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Specialized’s Vado SL is so light, you’ll almost forget it’s an ebike

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When I picked up my review unit of the Turbo Vado SL, Specialized‘s lightweight hybrid ebike, I remember marveling at how much it looked and felt like an ‘analog’ bike. I was in a bit of a hurry, so I sped my way back home, but I was impressed by how light the bike was, nimble while maneuvering through traffic, sprightly enough to easily hop a curb.

It was when I got to my first hill that I realized I’d never even turned the bike on.

Once properly motorized, riding the Vado SL felt like my legs had just gotten a lot stronger. I still got my heart rate up going up that hill, but I covered much more elevation for the same effort.

That first ride really told me everything I needed to know about the Turbo Vado SL. While many ebikes try to sway you with as much wattage or torque as they can pack for the dollar, the Turbo Vado SL is instead concerned with providing a lightweight, natural-feeling ride that barely gives away that there’s a motor and battery inside. I wish there were more ebikes like it.

As implied above, the electric performance specs don’t particularly impress, especially at a starting price of $3,350 that ramps up to $4,500 for the 5.0 EQ configuration that I tested. For your money, you get a 240W motor with 35 Nm of torque, powered by a 320 Wh internal battery that can be expanded to 480 Wh with an optional $450 range extender. I’ve tested bikes that double or triple those specs for far less money. Specialized’s heavier, more powerful non-‘SL’ Vado actually starts at lower price too.

But there’s way more to an ebike than just power.

Credit: Specialized