Testing the Specialized Turbo Levo Comp e-MTB
Words: Tim Bardsley-Smith
It’s no secret that Specialized has been at the forefront of eMTB development pushing the boundaries since the first Levo was released in 2015. No matter what bike or product the “big S” is producing, integration is where its sets itself apart and the Turbo Levo especially so. Over the years Specialized have taken the German made Brose pedal assist motor and used clever Swiss design to really make it their own. Specialized have integrated the motor it into the frame design perfectly, to make it easily one of the most aesthetically appealing eMTB frames in the world.
The new Turbo Levo has now taken that to a whole new level. With both the carbon and aluminium frames offering super sleek internal batteries with internal control units built into the top tube. With the backing of a new incredibly powerful and simple to use smart phone app, it makes it the most fully-featured system on the planet. Now as with most things well-designed, and especially done so in Switzerland, there is a considerable price tag that comes with it. But no matter which model you get the only difference is frame material, parts and battery capacity. So, no matter whether you want to spend an eye-watering $18,000 on an S-works model, or the much more palatable $6,600.00 for the base Levo, you get the exact same system.
Tester: Tim Bardsley-Smith
Riding Experience: Cycling industry photographer and over 20 years on mountain bikes, riding and travelling the globe. With Tim’s line of work he’s lucky enough to ride many different bikes in all the best locations.
Generally Rides: Merida e160 eMTB , Surly Karate Monkey, Cannondale Super X
Bike Test Track: Linga Longa Bike Park, Kalamunda Camel Farm and Pemberton in WA.
The new magnesium Brose motor is much lighter and smaller helping with the massive weight savings over the older models. It’s also increased the ever-important torque to 90Nm but power which is governed by legal requirements is still at 250W. They have implemented a double freewheel design which should eliminate much of the draggy feeling once the motor is no longer assisting you. While the new Levo system and motor is this bike’s biggest selling point, it would be near useless if it wasn’t built into a bike that had amazing ride qualities. Luckily the Levo is built using many of the numbers from their highly regarded Stumpjumper chassis, with 150mm of travel front and rear, super stiff asymmetrical design, short rear stays, low slung bottom bracker and slack head angles and flip chip adjustability. Ride quality and capability is every bit as important to Specialized on their eMTBs as the rest of the range.
For the purposes of our review we were handed the Bluetooth code of a Turbo Levo
Comp, an aluminium framed model with a quite capable build kit. Nothing fancy, but everything to a level an advanced mountain biker would probably need and nothing they didn’t. To put it into perspective the retail pricing still sits at the $9,000 mark.
Probably the biggest reason to jump up to the Comp from any of the lower models would be the mind blowing 700Wh battery. It’s the largest capacity battery from any of the main manufacturers in the industry. This gives you a longer lasting ride again and again. The biggest reason we all look to eMTBs is to ride more. The aluminium frame might jump out to some as a compromise, but I really don’t think it is. Weight on an eMTB is far less of an issue as percentage wise the weight saving you would gain going carbon is not all that much.
Like I explained earlier, integration is everything on the Levo and one of the smallest details yet one I love is the integrated speed sensor. With the magnet on the rotor bolts and the sensor on the axle it’s locked in solid. Almost eliminating any of the sensor issues you get with many of the other eMTB systems that use the traditional spoke magnet and chain stay sensor. Cable routing is also next level convenient, that will appease many of the most OCD mechanics out there. The battery is easily accessible and removable making charging or travelling simple and easy no matter what the scenario is.
The Specialized Mission Control App is awesome, whilst you may not use it every ride. It is very easy to set up everything the way you want. Tuning the max and minimum power per mode, diagnosing issues or even the automated battery power management feature to make sure you get through that next epic ride. You can even set the power delivery and assistance levels for how it suits your riding and trails via the app.
