The S-Works E-Road bike first ride

Specialized's Creo sets a new e-road bike benchmark.

Photo: Etienne

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The Details:

 Specialized’s Turbo e-bikes are hitting the road. Well, road-bike category that is. With a long range and a carbon frame, the New Creo SL is a lightweight e-bike designed to handle like a traditional road bike. At only 12.2kg, it is also pushing the weight down in e-road bikes by quite a bit. Specialized is so confident in the performance of this bike that it’s giving it the S-Works treatment.

  • lightest road e-bike at 12.2kg
  • battery life up to 80 miles, expandable to 120 with an external Range Extender
  • Room for 38c tires, and a gravel specific EVO build is available
  • Road-bike like handling, even on descents

Specialized SL 1.1 Motor:

Specialized designed its SL 1.1 hub based motor in-house, giving it precise control over how the unit runs and integrates with the frame. Providing up to 240 watts, the SL 1.1 gets you up to 28mph, but it has no drag once it reaches that limit and cuts out for a smoother ride. Toggle easily between the three modes, Eco, Sport and Turbo, by pressing the Specialized-logo button on the top tube. Using the Specialized Mission Control app, you can tune how much power each mode delivers—both sustained and peak power. There’s even an internal power meter whose data can be connected to any ANT+ device.

 Long Range—That gets even longer.

Based around an internal 320Wh battery in the downtube, the Creo SL has up to an 80-mile range, according to Specialized estimates. But the exciting part is that it is compatible with “Range Extenders,” external 160Wh batteries which mount on the seattube and deliver, ideally, another 40 miles of range. For travel, the internal battery is too large for FAA regulations. Luckily it is removable, allowing the Creo to come along, it will just have to run solely on the Range Extenders. Specialized has a range calculator in its Mission Control app to estimate rides before you find yourself stuck halfway into an adventure on good old fashioned leg power alone.

E-Gravel, Anyone?

Withy plenty of tire clearance, Specialized sees the Creo SL as a versatile bike. It has even provided 38c tires on the gravel and adventure oriented Turbo Creo SL Expert EVO build, which comes with an 11-42 cassette and a dropper post for handling steep ascents and descents. The S-Works version comes stocked with Dura-Ace Di2 and Roval CLX 50 Disc wheels. The Expert version with Ultegra Di2. The Expert version will cost $9,000, while the S-Works version comes in at an eye-popping $14,000. But there’s one more thing.

The Creo S-Works SL Founder’s Edition

Specialized Founder Mike Sinyard has been enjoying the S-Works Creo SL, so Specialized has decided to create a special edition in his honor. Called the Founder’s Edition, there will only be 250 made. The spec includes oversized CeramicSpeed derailleur pulleys, cutting the weight down to 11.9kg. Each has a numbered Founder’s Edition plaque on the chainstay, and comes with a custom Founder’s Edition SL kit. The honor of joining this elite club will set you back approximately one Fiat 500, or $17,000.

All frames are available in five sizes, from small to XXL.

The Ride: Spin it to Win it

It didn’t take long to discover that, slightly un-intuitively, you have to shift into an easier gear to go faster. This is because the SL 1.1 motor is optimized for running at high cadence pedaling, around 70rpm to 100rpm. When pitches become too difficult and you start spinning a lower cadence, the motor gives you less power, in a reinforcing feedback loop. Shifting into an easier gear breaks the loop, letting you spin faster and once again receive that influx of watts. By shifting, you’ll end up going faster, letting you subsequently push into harder gears and go even faster. If you prefer mashing on the pedals to spinning high rpm’s, you won’t get the most out of this bike.

Battery Life is What You Make of it

Battery life will depend on how much time you spend in Turbo mode versus Eco and Sport mode. After a three hour ride with thousands of feet of climbing, we still had just over fifty percent battery left (we used a range extender putting our start battery life around 150 percent). But we had been in Turbo mode sparingly, if at all, instead staying in Sport mode to get a bit more of a workout. As a precaution, you can only run Eco mode when the battery dips below 20 percent. If you want to run Turbo mode for most of a 50 mile ride with 5,000 feet of climbing, that’s possible, but the end will be like coasting off the freeway, nursing the dredges of your gas tank. That isn’t necessarily a problem, though, if that’s how you roll.


The 12.2 kg weight on the S-Works SL version, along with its familiar road bike handling, made riding with the power turned off not too much of a problem. Getting the bike up to speed from a complete stop, the weight is very noticeable. There’s no set of Spanx that can hide effectively twice the weight of an S-Works Tarmac. But after the initial pedal strokes, it handles like any other road bike. You just want to make sure you don’t run out of battery while still having some uphill to go, because then the weight will be a problem.

Ripping through a technical descent, at times approaching 50 miles per hour, felt confident and fun. It stayed very planted through the turns, performing how we would expect an S-Works badged road bike to. With a Future Shock 2.0 stem and standard 28c tires, this bike has plenty of compliance too.

Most tellingly for the planted handling, the EVO gravel build got us down gravel descents—perhaps better suited to a hardtail—with flying colors.

The SL 1.1 motor is the best e-bike motor we have tried yet. When you reach the speed limit— which isn’t too often for a bike that assists to 28mph—it feels like it tapers off the power rather than lurching suddenly.

On our road test ride with the S-Works version, we managed to have one of our best workouts in months despite it being an e-bike. Having the extra watts on a climb makes any day feel like you have legs in peak condition. For some, flying up steep climbs like Pantani is a psychological trick allowing you to dig harder than you normally would. But that’s not always the case, especially on flats. When you don’t have the motivation to push hard, it’s easy to let the bike do all the work. It’s really up to you on what kind of ride you will have with the Creo. Either way, it is the best e-road bike we have tried.

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