Founded in the 1970s, Specialized is one of the most well-respected names in the cycling world, famous for creating the first major production mountain bike in 1981, the Stumpjumper.
Since then, the company has branched out into e-bikes, with its latest, the Turbo Vado 4.0, combining the agility and form of a regular bike with the extra power of an e-bike.
We put the sleek-looking hybrid bike to the test and – spoiler alert – it's one of the best e-bikes you can buy in 2019.
Price and availability
The Vado is part of a range that’s been around for several years. From the stripped back 1.0 to the fully-featured 4.0, all share the same core design but come with different finishing kit and crucially different capacity battery packs.
Over the years these have changed in size too, so a cheap deal on last years’ identical-looking model might not be the bargain you expect.
At $3,550 / £2,900, the Turbo Vado 4.0 is pretty pricey – that works out at around AU$5570 based on current conversion rates, but it doesn't appear to be available in Australia just yet.
If you're after something a little cheaper, check out the Gtech Sport electric bike, which retails for £1000 (around $1330 / AU$1940).
The Vado 4.0 feels almost like a light electric motorbike. At around 23kg, it’s not a bike you want to be carrying up multiple flights of stairs. However, there’s no flab here, instead, every gram is used to provide performance that’s equally heavyweight.
Although both battery and motor are hidden within the frame, there’s little mistaking the Vado for anything other than an e-bike. Its massively oversized down tube (the diagonal part of the bike frame) and stretched-out wheelbase make it obvious.
With all the bits you’d expect of a fully-featured Dutch bike, including bright in-built lighting, plus mudguards and rack, the Vado is nevertheless a far racier looking creature than your average e-bike.
Crucial to its performance is its centrally-mounted motor. More expensive than a hub drive, it sits low in the frame. As it directly powers the cranks, there’s no additional drag, and weight distribution and handling are improved – plus, if you get a puncture or want to stow the Vado 4.0 away in a tight space, the motor's low position makes it easier to remove the wheels.
Produced by big-name maker Brose, the Vado’s motor features a tune that's designed to prioritize efficiency over torque, or in other words, the ability rotate the rear wheel using the pedal.
Even so, the higher two of its three modes still provide a serious boost when compared to most systems, so you should find it easy to get going after making a stop.
With a neat ring-style controller beside the left-hand grip, you can switch between assistance levels and activate the lights, while a glowing display in the center of the handlebars will show all your key data.
Tucked above the motor in the huge down tube is a large capacity 600 watt battery. While skinnier bikes might manage the back and forth of the average daily commute, this huge battery means the Vado can go multiple days before needing to be recharged. This lockable power pack can also be popped out for convenient charging – the downside to this extra power is increased weight.
Supporting that big power pack and generally smoothing the bike’s progress is a suspension fork and wide tires; with a minimal amount of travel from the fork and a slick centre tread on the tires, both impart multi-terrain ability yet never feel overkill.
Cut through the park on the way home or head off on an expedition down gravel trails, the Vado will take to either as well as it does the average commute or shopping run. Ultra stable and planted on a range of surfaces, just pray the lift is in order on your return if you live several stories up.
With ten-speed gearing, both this and the hydraulic brakes are provided by Shimano. Using a single chainring and a clutch on the rear derailleur, the odds of the chain coming off, or even making a racket, are low. Similarly, the brakes are unlikely to give you any trouble while providing excellent all-weather stopping.
The Mission Control App allows you to customize the performance of the Turbo Vado 4.0, by changing the motor characteristics and range, as well as giving you an overview of your real-time ride data.
The Vado is massively enjoyable to ride. Well designed, neatly put together, and with excellent electronics, it’s happy to go almost anywhere.
With a huge battery and mid-mount motor, the bike’s handling is exemplary, as is the assistance provided. Heavy to carry, riding on road or trail is nevertheless a joy thanks to its multi-terrain capable tires and suspension fork.
However, despite being one of the longest range machines here, it’s still just about possible to find bikes with either lower weight or greater distance capability.
How you use the bike will likely dictate whether this rules it out. If getting the absolute maximum range isn’t your prime concern (and you don't mind the price), it’s a ton of fun.