Specialized’s Turbo Vado 4.0 is a workhorse which still manages to be fun to ride, and with such a great battery range those fun rides can last a fair while. With mudguards, wide tyres, lights and a rack, it’s versatile; and with squishy front forks and a suspension seatpost, it’s comfortable too.
At the beginning of the year Richard reviewed the Turbo Vado SL 4.0 EQ. That’s a lighter version of this bike with less overall clout from the motor setup, intended for fitness, commuting and leisure.
The model we have here can do all of those things, and a lot more.
This Vado has quite the stature on the road. With its wide handlebar and chunky 2.3” x 650b tyres it gives you a feeling of confidence in amongst the traffic, and the huge down tube, which conceals the battery, gives the whole bike a respect-commanding style to it – the Vado looks like a bike not to be messed with.
Despite that, it doesn’t feel too hefty when you ride. It handles well thanks to a lot of the weight sitting low down, so it never feels top heavy at very slow speeds.
With a bar measuring nearly 70cm from end to end you aren’t going to be darting for gaps between cars at rush hour (and it’s a challenge to get through a doorway), but the Vado does manage to feel manoeuvrable for what is a big bike. Negotiating city streets and cycle lanes was easy, and the turning circle isn’t a hindrance if you have to make a last-minute detour.
It even behaves well when fully loaded.
I’ll go into more detail on the motor in a bit, but I will say now that the power is delivered calmly and smoothly, plus it’s responsive to your input. Basically, if you are riding in stop-start traffic, and you are constantly switching between pedalling and freewheeling, the Vado can work its way through the congestion with the control and ease of a standard bike.
Away from the urbanites, the Vado continues the fun theme. I commuted to the office on it a few times which is a round trip of 42 miles on a mixture of main roads, country lanes and canal path. It worked on them all, and above all it felt very comfortable.
With minimal hand position options, and the fact that you won’t get out of the saddle much, I had initial concerns about numbness or general discomfort, but that was completely unfounded. It was an absolute pleasure to ride.
Those wide tyres allow you to play away from the road too and I rode sections of my favourite gravel route on the Vado. Miles and miles of wide gravel military roads were covered in absolute comfort with the front fork opened up and the suspension seatpost taking the worst of the hits out of the rear end.
The Vado could easily be used for local bikepacking adventures just as well as the commute or jobs around town.
In fact, I didn’t really find a weakness in the Vado’s personality. I’d jump on it to just get a couple of extra miles in before picking the kids up from school or popping to the shops, while the thought of spending a couple of hours on it commuting was actually something to look forward to.
Motor and battery
The motor is a Specialized 2.0 mid-mounted set up, limited to 250W as you’d expect due to UK restrictions, but with a punchy torque figure of 70Nm.
The battery is also a Specialized model, a 710Wh one catchily-named U2-710.
On their website Spesh describe the system as "4x you". What they mean by that is the Turbo Full Power system senses the force you apply to the pedals, and it quadruples it. It works really well, as you can just sit there and spin the pedals for an armchair ride or if you want a return on your effort then the harder you push, the more you get back – well up to the limit at least. This means you can actually get a decent workout as well if fitness is one of your goals.
The wave of torque is absolutely great, subtly delivered, but as the gradient increases you can feel it really pushing that rear wheel around. With 70Nm on tap steep climbs aren’t an issue, especially if you are willing to put in a bit of effort too.
A climb I use on the aforementioned gravel route is affectionately known locally as Cardiac Hill. Over its 0.7 mile length it only has an average gradient of 6.7% but the first half is much steeper than that. With the motor on the top level, the aptly named Turbo Vado surged up it at its 15.5mph assistance limit and with the system connected to my Garmin Fenix 6 Pro watch my Strava upload showed an average power output of 361 watts. (The 250W limit for e-bikes refers to 'continuous' rather than peak power.)
It's a beast.
Specialized state a range of 93 miles or 150km and while e-bike range claims can often be a mixture of how long is a piece of string and a finger in the air to check the wind, I’d say they aren’t far off the mark.
I left it in Turbo mode for the whole week and used 95% of the battery covering 72 miles/115km, with 3,478ft/1,060m of climbing. Obviously, fitness plays a part, and on the flat sections, gentle climbs or downhills I wasn’t using the motor while riding above the cut-off speed. (The Spesh rolls surprisingly well between 15mph and 20mph on the flat without the motor.)