On The Trail
With the increase in travel to 150mm the new Levo becomes a much more capable bike, and this is one of the first things I noticed. The RockShox Lyric fork up front gives you a tonne of confidence and the support you need that an eMTB demands. The Sram 11-speed GX drivetrain is more than enough, and works as you would expect. The shifter is indexed to give you one shift per click, which is great at putting less wear and tear on the much more heavily loaded drive train that eMTBs are inherently under.
The most remarkable thing is how quiet the motor is, and how much the new Turbo Levo just feels like a normal bike. Most other eMTBs can have you feeling a little guilty as you whir or whine past riders on a long fire road climb, but with the Levo’s quietness, regular 29” tyres and lack of a large display screen, you get in the zone and forget about why you're so fast. You're just left with oddly surprised looks of the other riders that weren’t able to work out why you were so strong (looking).
The geometry, wheel size and tyre choice are the main contributing factors with how the Levo rides. Jumping, manualling and cornering which all contribute to a bikes' ever important and much talked about playfulness are things that take time when a rider is new to 29ers, but I felt at home on the Levo straight away. The short rear end makes manualling a heavy eMTB much more achievable. Having ridden a lot of eMTBs with plus size tyres it was a pleasant surprise to get back on regular rubber and the security the smaller width provides. You lose out a little bit with traction on loose techy climbs, but this is all made up by the fast rolling and “normal” bike feel they provide.
I’m a massive fan of 29” wheels and once you're completely used to them they are seriously difficult to fault. Some eMTB manufacturers have gone to 27.5” rear and a 29” front, which is hard to work out if it’s because they couldn’t make a short enough rear end to fit a 29” rear or if designs were just already set before the 29er popularity grew so much more. Or with the current trend for mullet bikes, do they actually think it’s the best of both worlds? Whatever your personal thoughts the industry is clearly taking 29er trail bikes more seriously and the eMTB segment is also taking that on board, albeit a little bit slower. If you really want to you could easily put a 27.5” wheel in the back of the Levo, switch the flip chip to it’s high mode and away you go.
The capabilities of a well-designed 150mm travel 29er are outstanding. Rough downhill sections are no longer as intimidating. The mid-stroke of the travel has also been given much more support via new kinematics doing away with the wallowing lounge chair feel some eMTBs are known for. The longer front end yet shorter stem setup requires a more over the front riding style that combined with a steeper seat tube helps in a much better climbing position. This is arguably a much more important factor to consider for some people buying a new eMTB.
The ride is the most normal feeling of any eMTB I have thrown a leg over, with the quietness of the system you’ll quickly forget why you're grinning ear to ear. The build kit is perfect and leaves not a lot of wanting for unnecessary upgrades. If you can bare the insults from the carbon snobs, it’s the Levo for you.
At a retail price of $9,000 the new Turbo Levo Comp is by no means a cheap eMTB and so it seems strange that think it is the best value of the Turbo Levo range. The massive 700Wh battery is easily the standout feature for me. Riding longer and faster is the reason why I would look to purchase an eMTB. The new motor is a sensational bit of gear that is leaps above anything I have ridden to date. The 90Nm of torque is not the largest torque figure to be thrown around but it is a significant increase and higher than most. This combined with unprecedented integration makes it in my opinion the best eMTB on the market today. When you take this all into consideration there is a reason the price tag is so high. Good things cost more to design, build and buy.
Model: Turbo Levo Comp
From: Specialized Australia
Available Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Frame Material: Aluminium
Fork: RockShox Lyric RC 29“ 150mm boost
Shock: RockShox Deluxe Select+
Shifter: SRAM GX 11sp.
Derailleur: SRAM GX 11sp
Crank: Praxis eCrank
Chain: KMC X11ET, 11sp
Cassette: SRAM PG-1130 11sp,11-42t
Wheel Set: Roval Traverse 29”
Tyres: Specialized Butcher 2.6” (F), Specialized Eliminator 2.3” (R)
Brakes: SRAM Guide RE 200mm F&R
Stem: Specialized Trail
Handlebars: Specialized Trail
Seatpost: X-Fusion Manic
Saddle: Specialized Bridge