolo stepless hub gear.
The plastic chainguard and the lack of air suspension on the front forks in the form of the Suntour Mobie A32 steel sprung unit were the only things that seemed a little below the expected spec on such a solidly built bike with a price tag not much under £4,000 (or £3,200 for the derailleur version).
In one of their marketing images for the new Como, Specialized depicted a hands-free rider with arms outstretched, clearly exhilarated but sat comfortably upright. It nicely sums up what the bike is about in the sense of safe handling and confidence it inspires. Steep descents (hands-on of course!) felt super safe, a combination of those wide, grippy tyres, adequate front suspension and the sheer weighty stability of the bike. Higher spec Como options come with a suspension seatpost as standard.
The predictable handling, with the bike going just where you point it and not getting knocked off course by humps and bumps in the road surface, is a great asset in a city bike like this, meaning you can signal turns with confidence and at reasonable speed, keeping up with moving traffic, whilst remaining sure you won’t have a mid-turn wobble. The upright riding position and well padded seat also mean you can safely observe what’s going on around you. Specialized’s own-brand Pathfinder tyres gave good grip even on slightly loose surfaces and would easily cope with most towpaths, railpaths and forestry style tracks.
The motor performance was very adequate rather than spectacular, but as the lowest rated motor in the new Como range, that’s to be expected. This is a bike that takes you in comfort through the city and this Como 3.0 spec in particular, with the easy to use Enviolo gearing, is ideal for first time or returning bikers who want to feel safe and comfortable. If you want a more exciting, peppier ride then no doubt the 4.0 and especially the 5.0 versions will deliver it. Best of all it’s very quiet, partly due to the belt drive reduction system it uses.
The Enviolo gearing stands out for ease of use, with a gear range wide enough for everything from powering down 20mph+ descents to climbing 10% gradient hills. Higher spec Como options feature an automatically changing Enviolo option that allows you to preset the desired cadence which should then remain the same, without you having to do any shifting at all.
Our regular one-mile hill climb test showed the Como 3.0 to be around 8 seconds behind the most powerful mid-drives and it was even further behind on the super steep bike path test which features one section well in excess of 10%. This was no surprise – as already noted this is an ‘entry level’ mid-drive in terms of raw power. The figures don’t tell the whole story though – whereas some smaller hub drives have moaned and groaned their way up these climbs in similar times and required quite a bit more human input on the steepest sections, the Como 3 never even gave a hint of giving up the ghost; I just needed to change down the gears as the bike speed began to slow and continue my stately progress at a reduced pace, without needing significantly more pedal input. This is the advantage of such an effective and well-made mid-drive like the Specialized 2.0E, Brose-based motor.
Despite the obvious fact that hilly Pennine country isn’t really the forte of this particular spec of bike, it happens to be where I live, so I tried the Como 3 out on a very hilly route with the bike returning a 33-mile range with around 2,600 feet of climbing within that total. If you are going to be doing this kind of riding regularly or also want to use the bike for full-on, fully-loaded touring then you might want to think about the bigger battery and more powerful motor options provided by the Como 4.0 and 5.0. But given the bike is the lower powered spec of a city-specific model, I was really impressed with the way it coped with the testing conditions that are not its natural habitat. Higher spec Comos would certainly double as very capable touring e-bikes.
Changing on the Enviolo gearing was pretty easy using an intuitive twist grip, though it will exercise your wrist a little more than a conventional hub gear and pedalling it doesn’t feel quite as responsive as hub or derailleur gears - but that’s due to the internal workings of the system itself. It does mean you should never miss a gear and overall it fulfills its low maintenance and easy-to-use brief pretty well. To complete the ease-of-use credentials of the bike it’s equipped with the very popular and perfectly adequate Shimano BR MT200 hydraulic disc brakes.
Special mention should go to the Lezyne 210 lumen rated front light which did a great job of illuminating unlit roads, is easily adjustable and doesn’t blind oncoming traffic.
Although it’s maybe not obvious at first sight, the Como 3.0 would make a pretty decent load hauler too.
First off there’s that MIK HD rack. It has an outstanding 27kg max load rating (up from 20kg on the previous Como), will take a quick-fitting-and-removing child seat (several brands are apparently compatible) and the integrated rear lights are highly visible and placed so as they shouldn’t be obscured by your load.
If that’s not enough, the small maker’s logo plate on the front of the headset tube removes to reveal mounting points for a bespoke front rack which will add a further 15kg of carrying capacity. That’s more than some rear racks are rated for.
The nuclear option is a trailer and Specialized say the Como is rated to carry a trailer load of up to 60kg! That’s probably more than you would want to put on most trailers (most are rated around 30-40kg capacity). It doesn’t sound that straightforward to mount a trailer, as you may need a special adapter for the Enviolo option I tested or a thru-axle adapter for the derailleur option (the Robert Axle Project have a good range to fit many specs of thru-axle), but it’s great to have the option if needed.
