Specialized Turbo S Long Term Review

Welcome to the long awaited review of the Specialized Turbo S.  The “pedalelec” is an electric pedal assist bicycle for those of you not yet hip on such terminology.  From a newly updated control interface (what you use to configure the Turbo) to a more powerful battery, this bicycle can go about 40 miles at 30 miles an hour.  For locals that know the DC area, that would be like coming into the city from here:

40 miles on 66However, it certainly never takes the quoted 41 minutes by car unless it’s 11:28 pm on a Thursday night (according to googlemaps).  The great news is that you’ll never have to spend all that time sitting in traffic if you’re flying down the taxpayer supported trails of the greater Washington DC metro area or wherever you might live.  It’s a bike that leaves everyone smiling the first time they use one and was designed for commuting and recreation by some of Europe’s best bicycle experts with Specialized.  Every single person I have ever seen test ride or own one is smiling ear to ear afterward.

Group ride bikes lined up in three sizes, S, M, L
Group ride bikes lined up in three sizes, S, M, L

This review intends to convey the nature of the bicycle and how it operates as well as issues encountered from a maintenance standpoint over a long period of usage.  I would be the first to admit that, amongst a few expected difficulties, it is a machine worth the investment and is a forefront in the future of this class of bicycles.

Building a Turbo out of the box is not altogether difficult and can be done by most shops with some attention to detail and a thorough reading of the manual.  You might recall from my original article that I attended a seminar on how to operate and work on the Specialized Turbo in Miami back in 2013 and it definitely helped to have time properly set aside to fully understand how it works and how to replace components and fix others in the past few months of research.  With a final recent repair of the regeneration mode activated hydraulic disc brakes by Magura, I felt there was sufficient photos and information to write a good “one-stop” informal manual in case you run into a similar situation.  As started, the build includes normal things like truing the wheels which are installed on the bike with thru-axles and have torque specs located right at each point on the frame and fork.  These specs are important as this bicycle will undergo higher stresses than a majority of other bicycles at higher speed.

So, all of this being said, i think that it’s clear how cool and fun these bikes are to work with and enjoy.  There are certain maintenance issues that seemed to take a fair amount of time to work out, but most of the solutions made great sense after diagnosing and repairing.  I would like to begin by saying this quick procedure, found in the manual, solves many small issues:

1.  Power off the Turbo by lightly clicking the green lit button on the battery.

2.  Turn the key included with the bike down near the bottom bracket and hold.

3.  Lift the battery out from the downtube.

4.  Wait about thirty seconds.

5.  Place the battery (bottom first) and reinstall.

6.  Turn on the Turbo.

Essentially, taking the battery (powered down) out of the Turbo resets the entire system much like unplugging your Internet router at home or work and powering it back on after a few moments.  Every time it starts up, the Turbo passes through a set of diagnostic checks that relay to four small LEDs located right below the power button on the battery.  Each LED should blink once and then remain on until all four have lit up.  Then, all four LEDs should blink together once and then resolves into a battery level meter (each LED represents 25% battery).  If the LEDs have lit up as mentioned, the system has just checked the battery status, the motor status, the control interface status, and the lighting system status.  On the current Turbo S (versus the original model), there is a front light as well as a new integrated rear set of LEDs on the back of the saddle (nice addition).

Turbo Battery

However, at times throughout the research, I would notice one or two LEDs blink twice when the Turbo was turned on and so I checked the manual and diagnostic chart from the Specialized Service website.  Any of the four LEDs blinking twice indicates that there is some sort of fault or error with the corresponding module (battery, motor, CPU, or lights).  The lights and control interface (we’ll call it the CPU) are wired in parallel and it should be mentioned that a fault (LED blinks twice) from either might mean checking both for error.  This has happened on several occasions and could always be resolved, but a check of both modules was usually necessary.  The number one thing I found helpful to do in the case of an error was to immediately check all of the wire connections on the bike to make sure they were properly tight and paired.  In some cases, I found it helpful to use a very small amount of dielectric grease to ensure that the connection was consistent.

From all of the repairs, I have installed or replaced the following: the battery (both the same unit and upgrading the original Turbo with a new unit), bottom bracket (BB386EVO), rear derailleur (SRAM X0), hydraulic brakes (Magura), and the CPU (both updating firmware and software and installing a new unit).  One thing I have never had to replace (on a Turbo) is a spoke.  The wheels were designed and built extremely well and the Specialized Electrak tires are perfect for the bike.  Many other electric bikes I have serviced have experienced spoke breakage and warping of the rim.  As a part of the bike that most people cannot repair on the road without training and tools, it’s a great confidence to know they hold up so well, even with daily commuting, running errands, and several crashes.

I am going to add links below for each section of the review (two additional parts) for ease of navigation.  Once the link is active, the post for the corresponding link will be up.  This way, it’s easier to jump to a section if you are servicing a Turbo and can read the most relevant information.

Parts Installation (Active)

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting (Active)


3 thoughts on “Specialized Turbo S Long Term Review

  1. Prouwd owner of Turbo S 2014 model. I have found that regenerative braking is not working on my bike. Also adjusting the pedal assist percentage in eco mode does not work any more. When you shift to eco mode the percentage is showed shortly and disappiers after 3 seconds. In this brief moment you should be able to push and hold the joystick to the right and the text should start blinking, with the up and down controls you set the desired percentage of assist from 10% to 70%. On my bike this don’t work, the text is displayed and when i hold the stick to the right nothing happens. I think i have a faulty display unit and brake switch wich is part of the display. The bike did only 2000km and facing these problems allready is not expected from such a high quality product. It will be send to Specialized and diagnosed. Oh it’s a 2015 serial number by the way.

  2. I have a 2016 turbo-s. This bike does not have the upgraded battery that came out in 2016 and is the least expensive model. It is an absolute joy to ride and I get about 22 miles on a single charge. I weigh about 145 lbs and typically carry about another 10 lbs of computers and general items. It climbs well and accelerates well but can only make the full distance if i switch to eco mode while ridding on the flats and after acceleration. I do this for about 6 miles and then there’s no issues climbing the last 200 foot steep hill at the end of the ride. I have a hill on both ends of my ride so I always start with a descent and end climbing. I rode several other electric bikes before choosing specialized including some who claimed to be a top brand.
    Some of the issues I saw with them felt with integration of pedaling. Some did not have pedal assist and were awkward to ride. Some felt too light or the wiring wasn’t well integrated. The turbo-s is very well integrated and is what you would expect from a company like specialized.
    I currently have 900 miles on the bike after 4 months of ridding. I commute about three times a week and use the bike for local errands as well. I also run about 40 miles a week so having a pedaltec bike enables some rest as opposed to a regular bike.

    Some of the issues I’ve run into are flats on the back end. I took the bike into a non-specialized shop and they removed the wire holder from the axle. After 10 miles into the ride it rode funny and I could not remove the wheel. The second problem has been the battery, occasionally it has problems and does not boot up after the checks. This has been more of a problem within the last few weeks and may be an indicator that the cells cannot hold a charge. At $900 a battery this is an expensive item to replace of it only lasts 800 miles. I suspect that there may be a few bugs that need to be corrected. So far specialized has been very supportive.

    1. Lowell, that is good to hear. Specialized usually does a great job of taking care of Turbo customers. They are changing the design to be a little more reliable across the board for the 2017 models. Sometimes if there is an error on the battery when/it starts up requires you to just turn it off, remove thebattery for a about 10 seconds, and reinstall it. Most of the time, that will resolve a minor issue. Past that, I would recommend taking it to a dealer so they can run a diagnostic on the components.

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