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.
Jerry kinnane says
In regard to your power mode buttons. You can have these relocated to wherever you want. I have mine located underneath the shifter hoods so therefore, I don’t have to move my hands away from the hoods, when shifting to a different power mode.
Stan Purdum says
Thanks, Jerry, What hardware did you use to relocate them?
Laura VanderPloeg Harris says
It is the Turbo Road Remote kit that retails for $70.00US part number 98921-5710.
I bought a Creo last week. The remote buttons now come standard.
Stan Purdum says
Phil Harrington says
Great review! I’m sold. And it couldn’t come at a better time since I am “of the age” also. Now to scrape up the money!
Philip L. says
I bought the carbon gravel version. Overall I love the bike but for $7500 I still had to replace the too narrow handle bars, replace the stock saddle (personal preference), replace the stem (which required a “special” shim from Specialized). Eventually I had to replace the cassette (same 10-42 as the road version cassette) which meant I had to also replace the rear derailleur, and the gravel rear wheel comes with a no-name hub so I had to get a new rear wheel to be compatible with Shimano road cassette I put on the bike.
I thought about replacing the 46 tooth chainring but no one makes a 48 or 50 direct mount for the bike PLUS Specialized told me I would void the warranty if I used a 48 or 50.
Overall, I expected better from Specialized.
Jerry kinnane says
I had these relocated before I took delivery of the bikes at the Lbs
took care of it this will also get it give you a better feel for the blips in winter cycling.
I’ve been riding for over 40 years and I absolutely love my Specialized Evo Creo! I’ve had it a little over a year and it’s made all the difference in my ability to ride farther, climb more and enjoy riding overall. As noted, it’s light enough and fun enough that I frequently ride with no assist, but it makes all the difference knowing that it’s there for support if I need it.
Harrison Spain says
Potential Creo owners should look into:
1) Larger front gear; Specialized undersized it.
2) Smaller rear cassette. The pie plates they have as default are not needed.
3) Pear Tune
Stan Purdum says
A smaller rear cassette would not be a good Idea where I live in SE Ohio. We are in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, with lots of steep hills. It’s not uncommon for me to use the 42-tooth ring when on the steeper climbs.
Bill Bagnell says
i have a version of this bike, the SL Expert, carbon with Di2 shifting. I made several modifications when I bought it:
1) Since the right shifter is for the rear derailleur, the left shifter does nothing, although it has the electric shifting switches, so I wired them to the power control using the optional wiring with the buttons cut off. Now a flick of my fingers on the left controls the power from off to full.
2) I found the 46 chainring to be too small for my riding style so I replaced it with a 50. Didn’t even change the chain length; shifts perfectly.
3) Replace the handlebars to match my other bike and set both up exactly the same so the transition from one to the other is easy.
My only complaint is that the SL Expert doesn’t handle as well as my Parlee Altum on fast descents. It’s very good but not what I am used to. Overall a great investment at 82, as I realize I can’t climb the hills I used to.
Bill Bagnell says
To clarify, the left shifter goes through all the power levels from off to full with the mod I made. Also, the Future Shock thing doesn’t do much for me.
Jim Richardson says
Nice article Stan…..and congratulations on your new Creo SL! I turned 70 four years ago and bought my Creo shortly thereafter. Since then I’ve ridden it trouble-free for 13,000 miles and the bike has proven to be life-changing; I can ride with young guns at 21-22 mph, or on my more typical 17mph days using Eco power level and cover distances well beyond the claimed 80 mile range of the built-in battery. Fantasist bike I intend to ride into my 80’s!
Dave Minden says
Anyone think you can put panniers on this for touring? Or is there another beefier model?
Yes. The guys at the bike shop weren’t sure – mine is one of the carbon versions – but I had no problem adding a rack & rear panniers. I used it to ride the trail from Pittsburgh to Washington DC with a niece who was not trained enough to ride a regular bike, but who would have left 71-year-old me in the dust had I ridden my regular road bike) & had no problems. I also use it for hauling groceries since I live up at 12%+ ramp. If I want a lot of groceries, I can use the Burley trailer.
