First Ride Review: The new Specialized Turbo Levo Expert

The Specialized Turbo Levo set a new standard for electronically assisted mountain bikes when it launched in 2015. At least, we certainly thought so. Specialized today announce the latest Turbo Levo, and we’ve had the chance to ride it on home trails.

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The new frame


The new Turbo Levo is ground up redesign incorporating learnings (and exact design elements) from the Stumpjumper platform. The main differences being a downtube accommodating an integrated battery, a motor mounted in the bottom bracket, and some additional cable routing through the frame. Specialized claim that the new design achieves a stiffer bike with a weight distribution that achieves a lower centre of gravity for improved handling.

 

Like the Stumpjumper, the Turbo Levo is built to ride trails with 150 mm of rear suspension travel. The new bike has a longer reach while maintaining the chainstays length and keeping the centre gravity low. The head angle has also be slackened for descending confidence while the seat angle has sharpened for a good climbing position. Specialized has tuned the bike with better mid-stroke support for pushing into the bike on the descents. Also carried over from the Stumpjumper is the Flip Chip which either slackens or steepens the geometry to suit riding styles or the terrain.

 

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The new Turbo Levo has been designed around a 29-inch wheel with a 2.6” tyre replacing the 27.5+ plus sizing on the first-generation Turbo Levo. Specialized explain that while the 6Fattie platform worked well, the designers preferred the speed, precision, and floatation of 29x2.6” wheel and tyre combination. The bike will still operate with 27.5 x 2.8” without detrimental changes to the bike’s geometry and can fit up to 3.0” tyres.

 

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Specialized has elected to continue with 11-speed drivetrains on the new Turbo Levo. Explaining that with the electronic support, 11-speed already provides a sufficient range. Another consideration is that SRAM only supports NX 12-speed cassettes for e-bike use which would have meant using the heavier NX cassette across the range, passing on a weight penalty to the higher level bikes. A weight penalty that is also located at the rear of the bike, where it is most noticeable.

 

Lighter motor and larger battery


The new motor is remarkably lighter compared to the previous model. By using a specifically shaped magnesium bodied Brose motor and a unique direct-to-frame mounting system, the new S-Works frame drops 800 grams over the previous S-Works frame. Even the full aluminium bike is now lighter than the outgoing full carbon S-Works frame. Specialized are celebrating a total frame weight saving of just under two kilograms. The Turbo Levo Expert model we tested weighed 21.4 kilograms.

 

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The new Specialized 2.1 motor is not only lighter but it is also 15% smaller allowing for a more compact frame design. The motor can provide up to 560 watts of pedal-assist and 90Nm of torque which can achieve up to 410% amplification of the riders input. Specialized promise the smoothest power delivery yet on an e-MTB with no awkward power surges for a better natural-feeling ride.

 

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Shedding weight on a pedal assist bike means improved range. To add to this the new S-Works and Expert models boast a 40% increase in battery capacity to 700 watt-hours. The other new models will make use of a 500 watt-hour battery with the option of an aftermarket upgrade to the 700 watt-hour battery.

 

The custom Battery Management System regulates battery health, prevents overcharging, and monitors battery life to maximise distance. The Turbo Levo can last between one and five hours depending on the power settings. For riders with range anxiety, you can set the bike to ensure that the battery lasts for a set duration or until you reach a specified point.

 


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Specialized’s updated Mission Control app works on Android and iOS and lets you interact with the Turbo Levo. The bike can communicate to your devices via ANT+ or Bluetooth. Through the app, you can perform tasks like monitor battery life, customise your motor settings, control range, and perform basic diagnoses. The power on button and battery indicator has been moved to a display close to the steerer on the top tube. The Expert model we tested arrived with a mode handlebar remote fitted.

 

Unfortunately for existing Turbo Levo owners, due to the integrated shape of the new motor and battery packs, neither are compatible as an upgrade to the first-generation Levo.

 

Geometry


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South African availability

 

The new Turbo Levo will be arriving in stores in the next few days. Contact your local Specialized store for more details.

 

Launch video


Specialized's marketing has continued the whacky launch video theme from the Stumpjumper video.

 

 

Iwan's First Ride


We had an Expert level Turbo Levo for a rainy morning in Jonkershoek. I find that Jonkers provides steep, rocky climbs to test the suspension's pedalling performance as well as a variety of single track downhill sections to get a feel for a bike on a mixture of terrain.

