When Specialized launched the Levo e-mountain bike three years ago, it was already ahead of the curve thanks to its design and looks. Today, Specialized launch a re-working of the bike to create a lighter, stiffer, more playful chassis that is also more powerful and more efficiently motored than before. Sure, it all sounds like marketing hype, but the proof was in the pedalling, and they really have improved what was already a great bike.
The first Levo was created cautiously, so the team already knew that weight could be lost in the frame, but instead of simply shaving off some carbon here and there, they completely re-worked the frame design, most notably changing the motor cradle. The old Levo used a side entry cradle for the motor, and the new Turbo Levo uses a low entry point that eliminates the cradle altogether with its own integrated mounting unit. They even made the new mount out of Magnesium and installed a lighter motor, saving around 400g in these two elements alone.
The team also took inspiration from everything that was learned with the new Stumpjumper, including the signature 'side arm' that braces the top tube to the seat tube, which is claimed to minimise flex in the frame and subsequently improve the ride quality with better rear wheel tracking.
Despite adding a tube, the new frame lost a bit of weight elsewhere too. The new carbon framed S-Works Turbo Levo is now around 800g lighter than last year’s. Even the aluminium frame is lighter, being roughly the same weight as last year’s carbon S-Works frame and comes in way under 20kg for a complete bike. All in all, you’re looking at around a 1,200g weight saving in total for the carbon models, and 600g for the alloy models.
Being a bike, first and foremost, Specialized wanted the new Turbo Levo to ride as well as the new Stumpjumper. Of course, the lighter weight would help make it feel a lot more playful but the geometry got a little upgrade too with a longer reach, a head angle that’s half a degree slacker, a seat tube angle a touch steeper (for improved pedalling efficiency in the saddle), and reasonably short chainstays - for a 29er anyway.
They’ve also added a Flip Chip to fine-tune the geometry; a small adjustment to the eye-to-eye length of the shock raises and lowers the bottom bracket to impact on the head angle and, therefore, the riding style of the bike. None of this is groundbreaking, but it all works really well on the trail and makes a surprisingly fun ride out of big wagon wheels. More on this later.
More power, for longer
The old Levo was known to have some overheating problems, and it was said to lack power against some of its competitors, so all of the electronics have been changed to counter these problems. Specialized say that the new motor has a 410% power increase on a rider, and now lasts 40% longer than the old one. it’s also much quieter and smoother, and can even be tuned by yourself on the Mission Control App on your phone. The re-work to the motor software is noticeable in the saddle too, with a much more natural boost in power thanks to a smooth engagement when the pedalling begins.
More range, more fun?
As with the old bike, the battery is neatly integrated into the frame. On the underside of the frame by the bottom bracket, you will see a conventional looking bash-guard. This is secured with a hex-key bolt (the relevant key is on a SWAT multitool stored within the head tube of the bike), which, when released, the bash guard acts as a handle to slide the battery out of the frame.
While the watt-hours rating of the battery give you an idea of it's theoretical charge, that's is hard to convert to real hours of use as it depends on factors like the rider’s weight, how steep the climbs are, and even what cadence you use. The Levo team have tested them to zero battery, have raced them in 24-hour races and have even taken them up a 2,400m climb. They have estimated that a 70kg rider should be able to ride all day in Eco Mode and if you’ve ridden the old Levo then it’s worth mentioning that the new Levo will feel more like Turbo Mode.
All S-Works models get the 700 watt-hour battery with the 40% increase in range. The Levo Expert and the aluminium models get the 500Wh battery, which doesn’t have the same range as the 700Wh, but it is lighter in weight.
Specialized liked the big floaty tyres on the 650b Plus Levo, but they can be a bit vague and heavy, so the 29” wheels have allowed the new Levo to save even more weight whilst also complimenting the new handling properties of the bike. It also gives the rider the added bonus of better tyre choice on the market, but if you really like 650b Plus then there’s enough clearance to fit them and the Flip Chip will help you raise the geometry up to accommodate the subsequently lower axle height.
