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Specialized Turbo Como SL review: Why a high-dollar comfort electric bike can be worth it

When I think of the bicycle company Specialized, I tend to think of their hardcore road bikes, or perhaps their mountain bikes. They make awesome models of both, though as an e-bike journalist I find myself particularly drawn to their Turbo line of electric road and e-mountain bikes. But until I learned about the company’s Turbo Como line, I didn’t realize how awesome their “Active” line of comfort cruising-around bikes were. And the latest Specialized Turbo Como SL brings a whole new level of approachability (and lightweight design) to the e-bike line.

That SL in the Turbo Como SL stands for “super light.”

The spandex-clad among us might laugh at the idea of a 45 lb. (20.4 kg) bike being considered lightweight, but they likely don’t realize that electric comfort and cruiser bikes can easily be 50% heavier.

Most people can lift a 45 lb. bike, if necessary. Add another 20 pounds to a bulky, awkward-shaped object like that and the percentage of people who can throw such a bike around drops considerably. The Turbo Como SL here though maintains a manageable weight, especially with the inclusion of that nicely placed grab handle in the middle of the bike.

But the Turbo Como SL isn’t just about being lightweight, it’s also about providing a high-quality, comfortable ride that offers a low maintenance option for a convenient comfort/utility e-bike.

It’s the kind of e-bike you buy when you just want to ride for fun without any worries. You know it’s going to work well every time you hop on and you know it’s going to last for years.

Check out my video review below to see this pretty yellow e-bike in action, then keep reading to get into the details.

Specialized Turbo Como SL video review

Specialized Turbo Como SL tech specs

  • Motor: Custom Specialized SL1.1 mid-drive motor
  • Top speed: 45 km/h (28 mph)
  • Range: Up to 100 km (62 mi), or 50% more with range extender
  • Battery: Downtube-integrated 320 Wh battery
  • Weight: 20.5 kg (45 lb.)
  • Frame: Aluminum alloy
  • Brakes: Hydraulic disc brakes
  • Extras: Removable magnetic LCD display with speedometer, battery gauge, PAS level indicator, power meter, built-in fenders and rear rack with pannier mounts, front basket with cargo net, integrated lighting, sleek minimalist kickstand

The nicest electric cruiser ever?

Electric cruiser bikes have never really been a luxury category, and Specialized even shies away from the cruiser label on the Como. They refer to it as part of their “active” line, but it basically fits and rides like the fun, laid-back cruisers we all know and love.

The upright seating position and high bars make this likely the most comfortable electric bike in Specialized’s lineup.

It’s not overly powerful, but has the oomph riders need when put into a high pedal assist level. I saw peaks in the 400’s of watts several times when I really pushed it, though I tended to keep it in the middle range of pedal assist to ensure that I was doing some honest riding too.

When I really pushed it, I could max the bike out at its top speed of 28 mph (45 km/h). Let’s just say that the claimed motor power of 240W seems a bit low for a 28 mph e-bike, but we’ll let them put whatever sticker on it they want.

specialized turbo como sl 5.0

Unlike a typical cheap cruiser e-bike, the Specialized Turbo Como SL 5.0 comes loaded with a combination of high-end components and serious utility features.

On the component side there’s that custom Specialized mid-drive motor, a Gates belt drive and a Shimano Alfine 8-speed internally geared hub.

The custom motor is somehow both physically tiny and highly responsive. When you’re ready, it gives you the power you’re looking for without being overbearing.

I actually had the chance to speak with the product lead for Specialized’s Turbo bikes Marco Sonderegger about that motor and why Specialized decided to do their own custom motor.

As he explained:

“We could have gone the easy route and buy a Bosch system or a complete system from Shimano or another brand. But then you can’t change anything. And what we do is totally different.”

And being able to design their own parts and their own power profile definitely makes a difference. The response is super smooth and exactly what you’d expect of a luxury e-bike like this.

And since it’d be a shame to pair a loud chain and derailleur with a smooth and quiet motor like that, Specialized used a Gates belt drive and internally geared hub combo, which I’ve said before is probably my favorite drivetrain setup on e-bikes. The combination of mid-drive motors, belt drives, and internally geared hubs means an entirely maintenance-free, no-fuss drivetrain and transmission.

And instead of holding back with a 3-speed or 5-speed transmission, Specialized invested in the 8-speed Alfine internally geared hub. On the one hand that’s almost more gears than I think I’d need, but I’m also pedaling around in fairly flat Florida. In hilly San Francisco those extra gear ratios are probably nice to have.

On the utility side, the bike is nicely outfitted with a large and sturdy front basket as well as fenders that double as a rear rack for mounting panniers. The basket is designed with slots that perfectly mesh with a bungee cargo net ensure that you can carry large and odd-shaped objects without them bouncing out (remember there’s no suspension here!).

The rear rack hides away as part of the fender so you don’t have some cheap-looking rack junking up your rear end, but you still get full pannier support. It’s a slick design that adds invisible utility to the bike.

That being said, the rear tail light that is built into the fender consists of just three small LEDs. It’s bright, sure. But I wouldn’t have minded a larger light just to be that much more visible.

Lastly, the frame is built with a small cross bar that is nicely balanced to serve as a lift point near the bike’s center of gravity. That makes it easy to grab the bike nice and low to carry it up a quick flight of stairs. No more awkwardly trying to hook the saddle and bars while dragging the tires over every step.

All together, the Specialized Turbo Como SL rides and feels like an expensive, premium e-bike. Which is good, because that’s exactly what it is. The 5.0 version that I tested starts at $4,800.

That’s a pretty penny, though I think the price is worth it for what you get.

Specialized obviously isn’t for everyone. You can get e-bikes for a third of the price that also get you from point A to B. In my opinion, the reason someone would spend extra for a bike like this is for a combination of the super smooth operation and the longevity of the bike.

With Specialized designing each part to work together seamlessly, the bike doesn’t feel like a combination of components nor does it carry the usual compromises that leads to. It feels like an e-bike that was designed from the ground up to be a comfortable urban cruiser/utility bike.

And to know that your bike is going to last for years is the kind of peace of mind that spending this much money buys you. I could cheap out and get a low-cost cruiser from Amazon, but who knows if the company will be around in several years if I need servicing or a new battery. Of course no one can tell the future, but it doesn’t look like Specialized is going anywhere soon.

So while a lot of the e-bike market will unfortunately be priced out of a fancy e-bike like this (myself included), I can definitely see it being worth it for those that have the cash.

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Avatar for Micah Toll Micah Toll

Micah Toll is a personal electric vehicle enthusiast, battery nerd and author of the Amazon #1 bestselling books DIY Lithium Batteries, DIY Solar Power and the Ultimate DIY Ebike Guide.

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