 

Specialized Turbo Levo Expert specifications:

  • FRAMEFACT 9m Carbon w/ M5 alloy rear triangle, 29 Trail Geometry, Integrated down tube battery, enclosed internal cable, Command Post routing, 148mm spacing, fully sealed cartridge bearings, 150mm of travel
  • REAR SHOCKRockShox Deluxe RT3 w/ custom valve, 150mm of travel
  • FORKRockShox Pike RC29, 150mm of travel
  • STEMSpecialized Trail, forged alloy, 4-bolt, 6-degree, S/M 40mm / L/XL 50mm
  • HANDLEBARSSpecialized Trail, 7050 alloy, 8-degree backsweep, 6-degree upsweep, 27mm rise, 780mm, 31.8mm clamp
  • GRIPSSpecialized Sip Grip, half-waffle, S/M: regular thickness, L/XL: XL thickness
  • FRONT BRAKESRAM Code R, 4-piston caliper, hydraulic disc, 200mm
  • REAR BRAKESRAM Code R, 4-piston caliper, hydraulic disc, 200mm
  • REAR DERAILLEURSRAM X1,11-speed
  • SHIFTERSSRAM S700, single-click lever
  • CASSETTESRAM XG-1175, 11-speed, 10-42t
  • CHAINKMC X11ET, 11-speed w/ Missing Link
  • CRANKSETPraxis, 2D cold-forged alloy, custom offset, 165mm
  • CHAINRING32T, custom steel
  • RIMSRoval Traverse 29, hookless alloy, 29mm inner width, tubeless ready, 28h
  • FRONT HUBSpecialized, sealed cartridge bearings, 15x110mm spacing, 28h
  • REAR HUBDT Swiss 360, 3-pawl design, SRAM XD driver body, 12mm thru-axle, 148mm spacing, 28h
  • SPOKESDT Swiss Revolution
  • FRONT TYREButcher, GRID casing, GRIPTON compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29x2.6"
  • REAR TYREButcher, GRID casing, GRIPTON compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29x2.6"
  • SADDLEBody Geometry Phenom Comp, hollow Cr-Mo rails, 143mm
  • SEATPOSTSpecialized Command Post 34.9mm, 130mm of travel (Size: Small), 160mm of travel (Sizes: M/XL)
  • MOTORSpecialized 2.1, custom Rx Trail-tuned motor, 250W nominal
  • UI/REMOTESpecialized TCU, 10-LED state of charge, 3-LED Ride Mode display, ANT+/Bluetooth, handlebar remote with walk-assist
  • BATTERYTurbo M2-700, fully integrated w/ rock guard, 700 Wh
  • CHARGERCustom charger, 42V4A w/ Rosenberger plug
  • WIRING HARNESSCustom Specialized wiring harness
  • WEIGHT21.4 kg (size large)

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Getting a pre-embargo ride meant keeping the bike undercover, a wet Friday at Jonkershoek ensured that there were no other riders around.

 

Specialized has really nailed the component choice on the Expert model. It did not feel like they have short-changed the spec sheet anywhere. Wide bars, a short stem, dropper seatpost, comfortable saddle and grips, good brakes with sensible rotor sizes and great suspension parts all make for a well-rounded bike that frees the rider to focus on the ride rather than riding around component shortcomings.

 

I preferred the 27.5+ (6Fattie) tyres and wheel combination over the 29er version on the previous model, as I felt the bigger wheels and skinny tyres did not cope well with the extra weight and speed potential on offer. The 29x2.6 combo on the new Turbo Levo, however, strikes a perfect balance between extra grip and traction while not being too spongy or wallowy when you don't get the tyre pressure perfect for every ride.

 

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On my ride in Jonkershoek, I found the perfect pressures to be closer to what I usually ride and I did not feel that the tyres were as sensitive to pressure as the 6Fattie tyres. This is a good thing, plus tyres can take some time to get right, as too soft left the bike handling like a pool noodle and too hard had it skipping out of control with the smaller change to pressure tipping it either way. Get it right and it worked beautifully, get it wrong and you'd be in for a long day on the bike. Gone are those days!

 

On the practical side, 29-inch wheels mean that it is easier to find spares for tyres and tubes. Also, the 29-inch tube is less bulky than a plus size tube so easier to carry on the trails.

 

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Other changes that I found a step in the right direction include moving the Turbo Connect Unit (On / Off switch, battery level, and mode display) to the top tube just behind the stem and the addition of a handlebar remote. The display unit used to be on the side of the top tube which made reaching it on the fly a near impossible task at speed.

 

The remote makes switching between the power modes much easier and being able to see which mode you are in with a quick glance is a major plus. For my riding, I've never been too worried about an integrated display unit with speed and battery details, as I can get that from my paired Garmin head unit. If you don't use a GPS unit or have one that can't pair to the bike to display vital information, then it will most likely be of greater importance to you.

 

The suspension performance deserves a specific mention. I climbed from the bottom of Jonkers to the top of Saaltjie with the rear shock wide open and not once did I feel like I had to bump the dial to make my journey easier or better. I really appreciate this in a place like Jonkers where you often get spat out of trails and have to ride to another spot to drop into the next piece single track. Not having to fiddle with levers or remotes every time one enters or exits single track makes for an even more enjoyable ride as you can just focus on the ride and being out on the bike.

 

Add how well-behaved the suspension is on downhill sections and you have yourself a riot of a ride. Riding as much single track as I could in one morning I never once thought "oh, I'm on an e-bike". The fork and shock does an excellent job of absorbing whatever the trail or rider throws at it. The lighter weight and lower centre of gravity of the new Turbo Levo further add to the 'normal' feel of the Turbo Levo.

 

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Did we mention it was wet?

