Specialized turns transportation into recreation with this electric-assisted commuting masterpiece
New life experiences become less and less frequent as we get older. We may try new things, but completely new experiences are tough to come by. These could include sky diving or completing a marathon or having your first child. I’m here to tell you that pedaling an electric-hybrid bicycle is one of those experiences, and I’ve validated this by introducing countless friends and colleagues to the Specialized Turbo S.
The universal response to pedaling the Turbo for the first time is, “Whoa!” This is because its 250-watt electric motor kicks in automatically, surging the bike forward with almost no effort. If your butt cheeks had hands, they’d be gripping the saddle to hold on. And yet the power it produces feels quite natural — as natural as it might feel for Superman. Which is to say that you immediately adapt to this newfound power. There is no learning curve. It’s the type of assistance you’ve always wanted from a bike, and it’s nothing short of transformative. At the risk of complete hyperbole, the world would be an immeasurably better place if everyone had a human-electric hybrid bicycle because everyone would choose to ride instead of drive whenever given the choice. It’s that fun and that practical.
Within this burgeoning new bicycle category, the Specialized Turbo S ($5,900 MSRP) is in a class of its own. It’s the Tesla of two-wheeled transportation, combining industry-leading performance, design, grace, and technology into the ultimate package. Indeed, it’s the type of bike that would show up in an episode of Silicon Valley. It’s over the top in terms of how geeky and fun it is to ride.
For the better part of a couple months, I’ve been riding the Turbo back and forth to work, about eight miles each way from the Pacific Palisades to Santa Monica on the beach path. The sense of superiority you feel on the bike path borders on a God complex, while it gives you much more confidence in handling traffic due to having power on demand. It truly turns transportation into recreation, as your commute becomes infused with adrenaline. You pass other cyclists as if they were standing still, and there is a constant temptation to keep pace with cars…going uphill. One of the benefits of commuting with electric power is that you can do so without sweating. The minimal effort you invest in pedaling is counter-balanced by the amount of wind produced, thus keeping you cool and dry. Unless, of course, you give into the temptation to race cars uphill.
The Turbo’s battery is seamlessly integrated to the downtube of the frame. You barely notice it’s a battery, and this is where you plug in the charger. Pedaling triggers the electric motor, which provides assisted power up to 28 mph. In other words, casual pedaling easily gets you to 20 mph regardless of whether you’re going uphill, downhill, or into a 15-knot headwind. The motor doesn’t care. It continues to add power in maintaining a consistent pace and only cuts off when you get to 28 mph, which is more than sufficient for urban environments.
There are three power modes to choose from: Turbo, Eco, and Regenerative. Turbo is full power. Eco cuts it down by 30%, which means you have to pedal harder (and get more exercise) to maintain the same speed. And Regenerative mode actually recharges the battery. This can be set if you want to manually charge the battery with your own output (trading calories for watts), and it is automatically triggered by applying the rear brake. So the rear brake is a cutoff switch for the motor as well as a way to seamlessly switch to Regenerative mode. I found that you can go approximately 25 miles in Turbo mode on a full charge.
The bike weighs a relatively hefty 50 pounds. This makes it tough to load onto a bike rack or carry up stairs. But it’s perfect if you have a garage.
Like any experience, though, it’s impossible to describe what it’s like to ride a human-electric hybrid in any meaningful way. At the very least, I recommend finding a local Specialized dealer, such as Cynergy Cycles in Santa Monica, to take it for a test drive. I guarantee it will be a whoa-inducing experience.
Mt. Pinos is one of the more epic drops in the Los Angeles area. It’s a 1.5-hour drive north of the city on I-5. You can run easy shuttles up the 10-mile paved climb, which gets you onto the 2,500-foot, 6.7-mile singletrack descent.
Cyclocross bikes provide maximum range and utility for those with little time to spare for keeping in shape
Working at a startup company demands a lot of time. We routinely work 60+ hours per week. In the first years of getting MomentFeed off the ground, I left no time for health and fitness. I’ve made a recovery since then. But if I could do it all over again, I’d buy a cyclocross bike and transform my daily commutes — the need to get from one place to another — into full-on fitness sessions.
A cyclocross bike is designed for cyclocross racing. These are fast-paced circuit races with a combination of pavement, dirt, and obstacles. It’s effectively a combination of road riding, mountain biking, and running…with a bike on your shoulder, of course. Which is not so different from commuting back and forth to work in a city like Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco.
The Cannondale SuperX Hi-MOD Black Inc. is one of the top cyclocross bikes available. If you’ve had a successful exit (a wealth-creation event), then this is the model for you because it costs more than $5,000 and weighs a svelte 18 pounds with pedals. Five Gs buys you a full carbon frame with disc brakes, top-of-the-line SRAM 11-speed drivetrain, and tubeless wheels. For those still working on that first exit, the entry-level SuperX 105 runs just over $2,000.
The big benefit of a cyclocross bike is its tremendous range. With road-style handlebars and narrow 700c wheels, it’s well suited to asphalt. But with knobby tires and more relaxed frame geometry, it can handle all but the roughest dirt roads. This range also means it is well suited to the urban jungle, where you have to dodge traffic, hop medians, and pretty much handle whatever rush hour has in store. On the West Side of Los Angeles aka Silicon Beach, we have trails that are easily accessible from Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, and Malibu. So adding a few recreational miles to a commute is always an option.
In test-riding the SuperX, though, I discovered it has potential to be that one bike — the one bike that does everything. If you bought a disc wheelset with road tires, it becomes a viable road bike. And if you beef up the tires and add lower gearing to the off-road wheelset, it can charge any dirt-road route with gusto. I logged just over 280 miles, and more than half of that was pure pavement with road tires.
As with any tool that provides maximum versatility, though, cyclocross bikes don’t excel any single discipline — road, off-road, or even commuting. In the next few posts, we’ll review dedicated road bikes, mountain bikes, and commuter bikes to see what you get when you make a narrow commitment. But if you want to work out on your way to work and have a ton of fun on the way home, wherever that happens to take you, you can’t go wrong with a cyclocross bike like the Cannondale SuperX.
Whether building a startup company or getting faster on a bike, achieving goals is all about the application of mental energy
I achieved two major life goals over the past four years. Although they are closely related and even intertwined with one another, they are also completely different types of goals, one being intellectual and the other highly physical. And what I realized in hindsight is that there was one factor at the center of each that ultimately made them achievable.
First, I founded a technology company in 2010. I’d been exploring a few different models around the convergence of social, local, and mobile for about six months and arrived at the concept of MomentFeed, a platform to enable large brands to connect with consumers at the local level i.e. where more than 90% of commerce still takes place. I’d bring together Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, Google, and other channels into a complete solution that provided scale, efficiency, and tremendous value beyond any one individual channel. What resources did I have to embark on this ambitious endeavor? Very little. I needed capital — venture capital to be precise. I needed a product and engineers to build the product. I needed to partner with each of the channels. And, of course, I needed customers. I had none of these things when I incorporated the company in March of 2010. What did I have?
I had a vision. I could see clearly that smartphones would go from 19% adoption in the US to the dominant computing platform. I could see that new channels like Instagram and Snapchat would emerge from this. I could see that Facebook and Google would fundamentally become mobile companies. As a result, I could see what MomentFeed needed to be.
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