Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 review: Urban e-bike with mass appeal

A comfortable e-bike with plenty of range, perfect for taking on city streets and open spaces

Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

If you’re looking for an easy-on-the-eye electric bike that’s also really straightforward to ride, the Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 fits the bill. It’s got plenty of power and range while the delivery of that assistance is seamless and simple. Add on a comfortable riding position and the ability to pop some shopping on the rear luggage rack and you’ve got a very practical bike. It’s a bit on the bulky side and isn’t built for speed, but get it on the straight and it’ll hold its own against other e-bikes in the urban two-wheeler marketplace.

Pros

  • +

    Comfy urban rider design

  • +

    Quality components

  • +

    Smooth belt drive

Cons

  • -

    Quite a heavy bike

  • -

    LCD display feels a little flimsy

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Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0: One minute review

The Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 IGH is the latest incarnation of its commuter or urban e-bike, which I first tested when it was on version 4.0. We ranked it as the best overall electric bike for any rider on our best electric bikes list, os the 5.0 has big shoes to fill. 

Still, that was a couple of years ago, and there are currently a few variations on this one model theme. The 5.0 IGH edition I’ve been testing, which boasts a Cast Black/Silver Reflective finish in a range of frame sizes, features a dynamic powertrain. 

That gives you power delivery as you need it, while the bike itself offers an upright and relaxed ride that’s perfect for more casual cyclists. It’s built using a quality selection of components and has everything you need to get from one place to another, including full mudguards, lights, and a rear luggage rack. It isn’t the lightest bike you’ll ever ride, but that battery and motor combination plus a belt drive more than takes care of that.

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Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0: Specifications
ComponentValue
Size range: S, M L, XL
Motor:250W Brushless Motor
Top speed15.5mph/25 km per hour
Power:710Wh Lithium-Ion Battery
Control:Handlebar shifting/LCD Display
E-bike classification: Class 3
Speeds:Automatic x 4
Brakes:180mm Front & Rear Disc Mechanical Brake
Frame material:6061 Aluminum Alloy
Weight:35 kg
Range:100 km per battery

Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0: Price and availability

Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0

(Image credit: Future)
  • $4,500 / £5,500 / around AU$6,896 for single battery 
  • Available from the manufacturer directly

The Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 IGH currently costs $5,500 US / £4,500 UK and is available via the Specialized website or from resellers. 

If you can’t stretch to this latest model then it is well worth investigating the earlier editions, in either the Turbo Vado 3.0 or Turbo Vado 4.0 variants, which will likely set you back less.

Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0: Design

Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0

(Image credit: Future)
  • Practical urban cruiser-style e-bike
  • Impressive array of quality components
  • Frame is aluminium alloy but it's a bulky bike

As you’d expect from Specialized and a bike with a premium price tag, the Specialized Turbo 5.0 IGH looks good and feels like it’s very well made. It’s quite a hefty thing, with no obvious weight stat shown on the Specialized website. Safe to say, you wouldn’t want to have to lug it up and down a flight of stairs too often. However, the frame is fashioned from E5 aluminum and some of the cables are worked through the frame to enhance the bike’s minimalist styling.

The component selection is largely excellent too, with Rockshox Recon forks, a Rivo Sport saddle, Ergon GA30 grips fitted to Specialized’s own allow handlebars with a compact Specialized computer as the centerpiece and SRAM brake discs front and rear being the main highlights. 

Meanwhile, the powertrain setup is a tried-and-tested Specialized 2.2 motor, which features 90Nm of torque powered by a Specialized 710Wh battery. The drive goes through a Gates cassette and belt arrangement, ensuring the same smooth power delivery that made the earlier bikes a success.

Getting the power down to the road is done via Specialized rims fitted with chunky Pathfinder Sport Reflect tires, which look good and give the bike a well-planted look too. Thankfully, Specialized does include most of the necessary accessories with this bike, using its super-comfortable pedals, Lezyne Ebike Power 310 Lumen headlight, and Spanninga Commuter Glow taillight to complete the package. A practical kickstand and nigh-on-essential mudguards round it out nicely.

  • Design Score: 4.5/5

Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0: Performance

Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0

(Image credit: Future)
  • Smooth power delivery thanks to belt drive
  • Powered assistance up to 15.5 miles per hour
  • Automatic gear changes make riding a breeze

If you’re after an easy ride around town, or anywhere else for that matter, the automatic Internal Gear Hub (or IGH) fitted to the Vado 5.0 is ideal. That dynamic gear change is perhaps what makes the e-bike so appealing as it’s a breeze to ride. All you need to do is set off and, as you apply pressure on those flat pedals, the bike works it all out for you (a little like the software in the Cowboy 4) and adjusts the powertrain setup to suit the terrain and your pedalling style. Hit a steep hill and the system will offer up to four times the regular power to get you up and over a peak.

