The Specialized Turbo Vado SL was one of my favorite ebikes I’ve reviewed to date, opting for less motor power, a more natural ride, and a lighter frame than the vast majority of ebikes out there. Now Specialized is bringing a similar pound-shaving design philosophy to the new Como SL, a cruiser-type ebike with a relaxed riding geometry and solid cargo capabilities.
The upright riding position is something I appreciate for commuting in a city, making it easy to both see and be seen in traffic, and the bike is equipped with chunky 650B, 2.3″ tires. Because of their high air volume, the tires themselves can act as a suspension system at lower pressures — in my experience often better (and lighter) than the cheap suspension forks on many ebikes.
Unlike the more beefy non-SL Como, the bike comes with an integrated front rack and basket. This is significantly more stable than a fork or handlebar-mounted rack, as it won’t sway around while turning.
There are a few additional nice touches too. The internal gear hub (5 or 8-speed, depending on the model) allows you to shift from a stop, with the higher-end configuration sporting a super-durable Gates carbon belt drive. The bike also has a neatly integrated handle for lifting at the bottom of the top tube.
The Como SL also has a minimal rear rack that can carry a set of panniers, although unfortunately there’s no top platform to accommodate a child seat or additional cargo. This might’ve been done to shave off a pound or two, but I wish Specialized had committed more fully to the Como SL’s cargo capabilities.
That’s especially true as the Como SL is light, but not that light, starting at 47.5 lb/21.5 kg (oddly, some publications have pegged the weight at a far lighter 17kg, but a Specialized rep confirmed the larger number). It’s quite a bit heftier than the svelte Vado SL, which went as low as 33 lb (15kg). The non-SL Como weighs about the same as the SL one .
But don’t get me wrong; that is still good 8-10 pounds less than most similarly configured ebikes, and that weight includes the racks and fenders, the former which the standard Como doesn’t include. The internal gear hub is also heavier than a typical derailleur. Most competing ebikes weigh about 55 pounds, with some crossing the 60-pound mark, although these models often have beefier motors.
The Como SL uses the same 240 W/ 35 Nm mid-drive motor as the Vado SL, along with a 320 Wh battery that can be expanded to 480 Wh with an optional range extender. Despite the low torque figure, Specialized is — mercifully — not needlessly restricting the bike’s speed assistance; it’ll help you out until you reach 28 miles per hour (in the US).
That’s significantly better than the 20 mph most ebikes are limited to, although you’ll still have to put in some work to reach those speeds on flat terrain. But in my experience, the difference between assist limits at 20 and 28mph is substantial for being able to flow along comfortably with traffic.
Those specs don’t sound terribly impressive compared to some of the ebikes out there, but they only tell part of the story. For one, the bike is rated for up to 63 miles of range, or 93 miles with the range extender.
Granted, that’s a bit less than the Vado SL (80/120 miles), but Specialized says the modified estimate is due to the Como SL’s heavier weight and slightly less efficient riding geometry. In any case, that’s significantly more range than what you get with most ebikes of equivalent battery capacity. Most 500 Wh bikes only claim about 40-60 miles of range.
The big elephant in the room is the price: The Como SL starts at $4,000 for the base 4.0 model with the 5-speed hub and regular chain, going up to $4,800 for the 8-speed with Gates belt drive.
The numbers don’t make it immediately obvious the bike is worth that kind of cash; the Ariel Rider M-Class I reviewed last year offers more cargo capability and power for far less money. But if the Como SL is like the Vado SL, the bike could be more than the sum of its parts.
The Como SL’s motor is a torque-sensing mid-drive, which on the Vado SL had the smoothest assist of any ebike I’ve tried. The Como SL is also lighter than most similarly-equipped competition, and in this writer’s opinion, is one of the nicest-looking step-through ebikes around. It’s hard to boil down the overall rideability and liveability of a bike into just a few specifications.
The proof is in the pudding, so hopefully we’ll be able to let you know what we think if we get to give the bike a ride.
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Published April 2, 2021 — 19:42 UTC