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(The Gear Loop) - With its own, in-house electric motor, fantastically light carbon frame and exceptional components, the Specialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo does a fantastic impression of a premium gravel bike with the added bonus of electric assistance. It doesn’t feel right to be bouncing a near-£6k machine off rocks and steep drops, but this is a bike that just begs to be pushed.

Packing Specialized’s now renowned lightweight SL motor, the system is said to double the effort of any rider with an additional 240W of assistance that’s delivered in a linear and natural way. We’d go so far as to say that this is one of the most bike-like e-bicycle experiences we’ve had, with torque sent to the cranks in such a way that covering ground feels genuinely effortless.

The Gear Loop/Matt BuckleySpecialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo review photo 42

A cleverly integrated battery system offers up to 80-miles of electric range, with three settings easily accessed via a small button on the top tube. It’s also possible to tune the bike via a clever Mission Control smartphone app, which also acts as a great way of handing off battery monitoring duties to a piece of software, as algorithmic wizardry means you can plug in a set distance and the bike will attempt to ensure there’s enough juice to last the ride, only delivering assistance when absolutely necessary.

You can also completely tweak when and how the e-motor delivers its power via multiple adjustment settings and sliders. There’s even an option to pair a heart rate monitor so electric assistance keeps you in a desired heart rate zone. Incredibly niche, we know, but no less impressive. 

The Gear Loop/Matt BuckleySpecialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo review photo 1

With that in mind, the Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo is also far easier to ride than it is to say out loud, with a super lightweight circa-14kg frame meaning it’s fully possible to enjoy without the electrical assistance.

And enjoy you will, because the presence of Specialized’s adjustable Future Shock 2.0 suspension system in the bike’s headstock allows the rider to manually stiffen or soften the front damping with a very simple twist of a dial, making rapid forays into the wilderness perfectly possible.

The Gear Loop/Matt BuckleySpecialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo review photo 16

Despite the delicate-feeling frame and expensive looks, the chunky off-road tyres, an X-Fusion Manic Dropper seat post with 50mm travel and reliable Shimano RX812 GX all hint at this bike’s off-road capabilities. It’s not a thing to be treated with kid gloves, it's a thing to piledrive through the mud.

Our quick take

We’ll admit that when we first cast an eye on the Specialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo (sheesh, that name is so annoying), we were left scratching our scalps. The frame looks slightly dumpy and awkwardly proportioned, while the addition of a dropper seat and that adjustable Future Shock suspension could easily be viewed as gimmicks. And then there’s the price.

But just a few miles on mixed surfaces is enough to get in tune with this machine and start to fall head-over-heels in love with it. It’s just a lot of fun and extends any ride or outing by several hours. 

The Gear Loop/Matt BuckleySpecialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo review photo 37

The battery life is fantastic and the way the clever SL motor delivers its assistance is so fluid and natural, it’s easy to forget its there were it not for the feint whine when it kicks in. The suspension works well and despite the ultra-stiff carbon fibre, it’s a bike that seems happy to tackle shingly descents and hop over the occasional rock. We are sure Specialized’s pro riders have put it through much worse than we managed.

If, like us, gravel riding is all about fun and exploring new terrain, the Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo feels like a perfect partner, as it opens up the opportunity to ride harder and further, without limiting the type of terrain you can tackle. What’s more, it’s still just about light enough to throw over a shoulder should you meet obstacles that can’t be ridden through or over.

The Gear Loop/Matt BuckleySpecialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo review photo 24

There’s still a lot of stigma surrounding electric bikes, especially when motors are added to gravel and road machines, and many accusations levelled at them are totally valid, but if you can look past the price, this is a new and novel riding experience that can happily sit alongside your analogue bikes. You just might need to remortgage the house to build the collection. 

Specialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo review: an electric gravel bike on steroids

Specialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo

5 stars - The Gear Loop editors choice
For
  • Natural-feeling electric assistance
  • Lightweight frame
  • Awesome components
  • Lots of fun
Against
  • Dropper seat isn't great
  • It weights almost 14kg
  • Very expensive

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In the Loop

A quick look at Specialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo:

  • 80-miles of electric range
  • Powerful 240W e-motor for 1:1 assistance
  • Shimano GRX 810 hydraulic disc brakes & mechanical 11-speed drivetrain
  • Lightweight Fact 11 Carbon frame
  • Dropper seat post with 50mm of travel
  • Future Shock 2.0 adjustable front suspension
  • DT R470 Boost wheels shod in Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss Ready tyres
  • Mission Control App for ultimate control over power delivery and battery management
The Gear Loop/Matt BuckleySpecialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo review photo 6

Packed with tech and features

Let’s start with the frame, because this is arguably the thing upon which all the additional  loveliness hangs. It’s made from Fact 11 carbon fibre, which is among the stiffest (and most expensive) that Specialized works with. It’s almost identical to the Turbo Creo SL road-biased bike in terms of geometry and delivers a fairly sporty and aggressive riding position were it not for the bars.

