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Specialized Turbo: 28 mph Bicycle

On the subject of electric motorcycles, I noticed this Specialized Turbo Bicycle (available only in Europe at this point) that starts to blur the lines between bike and motorcycle.

Unless your name is Fabian Cancellara, it is doubtful you can sustain 28 mph on your bicycle for more than a couple of seconds (if that long). The Specialized Turbo will do 28 mph on its own, or you can peddle on your own, or you can combine your pedaling with the force of the motor.

The motor is part of the rear hub (can you get more efficient than that?). The battery is integrated in the frame, providing for a sleek look, and it can be charged in two hours. This design would also facilitate future battery upgrades.

180mm brake discs are found both front and rear, while the rear brake can also regenerate the battery. Video below makes all of this look like fun, although if you follow this link you will find that the machine is quite expensive. For those of you who already ride bicycles for exercise or to commute, this is an interesting machine. For those of you simply interested in motorcycles, it is still interesting because it shows how simple and light these machines could be someday (with greater range and speed, of course). By the way, I was unable to find any reference to range on the Specialized website. Let me know in the comments section if you see anything. My understanding is that it will not be available in the United States because it is too fast be classified as a bicycle, and would require a license.

29 Comments

  1. Marco says:

    The relevant factoid from this article and associated comments is that the rules in the US are arcane and intrusive. It is the rules, mostly written by people whose minds are stuck in the last century as well as those with a finaicial interest in the status quo, that stand in the way of forward progress on transportation and energy policy. I am a firm believer that if the government would get the heck out of the way we could solve our problems ourselves. FOr example, my old Honda quad goes 50 miles an hour and will run all day on a tank of gas. Why shold I not be able to license and ride it like a motorcycle? But in my state (WA) a “motorcycle” is limited to 3 wheels, and so a quad is precluded from being operated on the road. Amend the rule from number of wheels to something like GVWR an open up a whole new market – gaining employment, innovation, reduced congestion and pollution. Why not? Luddite thinking and money-politics. Unfortunately, this is the norm around the country, and unlikely to change. I agree that 28 mph is a death zone – too fast for riding close to car doors and pedestrians, too slow for the traffic lanes. Logic – fail.

  2. RC says:

    There is a Turbo factory in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. They also partner with Ferrari to do their specialty bikes.

  3. Reinhart says:

    I’m 53 years old, not that great of a rider and can still reach 30 mph on flat terrain. I can maintain 17 mph average all day long. I believe that bikes like the Turbo leave you in no man’s land in that 28 mph is too fast of a speed when going by parked cars and driveways in town where the electric bike is supposed to shine. I cannot tell you how many times I was thankful for riding sane speeds in these situations. $7,000 is a lot to spend on a bicycle, especially when you give up the health benefit of pedaling your but to your destination. A better option would be to buy a CBR250R for about $4,000 ($3,000 cheaper that the Turbo!) and still enjoy excellent fuel economy while riding in a designated traffic lane and not on the side of the road.

  4. Reinhart says:

    Seems to me that with a couple of 5,000mah Li-po batteries and an appropriate brushless engine from the R/C world you could create a comparable electric bike for about $5,000 less. I don’t see where all the money was spent to build the Turbo(must be a lot of profit involved, or so it would seem).

  5. harry says:

    Where is the Turbo?

  6. Frank says:

    Does anyone see the irony of Specialized producing the Turbo bike’s video in San Francisco but selling the bike only in Europe? WTH? I’m sure it has something to do with some kind of DOT regulations. Maybe EPA since there’s a battery on board. Do we ever get anything first?

    • Dave says:

      The electric bicycle market is many times bigger in Europe than it is here so it makes sense to offer it there. Realistically, they will not sell many, if any of these here. It’s tough to sell a $7k bicycle outside of the racing community in the US.

      It was likely filmed in SF because Specialized is in Morgan Hill.

