This Specialized Turbo Vado is the BMW of electric bikes

I first realized I was testing an amazing electric bike on my way to a breakfast cafe.

There’s a wide bike lane, almost as wide as the lane for cars. (In Minneapolis where I live, it is not uncommon to give preferential treatment to cyclists.) With the wind at my back, a slight descent, and the pressing need for pancakes, I pedaled as fast as possible.

The Specialized Turbo Vado is designed for people who enjoy the thrill of cycling. Because the bike operates so smoothly, and with the “turbo” mode enabled, I turned into a cycling machine whizzing along like a red cyclone. Faster, then faster — I was so in tune with the road that it felt as though I could pedal all the way to Wisconsin. This synergy with a bike does not happen very often, especially with those cheapo models you can buy at Walmart.

I was experiencing something beyond that. It was the sense of frictionless speed. The motor was doing most of the work, but in a way that didn’t matter. When you drive a sleek sedan like a BMW 3 or an Audi A4, you are not propelling the car forward…but you are in full control. You’re directing the bike (or the car), determining your speed and your route.

It’s hard to explain, but the Specialized Turbo Vado is something special. When I arrived at the cafe, I plopped down in a chair and realized I was riding my favorite electric bike ever.

Now, some models I’ve tested don’t quite get the right balance. They might be more intended for long-range or for looking stylish on the bike path. The Vado has plenty of modes to help you figure out the range. I used eco mode on several trips and, making sure I took advantage of hills and even switched off the motor on occasion, easily surpassed 60 miles in one day. I prefer the turbo mode (e.g. the red cyclone setting), but even then made it a good 25 miles.

Here’s the thing about electrics: you can always get a little more range. On a few trips, I even brought along the charger, which fit nicely in my backpack, and topped it off while I worked and had lunch. The motor on the Vado is meant for smooth gliding and fast speed. It’s super powerful, giving the oomph I needed to pedal up steep hills with ease. I liked the display that let me flick through options where I could see my speed, the range, or even my total distance.

Now, I shouldn’t tell you this, but I managed to push the Vado up to about 28 MPH, which is absolutely amazing. Some electrics just won’t go that fast and have a speed limiter.

Since the bike costs $5,500, I was happy to see some extra security features. You can enable a motion sensor and disable the motor using an app. Another sensor can alert you when someone is about to pass, although that happened almost never for me. I zipped by people on the road and even had an edge over cars in traffic. I glided my way to a remote office so often that I felt like that was my preferred method, although that won’t last long in Minnesota.

The basic summary here is that this is the BMW of electric bikes. It’s fast, smooth, and efficient. I’ve tested many other brands including a few electric fold-ups. I’ve never enjoyed the ride as much as the Specialized Turbo Vado, and honestly, it was hard to give it back to the dealer.

Here’s a cool YouTube video about the bike: