This article first appeared in the April 2021 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine.
Among Specialized’s electrified offerings, all of which are named Turbo something — Levo, Kenevo, Creo, Vado, and Como — the Turbo Como is the “comfort” model, a bike designed for ambling around town. It’s styled like a cruiser bike, and indeed it rides a bit like a beach cruiser: seated over the rear wheel, the front way out ahead of you, relaxed, unhurried.
But even if you’re going nowhere in no hurry, there’s a 250W motor helping you get there faster. The Turbo Como is a Class 1 eBike, meaning it’s pedal-assist only (no throttle) with a maximum assisted speed of 20 MPH. The 3.0 model tested here comes with a 460Wh battery integrated into the downtube. The 4.0 and 5.0 models — there are also “Low-Entry” (step-through) models at each price point as well — offer similar motors with larger batteries.
The Como’s aluminum frame and fork have rack and fender mounts to suit your all-weather and carrying needs, the meaty tires help tune out bad road vibrations, and it even includes a kickstand and front and rear lights. The drivetrain is simple, dependable Shimano Alivio; with nine gears, it’s plenty to get you up even the steepest of hills. And braking power comes from Tektro’s T275 hydros, which are a smart, affordable spec for this application.
In the cockpit you’ll find a comfortable, swept-back handlebar adorned with a bell and a remote for dialing up or down the boost level, as well as a display that shows your speed, battery level, mileage, etc. I found the bell particularly handy; on the Como, you will be going faster than pedestrians, drivers, or even you would expect, so it’s important to make your presence known.
Aft of the cockpit is — surprise! — a saddle, and a big, squishy one at that. I generally don’t find comfort saddles like these to be terribly, well, comfortable, but it suits the Como given the pedaling position. The seat tube angle is a very slack 68°, putting a lot of your weight on your behind and necessitating a wider perch.
This being a comfort eBike, smooth is the name of the game. Regardless of which of the three modes you’re in — Eco, Sport, or Turbo — the assist comes on smoothly and without any undue violence. Unlike some other eBikes that shove so hard you nearly fall off the back, the Como is more civilized.
Whereas other mid-drive eBikes suffer from resistance when you cross the assistance threshold, Specialized’s motors — which it developed with Brose, the German electric motor manufacturer — eschew direct drive for belt-driven planetary gears. According to Marco Sonderegger, leader of Turbo eBike Product Development at Specialized, the belt drive makes for a quieter motor and eliminates that resistance. Indeed, although I rarely bothered to go any faster than 20 MPH, doing so was a much smoother affair than I’ve experienced on other eBikes.
The real genius of an eBike is not that you’re getting someplace faster or perspiring less along the way. Instead, it’s this: as soon as I picked up the Como from Bingham Cyclery, my local Specialized dealer here in Salt Lake City, I found myself making up excuses to run to the grocery store or to the post office. Trips for which I might have otherwise walked or taken the car or simply not taken at all, I was now riding the Como.
To test its carrying capacity, I mounted a rear rack, affixed a couple of large Ortlieb panniers, and scurried off to the grocery store. This store happens to be at the top of a large hill, and, as expected, getting there on the Como was a breeze. Once there, I bought a week’s worth of groceries and crammed it all in the panniers. It was enough that, coupled with the Como’s already hefty 47.6 pounds, I could hardly lift up the back of the bike to swing it around. Once rolling, the Como handled pretty well in spite of all that weight in the back. And going down the hill was a good test of the Tektro brakes, one they passed with flying colors.
When it comes to range, the Turbo Como likely won’t be your pick for an electrified cross-country epic. Specialized doesn’t offer a claimed range for the 3.0, but it does have a handy range calculator on its website. Using Eco mode with few stops and on flat terrain — and an average speed of 16 MPH — the calculator claims a maximum range of 53 miles for me, which sounds about right. In Turbo mode, that drops to 29 miles.
