The Specialized eMTB range expands, as the Turbo Levo SL comes in to go light and long.
The Specialized Levo has often been regarded as one of the better riding eMTBs you can buy. The latest iteration has won praise around the globe, and our tester Tim Bardsley-Smith thinks the Turbo Levo he tested in Issue #179 is the best eMTB he has ridden to date. Similarly, Ryan Walsch was super impressed with the Kenevo Expert he has tested in our new issue, stating that it is far more versatile than many would think.
WIth the Levo and Kenevo both benefitting from the new Specialized 2.1 motor, there was still room in the Levo stable for another bike. Something a little lighter, for those riders who wanted an agile bike with pedal assist to tackle the big mountain missions. And sure, pedal-assist does make climbing and riding flat trails easier, but so does having a bike that is lighter and more responsive.
Specialized listened, and now we see the Specialized Turbo Levo SL.
A closer look at the Specialized Turbo Levo SL
The Specialized Turbo Levo SL hits the dirt as a 150mm travel playful trail bike. The geometry is about what you would expect for a 150mm travel trail bike and it looks like few concessions needed to be made for the motor and battery. The Turbo Levo SL sports a 66 degree head angle matched to a 51mm offset fork, and a moderately long reach of 455mm in a large. Chainstays are 437mm across all sizes from S through to XL. The seat tube angles are moderate, with at 74.6 on a large. Specialized do state that the bike is designed for a 150mm fork, and 150 only. The geometry numbers are about exactly where you would expect for a trail bike from a big manufacturer like Specialized. The difference is they are delivering them on an eMTB.
The bikes come stock with 2.3" tyres and Specialized admit that while a 2.4" will fit, it would be tight. This is another good reminder that this isn't a new version of the Levo, it's a different model aimed at a different rider.
Thanks to a different layup on the side arm frame, although the bike has very similar design architecture to the Stumpjumper, Levo and Kenevo, it's a lighter bike and Specialized claim it has refined ride. The motor is more compact which really helps to get the bike's geometry more like a regular bike, and therefore make it ride more like one too - and with the lighter weight that should go hand in hand to make a truly new style of eMTB.
How much lighter? Well Specialized claim 17.3kg total weight for the S Works edition (if you have $19000), so there is a saving of a few kilograms for sure - or 4kg compared to the same model in the Levo range. It is considerably lighter than the Pivot Shuttle we tested last year, which was already quite light. The Shuttle sported 140mm of travel for the frame, which is a little more than the Merida eOneForty we have tested in our new issue. It's also pretty light at about 22kg, and has opted for a little less travel for greater agility on the trail. Both those bikes use the Shimano STEPS E8000 motor and battery, but Specialized sought to save weight and optimise power with a new version of their own system.
Specialized developed a new motor for the Levo SL, and the new Specialized SL 1.1 motor delivers 240 Watts with 35Nm of maximum torque. It runs drag free when you reach the 25kmh limit and when you stop pedalling, to give you the same natural ride feel of the 2.1 motor. The internal battery is 320Wh, and you can fit a 160Wh range extender battery (and the top two models come with it within the RRP). This snap shot is a good indicator of where the Levo SL sits compared to the Levo and Kenevo.
Charging the battery is easy with a port on the frame. And while you can remove the battery, Specialized have achieved their low weight via integration, and taking the battery out means taking the motor out. So... yeah nah. This adds a bit of complexity if you want to fly with your Turbo Levo SL.
Of course, you can still use the Mission Control app and really tune how the motor works. Specialized claim 3.5 hours range on Eco with the new Turbo Levo SL, although this depends how you ride and how you tune the motor.
This is a 29er, and Specialized do not recommend making it a mullet bike with a 27.5" rear wheel. Yes, it might fit, but the bottom bracket would be too low, and reading between the lines, tha handling would be crap. So no, don't do it.
Spec options for the Specialized Turbo Levo SL
We weren't given the exact specs per bike, but Australia is getting the whole range (except the limited edition Founder model). Or more correctly, has the whole range, as they are in dealers right now.
LEVO SL S Works - $19000
LEVO SL Expert Carbon - $13200
LEVO SL Comp Carbon - $11200
LEVO SL Comp - $9800
First thoughts on the Turbo Levo SL
With a glance across the geometry chart and knowing how well the Specialized motors ride, this looks like a winner of a bike. 150mm of travel, handling that should be much like a regular bike thanks to 437mm stays and a wheelbase that matches a regular trail bike, not to mention only a few kilograms of extra heft compared to a trail bike that is ready to shred.
Having a bike that is quick to respond not just to your pedalling input, but also to your body language for handling the bike is one of the key parts of making a bike fun to ride. Long-travel eMTBs really can haul, but most owners will tell you that the extra weight does take a shift in how you ride it, and a little bit more strength to get it around. The Turbo Levo SL should mitigate that.
But at what cost?
We love the 700Wh battery that comes in other parts of the Specialized eMTB range. But you don't have that option with the Levo SL, and even with the range extender you're still only getting to 480Wh. With the Specialized 1.1 motor having less output you can get over 5 hours range, but not with the same punch as the 2.1 motor.
And what about tyres - is 2.3" enough for your riding? If fitting a 2.4" tyre reduces clearance dramatically it does make you consider the bike's viability on the all-day missions you might want to take it on, where a larger bag tyre with sturdy casing.
What if you want to travel with your eMTB to some of the great all-day trail riding in Australia and New Zealand? Rip up Rotorua, go charge at Blue Derby and the Bay of Fires, or head out to Alice Springs for big rides in the desert. Well, you'll need to remove the battery, but of course you need to remove the motor to do that first.
All of a sudden some of the gloss of the newer, lighter, sleeker Levo SL is washing off. Or is it?
Specialized have never really put a foot wrong with their eMTB range. The Kenevo seemed like overkill, but pick up Issue #180 and read Ryan's review. He loved it. Some people think eMTBs should use 27.5" wheels for strength. But as Tim Bardsley-Smith said in his Levo Comp review, the 29" wheels are a big part of what made the bike ride so well, even if they buck the trend a little for eMTBs.
So with all those reservations above, the new Specialized Turbo Levo SL must be a blast to ride. And perhaps it's the missing part of the eMTB options, the eMTB for riders who don't want monster trucks, but want a good handling bike with a bit of a bosst. It's been said many times before, but what you'll do most on an eMTB is climb and ride flat trails, so why not make sure it excels at that? With that in mind, so many of the features of the Specialized Turbo Levo SL start to make sense. But rest assured we would be very keen to test one out to see if that's the case. If you're interested, drop in to your local Specialized dealer and ask about a demo.