Specialized has launched its first ever electric road bike range compromising of two road bike models, an ‘Evo’ gravel edition as well as a limited Founders edition.
Promoted as a ‘performance’ road bike, the new Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL is being touted by the brand as the first in a major revolution of the road market.
In development for over two years, the new range is a completely new concept for the American brand. The bike sits within the established Turbo range although it’s a significant development on what has come before, ranking as the biggest investment that the brand has ever made.
Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL: Key details
- New SL1.1 motor and SL1-320 battery with 130km range
- Extender battery packs available with 65km range
- 12.2kg claimed weight
- Sub-1100g Fact 11r carbon frame
- Size XS-XXL (49 – 61/64) with Specialized’s ‘Beyond Gender philosophy’.
- Future Shock 2.0 technology
Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL: A new type of power delivery
One of the more significant reasons that the Creo has taken almost three years to come to market is Specialized’s decision to design the motor and battery system completely in house; viewing the compromises necessitated through a third party system such as Bosch or Shimano (namely weight) as unacceptable. To that end, at 1.95kg, the new SL1.1 system boasts the lightest weight of any bottom bracket mounted system on the market.
Specialized says it focused on delivering the power in line with a natural cadence, with a steady increase in assistance being delivered up until 70rpm. According to the brand, that means there should be no unnatural power curve or motor jumps and the bike should feel fluid and smooth.
The new motor system boasts four assist modes: ‘Off’ (no assistance, but data is still recorded), ‘Eco’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Turbo’. While it might seem strange having an ‘Off’ mode, Specialized wanted this to be a bike that was readily ridden without support. To make that easier, the brand says that there’s zero drag when riding without the battery – there’s supposed to be a seamless transition between motor assistance and leg power.
Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL: Battery and battery extenders
The newly slimmed down battery weighs a claimed 1.8kg and delivers an impressive 320wh of power to the motor. Specialized is claiming a maximum range of 130km in Eco mode, which is obviously dependent on your choice of support, whether that’s Off, Eco, Sport or Turbo. Either way, there’s no denying it’s a significant distance.
In a bike of headline announcements, perhaps the most exciting is the addition of ‘extender packs’. These small, water bottle sized units are capable of delivering an extra 50 per cent of range (roughly 60km) and output 160wh of power.
Sitting comfortably inside a water bottle cage, plugging in just above the bottom bracket and weighing 1kg, the new extenders open up the possibility of multi-day adventures and extended road rides with more distance and greater elevation. They come as standard on the S-Works models and those that buy a Founders Edition bike will get two. However Expert model owners will have to buy them separately at £200 a pop.
The system’s design won’t be dissimilar to those with a working knowledge of Specialized’s Turbo mountain bike range. The battery sits in the bike’s down tube and powers a motor situated in the bottom bracket. While it might look similar, it’s not as easily removable as, say, the Fazua system as the battery is bolted in place in the down tube and charges inside the bike.
Ultimately, though, it is removable and it needs to be if Specialized has any hope of seeing a future when e-bikes and road bikes are interchangeable. What’s more, you don’t even need specialist tools to get it out, but Specialized does recommend that you take it to a dealer to do so.
Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL: Customisation is key
One of the take home messages from the launched of the Specialized S-Works Creo is that customisation truly is key.
One of Specialized’s many visions for the new Creo is its use as a training tool and key to that is being able to adapt the power output to your sessions. For example, by changing the wattage assistance levels you can, in effect, create interval sessions or determine the wattage at which you have to ride up a climb.
After all, the less power the motor outputs, the more power you’re expected to input.
All the motor tuning is done through the Specialized Mission Control app. From here you can alter the percentage of assistance each motor mode gives as well as each modes’ peak power. Crucially, you don’t need the app to ride, it just gives your greater personalisation.
The app’s layout is intuitive and its changes are instantaneous, meaning the tuning can be made of the fly. It’s a strange sensation feeling the bike’s support plummet from 100 per cent to 10 per cent at the slide of a screen.
There’s also a smart control feature that once pressed manages your motor output so that you’re guaranteed to make your distance. As before, this is available on-the-fly although it does prevent you from changing modes.
A ‘Turbo Connect’ unit on the top tube drives this connectivity and it shows via a series of bars how much battery you have left. There’s also a new display screen that acts as a cycling computer. A single press of the ‘S’ button switches between the four modes.
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Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL: Future Shock 2.0
After its debut on the Specialized Roubaix, Future Shock 2.0 makes a return and equips the bike with 20mm of adjustable travel at the front end; the rationale being that an e-bike will hit choppy road surfaces much harder.
All models of the Creo will use a 1x system only, there’s no double ring compatibility here, and the bikes have Shimano mountain bike components mixed with road.
To be precise, the S-Works model pairs Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 shifters with a Shimano XTR Di2 rear mech and an 11-42 cassette. In comparison, the Turbo Creo SL Expert and Expert Evo models will use Shimano Ultegra Di2 shifters with a Shimano XT Di2 rear mech and 11-42 cassettes.
Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL: First ride impressions
Over the course of a two-day period we were able to put the S-Works Turbo Creo SL and the Creo SL Expert Evo through their respective paces on both gravel and road.
The use of a motor really opened my eyes to the world of ‘gravel’ in a way that self-sufficient cycling hadn’t. After riding the Creo I’m left with a sneaking suspicion that e-bikes will crack the gravel market in same way they’ve taken the mountain biking world by storm.
Add the battery extenders into the mix and the case becomes even more convincing. Those portable little black units had my mind racing with opportunities previously limited by a bike’s battery life. Pairing the added distance that the motor gives your legs with extended battery life is a heady mix and I couldn’t help but find myself thinking of epic gravel rides or even multi-day adventures.
In comparison, I suspect e-road bikes will be a harder sell but that doesn’t make the Creo any less impressive out on the tarmac.
It’s on the road that you really notice how well the power is added in line with your cadence. Even when you hit the 26kph limit the motor doesn’t bounce on off like some other e-bikes. The low drag design really helps you keep applying power, although I’d be lying if I said you couldn’t feel the weight that is a noticeable anchor. However, it is dramatically smaller than other e-bikes I’ve ridden on the road, plus the Creo rolls on the Superb Roval CLX 50 wheels and S-Works Turbo tyres.
Although it was tempting to just razz around on Turbo mode for the duration of the rides, the different motor settings do feel well spaced and offer decent levels of difficultly in their own right, especially if you customise the levels of assistance using the Mission Control app.
However there’s no denying that I found riding full gas up steep technical trails far more entertaining. Trails similar to those that I use to stumble and lose momentum on my hardtail mountain bike become a laugh with the help of a motor.
I drained about 70 per cent off my battery over the course of a 69km gravel ride with close to 1000m of climbing. That would usually be close to signalling the end of the day but because I had a battery extender equipped I still had a further 80 per cent battery life. It’s worth noting that the bike drains both the core battery and the extender simultaneously, but you can set them separately should you wish.
Specialized S-Works Creo SL: Models and prices
Specialized S-Works Creo SL £10,999
- Shimano Dura-Ace and XTR Di2 11-42 cassette
- Battery range extender
- Roval CLX 50 wheels with Turbo tyres
Specialized Turbo Creo SL Expert £7,499
- Shimano Ultegra and XT Di2 11-42 cassette
- Roval CLX 38 wheels
Specialized Turb0 Creo SL Expert Evo £7,499
- Shimano Ultegra and XT Di2 11-42 cassette
- Roval CLX 38 wheels