First Ride: The Specialized Turbo Levo SL Changes The Game

Electric-assisted mountain bikes are hugely fun bikes to ride but the one unavoidable consequence of a motor and battery is the added weight and the impact that has on the ride feel versus a regular bike. The Specialized Turbo Levo SL is a bold attempt to redefine e-MTBs with a lightweight bike that has the agility of a regular trail bike while packing a functional range.

Specialized Turbo Levo SL Founders Edition ET.jpg
Photo credit: Etienne Schoeman

 

The Turbo Levo Family


Before we dive into the Turbo Levo SL, it is worth pointing that the new Levo SL is not a replacement for the more powerful Turbo Levo and Kenevo e-bikes. The slimmer Turbo SL is positioned as another offering in the Turbo range, giving riders a broader choice to suit their riding style. There is no doubt that the powerful Levo and Kenevo models will continue to appeal to many e-bike riders. Check out the cheatsheet below for a quick comparison of the three Turbo Levo ranges.

 

Specialized Turbo Range Comparison.png

 

As you can see, the Turbo Levo SL will not suit every e-biker. It lacks the power to fully support the rider the way the Levo and Kenevo can. The Levo SL will likely appeal to a fitter, more active rider that is looking for an experience closer to a conventional bike. Smaller riders that are intimidated by the weight of the Levo will also find the Levo SL much friendlier to handle on and off the bike.

 

The SL Motor


Specialized’s aim with the Levo SL is an electric-assisted bike that rides more like a regular bike than any other electric mountain bike they (and anyone else) have built before. This is largely achieved through a smaller, lighter motor and internal battery system. While the Specialized 2.1 motor found in the Levo and Kenevo was built to deliver maximum power, the SL 1.1 motor was designed to be light and efficient. To achieve their goals and desired performance, Specialized developed the SL 1.1 from scratch in-house.

 

Levo SL Motor Bottom Bracket ET.jpg
Photo credit: Etienne Schoeman

 

The SL 1.1 motor weighs 1.95 kilograms making it 1.1 kilograms lighter than the Levo and Kenevo motor. The lighter motor is housed in a new magnesium motor casing along with a new internal design of the motor and gears. The SL motor also uses a 48-volt system which allows it to use smaller plugs and hardware compared to the 36-volt system used for the Levo and Kenevo. The result is a motor that produces up to 240 watts and with 35 Nm maximum torque. As a comparison, the Levo motor can output 565 watts and 90 Nm torque. The motor in the Levo SL is the same motor used in the Turbo Creo SL road and gravel bike launched last year. The Levo SL includes some mountain bike specific tuning and the walk assist function.

 

Specialized Levo SL Motor cutout.jpegThe Levo SL motor.
Specialized Levo Motor cutout.jpegThe Specialized 2.1 motor.

 

The power outputs of a motor are easily comparable but it's in the delivery of that power where the best e-bike motors stand out. Specialized put a lot of effort into the riding experience to develop the most natural and smooth e-bike motors. On-bike testing of Levo SL covered over 100 000 kilometres, this excludes the test rig testing time. A big win for the SL motor is that it can completely disengage using a decoupling mechanism when not active. This allows a seamless transition between pedalling and freewheeling. Also when approaching the speed limit (which is 32 km/h in South Africa) the bike does not require the rider to power through any drag. The Specialized engineers say that when disengaged, the SL motor creates drag similar to a conventional bottom bracket.

 

Specialized also looked at how mountain bikers pedal their bikes and have tuned the motor to provide stable support through a broad cadence range (namely 60 to 120). While most riders can’t sustain a 120 cadence for too long, Specialized measured burst quarter and half strokes out on the trails that match (and exceed) these pedal speeds and made sure that the SL motor could react to them naturally. Speed sensors are also used to match the motor support to the rider's needs.

 

Specialized collected data from existing Levo riders in creating the Levo SL. They found that there were riders who never used the full power, or rarely reached the maximum range. Some riders also mentioned that the Levo can be heavy to load or move around off the bike. The main aim of the Levo SL is to create a lighter handling trail bike but in the process of losing weight, they were able to address several other consumer needs.

 

Battery and Range


Maintaining an acceptable range was always at the forefront of the Specialized engineers' minds when developing the Levo SL with a smaller battery. While a reduction in weight and maximum power outputs would help conserve battery, there was also a focus on making the SL motor as efficient as possible.

