Friday, April 16, 2021

Specialized Turbo Como SL 5.0: a comfortable and light cruiser

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An electric bicycle The biggest downside, at least from a bicycle manufacturer’s point of view, is that most people who buy an e-bike are already bikers. A 2018 survey from the National Institute of Transport and Communities showed that 93 percent of people who buy electric bicycles own a regular bicycle.

So how do you attract people who don’t usually ride a bike? From what I’ve seen, the popular route seems to involve increasing the weight of the e-bike to around 65 pounds for better stability. We tried a few of these and I stay largely not convinced. As a small cyclist, I find it difficult to maneuver heavy bikes out of my front door, over curbs, or in crowded bike racks. What is the point of an electric bicycle if it operates under the same constraints as a car?

That’s why it was a relief to try Specialized Turbo like SL, which is this year’s ultralight (SL) cruiser. The company has taken over many features that I like from last year. Turbo Vado SL and place them on a bicycle with a straight frame. It’s pricey at $ 4,800, but if you want a comfortable, upright cruiser I would have to recommend the one that weighs 10-20 pounds less than the competition. Your back will thank me.

Big Boi

I gasped when I first saw the Como SL. I had seen pictures of it before, but I didn’t know how big it was; “Super light” is just not a descriptor I associate with huge seated cruisers. I’m 5’2 and Specialized sent me their smallest frame size. The local bike shop had to cut about 4 inches from the seat post to make it short enough to fit me.

The largest frame size weighs around 47 pounds, which is impressive when most e-bikes of this size weigh around 65 (the Electra Townie Go! weighs about 55). The small frame is a bit lighter – 45 pounds, still not precisely light, but those 10 pounds made a huge difference when I had to mount the bike on my rig to charge the battery on board.

The version I tried is the Como SL 5.0, which has some improved features over the more affordable Como SL 4.0. Both versions have sit-through frames with Specialized’s custom SL 1.1 mid-drive motor and internal gear hub, with the option for a range extension battery. They also both come with an integrated front rack, headlights and fenders.

The 5.0 has additional perks like more gears (8 gears instead of 5) and the weather-resistant, low-maintenance Gates belt drive. These features are perfect if you live in the wet and cold Pacific Northwest. An internal gear hub and belt drive can save you long afternoons rinsing and lubricating your chain or trying to figure out why it keeps slipping off the derailleur.

It’s a small thing, but I also like the way the aluminum frame has a little grip on the down tube. It looks awkward, but it’s easier to take the e-bike up the stairs and lock it to the bike racks.

Coast race

Some of the other features adopted by the Turbo Vado SL make a lot less sense on a heavier bike. For example, I was very excited to use Specialized’s Smart Control again, which adjusts the battery level and engine power according to what you need. I quickly downloaded the Mission control application and linked the bike to my phone.

But when I started to fly the Como SL with Smart Control, I got tired! When you downshift the assist on a 33-pound bike, I barely notice it. On a 45 pound bike, I definitely do. I had two blocks down the street, pulled out my phone, turned off Smart Control, and sent support back to Turbo.

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