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Specialized’s next-generation Turbo e-bikes are basically computers on wheels

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Over-the-air software updates, rear-facing radar, and robust anti-theft technology are just some of the new features

Specialized’s Turbo Vado Photo by Andrew J. Hawkins / The Verge

Specialized is launching next-generation versions of two of its most popular electric bikes, the Turbo Vado and Turbo Como, as well as a brand new model, the Turbo Tero. And while the bikes themselves look fantastic, the big story is the upgraded technology operating within. That’s because Specialized has improved these e-bikes to the point where they are basically computers on wheels.

Specialized is making its e-bikes much smarter with a host of new features on the software side. That includes over-the-air software updates, meaning customers can enjoy new features as Specialized develops them over time. The company’s Mission Control app is designed to digitize the experience, providing a place where customers can receive OTA software updates rather than having to bring their bike into the shop for minor updates.

“As we learn and continue to develop from a software standpoint, the bike gets better over time,” Ian Kenny, Specialized’s e-bike brand leader, told The Verge. “That’s a pretty transformational shift in the bike industry, that matches a lot of what customers expect on the electric vehicle side and the advanced technology that they’re used to having in their house.”

Specialized’s Turbo Como.
Photo by Andrew J. Hawkins / The Verge

After connecting their bike to their phone through Bluetooth, customers can diagnose minor bugs or other software problems or tune the bike’s power settings to either increase or decrease the amount of assistance. If you want more of a workout while riding, you can decrease the amount of support or vice versa if you feel like arriving at your destination nice and dry.

Specialized’s Turbo e-bikes all come with anti-theft technology, in which customers can use the app to disable the bike’s motor and activate a motion alarm system. Once locked, the motor cannot be activated by anyone else but the owner.

Perhaps one of the coolest new features is the inclusion of a rear-facing Garmin radar to detect vehicles as they approach from behind as you ride. Garmin says its radar can detect objects from up to 140 meters away, which should provide a comfortable buffer for anyone experiencing (justifiable) anxiety about riding alongside car traffic. Cars appear as white dots moving vertically along the left-hand side of the display and the rider dot changes color based on proximity and speed, so all it takes is a quick glance to determine who’s coming up from behind. Riders can also opt for a haptic alert for approaching vehicles if they want to be extra cautious.

The bikes are available as both Class 1 pedal assist with a top speed of 20 mph and Class 3 speed pedelecs with a top speed of 28 mph. (The new Vados are Class ,3 as well as Como 5.0 and 4.0, assisting up to a top speed up to 28 mph. All of the Tero bikes as well as Como 3.0 are Class 1, assisting up to 20 mph.) The Specialized 2.2 motor is rated at 250W of nominal power, can put out 90Nm of torque, and is custom-made by the company in collaboration with Brose, a German company that makes e-bike motors. And the 710Wh battery is fully integrated, lockable, and on some versions of the Turbo bikes even removable. So, depending on your preference, you can charge on the bike or remove and charge away from the bike.

Each bike is designed for a different riding experience. The Vado is the “vehicle for everything,” including commuting, working out, running errands, or just a pleasurable ride. The Como is a more laid-back, upright style of riding, with its swept-back handlebars and low-step frame. And the Tero, as an amalgamation of a mountain bike and utility bike, is built for “all-terrain exploration.”

Much like the recently released Turbo Como SL (which stands for Super Light), the next-gen Turbo bikes come with Gates carbon belt drives, which are quite popular with e-bike makers these days because they are cleaner and easier to maintain than traditional metal chain transmissions. The 11-gear shifter is powered by an Enviolo automatic shifter, which is fully enclosed, electronically powered, and never needs maintenance. The advantage of the automatic shifter is that the bike is supposed to always feel like it’s in the perfect gear.

The one downside is the price. Specialized makes fantastic e-bikes with top-of-the-line components — and as such, they can be really pricey. That’s certainly the case with the new Turbo bikes, which range from $3,250 up to $5,500. Let’s hope Congress includes that 15 percent tax credit for new e-bike purchases in the budget reconciliation bill because every little bit helps.