First Ride: Specialized $14,000 S-Works Turbo Creo SL

Specialized first performance e-road bike that breaks all convention.

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Earlier this week Specialized launched its first-ever E-Road bike: Specialized Creo SL. Not a stranger to innovation Specialized opened an office in a former paper mill in Cham, Switzerland – the center of e-bike culture. The facility solely focused on Turbo development, advanced engineering, and connected technologies. Secretly working on ways to make an e-road bike that would not only ride like an agile, high-performance steed but also reward proper cadence and ability. The new Turbo Creo SL is a culmination of years work between the Swiss and California teams in efforts to create an e-bike that roadies and gravel lovers worldwide will appreciate.


Specialized Turbo Creo SL Highlights:

  • Best handling E-Road bike we’ve experienced 
  • Intuitive interface for power controls and modes
  • Easy to use App that helps conserve battery and dial in power modes
  • Lightweight at 24lbs-26lbs
  • Four ride modes: Off/ECO/Sport/Turbo
  • Top-notch shifting and component build-out for every model.
  • Power curve rewards high cadence riding with optimum power output.
  • Price range: $9,000-$14,000
  • Availability: Late August 2019
  • Tested here: S-Works Creo SL Size 54
  • Visit https://www.specialized.com/us/en/stories/turbo-creo for more info on the Creo line.


Game changer

The idea of an e-road bike that rides like a high-performance conventional bike is both a novel and controversial concept. It goes against all the ideas that a bicycle is, right? It’s all about you making the machine move, not the other way around. Bicycling has always been about the journey, and an e-bike can keep you rolling, help you explore uncharted roads and cover ground that was previously undiscovered to you. For riders that thought their time has come and gone due to age and injury – think again, the Creo is just what the doctor ordered. That’s what the new Specialized Creo accomplishes, the ability to take your ride to the next level, your next level on a steed that rides like nothing you’ve ever experienced, or perhaps that one period in your fitness decades ago.


It’s you, only faster.

Specialized achieves this new ride characteristic by tackling the e-road motor head-on. Specialized went as far as developing the whole motor in-house to have control of updates, hardware and idealistic ride characteristics they sought. The motor consists of 124 pieces and itself delivers 240 watts up to 28 miles per hour. Seamlessly changing from assist and user power – something in which the team at Specialized was adamant about. They wanted to keep the feeling of motor and human power seamless, effortless – and when it kicks off, there’s little to no drag at all. The feeling is so intuitive that you can switch from modes and feel like you’re pedaling a non-assist bike. This handling is in direct correlation of the weight and frame design for sure, but it’s so integrated that you don’t notice it without thinking about it outright. 


Were does all this extra power come from and how long will it last?

Good question; The Creo has an internal battery that delivers up to an 80-mile range and 320Wh (watt-hours). For those that would like to ride longer or expect a mostly turbo ride, it is possible to add a range extender that delivers up to 40 extra miles and 160Wh. 


The Range extender does more than 40 extra miles to the already ample 80 internal battery. For a while, it was nearly impossible to fly with an e-bike, the internal battery does not comply with regulations, and it seemed fits were not imminent.


Though, with the range extender – one with a Creo can take out the frame-mounted battery and only fly with the range extender and a second one in the luggage. This feature not only makes the Creo easy to fly with but with the mainframe battery out the weight of the overall bike drops to an incredible 24 pounds. Though you may need to figure out where to put your water, now that the extenders take up the bottle mounts. 


The Ride: 

Saddling up with the Specialized Creo SL I had some reservations. I thought the bike would lurch forward too quickly for the road and corner like a boat. I thought that I would somehow lose all my battery power and be forced to ride home dropped from the group. As I took the first pedal on the Creo, those notions are nonexistent with a transparent and welcoming ride. Pedaling on the Creo is just like any other bike – no loud sounds coming from the motor or chainset – just smooth sound of lubed chain and electronic shifting – modern road.


I started my ride in the Eco mode – seeing what is required to move the Creo and how the modes would affect my response time and feeling in the pack. I adjusted quickly, mostly due to the fact the motor engages so quietly and smoothly that the rider barely notices. Changing from the modes is simple with the touch of the Turbo button located on the top tube near the illuminated battery indicator.


The Turbo portal shows how much battery life is left in the main battery as well as the range extender if you’re using one. The higher your cadence, the more the motor responds positively, and the quicker you move up, not lurching but smoothly and steadily excelling. This natural cadence feature is unique to the Creo; I’ve ridden e-road bikes in the past that engage the motor fully at 40 rpm and you feel like you’re handling a dirt bike unable to control the monster. The Creo feels like you’ve put in a dig and now you’re coasting from the effort. The difference is that you don’t feel like you’ve burnt a match and you can get back on the gas at any moment. Stems directly from the distinctive power curve that is only in the Creo motor.


