Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Specialized Turbo

Wired reports: [edited]

The Specialized Turbo is their first electrically assisted bike. It’s been on sale in Europe for a year.

“Turbo” is an appropriate name for this rig. With a 342 watt-hour lithium-ion battery pack sending juice to a 250-watt hub-mounted motor, this e-bike will hit its top speed without breaking a sweat. It’s also the first electric bike that doesn’t look like a grade-school science experiment or a rejected Blade Runner prop.

This is among the few electric bikes that actually looks like a bike. It’s an odd blend of mountain bike ruggedness and city bike ergonomics. It’s sized like a 29er, but the lack of any suspension combined with the stiff tires that look like over-inflated tubes make it strictly something for the street. And be prepared to use your legs as buffers when going over ruts and uneven asphalt.

This thing is huge. The downtube, which holds the battery, is about the size of a softball bat, and every other tube had to be similarly oversized to maintain some semblance of visual balance. And although the frame is made of aluminum, the Turbo tips the scales at more than 50 pounds. You’ll feel every ounce of it as you huff and puff along without the electric assist and, worse, as you schlep it up and down the stairs to the train. Shouldering this thing is quite a workout, and will leave you with more than a few bruises and aching muscles if you aren’t careful.

Flip the motor to its highest of four settings — called, appropriately, “turbo” — using the red button near your right thumb and this thing flies. It’s like a tailwind on demand, providing superhuman boost that has you over the 20 mph mark in seconds.

The instantaneous speed is a blessing and a curse. While it’s crazy fun while riding, you must keep that hair-trigger acceleration in mind when stopped. Apply the slightest bit of weight to the pedal and the Turbo rockets forward beneath you. It’s best to hold the front brake when stopped.

If unfettered speed isn’t your thing, Eco mode drops the assist down to 30 percent of capacity to maximize range. “Off” is self-explanatory, and useful only if you really want to build up your quads. “Regen” applies a little drag to the rear motor while coasting to send power back to the pack. The pack is good for 45 minutes to an hour of moderate to high-speed riding.

Price: $5,900

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