Bill Bagnell says
I’m sure it would handle panniers quite well. For me, the extra battery would give me 100+ miles of range. Specialized has an online calculator to determine range based on speed, climbing, etc.
David L says
I have a 2020 Trek Domane+ HP7 and I really enjoy this bike. It allows me to ride with younger stronger faster riders. One thing I’ve found is of the guys who are getting older see what I’m doing on my ebike and are saying wow I can see myself doing that someday myself. A lot of the time midride they’ll be asking me if trade bikes with them. Usually on these group rides I’ll have assist turned off or on eco and only use the tour (2nd level of assist) mode for hill climbing or out front into a head wind. I regularly ride 60 to 80 miles and have done 100 miles 3 times. I tried the Creo first before deciding on the Domane. The Domane is a heavier bike but to me it has better riding & handling characteristics. Either way both the Creo and Domane are great ebikes. Unfortunately Trek decided not the make the Domane+ HP7 anymore and are going with a lighter bike with less torque and watt hour than the Creo. In my option that’s a mistake on Treks part and will lose a lot of the market share to Specialized. If I were in the market for another ebike I’d go with the Specialized.
Mel Simburg says
Trek is using a 250wh battery in its LT series, but a 360wh battery in its SL series.
Jim Langley says
Great review Stan, thank you!
Winnie Homer-Smith says
I agree. It’s a great bike. I got one a little over a year ago & have used it mostly for hilly errands around town, but also for some touring, including one fairly long trip. I was signed up for the arthritis ride from SF to LA & managed to come down with Covid a couple of weeks before. I felt entirely recovered…until I headed out from San Francisco for a day of 85 miles & 5500′ of climbing. And headwinds (which is very, very unusual for that route). So I got my husband to bring me the Creo at the end of the day & I got to let my friends draft off me when we met further headwinds. I was easily able to do 80+ mile days with 5000’+ of climbing without using up my batteries. My only problem has been that the small is a unisex size, and is a bit big for me. My main road bike is size 44.
Ge Hu says
really silly not to do a good enough review to not put one really important motor tech spec that specialized hides because it is ridiculously low. 35 neuton meters of torque (they don’t want you to understand that spec and compare it to other ebikes in that price range.)
“Either way both the Creo and Domane are great ebikes. Unfortunately Trek decided not the make the Domane+ HP7 anymore and are going with a lighter bike with less torque and watt hour than the Creo. In my option that’s a mistake on Treks part and will lose a lot of the market share to Specialized. If I were in the market for another ebike I’d go with the Specialized.”
Sorry they are not great bikes to other ebikes in comparison at that price range now. You are very right on one thing >>>”are going with a lighter bike with less torque and watt hour than the Creo. In my option that’s a mistake on Treks part”. It is not a mistake on their part it is marketing. Trek saw special-ed could get away with it so they are copying the idea to get massively larger margins with low powered motors and batteries vs the older Domane which was an awesome bike.
A heavier ebike higher amped battery and higher torque motor in the 70-80nm range can do ANYTHING a light weight one can do and much much more. Turn the motor way down and the added weight makes for really hard training. Turn it up to match the torque of the neutered ebikes and it feels the same except with much farther range. Turn it up higher and it feels like a super light bike and even higher and it can get you out of bad situations on the road such as bad weather, traffic, bonk, etc. If your riding buddy has one of the lightweight neutered ebikes you will be stuck waiting on him at the nearest rest stop…..
Randy Plant says
The reviewed Creo is the one I bought. last fall. I love it! At 73, I can now enjoy the canyons in Utah and doing metrics, which had become more problematic the past couple of years as I tried to keep up with younger friends. Any ride over 40 miles is now on the ebike. The Creo has reenergized my love of cycling.
And that’s what counts! Congrats!!