Ever heard of an SUV in the e-bike world? Well, Specialized are making it a thing with their Turbo Tero X. We were invited to the launch of the bike earlier this year, and shortly after we were given a bike to review. It’s accidentally turned into a long-term test, but that’s only given us more time to enjoy it and discover what it’s really like to live with a Range Rover of the e-bike world.
At first glance, the Turbo Tero X looks like a confused eMTB. Its full-suspension and slack geometry wouldn’t look out of place at a trail centre. But then you see the mudguards, rack and lights and think... hang on, what is this bike?
It’s designed to be a ‘go-anywhere’ e-bike; one that can tow a trailer full of kids, but also not be put off by a bit of off-roading, or even an urban commute. But how does that work in practice?
Sports Utility Bike?
I’ll admit when I first heard the term sports utility vehicle (SUV) sneaking into the cycling world, I was a little confused. In my opinion, I don’t really think many of the labelled SUVs on the market actually do a very good job of being multi-faceted, versatile cars. To see the label in the bike world didn’t inspire me with confidence. But then I saw the bike in person and rode it for myself, and I was pretty much won over within the first half hour.
If you’ve already read my first ride of the Turbo Tero X, you’ll be pleased to know that my opinion of the bike hasn’t changed much in the months that I’ve had it at home. It’s a bit heavy, sure, but that’s to be expected – and perhaps more importantly, that didn’t stop me reaching for it every time I had a small errand to run. Even the dog liked being a passenger on it – trouble is every time she saw it she began to get excited and was then devastated whenever I left the house without her.
But enough of the fluff (literally), what does an SUV look like in e-bike terms? In the case of the Turbo Tero X, it means it’s capable enough to ride almost anywhere. That means mountain bike geometry, wide tyres, and front and rear suspension. It’s also got mudguards, built-in lights, a kickstand, and a rear rack - although the rear rack doesn’t allow for a rack bag to be fitted, and I found it difficult to get some pannier bags to fit on the sides.
The Specialized 2.2 motor just does whatever you want it to. I’m half convinced there isn’t a hill out there that it cannot conquer. It's saud ti produce up to 90Nm of torque and I’ve taken it up 25% slopes and through moorland bridleways that other mountain bikes couldn’t hack. I know it sounds like I’m just singing the praises of this bike, but honestly, when it works, I don’t know if there is a better system out there.
Note I said 'when it works'. E-bike motors come under a lot of strain and have lots of electrical components that aren’t perhaps always best suited for British riding. I had one recurring problem with the motor, in that the speed sensor and magnet kept throwing up an error. A quick clean to the magnet on the rear disc solved it, 99% of the time, but towards the end of my time with the bike, no amount of cleaning would reset the error.
This error meant that the bike couldn’t tell how fast I was going, and would consequently kill the motor. The Mission Control app (or more recently the Specialized app) was really helpful in identifying the error, as you can perform over the air diagnostics. But, that's as far as it goes. It can only highlight the issue, but not fix it. It can help you log the issue with your local Specialized dealer, but it's likely just as easy to pick up the phone and book the bike into the workshop for further investigation.
And, as it was towards the end of my time with the bike, it went back to Specialized without me knowing how to fix it. Without this 'niggle' I wouldn't hesitate to score the bike a 9/10 - it's just that good. But this was a pretty major issue for me.
After taking a look at the bike, Specialized said that it looked like the speed sensor cable itself had taken a knock and needed to be replaced. They also said that, "sometimes it can be as simple as dirt in and around that area and the simple fix is to clean as suggested by the app, but doesn’t look to be the case this time around."
I don't think the damaged cable is likely to prove a common fault, and is perhaps another case for getting a bike built up at a bike shop rather than having it shipped to your house and at the mercy of the couriers. The problem for me lay in the simple fact that dirt could interfere with the sensor working in the first place. If I want to ride the bike throughout winter, I don't want to have to worry about taking a cloth with me to clean the rear magnet every time I go through a puddle.
That being said, I didn't have any issue with this when I rode it around Rutland Water, when it was positively filthy. That encourages the notion this was an isolated issue with the cable, rather than a major failing of the magnet - it perhaps just took a little while to come to the surface rather than manifesting straight out the box.
The range is one massive plus for this bike. The 710Wh battery can give you up to 75 miles according to Specialized when kept in eco mode. I think that’s pretty spot on, as long as the terrain isn’t too hardcore and steep.
I covered about 18 miles with over 2,400ft of elevation gain, riding both on and off-road, and managed to drain the battery by a quarter, using a mixture of all four modes. It does take a fair while to charge, about 5-6 hours, but that’s a small price to pay for such big mileage.
Components and ride quality
If you happened to glance at the spec sheet of the bike, you’d be mistaken for thinking it a decent mountain bike. There’s a SRAM 12-speed mixed groupset with SRAM Code hydraulic disc brakes, which come with 180mm front rotors and 200mm rear.
Suspension wise, you’ve got RockShox Lyric Select+ forks with 130mm of travel and remote lockout, and then on the rear is RockShox’s Deluxe Select+ shock.
It’s equipped like a mountain bike because that’s the skeleton of it. That’s what it’s designed around - that comfortable, stable geometry with a dropper post which is actually really useful at junctions if you don’t want to worry about losing your balance.
The 2.3” tyres aren’t exactly road tyres, and you definitely get that sort of tractor tyre hum on tarmac, but they provide confidence off-road through sand, mud, rocks and anything else you can think of. I tested a size small, and it fit really nicely. I was on the borderline at 5ft5in, but I think the medium would have been too much of a reach for me, and to be honest I quite liked how agile the smaller, 27.5” wheels felt.
The Turbo Tero X weighs 22.5kg for the medium size, so it’s not exactly a lightweight bike to be chucking on the back wheel and rolling around – which you also can’t really do because of the full-length mudguards. But I’d rather have a dry backside and do some bike carrying gymnastics than have no mudguards.
The ride quality is superb. The Turbo Tero X 6.0 is quite honestly one of the most responsive, comfortable e-bikes I have ever ridden. If I were to buy one myself, I’d change the grips to something less ergonomic and more tacky, but the rest of the finishing kit was really comfortable. I don’t think you necessarily need full-suspension if you’re just going to ride your bike to the shops, but if you’ve got a powerful motor in there to soak up the extra bounce, then why not?
I tested the 6.0 model, which is the highest in the three-model range (5.0 and 4.0 are the others). This does come at a premium price of £5,500 compared to £4,500 and £3,750 for the other two. Is it worth that much? It is a lot of bike, and it’s a very nice ride, but it’s undeniably a lot of cash. I suppose Specialized’s idea is that it is very much the only e-bike you might need, but whether it’s the only e-bike you’ll want will be down to personal preferences.
The closest bike like it in spec and shape is the Canyon Pathlite:ON 9 LTD SUV. Richard tested it earlier this year and, like the Tero X 6.0, it’s the highest spec in the model range. That one costs £5,250, so it’s not much different to this bike, although the rear rack looks more substantial and there is only front suspension.
It's an absolutely brilliant e-bike, and it does what it sets out to do really well. That said, the issues with the speed sensor are potentially significant. It seems that a bit of dirt could at some point render the motor temporarily unusable and, even if the likelihood is low, that would be a major frustration.