It’s blinged out. It’s eye-wateringly expensive. And it’s one of the coolest bikes I’ve ever ridden. Hold onto your bidons folks, because the Specialized Turbo Creo SL is an e-bike - but not as you know it.
I could go on all day about the cool tech on display, but I’ll keep it brief and stick to the highlights package. There’s a pair of Roval carbon wheels, electric 1x11 shifting from Shimano (no front derailleurs here, sorry) and even a nifty little damper in the head tube, called the FutureShock 2.0, that takes the sting out of the bumpy stuff without altering the efficiency and handling of the bike. It’s all awesome kit that on any other bike would be worth an essay in its own right, but that’s not what I want to focus on here.
The heart of the Creo is the SL1.1 motor. Don’t go hunting for it in a product catalogue because you won’t find it… This bad boy is custom-made by Specialized, for Specialized. Engineered in Switzerland, it’s powered exclusively by Toblerone and foreign bank accounts. All jokes aside, it’s Rolex-tier exclusive - with a price to match. Creo is Latin for “create,” an homage to the custom motor residing within.
There’ll be a full breakdown of this motor in the next issue of NZCJ, but for now here’s all you need to know: the battery is integrated into the frame; the motor is one of the lightest on the market; and you’ll get up to 130km under ideal conditions. Most importantly, the SL1.1 motor is an exercise in curated restraint and a perfect match to this style of bike.
Do you ever wish you could ride like you had hero legs every day, regardless of what you had for dinner the night before? Dream of a world where unexpected steep hills don’t ruin your pristine heart rate stats on that base mile ride you’re doing solo? Long for the day that your dearly beloved (but not quite as masochistic) partner could accompany you on your rides, without having to worry about keeping up? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’re a good candidate to fall in love with the Creo.
Even on the lowest power mode, the Creo makes me feel like I’m riding my regular bike - but with a tailwind. The Creo refuses to do all the work for you; it’s not going to let you cruise absentmindedly the way higher-powered motor systems will. Regardless of which setting you’re in, you’re going to have to put in some mahi to get things going. But the motor still nudges you along, subtle as it may be. It’s by far the most natural feeling system I’ve tried (and I’ve tried my fair share), especially when you shut the assist off entirely and run things acoustically. No pedalling resistance here folks. It also helps that the Creo is a well-balanced bike; the handling is modelled on Specialized’s own Tarmac race bike, albeit with a slightly more upright seating position. At 12.2kg, it’s also light enough to occasionally forget you’re on an e-bike at all.
With the power on, you feel like you’re having a really good day in the saddle - even if the headwinds are gusting at 50kph, you forgot to have breakfast and you’re pretty sure you’re hungover. No matter the adversity, the Creo made me feel like the cycling hero I always knew I could be... if only I could quit work to go riding full time. I hate taglines but Specialized really nailed it with this one: ‘It’s you, only faster.’ It’s the perfect summary for a game-changing bike.
The Creo isn’t for everyone, but given the chance, I’d recommend even the most e-bike opposed rider give one a try just to see how far the technology has evolved. It’s an incredible piece of engineering and I’m glad I got to spend some time on board one. If this is the future, I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Words & Images: Robin Page and Cameron Mackenzie
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