 

In my previous review, I've made mention of the Mission Control app and the adjustability it offers. This should not be underestimated as it paves the way for a characteristic that sets the Turbo Levo apart from the competition: the way it delivers its power. The kick-in is incredibly smooth with a predictable ramp up. Some other e-bikes suffer from a brutal on / off feel that can catch one out and lead to nasty surprises. For example: when going around a corner and you give half a pedal to get your outside foot down. The bike will pick this up as a pedal stroke and the motor will kick in to deliver its pedal assist. When going around a berm or climbing switchbacks this can be quite nasty. Not fun. No such problem on Specialized's e-bikes.

 

The motor also totally disengages when you hit the 32 km/h speed limit for a resistance-free pedaling feel. I have ridden other bike where it feels like you hit a retarder making it harder to keep the unassisted momentum going above the governed limit.

 

Then there is the motor noise. Add a whizzing sound, brutal kick-in and retarder feel at the top end and you're quickly and constantly reminded that you are riding an e-bike - none of which is an issue on the Specialized. It is quiet (both the motor and the bike itself), smooth, and controlled.

 

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17 Comments

worriesnot, Sep 18 2018 08:56

Nice review Iwan.

I have to say the Levo is mightily impressive when you point it down. It's a lot of fun going up with assisted power, but the fun-factor kicks in when descending - for me, in any case. My ride was on a 650b fatty and the combo of big tires and excellent suspension set-up... man, lots of smiles.

Robbow, Sep 18 2018 09:58

Very delicious, but the price is hard to swallow

Ludwig Penny, Sep 18 2018 10:51

Wow what a machine just when you think it cant get better it does. Great review:-)

Odinson, Sep 18 2018 11:40

I'd smash. 

Headshot, Sep 18 2018 11:57

I hate it but i want it. Confused much?

Nick, Sep 18 2018 12:01

I hate it but i want it. Confused much?

 

Does that make you bike-curious?

Iwan Kemp, Sep 18 2018 12:03

Nice review Iwan.

I have to say the Levo is mightily impressive when you point it down. It's a lot of fun going up with assisted power, but the fun-factor kicks in when descending - for me, in any case. My ride was on a 650b fatty and the combo of big tires and excellent suspension set-up... man, lots of smiles.

 

Thanks! With you on the descending part.

Iwan Kemp, Sep 18 2018 12:03

I hate it but i want it. Confused much?

 

There's an easy fix for that: go ride one. 

Grease_Monkey, Sep 18 2018 12:19

Looks bloody brilliant, I have only ridden gen1 Levos and I loved them, so can only think how lekker this one will be. It's a shame about that paint though, makes it look cheap. Hopefully it's available in a more subdued colour?

Nick, Sep 18 2018 12:31

Looks bloody brilliant, I have only ridden gen1 Levos and I loved them, so can only think how lekker this one will be. It's a shame about that paint though, makes it look cheap. Hopefully it's available in a more subdued colour?

 

I thought it looked good in the flesh but yes, there is another black/green colour option for the Expert. It's only slightly more subdued though. And the other models in the range also come with their own colourways including a Comp that is all black and if you're dropping S-Works kind of money then that one has a premium black and blue look.

 

 

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Turbo Levo Expert in carbon/ monster green.

Grease_Monkey, Sep 18 2018 12:51

I thought it looked good in the flesh but yes, there is another black/green colour option for the Expert. It's only slightly more subdued though. And the other models in the range also come with their own colourways including a Comp that is all black and if you're dropping S-Works kind of money then that one has a premium black and blue look.
 
 
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Turbo Levo Expert in carbon/ monster green.


Flashy paint jobs do always looks better in the flesh... but glad to see there is another option! I think companies would do good to offer bikes in their flashy colour as well as an all black or toned down version. If I buy an ebike I want as few people as possible to notice me hahaha

zuludog, Sep 18 2018 02:30

Very delicious, but the price is hard to swallow

what is the price?

V18, Sep 18 2018 02:51

About 350

Robbow, Sep 18 2018 02:55

what is the price?

 

S Works 172

Expert Carbon 133

Comp Carbon 110

Comp Alloy 97

Alloy 74

 

 

Edited: Found the detail pricing

Nick, Sep 18 2018 03:01

what is the price?

 

And the lower spec models:
 
LEVO Comp 97k
LEVO 74k
 
But at least the tiresome motorbike pricing comparison has some weight here  ;)

Cape Lorrain, Sep 19 2018 04:32

Great review for a great looking ebike.

- Do you know if the prices have changed much in dollars terms from the 2018 prices ?

- Where can one find the specs for the Levo Comp, whether Carbon or Alloy ? Same weight for those 2, I imagine !

- What is the weight difference between the Comp Alloy and the Comp Carbon ?

Bizkit031, Sep 22 2018 07:27

S Works 172
Expert Carbon 133
Comp Carbon 110
Comp Alloy 97
Alloy 74
 
 
Edited: Found the detail pricing

Holy crap Were they smoking some strong stuff when they priced them,can buy a nice boney or car for that price but then what can we expect from Spaz and their pricing. The scary thing is people will still buy them.