If you really want a hard-hitting Enduro bike with progressive, adjustable geometry and next level suspension, but you also really want some intuitive assistance - then you're in luck. The future is here, and it is a Specialized Kenevo SL.

A couple of years back in the era of hugs and handshakes, Ryan Walsch tested the Specialized Kenevo. A long travel, beast of an eMTB. Ryan asked the question - when do you go and buy a short travel motor bike? He loved the big battery, big power and big travel. So much so that when he was sent the Specialized Turbo Levo SL, Ryan couldn't understand why you'd want a bike with less power and less range. 

Until he rode it.

When riding the Turbo Levo SL, the benefits of design, and not just numbers, came to the fore. The Specialized 1.1 motor was more intuitive to pedal feedback, feeling far less like an on and off switch. These firmware changes have been improved again for the new Specialized Turbo Levo released recently, and there are improvements again with the new Kenevo SL. We hear that thanks to the MasterMind wireless updates, firmware upgrades are going to be released as soon as their are new innovations.

So what's the Kenevo SL all about then? In short, it takes the Kenevo, jumbles it up with the Levo SL and adds in the refinements to frame design, assistance control and suspension kinematics from the new Levo. Or - in simpler terms, it is a Specialized Enduro with one of the world's leading eMTB systems inside it.

The Specialized Kenevo SL - the details

170mm of travel front and rear
29" wheels front and back
Over 5kg lighter than a Kenevo - the S Works model is under 19kg!
240W of power and 35Nm of Torque
Better suspension curve
S sizing
Adjustable geometry

S Works Kenevo SL – $23,700
S Works Kenevo SL Frameset - $12,900
Expert Kenevo SL - $15,900

Who's the Kenevo SL for?

That's easy: the Specialized Kenevo SL is for anyone who wants a highly capable Enduro bike with intuitive pedal assistance. Specialized were pretty upfront with saying they are targeting riders who want the handling and bike feel of an analogue or acoustic bike, while still having some support for climbs and pedalling sections of trail.

And the fact checking was there as well, with so many Specialized dealers reporting that riders were upgrading their Levo SLs, with bigger forks, bigger brakes and more burly parts. Riders loved the lower weight of the Levo SL despite the reduced overall power - it gave them a bit more oomph without changing how they rode a bike.

Making the Kenevo SL

Engineers rode other light eMTBs like the Orbea Rise, to see where a Kenevo SL could fit. They wanted to know what they could do better for an eMTB. And they were sure that bringing the function and of the Levo SL to the capability of the Enduro platform was the answer.

The Enduro that was released in August 2019 was already in development, so the eMTB team looked at how the SL 1.1 motor could be built into that platform. The frame design already had a fair bit of space being used down low on the Enduro, but thanks to the smaller size of the 1.1 motor, the dsign teams made it fit - albeit with a lot of testing. 

The Kenevo SL also adopts the geometry adjustment features from the Stumpjumper EVO and new Levo. That means there are options at both the head tube and the Horst link. These are very subtle, meaning you can set it and forget it. Or, you can adapt your bike to the trails you're riding. Ride it high, ride it lower. Ride it slacker or ride it steeper.

You can adjust the geometry via the Horst Link
And via the headset cups.

There's a full geometry finder on the Specialized website that can help guide you if you're one to hit a road block when you're given too many options.

In terms of range, the lighter battery can be built upon via the Range Extender. Word is, you can even remove the main battery if you want to fly with the Kenevo SL, and carry the Range Extender in carry on luggage. It would be worth checking on Lithium ion battery limits for a given airline, but this is possible with many. The bike will work with the Range Extender alone.

Suspension and Geometry 

Firstly, the Kenevo SL adopts S sizing, from S2-S5. This means you can size more based on reach, as opposed to saddle extension. Specialized claim that they can cover riders from 5'2" to 6'4" with these four sizes. As always, trust in a quality size up from your Specialized dealer to see what size suits you.

Overall, the geoemetry has lots of reach, with a generous cockpit. The seat angle is steep to keep you forward and balanced for climbing. The head angle is slack for getting rowdy, and can be adjusted between 62.5-64.5 degrees. The bottom bracket is about 5-6mm higher than on an Enduro, and the chain stay length is a little longer, running 442-447 across the 4 sizes with the geo adjust.

As for suspension, Specialized wanted more of a rearward curve to reduce the rear wheel hang up, which gets more important on longer travel bikes. The previous Levo had too much of a forward axle path and they wanted to escape that. So for the first half of the travel the rear wheel moves back, meaning more squish and less hang up especially on square edges.

The leverage rate is a bit more linear than an Enduro, which makes it a little easier to use all the travel. And that means there was more work to do with the Rx tune. But that's ok, Specialized have a whole department for that. Mike McAndrews and Chance Ferro designed the kinematics around the Fox Float X2.

They wanted a bottomless feel, and having a jounce bumper to help offset the linear leverage rate. (Fun fact: A jounce bumper is basically a MCU bumper to prevent a harsh bottom out). There's also more low speed rebound adjustment, due to the greater air spring pressures on an eMTB.

Updates to the SL motor

Firmware updates are the future, and the SL motor with it's 35Nm and 240W of power are all about proving that it's how you use it.

What Specialized have done is to optimise support for a cadence of 75rpm. The little MasterMind head unit well tell you how efficient you are, and some claim it actually helps you pedal better. There is also less cut out, so if you're smashing the pedals to boost over a ledge with momentum, you won't get a cut out as you exceed the support limit. Basically, the system is there to support you, not leave you wanting at key moments.

The team also aimed to make the motor seamless at low cadences as well. So, say you're soft pedalling waiting for mates or riding with kids, there's no chatter as the motor engages and disengages. We hear there are even more updates coming to the firmware, and they can be done wirelessly at home for anyone with one of the new range of eMTBs from Specialized. This is the future!

Tell me more!

The best way to find out more is to drop into your local Specialized dealer. They have bikes in stock now, so you can go take a look at one of the bikes or even consider building up a frame set.

We think this is a real nod to the future of eMTB integration. Sure, drop in to any trail head and you'll notice that eMTBs aren't a fad. They're the here and now. But Specialized have taken a long travel bike with some serious big mountain capability, kept the overall weight in check for ride feel and handling, and created a support system which is said to be one of the smoothest out there, with updates and control that is simpler to use than some bar mount computers. And that's exciting.