The motor itself rewards good pedaling practices, becoming more efficient with the higher the cadence – starting to ramp at 60 rpm and plateauing at 110 rpm mark. Making the power somewhat noticeable and the decoupling near non-existent.  


Descending and carving corners is what you’d expect from a performance road bike – not what I’ve come to expect from an e-road bike. The placement of the battery is vital in giving the Creo natural handing, and the ability to carve turns like a race bike. Specialized places the battery and motor in the bottom bracket and down tube – encasing the motor in magnesium to keep it lightweight but stable when under turning load.


Different seat tube mounted bikes I’ve ridden feel wobbly on high-speed descents, but the Creo can rail – the feeling amounts to descending with two full bottles. The ease in driving and steering is paramount with the added power and is key to the Creos success on the road. The spectacular handing is a defining feature that takes the Creo into another level of e-road previously untouched. 


The build and parts spec on the Creo SL is what you’d expect for a bike of this category and price. Specialized lets the carbon fly with bars, seatpost, wheels, and what have you. The CLX 50s are an excellent match with the added speed and stiffness when hitting high-speed descents on the Creo. The Future Shock is a bonus, not something that I would have expected on a road bike, but when you’re on the throttle, the travel is hardly noticeable. That itself makes me think it’s an excellent addition, especially when you can add up to a 42mm tire to the Creo and explore some gravel action. 


Is it cheating?

Well, it depends on who’s doing what. If you’re using the Creo to make your rides the best you can by exploring and rekindling a relationship with you and the open road, no then it’s not cheating. If you enter a race on one – yeah I’m sure you’re not going to get happy looks from the pack haha. If you upload a ride to Strava, the Creo uploads from the Turbo App as an E-Bike and the same goes if it’s connected to newer Garmin units, so I think you’ll get spotted and flagged quickly.

In the end, it might be cheating life and your busy schedule since you’ll be able to ride more and explore more of the hilly climbs and remote landscapes.


Is it easier?

Also very dependent on what your purpose is. It’s more comfortable to ride on a windy section of road, and you look down and see 28mph and an endurance heart rate zone – yeah that’s nice. When climbing and railing the road, it’s as hard as you make it. On our ride around Santa Cruz, we ascended some of the classic climbs of the area; Alba being one of them. I hit that climb with everything I had, and the Creo responded, but I was anaerobic – giving it my all and digging deep. The main surprise I could feel was I wasn’t going easier – I was going all in, I was going much faster yes, and spinning a 105 rpm cadence up a climb that on a conventional road bike might be 65rpms max. At one point I had to hit the brakes around a switchback while climbing when I thought, this is truly like a different sport. At the top of the climb, I waited with my ride partners, comparing numbers and experiences. I went all in and had a blast – not any easier but faster and with that, more fun. We all had used different modes at different times, all had gone hard, and all had smiles on our faces. The smiles and sweat was the sign for me – this is going to be big and going to bring riders together like never before. 


Rating: 5.0/5.0


Verdict: 

The Creo is a bike that broke the mold for me – this is a new style of e-bike that feels natural and responds to pedaling like a bike and not a moped. The price tag is the most substantial barrier to anyone looking to get the Creo SL – though the Cero Expert is $9,000 it’s still a steep price. I see the target market as an older audience that may have been dedicated cyclists before life and work fully took over their free time. Someone who may have some extra money and is ready to get back on the road and in the pack – ready to enjoy the scenery and open road again. The Creo is a performance bike, with a price to match – exceedingly fun on the road and in the mountains. Most definitely the benchmark for e-road from its release onward.

If there is a downside, it is the price of $9000-$14,000. The entry price of $9000 is just well beyond the reach of most folks who can benefit from this tool. But we’re happy that this exists since we’re assured that it will trickle down to lower price points in the future. And it will push the rest of the industry to compete.

For more information on all the Creo models power over to Specialized.com

About the author: Jordan Villella

Jordan comes from the steep streets of Pittsburgh PA, where he learned to dodge cars and rip single track. He has been involved in nearly every aspect of the cycling industry: from turning wrenches, store design, clothing production and bike park creation. Jordan spends his free time racing cross country and cyclocross around North America, though he has been know to enduro every now and then. His love of cycling is only second to his love of his family and punk rock.


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