  7. Scott in the UK says:

    It looks like a superb way for me to get to work, should I forgo riding the Guzzi (not very likely!!) I tried a high end electric bike called the GoBike that costs well over £1500 and I have to say it was a revalation. I know one guy that rides one to work and back 30 miles round trip in the Devon hills and much prefers it to his normal bicycle for that. Commuting in hilly areas, I can see them catching on.

  8. Vrooom says:

    I occassionally try to ride to work, but it’s 14 miles one way with a required stint on the freeway to cross a river. This thing would make that much more appealing. Hope it, or a similar design makes it to the states soon, I already have a mc endorsement, so don’t really care how it fits into the law other than discouraging manufacturers.

  9. Dave says:

    A scooter/moped can’t be used on bike trails though, which is another appeal of electric bikes. I think in many states they can be used on trails so riders can avoid mixing with traffic more.

  10. Tom says:

    I know friends in Seattle that commute on electric bikes. They use the ferry to commute and electric bikes are considered bicycle rate fare and easily stored in their office. They commute on these bikes to save time and money in the long run while dressed in business casual. An excellent idea for city commuting where arriving to work dripping is sweat is not an option and motorcycle parking is $$$$ just like a car.

    The more mainstream these become the less they will cost. I see these becoming more mainstream before electric motorcycles, no parking fees, access to public transportation in some areas (train/ferry/bus) and no registration/insurance fees.

  11. Mike says:

    It does not take much at all on a descent to hit 50mph on a racing push bke. Easy to go faster if the gearing is right down a good slope

  12. Dave says:

    Another article I saw on this said it has a 250watt motor. I think you’ll have to add a bit of power of your own to hold 28mph. The rider mentioned above (Fabian Cancellara) is a multi-time time trial world champion, he averages ~29-32mph depending on the course/conditions, in an aerodynamic tuck, putting out 450+ watts to do it.

  13. Johnny ro says:

    I hit 46 mph on my 1980s racer steeply downhill into Andes NY from Margaretteville. Then 46 the other way on the Margaretteville side. I was not going to go any faster on that bike with its gearing and drag.

    This looks pretty cool.

    Could not see the price on the site.

    Just sold a 2004 Hyosung GT 250 with 25 hp for $1,800. Passed on a 2011 Surly Pugsley at $1,000. This is more than those.

  14. Gabe says:

    I’m also an MSF instructor, and when I see a rider who looks scared of the throttle, I ask them, “what’s the fastest you’ve ridden a bicycle?” expecting answers faster than the 12-18 mph we average in the Basic RiderCourse. Last weekend a student responded, “70,” which sounds unbelievable, but I guess if you’re in good shape, downhill with a tailwind for a long, long stretch you could do it?

    Anyway, that makes me think how ludicrous it is that you can ride a bicycle at 30, 50 or 70mph and need no license, registration, insurance or nothing, but if an electric bicycle goes over 20 mph in California, you need an M2 motorcycle endorsement.

    • Dave says:

      That was probably a little optimistic though not impossible. The fastest speeds pros ever see descending the alps is ~60. I’ve seen 55, been racing bicycles for 20 years. At these speeds you’re well beyond pedaling, tucked into a ball and thinking about how you’re going to slow yourself down.

      • BryanD says:

        I agree that 70 is optomistic. When I was growing up in Montana I became a “hills specialist” because there were so many hills to tackle. I especially excelled at downhill and even ran my bike with an extra large (63 tooth) chainring so that I could continue to pedal effectively up to quite high speeds. My favorite steep downgrade was mostly straight and had a cold lake at the top, which almost always meant a strong tailwind of cold dense air. I was clocked several times doing 60 down that hill, pedaling hard and fast while also in a tuck. I could clearly tell that the tires were spending much more time airborne from road imperfections than connected. All of this in riding shorts, a T-shirt, and fingerless gloves — no helmet! I consider my current motorcycling habits to be FAR safer than those days of my wild youth.