The Mission Control app
Each Levo will have an individual pin code to pair with your Mission Control App. This gives the rider the ability to tune the longevity and behaviour of the motor. Some people like a smooth ride, some like more poke, so the App helps you tune how quickly the power kicks in and therefore how long it will last in each pre-set mode. You can even initiate “Dark Mode” so that all the common e-bike lights go black after you’ve touched them.
In reality, this may result in you whacking everything up to 100% to get the maximum performance, but this will obviously affect the battery life. When used correctly, it can help take the guess-work out of a ride. For example, if you want to ride for two hours and finish with 40% battery, then just set the requirements in the App and ride for that time knowing you’ll have a backup when you finish.
The App can record information about your riding and how efficient you are at using your battery. This is useful data for you, but also for Specialized, especially if you take it back to a Specialized Concept Store for servicing. Much like with modern day cars, Specialized will be able to plug a computer into the Levo and figure out what’s going on with it.
You don’t have to use the App to get a service, but, now that more information is stored within a “brain” on the bike, whether you use the App or not, the Levo is much harder to hack. Furthermore, Specialized will know whether you have hacked the speed limits on the bike or not and, whilst this is not illegal, if you do hack your bike it will void the bike’s warranty. This is becoming increasingly common as manufacturers try to head off the legal and PR issues that might result from their bikes being used in an unrestricted manner.
How does it ride?
Sure, it’s an e-bike, so it’s heavier than a normal bike, but it’s nowhere near as back-breaking to pick up as many others on the market. The new lighter weight was also very noticeable on the trail, being a very playful and flickable bike that’s still reassuringly planted on the rough terrain. When descending some steep and rough tracks in the heart of Croatia, never once did I wish I was on a “normal bike”. Frankly, when it came to pointing the Turbo Levo downhill, I completely forgot I was on an e-bike.
With the new slacker geometry, the front wheel felt like it was wandering around a little when I moved my weight towards the back of the bike, say for climbing or for steep and loose terrain. This feeling was only exaggerated when the power was on and gave me a little bit of an uncertain feeling, as though the front wheel could wash out at any minute. Though this didn’t happen, slamming the stem as low as possible helped counter this feeling a tad.
I suspect it’s the new higher front end, with the longer head tube that is giving off this feeling, and I don’t think the riser bars helped either. I also suspect that swapping the 50mm stem (on the Small) for a 35mm stem and changing the handlebars to flat rather than riser bars (which were also too narrow for my tastes anyway) would go a long way to making this bike feel much more confidence inspiring for the aggressive riders among us.
The suspension felt plush with good support for the weight of the bike thanks to the newly tuned shocks. Specialized have given the shocks a more progressive suspension curve, which has given the bike much more support in the middle of its travel and it ramps up nicely towards the end.
Though the Turbo Levo took on small jumps and drop-offs like a champ it was still very close to bottoming out, but I did run the rear sag at 30%, so I suspect more air pressure or a few tokens would solve this minor problem if you were inclined to get airborne regularly. Regardless, I felt I could be quite aggressive and, dare I say it, quite reckless with my line choices knowing that the bike would eat it all up and come out the other side laughing. It really is an incredibly capable and forgiving ride.
All-in-all, a few changes might make this bike the perfect descender, e-bike or not, and yet, as is, the Turbo Levo still feels like a great middle ground between playful a trail bike and an enduro plough-monster. It’s not skittish, yet not sapping of fun either, and the smooth yet powerful motor allowed me to climb some pretty steep and technical trails without a care in the world. As with so many Specialized bikes, it’s almost annoying how good this bike is. The Turbo Levo isn’t just a great e-bike to ride, it’s a great bike full stop, and I can’t wait to get back on it.
Specialized Turbo Levo S-Works W£9,999.00
Specialized Turbo Levo Expert £7,250.00
Specialized Turbo Levo Comp Carbon £5,999.00
Specialized Turbo Levo Comp £4,999.00
Specialized Turbo Levo £4,000.00
Specialized Turbo Levo WMN Comp £4,999.00
Specialized Turbo Levo £4,000.00
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