Specialized Turbo Vado 3.0 Ebike Review

A smooth operator, but its acceleration won’t blow your hair back.

The Turbo Vado 3.0
The Turbo Vado 3.0 offers pedal assist up to 28 mph.Jeff Allen

The Turbo Vado 3.0 hybrid-style ebike comes fitted with commuter accoutrements like fenders and a rear rack, but with Class 3 pedal assist up to 28 mph, speed is the name of the game here.

The Vado 3.0
The Vado 3.0’s motor and battery are seamlessly integrated.Jeff Allen

What Is a Specialized Turbo Vado 3.0?

The Vado 3.0 employs a center-drive system, unlike the early Turbo high-speed commuters with rear hub motors. The Specialized 1.2E custom Rx street-tuned motor rated at 250W and a healthy 90Nm of torque may look familiar, as the Brose TF. Power comes from a 36V/460Wh integrated downtube battery. It locks to the frame via an ABUS lock, a system that makes lost key replacement as easy as it gets and allows other ABUS bicycle locks to be keyed to the same one that came with your bike.

Both the motor and the battery are shining examples of seamless integration, and the charging port cover is the easiest to open and close that we have encountered. It’s all topped off with dual water bottle braze-ons.

At the bottom of the downtube and bottom bracket area is a vented cover, cleverly sculpted to not only take air in, but vent it out as well. Our system never overheated (something we have experienced with other Brose-equipped ebikes).

The Vado 3.0
The Vado 3.0 comes ready for commuting with fenders and a rear rack.Jeff Allen

We liked the Dry-Tech fenders for their full coverage front and rear. The front is particularly nice: The bottom 8 to 9 inches is made from a more flexible rubber, preventing damage if struck on a curb but still keeping feet and motor vents protected from front-tire spray. The trademark splitter under the nose works as advertised, though past experience has shown that water jettisoned out of the front typically flies back inches above the fender at best, far from hitting the rider in the face.

Reflective strips on highly visible areas of the fenders are a nice touch should you replace the stock tires with something lacking a reflective sidewall. The rear carrier uses the fender as part of its mounting, making for a clean aesthetic. The deck is a little narrow for most trunk-style bags, but panniers fit very well.

Shimano Alivio
The Shimano Alivio nine-speed shifter and Tektro hydraulic brakes are unremarkable but reliable.Jeff Allen

The Shimano nine-speed Alivio shifter and derailleur and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes with 180-millimeter front and 160-millimeter rear rotors won’t wow you, but like a Honda Civic, they’ll never let you down either.

Like many elements on the Vado, the Specialized Flowset stem—which does not use a traditional top cap—reveals careful attention to aesthetics but makes changing stems challenging. At the very least, you’ll wait about a week for a longer or shorter Flowset to arrive. Swapping to something like an adjustable stem from another brand will require a new top cover and spacers—the Vado uses alignment pins that get in the way of anything else. If the male pins had only pointed down instead of up, you could retain the cool spacers and top cover.

Speaking of small details, you can tell this ebike is from a proper bike company by the fact that out of the box the right brake lever is gapped in relation to the grip, matching the spacing of the remote buttons on the left side so the brake levers are equidistant from the stem. Some companies skip this step and mount everything with no gaps, so spacing isn’t equal left to right.

At 54.4 pounds, the Vado is also one of the lighter fully equipped commuters.

Shimano Alivio
Pedal assist on the Vado 3.0 is admirably smooth and quiet.Jeff Allen

How Does the Specialized Turbo Vado 3.0 Ride?

If you’re looking for big kick-in-the-pants assist, this isn’t your horse. The Vado has a more subtle power delivery and you really have to want that last 3 mph to hit 28. We also managed to overwhelm the motor with a standing start in the tallest gear despite its 90Nm of torque. On the flip side, the system is so smooth and quiet that it’s easy to forget it’s there, endowing the Vado with a very natural pedaling feel. The extra speed does come at a cost: Dialing up to maximum assist netted a scant 22 miles. (With the motor set to EU limits, the same bike reached 33 miles on max assist.)

The Specialized Mission Control app manages power very well, ensuring you won’t run out of juice before you reach your destination. It also tracks ride history and provides some assist tuning and diagnostic information, though we did find the three assist levels to be well-defined and plenty. We typically ran the Vado without Mission Control.

Vado 3.0
The Vado 3.0’s display packs a wealth of information into a relatively small space, but is still easy to read.Jeff Allen

The remote buttons are ideally placed and intuitive, while the display is easy to read, with a great deal of information for its screen size. A small annoyance was the omission of a light indicator. While it’s obvious at night, daytime rides required a quick check in front of the light to confirm illumination.

The 47-millimeter-wide Trigger Sport Reflect tires had a nice ride quality while remaining nimble, and integrated reflective sidewall stripes are always welcome on a commuter. While the saddle leans toward the narrow and sporty side, it proved incredibly comfortable. The grips, on the other hand, were not as much of a win, with an overly soft trailing edge offering little to no palm support, causing the wrist to bend down (even after changing orientation from 9 to 10 o’clock) and leaving the much harder cylinder portion of the grip to provide most of the support.

SR Suntour MOBIE30 suspension fork
We would have liked more travel than the 50 millimeters provided by the SR Suntour MOBIE30 suspension fork.Jeff Allen

The SR Suntour Mobie30 fork does its job well and offers clean fender mounting, but 50 millimeters of travel isn’t always enough. A 63- or even 75-millimeter model from SR Suntour would yield dividends.

Vado 3.0
The Vado 3.0 retails for $2,700.Jeff Allen

How Much Does the Specialized Turbo Vado 3.0 Cost?

The Vado probably isn’t for you if you’re looking for a muscle car of an ebike. The power kicks in too smoothly to induce a tighter grip on the handlebar, and there is no throttle option. Its higher 28 mph pedal-assist limit reduces range. What it does offer is buttery smooth assist so quiet it couldn’t mask a mouse fart. And the $2,700 MSRP makes it attainable for someone looking to add an ebike to their quiver for commuting, or for just getting from point A to point B.