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Specialized Turbo e-bike

Commuter, Concept, Electric bike 27 3391

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I was pretty excited over the sporty Trek Phase e-bike concept that was displayed at Trek World 2009. Like the carbon fiber version of the Sanyo eneloop for the Japanese market, the Trek Phase concept bike challenged the common belief (in the US at least) that e-bikes have to look clunky, utilitarian, and uncool. I closed my post a couple years ago about the eneloop with a simple question:

“Who is going to be first to market a performance oriented carbon fiber e-bike in the US… Sanyo, Trek, or someone else?”

OK, the bike shown above is alloy, not carbon, but the answer is definitely someone else…Specialized to be specific. They have toyed with interesting e-bike concepts in the past, but the new Turbo, just launched in Spain, is definitely an e-bike that is aimed at changing the category’s image problem. This is not an e-bike designed for aging riders who don’t want to pedal hard, but for young urban professionals who want to ride a bike that is fast, high-tech, and good looking (just watch the promo video if you don’t believe me).

Bike Hugger, Cyclelicious, and others were quick to mention the Turbo. All of the posts that I have seen this afternoon point back to the same source; Geir Anders’ Norway based Bysykling blog. Anders was at the launch in Valencia, Spain, and posted several good pictures of the bike. At the end of his post, he also lists complete specifications, for what sounds like, a pretty impressive bike. I suspect that we will be seeing a LOT more about this bike over the next couple days. I also expect to hear strong reactions in favor of, and against, the very idea of a hip, sporty, well designed e-bike. Regardless of what the e-bike critics say though, I can say without reservation that this is one new bike that I am very glad to see. I firmly believe that bikes like this have the potential to get people riding who have not considered doing so in the past…and that is what excites about design in the bike industry.

Update: I may have jumped the gun in my excitement about seeing a bike like this on the U.S. market anytime soon. Bike Radar reports: “In a letter to press and dealers, product manager Marc Faude admitted: Due to regulatory requirements, there are many markets, including the USA, where the Turbo (with a top assisted speed of 28mph) is simply too fast to be legal.” Perhaps an alternate legal 20 mph max version will be available here though. We will have to wait and see.

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  1. Richard Masoner March 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm -  Reply

    > “Who is going to be first to market a performance oriented carbon fiber e-bike in the US… Sanyo, Trek, or someone else?

    Since this bike is for the Euro market, it’s not Specialized, though maybe that day will come.

    For the performance carbon fiber ebike, that would be the supremely ugly OptiBike, no? Pi Mobility and the now bankrupt A2B probably fit in the “performance” category with marketing to young urban professionals.

    • James Thomas March 28, 2012 at 3:50 pm -  Reply

      Fair point, Richard. This is a bike for the Euro market, not the U.S (perhaps I jumped the gun in my excitement). Hopefully we will hear more about possible U.S. availability soon.

      The OptiBike definitely reinforced the image of an e-bike as a geeky, fringe machine. Personally, I feel the same way about the Pi bike too (though I know some might disagree). To me, this one stands apart and will have much more universal appeal among young urban professionals.

    • Nate Smith III April 4, 2012 at 1:18 pm -  Reply

      Richard, all due respect but A2B is still alive and well, under new management, and continues to be a strong force in the performance E-Bike market with broad distribution.

  2. Impossibly Stupid March 28, 2012 at 7:45 pm -  Reply

    “I firmly believe that bikes like this have the potential to get people riding who have not considered doing so in the past”

    Nope. If Trek can’t lead with the price, it is just another high-end bike that sticker shock will keep anyone from bothering with.

    • Patrick March 29, 2012 at 2:34 am -  Reply

      I agree, in European cities where bike theft is rampant, an urban professional is better served with a $50 bike from a bike-swap or a bike hire membership. A $7000 bike just isn’t something you can leave unattended on the sidewalk while you’re standing in line for a venti mocha. Whether motor-assisted or not, a commuter purchasing a bike with such a hefty price tag will also have to worry about secure parking facilities wherever he or she goes. Given the poor reliability track record of current e-bikes, he/she might also strongly consider signing up for road-side assistance.

      • Nick F March 30, 2012 at 10:36 am -  Reply

        I’m not much of a supporter of $7k bike purchases, but THEFT shouldn’t be the reason not to buy it. Get a proper lock and stop worrying so much.

        There are plenty of locks in the US and Europe that simply can’t be cut, picked, or pried in any reasonable scenario.(Short of noisy, disruptive angle grinder, of course, but no exposed lock will ever beat that)

        If you spend 10-20% of the cost of your bike on securing it, it’s pretty trivial to make your bike fully theft proof.

