By Stan Purdum
- Superlight compared to most other ebikes
- 11-42 cassette with 11 sprockets
- Handles like a regular high-end road bike
- Seamless transitioning between no assist and the three assist levels
- Internal downtube battery offers up to 80 miles range
- Available range-extender battery fits in water bottle cage to add up to 40 additional miles of range
- Internal cable routing
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- Future Shock fork, with 20 mm of travel above the head tube
- Periodic downloads available to update the electronics and controls
- “Mission Control” app offers fine tuning of assist levels, route tracking, battery conservation and more
- Location of control unit
How obtained: Purchased from local bike shop
RBR Advertiser: No
While I am at the age where an ebike allows me to keep riding the distances and the hills I did when I was younger, I wasn’t planning to purchase a new one. I had converted my trusty Trek 520 touring bike to an ebike and I was pretty happy with it. But after several hundred miles the e-motor on that bike stopped providing pedal assist. While I can fix most things on a regular bike, I don’t have the knowledge to work on e-motors, and since bike shops only work on the electronics of the ebike brands they sell, I had to contact the seller of the motor. The motor was out of the short warranty period, but after several time-consuming exchanges of email over several days, the seller agreed to repair the motor without charge (other than me paying the shipping both ways). The motor is with the seller now, but in the meantime, I was without an ebike.
What’s more, I wasn’t crazy about having to ship the motor across the country every time it needs a repair — and that caused me to think about the value of having an ebike my local bike shop would service. The nearest shop to me is a Specialized dealer, and I ended up buying a Turbo Creo SL Comp E5 there, and plainly put, I love it.
The difference between my two ebikes is dramatic. The Trek is a chromoly steel bike; the Creo is aluminum, with aluminum wheels, a carbon fork and a carbon seatpost (The Creo has a full-carbon cousin, for more dollars). The Trek is heavy enough that should I overshoot the range of its battery, riding it home with the battery and motor on it without pedal assist would be a significant chore. The Creo is much lighter, and with its 11-42 cassette spread over 11 sprockets, I have plenty of low gears. In fact, it moves so easily without the pedal assist that I spend more miles riding it without any assist than I do the Trek.
But rather than going on about the differences between my two ebikes, a better comparison is with a similar high-end Specialized bike that is not electrified, and in that regard, the Creo’s performance is outstanding. Even without turning the motor on, the bike moves so spritely that I sometimes forget I don’t have the pedal assist engaged. And when I do turn it on, the transition from no assist to the first assist level is jolt-free, smooth and silky.
But again, even comparing the Creo to a traditional high-end bike isn’t quite right either, for the Creo is technically not a road bike, but a road ebike, which in these days of ever-increasing categories of bicycles, is a class unto itself, and it that class, the Creo is an A+ student.
The Creo comes in five sizes — small, medium, large, extra-large and XX-large — and various sites selling the Creo say that depending on the size, the bike weighs from 12-13 kg (26.4-28.6 lbs). But there’s a lack of clarity, and those numbers seem to apply to the carbon version. I couldn’t find a clear statement anywhere about the weight of the aluminum Creo, so I weighed it myself using my bathroom scale — weighing myself first and then myself holding the bike, with the bike weight being the difference between the two numbers.
My bike is the medium size, and it weighed about 30 pounds, but I had already installed my pedals and my leather saddle, which is slightly heavier than the stock saddle the Creo came with. Thirty pounds is not light compared to top road bikes, but it’s a class leader in the road ebike segment. The more important measurement, I think, is that when riding, the bike rolls like a lightweight.
The Creo comes with Shimano hydraulic brakes, a Shimano derailleur and shift levers, a Sunrace cassette and a Praxis crankset with a 46-tooth chainring.
The mid-drive motor is a Specialized SL 1.1, which puts out as much as 240 watts of power at up to 28 mph. The internal battery yields a range of about 80 miles and 320Wh. (If you need more miles, Specialized sells separately a smaller battery they call a range extender, which fits in a water bottle cage and provides up to an additional 40 miles of range.)
Specialized also provides the Mission Control app, which is a free download. This gives you control over how little or much power the motor adds to your effort. The factory presets are 35% for the Eco mode, 60% for the Sport mode and 100% for the Turbo mode, and I found those right for me so far, but you can change them using the app.
Mission control will also record rides, monitor the battery, and even manage the battery automatically to ensure that it will last as long as you need it to. The motor has a built-in power meter that transmits to any ANT+ head unit, such as your smartphone. This video gives a good overview of what the Mission Control app will do.
A few days ago, I rode a 70-mile hilly route with two friends, both of whom were riding recent-model Specialized traditional road bikes. Both cyclists are younger than I am and are strong riders, but mounted on the Creo, I had no trouble keeping up, even on the climbs. No matter how you slice it, that’s an important metric to me.
The fork is Specialized’s “Future Shock” model that provides 20 mm of travel above the head tube to smooth out the ride. This video explains how it works. When riding, I’m not conscious of the shock doing its job, and I suspect that’s because it is doing its job.
The one (and only) thing I don’t like about the Creo is the location of the control unit (Specialized calls it a “remote”), which is embedded in the top tube, near the head tube end. Because of the location, anytime you are looking at it, such as when you want to change modes, you are taking your eyes off the road much more so than if the unit were somewhere on the handlebars. I’ve learned to do it mostly by feel, with nothing more than a quick glance downward, but remembering that I once crashed and broke my collarbone by looking too long at my cyclometer while riding, makes me wary about the Creo’s control unit location.
On that 70-mile ride, I rode a few miles with no assist at all, but mostly I used the Eco mode, and kicked it to Sport on some of the climbs. I avoided using Turbo because I didn’t want to outdistance my companions. At the end of the ride, I still had 30% of the battery power left.
When the Trek is repaired and back in service, I will likely use it for gravel and trail rides, as I have it set up with 700×35 tires. The Creo comes with 700x28s, which makes it better for road riding, but the frame leaves plenty of room if I want to run wider tires.
All in all, the Creo is a sweet ride. If you’re a serious rider but are finally in need of a little assist to maintain your performance, the Creo is worthy of your consideration.
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.