      • Tim says:

        I think 70 is doable with the right sproket combo, and going down hill. In the town where I went to high school there was a guy who put a giant front sproket on one of his bikes, and a buddy riding by him in a car said he approached 60, and that part of the country is very flat, so I can’t imagine he was getting much help from gravity.

    • tepi says:

      Its at the upper end of what’s possible on a regular bicycle on a downhill road, but entirely do-able on a recumbent.

      In Europe an electric-assisted bike (a.k.a. pedelec) can’t go anywhere and its own power and can assist the pedaling effort only up to 25 km/h (about 16 mph) with maximum of 250 watts. Anything more and its a moped or a motorcycle. 28 mph would just fall in to the moped category and needs insurance.

  15. Gary says:

    Is this the secret to Lance Armstrong’s amazing comeback from cancer?

    • edpix says:

      Gary,
      As a cancer survivor, bicyclist, and motorcyclist I do take offense to this comment.
      I am sure you meant this as a joke in reference to having a powered bicycle being able to
      beat human power but the sddition of “comeback from cancer” changes the context entirely.

      Lance Armstrong is one of the best athletes and philanthropists on the planet.

      His comeback from cancer was the result of never accepting defeat both in competition and from
      life’s challenges and then pushing himself to the limits of mankind to succeed at his passion.
      At the same time Lance started the Livestrong foundation to help support cancer patients around the world.
      Lance personally faced death square in the eye and understands what having cancer means to a person’s
      psyche. He has reached out to help thousands of cancer patients around the world with his strength and positive energy and for that I am very grateful.

      I am sure your comment was not meant to be derogatory to Lance Armstrong but if it was I just wanted to jump into Lance’s corner.

      For those that want to know more about Lance’s biggest challenge in life and why he was motivated to help other cancer patients need to read Lance Armstrong’s “It’s not about the bike” book.

      Peace,
      Ed

      • Gary says:

        Wow, Ed, I meant no offense to you. I salute you for winning your fight.

        I am amazed by Lance’s accomplishments in the sport. And I salute his philanthropy.

        But I am no fan of the man, personally. I look for a little humility in the people I admire. That is something he does not have in abundance.

        • falcodoug says:

          And Lance is just a man.

          • HalfBaked says:

            His philanthropic work not withstanding Lance used performance enhancing drugs to achieve his accomplishments on the bicycle.

        • edpix says:

          Gary,
          I apologize to you, I just over reacted in my defense of Lance who was an inspiration to me as I went and go through my personal battle against cancer.

          I also apologize for taking this off topic, This Specialized bike is pretty cool and probably the beginning of a lot more bikes to come with similar concepts.

          Ed

  16. dave says:

    I used to have an electric bicycle. An Ezip trailz. $299 shipped from amazon with a lead acid battery. Did some looking around online a few weeks ago and found some links to some highly modified 45mph mountain bikes with ridiculous 5000watt motors and LiIon batteries…they were also north of $5k!

    Anyway, not sure what the speed limit is on bikes at least in CA. I know in some states, you don’t have to have a license to drive a 49cc or less motor scooter like a vino or zuma, etc…but they can’t exceed 27mph. Anything that exceeds 27mph needs a motorcycle license according to NC laws.

    I personally liked my electric bike while it was working. It could make it up some 15% inclines @ 10-12 mph (with me pedaling my hardest) while spandexed out road bike studs were trekking along with super calves at half that speed.

    • Joe Bar says:

      In VA, no license or insurance needed if the bike meets the following criteria:

      1. Seat height greater than 24″ (keeps “pocket rockets” off the road).
      2. Engine displacment less than 50cc.
      3. Speed less than 35 MPH.

      No metion of electric vehicles in the law, but I expect that under 35 MPH, one would be safe from scrutiny. I see unlicensed scooters going well over 35 every day.

      Oh, and no state helmet requirement, either.