Specialized E-bike Turbo Vado 3.0 [A Uniquely Specialized Riding Experience!]

Today we are going to take a look at one of Specialized‘s latest e-bikes. But before I get into it, I feel the need to make a distinction that the gentleman who answered the phone at my local bike shop made when I asked him about e-bikes.

First I said “Can you tell me about e-bikes?” He replied with a chipper “Of course, but do you mean with power assist or with just powered shifting?” “Yes,” I answered, and then continued with “I’m a rather lazy guy that loves riding bikes but doesn’t really like the whole sweating part of the sport.” There was a moment of silence. I’m sure he was debating if he should just hang up the phone and pretend he’d never answered, or if he should just continue with the honest explanation. He did neither, he instead invited me over to his shop to check out the newest e-bikes in the Specialized line up, the Turbo Vado 3.0!

A Wolf Among the Sheep

For those of you unfamiliar with Specialized e-bikes, Turbo is their line of electric bikes that range from your normal city commuter bikes to full on trail beasts.

I chose the Vado 3.0 because it seemed like the most likely candidate that could operate equally well in both city and trail environments with just minimal adjustments. And by that I really do mean minimal adjustments. It would be a matter of simply switching out the tires.

Most of the electronics are built into the beautiful, but understated frame. If you weren’t sure what you were looking at you couldn’t be blamed for thinking you were gazing upon a regular bicycle with larger tubes.

It’s a very well designed bike in that it has everything but isn’t too showy. In fact, one of the first things that you will notice about the e-bike is how absolutely normal it appears. That is actually a good thing for when you have to park the bike outside; it won’t draw any unwanted attention from those with bad intentions.

The Vado is lighter than I initially expected, 52 well-balanced and distributed pounds. The bike comes with a nominal 230 watt nominal (600watt peak) mid-mounted power assisted motor and electronics. The mid-mounted bike feels more natural than some of the larger hub style wheel motors that can throw the balance off. The Specialized e-bike design team has done a wonderful job in integrating the battery and electronics onto the frame so that the bike doesn’t appear overly bulky or like some sort of prototype. There are even optional automatic front-end lights. At 800 lumens it was plenty to see the road ahead of me.


In case you are wondering, I actually did test this bike at night.

Specialized E-Bikes: 3 Different Riding Modes and Sweet Brakes 

The Vado e-bike has three modes from which the rider can choose. A thumb switch or small touch screen CD attached to the center of the handlebars easily accesses all three modes.

The first mode, Eco, which as it sounds, will demand more of the rider’s efforts, but uses less power and gives the bike a roughly 70-80 mile battery range with just a mild assist. Use this if your boss doesn’t mind you coming in a little sweaty or if you are the boss and don’t really care what your minions think.

Next is Sport Mode, which makes you go a bit faster with its more aggressive motor assist. The tradeoff is that riders choosing this mode of travel will only be able to go an estimated 35-45 miles.

Last, but far from being least, was my favorite mode…TURBO!!! Not since the 1980’s when any and everything that was even a little cool were labeled with the word Turbo, has it been so apt.

Turbo is where the fun lives!

Turbo mode is where you really can get the most out of the 11 speeds when combined with the crazy boost that assist gives you. Your barest pressure on the pedals is rewarded by the full potential 600 peak watts sending you up to the state mandated maximum speed limit for e-bikes of 28mph very, very quickly. If you are in turbo mode, you will easily be able to remember those afternoons as a kid riding as fast as you can down the road, grinning from ear to ear at speed that would make your mother have a heart attack. That feeling alone was worth knowing that your range on the bike will now only be about 20-25 miles.

Turbo mode, at least as I was using it, brings me to another wonderful feature of the Specialized e-bikes, brakes. Not just any brakes either.


Since you have the potential to actually go fast enough to break the speed limits on some roads, stopping power is very important, especially when your riding an e-bike opposed to lighter non-electric bikes. This is handled by front and rear hydraulic disc brakes. They are strong enough to stop you without being so grabby that they throw you.

The Final Word

The ride for a hard tail bike was actually very smooth. I credit this to the e-bike having very fat tires as well as a 55mm front fork that takes a lot of the punches that the road deals out without adding a lot of weight.

The base model of the Vado 3.0 starts around $2600, the one I tested had an additional $800 in options; however don’t let that price scare you away. You get plenty of great options for the money and the support of a major manufacturer to back you up in the unlikely chance something does go wrong.

I believe that Specialized e-bikes have a winning combination with this new offering and I can’t wait to see more and more of them around town. If you want to see one, don’t wait, call your local Specialized dealer. This bike is available now!

Posted by Joe Bartlett

Joe Bartlett is a writer, tinkerer, enthusiast of all two wheeled forms of transportation and wannabe mad scientist living in San Diego, CA.

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