Max estimated range: 40 miles (tested estimate)
Max assisted speed: 28 mph
Motor: 240-watt, Specialized SL 1.1, mid-drive motor
Gearing: 5 speed, internal rear hub
Wheel diameter: 27.5 inches
Weight: 47.4 lbs.
Price as tested: $3,250
When you're riding a bike, you don't want any surprises. By this measure, the Specialized Turbo Como SL 4.0 is a paragon of perfection. This is not to say that it's boring. It's a well-balanced, well-behaved, easily handled commuter ebike for weekday errands or weekend sojourns.
Despite some sophisticated technology and design, the Specialized Turbo Como SL 4.0 eschews complexity. It uses an internal gear hub, for example, so there's no need for shade-tree mechanic servicing, and rather than a fussy handle-bar mounted controller, it relies on a single button to power on the bike and select electric assist levels. It's simplicity itself and it's competitively priced at $3,250. If you’re shopping for one of the best electric bikes, it’s worth the splurge.
Specialized Turbo Como SL Ebike Review: Price and Availability
In addition to a wide array of traditional bikes, Specialized has built out a solid line of ebikes under the Turbo moniker. The $3,250 Turbo Como SL 4.0 is one of the entry-level models, which extend to gravel and mountain ebikes, as well as super light models.
If you're more of an off-road rider, there's the Specialized Turbo Levo Alloy for $5,800. It includes not only all the suspension you'd expect on a mountain bike but also a bigger 500Wh battery. For serious gravel runs and those looking for the ultimate in agility, there's the Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL EVO boasting a carbon fiber frame, a weight of just over 29 pounds, invisible electric assistance, and a $14,750 price tag.
Specialized Turbo Como SL Ebike Review: Design
The Specialized Turbo Como SL 4.0 is a Class 3 ebike, which means it delivers continuous electric pedal assist at speeds up to 28 mph. It does not have a throttle-only mode, but it delivers smooth power thanks to a Specialized mid-drive motor with a torque sensor and a Shimano Nexus 5-speed shifter. The bike uses a completely enclosed rear hub gearing system, which protects it from the elements and is attached to a conventional chain with a short chain guard to keep your slacks clean.
Unusual in this category of ebikes, the Turbo Como SL 4.0 does not include an LCD controller. A series of blue LEDs on the downtube indicate how much battery power is left and a three-stage set of LEDs set in a circle indicate the level of power assist you have chosen by pushing the single button above. Should you want to make finer adjustments and track your rides, there's an included Mission Control Specialized smartphone app for doing so.
Neatly tucked inside the bike's aluminum frame are all the cabling and electronics. Even the battery is hidden within the bike's downtube. It means that the Turbo Como SL 4.0 will handle wet weather without trouble, and it gives the bike an air of simple elegance that most ebikes lack. Only the VanMoof S3 has cleaner lines than this.
Longer, full-length fenders cover more of the wheels using flexible extensions; they help keep the dirt off of office workers' clothes, and a front frame-mounted basket provides space for picking up groceries on the way home. The whole Specialized package has a very buttoned-down feel; even the charger and owner's manuals come in a handy hard carrying case.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of small design flaws on the Turbo Como SL 4.0. The included rear fender-mounted light stays lit but doesn't flash when you apply the brakes. The front stem-mounted light is very bright, but because it is mounted on the head tube, it points directly ahead at all times, so when you're turning it tends to leave you in the dark. Most ebikes mount the front light so that it turns with the handlebars or front wheel. And there's the lack of an electric horn; Specialized includes an inexpensive mechanical bell, which is barely audible in busy traffic.
Specialized Turbo Como SL Ebike Review: Performance
While not the lightest ebike we've tested, the Specialized Turbo Como SL 4.0's 47 pounds feel very light on the road. It handles extremely easily, remaining balanced and poised even in tight turns. The overall quality of construction and design make the Turbo Como SL a standout among higher-end commuter ebikes and reward the rider with predictable handling in all conditions.
The Specialized Turbo Como SL doesn't have shocks to handle country road washboards, but the bike is solid, steady, and silent on paved roads. Indeed, it's one of if not the quietest ebike we've ever tested. The only sound you'll hear is when you're in the lowest gear to climb hills and even then, all you'll notice is a slight high-pitched whine from the bike; otherwise, it's pleasantly mute. The 5-speed gearing is good enough to handle most hills with modest assistance. On steeper climbs, you'll have to put in more effort, and the Como SL could use a couple of higher gears for downhill sprints.
The Turbo Como SL has three levels of pedal power assistance—Eco, Sport, and Turbo modes-- which are indicated by three blue LEDs. We are not ashamed to admit that while we experimented with all modes, we kept it on the maximum power assist Turbo mode for the majority of our rides. (Otherwise, what's the point of having an ebike?) The Como comes with a relatively small 240-watt motor, not uncommon for basic commuting but many urban models now have 400- or even 750-watt motors.
If you want to track your travels, you can do so by using the free Mission Control Specialized app. Aside from tracking the route and distance of your rides, the smartphone app lets you run diagnostics on the bike and to set something called smart assist. This feature lets you enter a destination on the app and then tell it how much battery power you want to have left at the end of your trip. The bike will then dynamically adjust the amount of electric assistance so that you don't run out of power before you reach your destination.
Specialized Turbo Como SL Ebike Review: Battery Life and Range
To monitor battery levels, a series of blue horizontal LEDs on the downtube indicate the battery level and while not as precise as percentage numbers, we found it was pretty accurate concerning how much battery life remained. You can also track it on the app, if you're so inclined.
Specialized doesn't list an official distance rating for the standard 320Wh battery hidden in the Turbo Como SL 4.0's downtube. But over the weeks we tested it, we estimated the average maximum distance to be about 40 miles. That can vary widely, however. We tested the bike in an area rife with hills and mountains. Flatlanders could get considerably more distance between charges.
Specialized Turbo Como SL Ebike Review: Competition
Compared to like-minded easy riders, the Specialized Turbo Como SL sits in a sweet spot between less expensive but less sophisticated commuters that lack the Turbo Como SL 4.0's technology and design and models that offer a few more features and technical niceties but at a substantially higher price.
Consider a model from another major brand, the Trek Verve+2, which costs less at $2,850 but lacks some of the Specialized Turbo Como SL's features. For example, the Trek model uses standard external gearing (rather than a protected internal hub), and its battery is clumsily strapped onto the downtube, which makes it appear more downmarket. It also doesn't apply electric assistance as smoothly or consistently as the Specialized Turbo Como SL 4.0.
At the other end of the spectrum are more expensive commuters like the Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB for $4,249. Compared to the Specialized Turbo Como SL, the additional $1,000 for the Gazelle gets you a carbon belt drive (versus the more maintenance prone chain on the Specialized model) and a shock absorbing seat post and front forks.
Specialized Turbo Como SL Ebike Review: Bottom Line
For people who just want their bike to be ready whenever they want to take a ride in the park or to the grocery store, the Specialized Turbo Como SL is an excellent two-wheeled companion. It requires little maintenance, no messing with complex controllers (it doesn't even have one), or mastering some complex gearing setup. Indeed, the Turbo Como SL may be the simplest ebike we've yet encountered.
And it is priced right. Less expensive commuting ebikes are rougher, less protected from the elements and harder to handle. More expensive models—those from the likes of Gazelle and Riese & Müller—offer more features but with prices well over $4,000. For city dwellers looking for comfort and carefree riding, the Specialized Turbo Como SL is an excellent choice.