Specialized Turbo Creo SL Expert EVO Road Ebike Review

A near-perfect tool to extend drop-bar enthusiasts’ range, speed, and fun.

Turbo Creo SL Expert EVO Road Ebike
The Creo SL Expert EVO opened our eyes to a completely new ride experience.Jeff Allen

Consumers new to ebikes all share one thing—a big smile after their first ride. They immediately think about how that bike can fill a place in their life, whether it be for fun and fitness or for daily transportation.

The new Specialized Creo road and gravel line does not thrill a non-bicyclist like a traditional ebike. It has an aggressive seating position, and the 35Nm of torque is about half of what a traditional ebike delivers. But for the hardcore or serious recreational road/gravel rider, the Creo provides an amazing, revolutionary experience.

Turbo Creo SL Expert EVO Road Ebike Profile
A Class 3 ebike, the Creo SL Expert EVO offers three levels of pedal assist up to 28 mph.Jeff Allen

What Is a Specialized Turbo Creo SL Expert EVO

Specialized has been an ebike innovator with its dedicated Turbo line of Class 1 and Class 3 electrics. The company’s Vados/Comos and Levos have been dedicated to urban transport and mountain biking, respectively. The Creo products bring the Specialized ebike line to the hardcore road and gravel space.

The Turbo Creo line initially features three bikes. The $13,500 S-Works Turbo Creo SL is the top-of-the-line electric-assist road bike. The Turbo Creo SL Expert shares the Fact 11R carbon chassis of the S-Works, but comes in at $9,000 with a slightly lower component spec.

Tire Clearance Creo EVO
The fork offers plenty of clearance for the 38-millimeter-wide Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss tires.Jeff Allen

We tested the gravel-oriented Turbo Creo SL Expert EVO. This shares the Fact 11R carbon frame/fork of its pavement siblings as well as those bikes’ Roval carbon C 38 wheels. On the EVO, these wheels come shod with Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss 38-millimeter-wide tires.

Also shared with the other Creos is electronic Di2 shifting with a 1-by drivetrain. The EVO uses an XT rear derailleur with an 11-42T cassette. But the EVO differs in handlebar and seatpost spec with flared Specialized Adventure Gear bars and an X-Fusion Manic dropper post with 50 millimeters of get-down for more control on technical downhills.

Future Shock Creo EVO
The Future Shock front suspension built into the steerer tube does a surprisingly good job of isolating small bumps from the cockpit.Jeff Allen

All Creos interestingly share the Future Shock front suspension. Built into the steerer tube, Future Shock effectively suspends the bars to isolate bumps and vibration from the rider’s arms with 20 millimeters of travel and a wide range of adjustability.

The Creos share the lightweight Specialized SL 1.1 proprietary motor. It’s powered by a 320Wh battery and puts out a surprisingly low maximum 240W and max torque of 35Nm.

Road Ride Creo EVO
Even with the wide Pathfinder Pro tires, the Creo SL Expert EVO flies on the pavement.Jeff Allen

How Does the Specialized Turbo Creo SL Expert EVO Ride?

Any moderately serious cyclist will find the Creo ride experience transformative. The bike provides amazing sensations, just like riding a regular gravel or road bike—but faster and more fun.

Straddle the Creo before riding and the bike feels familiar: low, aggressive, and light. The Creos weigh marginally more than their analog road or gravel counterparts. Specialized claims 26.8 pounds for the road bikes, and our size-small EVO gravel bike weighed 29.25 pounds on the Cycle Volta scale.

The bike feels light too. Riding without any assist is easy and similar to a regular bike, just a little heavier. This contrasts with much heavier electric road bikes that would be a bear to get home with a dead battery.

Display Creo EVO
The onboard display built into the toptube features the essential data only: assist level and remaining charge.Jeff Allen

The bike features three power-assist levels easily accessible by one of two buttons on the toptube directly behind the steerer tube. The other button is the main on/off power switch.

With no power, this is a competent, solid bike that just feels a little heavy. Go to the first assist level and the ride experience is that of one of your stronger days on an analog bike. The second level transforms the experience to the feeling of a steady and strong tailwind. Aside from the low hum of the motor, you just feel like yourself, only stronger and faster. The third level allows riding at the 28 mph Class 3 maximum easily with about 175 watts of the rider’s own power.

We spent very little time on the third level. It was the only level that felt unnatural. The other two just made us feel like a really strong non-motorized rider. But the third level did help for easy recovery rides, no-sweating spins, and emergency bailouts. It was like being able to go to a granny gear upon exhaustion, but still being able to stay above 20 mph in it.