Display and app control
Often it’s the details that make a good bike into a great one and the new tilting ‘MasterMind’ screen is one such helpful detail, allowing you to adjust the screen angle to get rid of glare, so it’s easily readable at all times. The control buttons by your left thumb are very easy to locate and press, even with gloves on. As you would expect, the plus and the minus on the face of the button unit let you toggle through your three power levels whilst the button on top of the unit lets you toggle through different display screens. all of which are customisable via the app (see below). The display can be customised to display more or fewer info fields according to your taste.
Some advertised features of the Mission Control app such as rate of acceleration and torque pressure sensing didn’t appear in the app I downloaded as these are only available when the bike is paired with a higher spec model.
Like the latest Bosch Kiox and Nyon displays, Specialized’s MasterMind display colour codes display info to let you know which of the three power levels you are in (blue for Eco, green for Sport and orange for Turbo), so no matter what display screen you are on it is immediately obvious what your chosen power level is. Excellent. I also particularly liked the so-called Pedal Pace bar – this colour codes how efficient your pedal cadence is and is an easy way to spin at the optimum rate to get the most range out of your battery. There’s also a handy USB-C port on the MasterMind display for charging your smartphone whilst on the bike.
Como 5.0 models come with built-in Garmin radar which uses a simple graphic display bar along the side of the display to show motor vehicles approaching from behind. As the 3.0 test model didn’t have this feature I couldn’t test it. However there is extra connectivity available via the MasterMind display so that even on the Como 3 you could connect a third party standalone device like Garmin’s own Varia rear light and radar system.
Specialized’s Mission Control app isn’t absolutely necessary to use the Como and many riders will get on just fine without it, as using the default screen info you can toggle through screens that give as much info as many will need or want. However, tech-heads might appreciate the fact the app allows you to alter the power profiles of each of the three settings (ie the minimum and maximum percentage assist the motor will give in each level). They might also value the Smart Control mode which automatically adjusts the motor and battery output based on how far or how long you want to ride.
There is a mapping feature but I felt, like all proprietary mapping systems on e-bikes, it falls short of those commercially available from the likes of Komoot and Viewranger et al – but the app will suit Strava fans who can sync / export routes ridden to their account. Bosch’s most recent Nyon system is still the best mapping feature I’ve experienced (it allows you to import any GPX files, which Mission Control seemingly doesn’t) but even the Nyon falls short of the best third party apps that you can run independently on your smartphone.
One extra security feature available through the app is System Lock. This means you can lock the motor at the touch of a smartphone button, so the bike can’t be turned on and ridden away – it can only be unlocked via a PIN that you set yourself. It also sets an alarm that is activated if the bike is moved. Although it’s clearly no replacement for a high quality lock it is a ‘peace of mind’ extra security feature some might value. An easier solution might have been to make the display removable like most other high end displays are – that’s my only real quibble with the all-new MasterMind display.
Saving the best until last, the Mission Control diagnostics screen allows you to keep track of the bike's battery health. Specialized guarantees that the battery will hold at least 75% capacity after 300 charge cycles, or alternatively, after two years. The Battery Management System counts the number of full charge cycles. One charge cycle is added when, for example, 500Wh have been recharged into a 500Wh battery. In other words this aspect of the diagnostics app allows you to keep a real time check on whether your battery has fallen below the level Specialized guarantee it to.
How does the Como 3.0 measure up to the competition? There are still a few mid-drives out there for under £2,000 (for example from the likes of Raleigh and Decathlon) but to compare them to the Como 3.0 is comparing chalk and cheese. If all you want is a mid-drive e-bike then these might suffice, but for genuine competitors to such a solidly-built machine as the Como you have to look at e-bikes in a similar price bracket.
Trek’s Verve+4 Lowstep has a more powerful mid-drive (Bosch’s 65Nm Performance Line) and a very slightly smaller battery, but lacks the sophisticated display and integrated lights of the Como 3 and it is slightly pricier than the cheapest Como 3.0 version which has derailleur gears.
Another Bosch-powered contender in the high quality step-thru city e-bikes stakes is Cube’s all new Supreme Sport Hybrid EXC625. For £200 more than the Como3 derailleur version you get an extra 95Wh battery capacity and the excellent Nyon display.
Gazelle’s Chamonix C5 HMS has a belt drive and hub gears with prices starting at £3,099 but again it lacks the sophistication of the MasterMind’s connectivity.
Such is the build quality of the Como 3.0 that is brings to mind perhaps the most solidly built e-bikes out there from Riese and Muller. R&M’s most comparable step-thru, the Nevo, currently starts at £4,019. In that light the Como 3.0’s price tag certainly starts to look more competitive.
Also bear in mind there may well be more to come in terms of functionality from the MasterMind display as you get over-the-air software updates which could potentially add extra features in future. In any event it’s certainly good news to have a brand new competitor to Bosch’s Kiox and Nyon displays and it’s a brave move by Specialized to take on the market leader head on rather than just go with the flow and produce yet another Bosch-powered bike.
In short, if you are in the market for a super practical and easy to ride yet high tech city e-bike, the new Como range should certainly be on your radar.