        (Coming from an NYC cyclist.)

  3. L. M. Lloyd March 29, 2012 at 3:32 am -  Reply

    I really like the idea of a lot of these ebikes, but time and time again, I find I just choke at the pricetag. I spend a lot more on bikes than your average consumer, and even I pull up short at the average ebike price. Usually, they are up there with Scooter, or even low-end motorcycle prices.

    I really don’t see these ever making it out of the “toys for Trustifarians” category, at these prices. I’ve seen enough people nearly have a heart attack when they ask me how much my folding bike cost me. I can’t even begin to imagine the average person’s reaction to a $5,000-$8,000 ebike.

  4. James Thomas March 29, 2012 at 8:28 am -  Reply

    True, the price of this bike is quite high. It is definitely geared toward the high-end e-bike customer (including trustafarians and well-to-do hipsters as L.M. Lloyd points out). On the opposite end of the price spectrum is the $400 eZip electric assist bike at Walmart (edited: I should have mentioned the even cheaper $300 e-bike from Walmart as the low end). That is the type of e-bike that will appeal to potential customers who could care less about design or performance, and are deciding on price alone. I believe there is room in the middle for a well-designed, moderately priced e-bike that will appeal to a broader segment of the market though. Hopefully this first sporty electric from Specialized will trickle down into those mid range price points and will spur innovation in the category from other manufacturers. We’ll see in the next couple years.

    • L. M. Lloyd March 30, 2012 at 9:11 pm -  Reply

      I really don’t understand the price points. It seems, at least in America, that no one is even remotely interested in putting out a decent $2,000-$2,500 ebike. There are the low-end models you mention, and then there are the ridiculously high-end models previously discussed, with hardly anything in between.

      It is odd, because unless I have seriously misjudged the bike market, it would seem that the middle of the range would be exactly where you would want to aim. Instead, it will cost you almost that much, just to get a motor and battery kit to mod an existing bike.

      • Impossibly Stupid March 31, 2012 at 12:04 pm -  Reply

        If you think ~$2K is mid-range then, yes, you have completely misjudged what most people want. For that kind of money, they can buy a good scooter or a nice used motorcycle if they want to get around on two wheels. The simple fact is that bikes are way too efficient as machines to electrify them with current battery/motor technology.

        • L. M. Lloyd March 31, 2012 at 4:16 pm -  Reply

          No, I didn’t mean that is mid-range from a consumer perspective. Most people seem to choke on anything over $1,000 for a bike. I meant mid-range, as in the median between $300 and $7,000.

  5. Impossibly Stupid March 29, 2012 at 9:01 am -  Reply

    “That is the type of e-bike that will appeal to potential customers who could care less about design or performance, and are deciding on price alone.”

    I don’t believe such people exist. It makes no sense to get an electric bike and *not* care about it weighing 82 pounds or having a battery that doesn’t hold a charge. I’d agree that there is a market for a good e-bike, but battery costs alone seem to make that impossible to produce right now.

    • James Thomas March 29, 2012 at 9:18 am -  Reply

      I don’t know, but I would be very curious to see the sales data on those heavy low-end e-bikes at Walmart. Regardless of how many are sold though, I doubt that many of them are being ridden on a regular basis. I would guess that price concious customers realize the shortcomings of those bikes pretty quickly. That said, I would like to try one for myself just to see how a 300 dollar e-bike rides.

  6. Adam March 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm -  Reply

    If any city is going to get past single digit percentages of people riding bikes, then I suspect that electric bikes will become more popular. If you work at an office that does not have a shower (which is every place I have ever worked at) then it is a really hand thing to be able to get to work and not be sweating. I think the main question will be whether or not electric bikes will go the way of the recumbent, a ride accepted only by the style insensitive.

    As for $300 dollar wallmart e-bikes, they actually ride sort of ok for the first bit then they start fall apart. You know, it is a wallmart bike. And of course, it can be rather hard to find parts for eZips and the like.

  7. canis familiaris March 30, 2012 at 4:32 am -  Reply

    Ever heard about the BH emotion sport bikes ? Aren’t they available in the US ?

    • James Thomas March 30, 2012 at 8:58 am -  Reply

      I have heard of them, and I do like the Neo models, with a battery nicely integrated into the down tube like the Turbo. I didn’t think those bikes were available in the US, but it looks like there is a distributor in Boulder now though.

  8. Shawn McAfee April 1, 2012 at 9:40 am -  Reply

    This is a really powerful e-bike. My biggest concern with the e-bike market is when they become popular with mountain bikers such as myself. Where do you set that line for what is acceptable on a trail or in a race.