Motor Creo EVO
The compact, lightweight motor is no torque monster, but it does its job of assisting the serious cyclist well.Jeff Allen

The way the Specialized motor delivers power is unique. Again, it is very natural in the way that it assists the rider. Even climbing, it didn’t feel like some sort of motorized monster where the legs are just along for the ride.

The moderate torque contributes to this. From a stop, accelerating the Creo felt similar to getting a road bike off the line up until about 10 mph. Cadence had to get over about 60 rpm before the motor benefits were felt.

Up climbs, the Creo felt more assisted with a high cadence, not the slow grinding of turning a big gear. In just the first or second assist level, grades of 12 percent or steeper were hard but enjoyable. They weren’t the miserable death march you might dread before rolling out on your analog bike.

Range was good with the standard battery. We did not add the external additional battery that goes in the seat tube bottle cage. The regular built-in battery saw the full charge used on a 44-mile ride with 2,500 feet of climbing and a good mix of the three levels of assist. Charge time is right around 2-1/2 hours.

The frame geometry makes for a solid and stable ride at speed. The headtube and seat tube angles are slightly more aggressive than a Specialized Diverge analog gravel bike, but not as steep as a Specialized Tarmac road race chassis. We could descend twisty, bumpy roads at 50 mph with confidence.

Off-Road Creo EVO
We rode the Creo EVO mostly on pavement, spending about 20 percent of our test time on off-road trails.Jeff Allen

The tires likely upped the fun factor on those descents. The 38-millimeter-wide Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss tires are great on the road. We ran them tubeless with 45 psi for our 80 percent pavement/20 percent dirt mix of riding. The center slick section rolls wonderfully on tarmac, and the small, closely spaced knobs on the outer edge of the tire have great hardpack grip but necessitate more cornering care when the dirt gets looser and dustier—much like we see here in Southern California after five months without rain.

The carbon Fact 11R chassis is comfortable on the road and downright plush on gravel. Also notable is the lack of noise. Many electric bikes have batteries that rattle around on or in their frames. The internal battery on the Creo EVO never made a sound when bouncing the bike around.

Part of the comfort of the bike off road is attributable to the Future Shock front suspension. You don’t realize how much it is working until you glance under the stem at the boot that encloses it and see it compressing and releasing rapidly and constantly. We ran the Future Shock adjuster in the middle position off road and added just a couple of clicks of damping when back on pavement. We thought it should just be locked out on the road to be responsive and fast, but taking it a couple of clicks off lock made the feeling through the bars so much more pleasant, even on smooth roads.

The Creo was a solid, predictable performer on singletrack trails. The road-oriented geometry wasn’t perfectly suited to tight twists and turns through trees, but it didn’t hold it back too much.

1-by Creo EVO
All Creo models—road and gravel—use a 1-by drivetrain.Jeff Allen

The 1-by Ultegra Di2 drivetrain executed perfectly smooth shifts. It was odd having a left lever with shift buttons on it when the rear-derailleur-only shifting was all executed on the right. With more time we’d reprogram the shift buttons with the Shimano E-Tube app to be SRAM style: inner left lever shifting to a lower gear and inner right lever grabbing a higher gear.

The electric assist saw us never using the smaller half of the block on the 11-42T cassette. In fact, if we were going to spend more time on pavement than on dirt, we’d swap the 46T chainring for a taller 48T.

Some other notable items are the bottle cage mounts on both the downtube and seat tube. So many downtube-battery ebikes end up going with just a single bottle mount on the seat tube.

The dropper post is nice for technical sections, but if you are not spending the majority of your time on demanding singletrack, a swap for a solid carbon post would save some weight and add simplicity.

Stand Creo EVO
Does 90 Benjamins sound cheaper than 9 grand? We don’t think so either. But it is what it is.Jeff Allen

How Much Does the Specialized Turbo Creo SL Expert EVO Cost?

This bike is not cheap at $9,000. But it delivers an amazing experience for bicycle enthusiasts. It can be ridden on the road fast and capably while still tearing up off-road trails. It could truly be someone’s only bike going off road or on with power assist, or with the power off as an analog bike.

What was so rewarding, though, were the amazing feelings that the Creo provided. We still put our full effort into rides—they weren’t necessarily easier or wimpier than rides on an analog bike. Rides on the Creo were just faster, longer, and a lot more fun.