Photo: Alicia Bailey
I’ve heard it all before…they’re cheat bikes, they’re for people who aren’t fit, they’re for those too lazy to ride properly, they are for old people, they’re for the ‘fat’ old dudes who can’t keep up with their mates…..yep, everything negative. There is always an excuse and always a reason they aren’t like a ‘real’ bike. And more often than not it sounds to me a like whole lotta validation is going on via the ‘I don’t need one yet’ comments!
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard all these things and more when the topic of e-bikes comes up. There is a hater in every crowd and always someone quick to shoot the whole idea down. But I beg to differ…I can’t help but try to counter the arguments by letting people know that the ‘e’ in e-bike is actually for ‘enabler’. Because that is exactly what they are.
Years ago, I know I too felt the same…in fact riding a few test models of some big clunky European e-bikes made me feel nothing short of downright embarrassed. I am ashamed to say I too felt like less of a cyclist on those clunkers and had burning urges to turn to my fellow cyclists at traffic lights to tell them “I don’t usually ride this…I’m just testing it’. I didn’t want to be seen as the person who wasn’t fit, or couldn’t keep up…I didn’t want to be ‘not a proper cyclist’!
But times have changed, and along with it the technology, design and market acceptance. E-bikes are here to stay. No longer are the big clunky Euro models the only choice with brands now entering all sectors of the rider market…commuters, mountain bikers, road riders! It’s a welcome expansion of the industry and a welcome choice for riders.
Specialized has been exploring the e-bike market for a while now, with a range of e-mtb bike. The e-road bike market is a new one for the company, but they are leading on all fronts.
But it isn’t just the technology and design that changed. Along the way, my own situation changed too. A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with a heart condition that means I have a 50% blockage of my Left Anterior Descending artery (LAD). There is a fairly big chunk of heart muscle connected to that, so if it decides to bomb out, it’s not a great situation. On advice from my doctors it meant making some changes to my riding. But to be honest, those changes left me feeling disheartened, and frankly, just a little devastated.
My heart condition is genetic and can’t be helped with drugs. But the fact I have been riding for the last 7-8 years has put me in great condition and means my heart is strong and compensates well for the situation. But it also means I still have a risk factor. That risk factor increases if I spend long periods of time at higher heart rates or by increasing the rate too quickly…read that as doctors orders for no more really big hills, no more interval training. Long rides with constant heart rate was now to be my medicine.
Though many think avoiding hills is a perfect prescription, I was pretty disappointed that the hill rides were now off the menu. But I am simply not prepared to take the risk any more, and that means I have been suffering some serious #fomo! As my friends climbed hills, I rode my monster truck e-mtb Specialized Levo. When I knew I was facing some short sharp hill repeats, I took the Levo. It just wasn’t the same as being on the roadie, and yes, there have been tears shed.
The Turbo Creo SL Expert
But enter the Turbo Creo e-road bike by Specialized. In serendipitous circumstances I was lucky enough to be able to demo the new Turbo Creo SL Expert Evo exactly one year to the day that my heart condition was diagnosed. I didn’t want to get too excited about what could be an answer to my #fomo, but I had 5 days to find out if this was my ticket to re-open that window that felt like it had been slammed shut.
Well, I really don’t know what I can say at this point in time. There were moments I felt pretty emotional, moments when the tears brewed as I was riding and moments of sheer joy and fun I was laughing like a maniac. I don't generally cry when I ride bikes...but I was so overwhelmed with the capacity of what this bike can do I couldn't help feel emotional. The Turbo Creo has the capacity to change lives. I am speaking from the heart…literally!
I won’t go into detail here about the technicalities of how the Turbo Creo works, the Shimano Di2 or the Future Shock suspension because plenty of other reviews have done that. With state-of-the-art technology, weight that belies its e-bike status and a sleek design that fools the nay-sayers the Creo has taken road bike riding to a whole new game. The SL 1.1 motor means that you are basically doubling your output. It feels like normal riding, but all of a sudden on those hills the pain disappears…but don’t be fooled, you still get a serious workout.
Most people who saw the bike didn't realise at all that the bike was an e-bike. It looks so close to a regular road bike, rides like a regular bike...until the hills!
There were times when I was puffing and panting, going seriously slow up the hills (because I have never been a climber) and at times flying like a normal road bike with a tail wind. Despite being slow on the hills, I never felt like it was a problem because my heart rate just didn’t max out and the pain wasn't there. There are three power levels so you can choose how much you want to work up those hills, but beyond 25kmphr the bike rides like a normal roadie…I had no problems sitting comfortably on 30-32kmphr, my normal cruising speed.
But what did it really mean for someone like me who has a heart condition? Well, it felt like a window was re-opened. All of a sudden, I felt like there was no fear factor when it came to the hills…my heart rate just didn’t climb as high as it might otherwise, my legs still felt like they were working and I still worked up a good sweat. At the end of a ride I felt like there was plenty left in the tank, but I hadn’t put myself and my heart at risk. I could choose how hard i worked on each hill.
We rode on path, road and gravel putti g the bike through every scenario...the Turbo Creo SL Expert Evo version handled everything beautifully. And it was SO much FUN!
Rolling through the regular city rides the bike was just a dream on the uphill segments and super fun on the descents...the lower centre of gravity made it feel really stable.
But there was another bonus I totally didn’t expect from the Creo. With a hip that has had multiple cortisone injections (but still doesn’t stop me riding) all of a sudden, I was ending rides feeling like the stress was off. I seriously hadn’t realised how much it can hurt after a ride until I kept getting off the Creo and feeling like nothing hurt. There was no strain on the hills, no strain when I pushed a little harder and I was loving it.
So would I buy one? A price tag of around $12,000 means it is out of my reach…why aren’t health funds subsidising e-bikes? But the reality is that even with that price tag I would seriously consider it. Riding is my life, my freedom, my joy and my passion. I ride a lot because i love it and I feel like a door slammed on that joy 12 months ago…at what price is my health, freedom and happiness worth? I see the Creo as an investment, not just for my health, but for my future riding adventures. Yes, I would buy a Creo…I think this bike is not just a game changer, for me, it’s a life changer.
NOTE: Special thanks to Specialized for allowing me to test the bike...what an awesome experience.
...and special thanks to my friends at Specialized store Cycle Beeline in Fukuyama Japan for the perfect matchy matchy water bottle! If you have the right bottle, you getter get the bike to match right!