This all works just as it should, which is a relief as riding the Vado 5.0 without any power assistance soon reveals just how hefty this bike is to move using pedal power alone. The compact MasterMind monitor in the middle of the handlebars shows you all of the ride information, including if you’re in a particular mode with Sport being the perkiest of them all. This is supplemented by plus and minus buttons over on the left-hand side, next to the hand grip, which can be used to manually change settings if you prefer.

Specialized also has its accompanying app, which can be used to work in tandem with the MasterMind to alter settings if you wish, although I’ve found everything can be done well enough on the bike itself. However, the app can also be used to deploy the Turbo System Lock, which means your bike can be secured if you’re out and about and don’t have a third-party lock with you. The Vado 5.0 is effectively disabled once you’ve engaged it, and there’s a motion sensor alarm too for added peace of mind.

I also rather like the integrated Garmin Radar on this bike, which can give you a nudge when traffic is approaching from behind up to a range of 140 meters. I got some good use from the rear luggage rack, which can handle loads of up to 27kg and it proved handy for shopping trips into town. Usefully, especially considering the family-friendly style of this bike, there’s the ability to hook up a through-axle trailer too.

The up-to-80mm of travel you get from those spongy RockShox front forks is really effective, even if you’re only using the bike in an urban environment. They allow you to flip the bike easily up over raised sidewalks and the like, while also absorbing most types of potholes without fuss. This is complemented by those chunky wheels and tires, which help soak up any lumps and lumps, especially at the rear where there’s no moving suspension. The accommodating saddle and hand grips along with the upright riding position make this a bike you can ride all day and not feel drained at the end of it.

  • Performance score: 4/5

Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0: Battery life

Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0

(Image credit: Future)
  • Around 62 miles/100km of range from a full battery
  • Easy to charge if plugged in overnight
  • Battery can be charged on or off the bike

As is the case with any electric bike, the battery life is very much dependent on how much you make use of the motor. In the case of the Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 IGH you’re unlikely to be riding it without power assistance as without it the two-wheeler is heavy going. 

Nevertheless, even when used for a full day out, I found the bike was fine for charge when I got back and was easily brought back up to full power with a plug-in wall charger, so it was good to go the next day. It’s everything you’d expect from a bike of this class and quality.

  • Battery life score: 4/5

Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0

(Image credit: Future)

Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0: Scorecard

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Category CommentScore
DesignPractical upright urban cruiser 4.5/5
PerformanceSmooth and consistent belt drive4/5
Battery LifeUp to 62 miles/100km on a charge4/5

Buy it if...

You want practicality

Anyone looking for a practical urban explorer will find the Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 is a very sound proposition with an upright riding style and plenty of power assist.

You’re looking for comfort

You’ll get more comfort over performance as this is a very accommodating bike for daily commutes and around-town activities.

You want a low-maintenance machine

The Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 features a belt drive, which means no oily chains while the battery life is impressive too.

Don't buy it if...

You’re after a lightweight machine

Unlike many high-performance e-bikes this is more of a cruiser and while it gets down the road well enough this is quite a hefty machine, despite the electric power. 

You need to carry your bike anywhere

The Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 is not the sort of bike to be lifted with any regularity and that could make it an awkward proposition if you don't live on the ground floor.

You prefer a chain drive

There's a lot to be said for a conventional chain and if you prefer that you might want to avoid the belt drive option. However, it's dependable enough and smooth too.

Also consider

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Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0: Specifications
ComponentSpecialized Turbo Vado 5.0Specialized Turbo Vado 4.0Cowboy 4
Size range: S, M L, XLS, M L, XLOne size
Motor:250W Brushless Motor250W Turbo Full Power Motor250W rear hub motor
Top speed15.5mph / 25 km per hour28 mph (US)15.5 mph / 25 km/h
Power:710Wh Lithium-Ion Battery710Wh Lithium-Ion Battery 504Wh internal battery
Control:Handlebar shifting/LCD DisplayLCD display (no display on "SL" models)App
E-bike classification: Class 3Class 3Class 3
Speeds:Automatic x 411 speed derailleurSingle speed, automatic assistance
Brakes:180mm front & rear disc mechanical brake180mm front & rear disc SRAM brakeFront and rear disc brakes
Frame material:6061 Aluminum AlloyE5 aluminum alloyaluminum
Weight:35 kg26 kg18.9 kg
Range:100 km per battery144.8km per battery70 km per charge
Image

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A good bet if you're looking for a similar style e-bike but want a cheaper price tag, as it should be available for quite a lot less than the current model and is available in various formats

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How I tested the Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 electric bike

I was loaned the Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 for a couple of weeks, during the winter period, which meant it was subjected to a wealth of mainly inclement conditions. However, despite it getting drenched regularly, the e-bike performed admirably and did really well when battling against strong winds thanks to the electric powertrain.

The e-bike was also charged a couple of times and subsequently tested on a variety of surfaces. Thanks to the thicker tyres the Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 proved more than capable on softer tracks and paths, but came into its own on cycle paths in and around town. 

First reviewed: February 2024

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.