These are of the Specialized Adventure Gear Hover variety and feature a sort of moustache riser design that places the flat part of the bar neatly in the hands without the need to reach too far. In fact, ride it sat upright and it’s extremely comfortable over long distances, aided by the ultra plush Roubaix S-Wrap handlebar tape that helps take further shocks and vibrations away from the palms.

Of course, you can tuck down into full-on aero attack mode if the mood takes, but even on the drops, it still feels really stable and planted. Surprising given that the overall geometry of this thing is pinched from a road bike.

The Gear Loop/Matt BuckleySpecialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo review photo 39

Further grip and stabilisation on slippy surfaces comes in the form of DT R470 Boost wheels shod in brilliant Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss Ready tyres. The rear rim is slightly fatter than the front, which aids traction when the e-motor kicks in and allows it to put down its torque with greater efficiency but also improves handling when the going gets tough.

There’s also a semi-dropper post at the rear that offers 50mm of travel by pulling a lever on the left hand handlebar drop. The lever itself is in a funny place, as we’d prefer to be able to activate it when upright, but it does make it easy to ditch the seat when shifting weight rearward for tackling steep descents, or pop it back in place when climbing.

Finally, the all-important e-motor is cleverly stashed in the bottom bracket, which feels like a sensitive place to put it, but thankfully it is well protected from rocks and debris via a tough plastic casing and there’s loads of ground clearance between the bottom bracket and the ground.

A thrill on the trails

Holy smokes, this bike is fun. It might not possess the same aggressive, gravity-defying, trail-smashing dominance of Specialized’s own Turbo Levo electrified downhill mountain bike range, nor that of Scott’s Genius eRide line-up, but it extends the smiles and belly laughs of any good gravel ride by several hours and many miles.

The SL motor is so slick and easy to operate that you almost forget it’s there, delivering just the right level of assistance at any given moment to overcome hurdles or make scrambling up loose inclines that bit easier.

The Gear Loop/Matt BuckleySpecialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo review photo 34

During our numerous test rides, we never felt that the motor suddenly delivered a glut of torque at the wrong moment, nor did we feel out of control and forced to slam on those powerful Shimano GRX 810 hydraulic disc brakes. The system is there to assist, rather than put down noticeable power or deliver crazy acceleration.

With the e-motor in its highest setting, the bike will pick up pace quick enough when putting serious manpower through the cranks, so we found that often the lightest or middling settings were plenty strong enough for the relatively flat trails that we enjoy around our local rides.

In that respect, the 11-speed Shimano GRX mechanical drivetrain also feels just right, with us never really pining after additional cogs to tackle climbs. Worst case, we simply cranked up the electrical assistance and the inclines were quickly slain. However, one slight bugbear we noticed was the chain occasionaly decided to come free from the front sprocket and it then had an awful habit of becoming trapped between the front sprocket and the plastic guard that covers the electric motor and bottom bracket. Oily fingers ahoy!

However, the cockpit feels great in the hands and although descending tricky technical sections with drop bars feels very odd at first, the bike inspires plenty of confidence, with a stable front end and extremely powerful brakes to scrub off speed quickly. As previously mentioned, the dropper post lever is in an awkward position and feels really soft and unsatisfying to use, requiring too much of a deliberate shove to operate.

The Gear Loop/Matt BuckleySpecialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo review photo 14

But the brakes and shifter levers are stong and responsive, plus they have a protective rubberised coasting on the outside, which is both super grippy in the hands and comfortable when covering big mileage over rough terrain. Riders can also adjust front suspension damping via a dial on the headstock.

A system like this might seem like a gimmick but it really works, with enough travel in the front end to take on some big lumps, while micro-adjustments means it’s possible to dial out vibrations on rough tarmac or lock it out completely if you want to cover ground fast when the going is smooth.

The Gear Loop/Matt BuckleySpecialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo review photo 41

If you're thinking of hitting the trails on two wheels, you'll need some of the essential gravel bike gear around. Check out our list here

To recap

With its own, in-house developed electric motor, fantastically light carbon frame and exceptional components, the Specialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo does a fantastic impression of a premium gravel bike with the added bonus of electric assistance. It doesn’t feel right to be bouncing a near-£6k machine off rocks but this is a bike that just begs to be pushed and you'll find yourself grinning as you do it.

Writing by Leon Poultney.