    I think that the new e-bikes are absolutely remarkable though for what they have been able to do with styling and power. Perfect rides for any commuters

    • art April 2, 2012 at 8:34 am -  Reply

      I think the line for a public trail or a race is pretty firmly established at zero. A motorized vehicle is a motorized vehicle regardless of how powerful the motor is.

  9. shelby May 1, 2012 at 4:55 pm -  Reply

    $7k and they could afford a suspension or bigger tires? It’s a sleek bike, but you’d have to be retarded to ride on city streets at 40mph. I use the biggest 2.5″ tires I can find on my ebikes. More control, stopping power, and cushion on bad roads. And it’s still not enough. Many high powered ebikes are eating the huge weight penalty and going to moped tires.

    Anyway, it’s a sleek bike. The kit looks to be an entry level crystalyte g series motor. Not too nice, but it’d be more reliable than a smaller, lighter geared motor and does regen which saves tons of brake pads. Like 10,000 miles and still on the same set of pads 🙂

    Battery is a bit anemic…. but it always is. Why? Why? Why? My 70lb, 50mph ebike has a 1kw battery. Could they not tack on 5lb more of battery to double the range of this bike?

    For those harping on the price… you can always build your own for 1/7th the price. The great thing about ebikes is you don’t need top of the line components to make a great ebike. Everything but the brakes can be shitty and heavy, and it won’t matter. Since you have a motor.

    But yeah the price is crazy… especially when a stealth fighter cost $10k and a Zero cost $12k

  10. cabis familiaris June 6, 2012 at 5:03 pm -  Reply

    Hey guys, watch out the gorgeous 2011 Cube EPO!
    It’s quite similar to the Specialized Turbo e-bike, don’t U think?

  11. Kimmo July 12, 2012 at 1:24 pm -  Reply


    • Kimmo July 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm -  Reply

      Ima build one. I’ve been thinking about it for years… seems like the ebike’s time has nearly come.

  12. karL August 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm -  Reply

    It’s actually hundreds of dollars below the incentive in america for electric vehicles and that’s beforeo the additional beefy incentive state regulators are imposing on ‘electric companies’ to finance efficiency.

    Batteries are expensive to manufacture the facilities to manufacture andexpensive with obsolete chemistries but not too expensive for bikes. Only to expensive it seems to own theip for to not sell out for the capital to ramp up as A’s selling out to a chinese auto supplier ina confidential MOU that probabl ymakes itharder not easier to buy there latest cells if your just a bike factory owner regardless of how large a majority of the planet currently* comes to you not evil car industry for mobility.

    Lets’ be clear though- present pedal technology especially in upright bikes is terribly energy inefficient as shifty ones wait strainsii frames cusing htem to generate heat and sap energy and also vary the downward acceleratoin so the tires etc. can’ be as high in pressure as otherwise.

    Elliptically interfaced to our bodies or recumbent frames dont’ need the grid at all- exceptfor the thousands of dollars of rebates using one instead of a Volt or other globaldestroying monstrousity consumes.

    Again it’s $7500 per commuter that we are offering to anhyone using electricity and courts will back me up on this- of course you have ot have a job to owe ov er $7500 butif you do pay taxes it’s demented to complain about the euro’s and fraudulent to not disclose the present exchange rate is MISSLEADING!!!!

    Of course teh free golf carts sold out.

    What makes walmart able to sell bikes is nobody uses them.

    Selling a bike htat actually gets miles put on it is a different industry altogether- like landlines for instance.

    Also thinking the vehicle is where cost reduction shoudl be realised is utterly ignorant.

    Putting people on bikes takes congested snail pace roads currently scheduled fordemoltion along with the billions of dollars of housing etc. alongtehm for widening and overnight makes them fun, fast, clean, safe, .. buts somehow resistable by Mr. Ford’s scheming to modernise even more expensive parking garages?

    He’s a deadender but one who’ps never failed. russian roulette is liek that though.

    • Kimmo September 17, 2012 at 4:16 am -  Reply

      No idea how long you spent composing that, but it was all pretty much wasted since you didn’t bother to put two minutes in to proofread it.

      You seem to raise some interesting points, but due to the frankly somewhat amazing degree of incoherence, replying to any of them seems out of the question, at least without asking for clarification. And it’s interesting only to those who’d bother to read past the first line, like I very nearly didn’t.

  13. Steve September 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm -  Reply

    The battery arrangement looks like a Protanium configuration.

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