Specialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon EVOGET IT
We took a recent bikepacking trip to test the Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon EVO, Specialized’s latest gravel riding e-bike. Unlike standard e-bike fare for commuters and family haulers, gravel riding is about adventure, on and off roads, with an underlying current of self-sufficiency through basic utility. Some might think e-bikes can’t handle rugged gravel riding demands—this one certainly can. Others might believe using a battery is cheating—they’d be wrong. Because of the integrated Specialized-designed battery, the Fact11 carbon frame that comes from the roadie S-Works version of the bike, and Specialized’s motor, the Creo SL Comp Carbon EVO doesn’t look like an e-bike.
Riding it before packing on the gear, and with the power off, the bike feels lighter than it is and with zero drag in the pedals. It helps relieve range anxiety—should the battery die, the Evo feels intuitive enough to keep going. But about that battery: Specialized expects about 80 miles of range on Eco mode, the lowest of the three settings, from the included 240-watt battery. You can add a 160-watt range extender (which pops into a bottle cage) to eke out an additional 40 miles.
It didn’t take long for the merit of the battery system to pay off. About 45 minutes into the ride, we used it to mush up Gold Star Memorial Bridge, which carries traffic and bikes along I-95 over the Thames River in New London, Connecticut. A windy, steep climb that isn’t particularly fun or memorable with traffic whizzing by at 65 mph just a few feet away. We zipped right up leaving our bike buddy on his traditional bike way, way behind.
Throughout the trip, we varied the level of assistance from asphalt to very technical trails, and never ran out of power even when fully loaded. With the brick-like charger in our frame bag, we topped off when we could, during lunch or at the campsite bathroom. Even at max assistance, the motor feels natural and not jerky like systems from only a few years back. A few pounds heavier than a standard bike, the Creo SL Comp Carbon EVO weighs in at about 30 pounds. Even fully loaded with bikepacking gear that wasn’t so much we couldn’t lift it over a boulder wall Garmin failed to alert us to.
The button interface on the top tube lets you cycle through the power modes even with gloves on. For more control, you can dial in the level of assistance in each of the modes using Specialized’s Mission Control App. On the gravel roads that were more football-sized rocks than gravel the Future Shock 2.0 system, adjustable from the handlebars, took a lot of the sting out of the ride—but this is far from a full-suspension bike. Even after an overnight in the pouring rain, the Evo was ready to go the next morning. At every turn, the bike performed and we never felt like the battery was overmatched.
So who does this bike make sense for? Likely a commuter who has a rough daily ride but is committed to going car-free or an older gravel rider who needs a little extra boost. Or someone like us: who wants to take on more bike touring and would rather celebrate the journey and a fun ride with a beer at a pub—preferably one with an easy to access outlet.—Sal Vaglica, Men’s Journal contributor
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