A full charge takes about five hours maximum and costs around 20p according to my smart meter.
I could easily extend that range by varying the modes, and that is something you have complete control over. The pre-set modes are Eco, Sport and Turbo, which are toggled between using the + and – buttons on the controller. Underneath those buttons you’ll find another one which allows you to set the assistance to exactly what level you want in 10% increments.
Pressing and holding the + button also gives you Walk mode which provides assistance up to about 3mph/5km.
What the motor and the bike are up to is shown via the head unit. On the main page it shows speed, time of day and battery life – plus it has a cool sliding gauge that runs along the bottom showing cadence. It changes colour becoming green when it is in the sweetspot of around 70 to 80rpm.
All kinds of other data can be shown like distance, elevation, altimeter, power, cadence etc. You can also use the head unit as a security device where a PIN is needed to get the battery to supply power to the motor.
The Vado’s frame uses Specialized’s proprietary E5 aluminium alloy for its tubing which has full internal cable and hose routing, plus the battery is integrated. The battery can be removed for security, or you can leave it in place by locking it into position.
Mounting points are available for the full-length mudguards which give great coverage with the mudflap on the front stopping your lower legs and feet from getting covered in road spray, and a rear rack allows you to use panniers (27kg weight limit). An integrated rear light means you are ready for riding in the dark. It’s actually a really cool looking light too – a Spanninga Commuter Glow XE just in case you wanted to know.
The front light is a Lezyne Ebike Hecto E65 which has a flat cut-off beam, and its 201-lumen output does chuck a good spread of light out in front of you.
Both lights come on when you turn the motor on, but you can switch them off by holding down the screen change button. You also get a kickstand and a pair of bottle cage mounts.
For comfort you get a SR Suntour MobieA32 front fork with 80mm of travel. I kept it locked out on the road as the tyres gave me all the cushioning I needed, but it was a welcome relief on the gravel tracks or canal paths.
The Spring suspension seatpost gives 40mm travel and I liked the fact that it is quite subtle. I never felt like I was bobbing around on the smooth surfaces when pedalling, so that is a massive plus from me.
The saddle is a Rivo Sport model which is comfortable for long stints, and the parts used for the Vado’s cockpit are also comfortable.
To help the motor out you also get an 11-speed Sram gear setup based around an NX rear derailleur and an NX rapid fire shifter on the handlebar.
The components give quick and crisp shifts up and down the cassette, and with a range of 11t to 42t sprockets paired to a 48t Praxis chainring there are gears to cover most terrain.
A bike this heavy needs powerful brakes and that is what you get here with Sram Level 2-piston hydraulic calipers and 180mm diameter rotors front and rear. A bit of a near miss with a tractor when descending a country lane at 40mph proved that they have plenty of power and good feedback to modulate pressure so as not to lock up.
The wheels use Specialized’s rims and hubs with a 32-spoke build front and rear. They are a tough set of hoops.
With the suspension fork and seatpost, I wasn’t taking any prisoners on the rough stuff and they stood up to all of the abuse throughout. The tyres used are Specialized’s Pathfinder and I’ve used them before on many gravel bikes in narrower sizes.
They roll well on the road and are wide enough to be used off it in dry, firm conditions. They seem reliable too which removes the faff of having to fix a puncture on a heavy bike like this.
Value and cost
The retail price for the Turbo Vado 4.0 is £4,300, although that has now been reduced to £3,400 – still a big chunk of cash, but considering everything you are getting, and how well it performs I’d say that is a fair price.
For comparison, the BMC 257 AMP AL TWO we recently reviewed is £5,100.
That was described as a sleek, fast and high quality e-bike, and it too also includes lights, mudguards and a punchy mid-motor with a good range.
Richard also compared the BMC to the Riese and Muller Roadster Touring Model which again is a capable model like the Vado 4.0. A rack for the Riese is an extra £75 though which pushes the price up from £4,374 to £4,449.
Whether you want the Vado for commercial use, general household duties, commuting, fitness or all of the above, I really don’t think you will be disappointed. I think it’s a great bike to ride whether loaded-up or completely empty, and the range means that you don’t have to constantly watch the display either. At full price, it’s a big investment, but if you can get at the current reduced price, it is a lot of bike for the money.