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Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL review

27 Apr 2020
Verdict:

The S-Works Creo is a big leap into the unknown sector of e-road cycling for Specialized, and we’d say it has nailed it

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£10,999
For 
Fantastic motor integration • Great versatility • Assured handling • Incredible range
Against 
Expensive among e-road bikes

‘Come on, I’m going to show you the bike that’s going to save the world,’ said Specialized’s creative director, Robert Egger, when I visited Specialized HQ in the US a few years ago. What he showed me looked like a Specialized Venge but with a vast bottom bracket that housed a motor.

‘This isn’t for someone who is riding already or is already interested in riding,’ he said. ‘This is for someone who maybe enjoys watching F1, loves to watch supercross, likes fast things.’

It made sense – a bike that screamed high performance without demanding the rider be super-fit. But now that Specialized has launched its S-Works Turbo Creo SL e-road bike, the message has taken a U-turn: now it says the bike is intended for those who cycle already. The Turbo Creo is a way of riding further, higher and faster, or for taking on completely new forms of riding.

How does that theory come together in practice, though? Is this Frankenstein’s monster or a perfect fusion of technology and bike-building tradition?

Cheaters gonna cheat

Firstly, let’s dispel a few myths. This is not a motorbike; it doesn’t have a throttle; you have to pedal and the motor assists you. The bike does not offer any power assistance over 25kmh – you’ll be powered by your legs only. So dismiss any images of cruising around with your feet up on the handlebars.

Unsurprisingly, I was called a cheat twice while riding the Turbo Creo. It’s an obvious comment, but is it a fair one? Does an e-bike turn a donkey into a racehorse?

To test how much faster it really made me, I rode my local 10km loop with the Creo on its max power setting. On that loop I had a normalised power of just over 210 watts (motor power excluded). I didn’t win a single KOM, nor did I get a single PB on any segment. Certainly climbing was a little easier than normal, but I wasn’t suddenly Chris Froome.

While the UK’s maximum e-bike power is 250 watts, the Creo offers 240 watts of assistance with 35Nm of torque – slightly less than popular systems such as Fazua and ebikemotion. Specialized’s system is its own design, and like Fazua’s is based in the down tube and bottom bracket (ebikemotion’s is based in the rear hub).

The trade-off is increased range. While the main battery has a capacity of 320Wh, it boasts 130km of range, which stretches to nearly 200km with the bottle cage-shaped range-extender battery. Yet with my everyday riding not including vast Alpine climbs, it actually extended far further than this.

The motor has three settings: Eco, Sport and Turbo. These can be controlled via a panel on the top tube or Specialized’s Mission Control App, which is really well integrated. So now the motor’s powered up, let’s get started.

Buy the Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo from Rutland Cycling for £10,998.99

Power and glory

The Turbo Creo is essentially a very built-up Diverge with a motor. It includes a FutureShock 2.0 suspension unit above the head tube, which is the same as on the latest Specialized Roubaix.

It comes specced with Roval’s carbon CLX 50 wheelset, albeit with a higher spoke count and DT Swiss 350 hubs rather than 240s. The entire Creo range is equipped with 1x groupsets, I suspect because of the space constraints of the huge bottom bracket, and the S-Works tier uses an XTR rear derailleur with a 11-42t cassette.

That’s ideal for multi-terrain all-road riding, and with the extra power it’s more than enough range for any riding you could imagine. But what’s the bike like to ride?

The first thing to note is that the frame is incredibly rigid with well-honed geometry – in terms of character it’s reminiscent of the versatile and well-grounded Diverge.

The extra material around the BB to house the motor makes the rear feel far stiffer than an S-Works Venge or Tarmac. That means it picks up speed like a top-end aero bike, even before we get to turning the motor on.

At a little over 12kg, the Creo is very light for a deep section disc bike with a motor. More importantly, it feels it. A rear-hub motor system creates an imbalance that can make a bike feel heavy. The central-drive system in the S-Works avoids that, while also contributing to a predictable and sharp descending experience.

That plays a major part in making the Turbo Creo feel like a road bike, and when the motor comes on that sense is not only preserved, but accentuated.

In fact, the main thing that struck me is just how much fun it is to ride. The real difference between this and most e-bikes I’ve ridden is just that: the Creo really captures the excitement of riding a high-performance road bike, while making me feel like I was always on a ‘good legs’ day.

That’s down to how well the motor system samples the torque from pedalling input, which then delivers a boost that feels like a natural accentuation of pedalling power.

When reaching the 25kmh limit the motor tapers down effectively enough that the transition feels seamless. On some e-bikes topping 25kmh can feel like you’re braking. On the Creo it’s genuinely hard to tell when the motor has stopped.

In my experience the e-assistance acts more like an encouraging push, helping me onto the next climb or extending my ride by 20km, rather than as a means of cutting down my effort. In fact, I’d argue the Creo has every chance of increasing the training benefits of cycling because it allows riders to push their range and limits slightly further.

Buy the Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo from Rutland Cycling for £10,998.99

Helping hand

So would I buy one if I had the money? Probably not, but only because I don’t yet feel that I need help from a motor. That doesn’t mean it’s a bike I’d never need, nor would I judge anyone for using one.

By climbing, descending, handling and looking like a WorldTour bike, the Creo has a commendable ability to retain people who may otherwise drift away from cycling, and it could draw new people in.

For that reason, I suspect bikes like the Creo will become an increasingly normal part of our sport. You may wince at the thought of motor-assisted cycling, but if it means more people on bikes, enjoying unique moments on hilltop summits, it can only be a good thing.

Spec

Frame Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Chainset Praxis Carbon M30
Cassette Shimano XTR Di2 rear derailleur
Bars Specialized S-Works Carbon Hover Drop 
Stem Specialized S-Works Future
Seatpost Specialized S-Works FACT carbon 27.2mm
Saddle Specialized S-Works Body Geometry Power
Wheels Roval CLX 50 DiscSpecialized S-Works Turbo 28mm tyres 
Weight 12.2kg (size L)
Contact specialized.com

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