Indeed, I made the 20-mile round-trip trek to REI a couple of times on the Como, a mostly flat route with a lot of stops. I used Turbo mode because, well, why not, and, having started with a full charge, each time I returned with about a quarter to a third of the battery left. Once depleted, it’s about four to six hours to reach full charge. I usually plugged it in at night when it got low and enjoyed a full battery the next morning. (The battery is removable and lockable.)
Another handy tool is Specialized’s Mission Control app, which connects to the bike via Bluetooth. In addition to tracking your rides and showing your bike’s firmware status, the app lets you customize the assist modes to your liking. But the most useful part of the app is Smart Control. With Smart Control, you pick how far you want to ride by time or distance, along with how much climbing your route has and how much assist you want on the climbs, and the app will adjust the motor to get you to your destination without depleting the battery. It’s a great way to eliminate range anxiety.
At $3,250, the Como 3.0 is Specialized’s most affordable eBike. There are certainly less expensive eBikes out there (such as the Charge XC in last month’s issue), but it’s hard to discount the benefits of buying from a major brand with widespread dealer support. If it were my money — and, with each new eBike I ride, it looks increasingly more likely that it will be my money someday soon — I’d spring for the Como 5.0 for its larger (600 Wh) battery, fenders, and front Pizza Rack. But the 3.0 is an excellent foray into electrified ownership, a bike that can serve your cruising and commuting needs and even carry your camping gear for a quick overnight, assuming you keep your mileage in check.
Author’s note: While I had the Como in for testing, it kept disappearing from my apartment. Where was it going? Turns out my wife had been stealing it for her commutes up the (very) steep hill to the University of Utah. In her own words:
“When Dan wheeled the Como through our front door, I knew it would be my new commuting bike. It was striking just how easy it made my mornings. Thanks to Turbo mode, my commute time was cut in half. I no longer had to plan two outfits: one for class and one for the ride up to class. I could now just toss on my scrubs, throw a lunch into my pack, and be on my way. The integrated headlight and taillight meant never needing to worry about whether I had charged my usual commuting lights. The zippy pace erased my fears about creeping slowly uphill in the dark with impatient motorists honking at me from behind.”
So maybe the real danger of buying an eBike isn’t running out of juice or developing a hernia from heaving it up a set of stairs. Instead, the real danger is that you might have to buy two.
Sizes available: S, M/L, XL
Size tested: M/L
Weight: 47.6 lbs. (including pedals)
Head tube length: 225mm
Head tube angle: 68°
Seat tube length: 450mm
Seat tube angle: 68°
Top tube: 660mm (effective)
Bottom bracket drop: 75mm
Standover height: 835mm
Frame: E5 aluminum, rack and fender mounts
Motor: Specialized 1.2E, 250W
Battery: Specialized integrated and lockable, 460Wh
Fork: Turbo Como aluminum, rack and fender mounts
Handlebar: Specialized alloy, 30° sweep, 680mm width, 31.8mm clamp
Stem: Specialized Flowset, 20° rise
Derailer: Shimano Alivio Shadow SGS, 9spd
Shifter: Shimano Alivio
Brakes: Tektro HD-T275 hydraulic disc
Rotors: Tektro, 160mm rear, 180mm front
Crankset: Custom alloy forged crankarms, 170mm, 46T chainring
Cassette: Shimano CS-HG200, 11–36T
Chain: KMC e9
Seatpost: Specialized alloy, 30.9mm
Saddle: Body Geometry “The Cup,” 245mm
Hubs: Specialized, 15 x 100mm front, 12 x 148mm rear, thru-axles
Rims: Double-wall alloy, 32h
Tires: Nimbus II Sport Reflect, 650b x 2.3in.
Pedals: Specialized Commuter
Extras: Kickstand, bell, front and rear lights, bar-mounted display
Contact: Specialized Bicycle Components, Inc., 15130 Concord Circle, Morgan Hill, CA 95037, 877.808.8154, specialized.com