 

All Levo SL models feature a 320Wh internal lithium-ion battery. Of course, there are many factors that determine your range such as how much support the motor provides, rider weight, fitness, tyre choice and pressures, elevation, trail conditions, and even the weather. Taking this into account, Specialized claims that you should manage 3 hours of riding in ECO mode from a single charge of the internal battery.

 

Levo SL Downtube.jpg
Photo credit: Etienne Schoeman

 

Specialized stressed that an important part of the range equation is the efficiency of the motor. You can not simply look at an e-bikes battery capacity as an indication of its range. Let’s use a car comparison. A modern efficient hatchback can get a similar range as a heavier, more powerful bakkie but with a smaller petrol tank. It is the same with e-bikes. The Levo SL is a much more efficient e-bike than the Levo or Kenevo.

 

If you want to go further than the internal battery allows, the Levo SL is designed to fit an external range extender battery. The range extender supplies a further 2 hours of riding and boosts the overall range to five hours (matching the Levo and Kenevo). It packs 160Wh, an additional 50% to the internal battery, and weighs one kilogram. The range extender is stowed in the bottle cage with a cable connecting it to the electrical system. The unit should fit into a normal water bottle cage but Specialized do recommend their Zee Cage as it has undergone thorough testing for this purpose.

 

The range extender can be plugged in at any time and a number of range extenders can be used in a single ride. By default, the bike will drain the most charged battery until they are matched for capacity and then continue using them equally until empty. You can also set the bike to use up the range extender first, which is useful should you have a stash of extenders in your backpack or hidden in the mountains.

 

The Levo SL includes a charger cable that will charge the internal battery and range extender. The Levo SL’s internal battery charges to full in approximately 2 hours and 35 minutes while a range extender will do the same in 3 hours and 20 minutes. The Founder’s Edition and S-Works models ship with a split cable that can charge both the internal battery and a range extender at the same time in around 3 hours and 20 minutes.

 

The internal battery is removable which means that you can take the Levo SL on an aeroplane. You can pack a range extender in your carry-on luggage which will allow you to ride the bike but you’ll have to find an internal battery at your destination for the full range. The motor does not need to be completely removed to access the battery as it can swing out of the way after releasing a few bolts.

 

Levo SL Range Extender.jpg
A Range Extender placed in the bottle cage. Photo credit: Etienne Schoeman

 

Bike Weights


The Levo SL in its lightest form (the S-Works models) weighs around 17.3 kilograms. I weighed a large S-Works bike (with tyre sealant) at 17.28 kilograms so Specialized are not fibbing these numbers. In comparison, the bigger S-Works Levo weighs around 21.3 kilograms. Four kilograms heavier than the Levo SL. I also weighed an Expert Carbon model with a medium frame and it tipped the scales at 17.8 kg while a large frame was 18 kg.

 

Mission Control App


Levo SL TCU ET.jpgThe TCU is the on/off button, displays battery life for the internal and range extender batteries, and switches between the three tune modes. It can be used to control the bike without pairing a device or remote. Photo credit: Etienne Schoeman
For riders looking to customise the Levo SL experience, the Mission Control phone app opens up endless tuning possibilities.

 

Of course, if this sounds like too much hassle, the preset ECO, TRAIL, and TURBO modes are ideally set so you can simply go out and ride without any devices. A rider can switch between the modes by either using the Turbo Control Unit (TCU) button on the top tube or via the remote. The TCU also reports battery capacity with a simple LED scale.

 

Out of the box, ECO mode matches your effort up to 30% of the motor’s power, TRAIL mode matches your effort up to 60% of the motor’s power, and TURBO mode matches your effort to 100% of the motor’s power (240 watts).

 

If you want to jump into the custom tuning, there are two settings that you can adjust:

 

Peak power. This is the maximum support that the motor will output. For example, in TRAIL mode no matter how hard you pedal you will not get more than 60% of the possible support from the motor. Reducing peak power is an effective way of saving battery power.

 

Assistance. This is a measure of how much power the rider must input to get the maximum power out of the motor. Think of it as how quickly you can gain assistance. Setting the assistance to 100 will give the rider the quickest access the motor's maximum support. Reducing the assistance will require the rider to work harder to reach peak power.

 

The Mission Control app offers more than just tuning. You can record your ride with data from the bike and your phone and have it uploaded directly to Strava (as an e-bike activity). Riders can also set the time or distance of a ride so that the bike limits the motor output and battery usage to see them through the entire journey without the worry that the battery might run dry. This feature has been updated to also consider elevation.

 

You can also ask the bike to help you maintain a set heart rate. Handy should you wish to train at a specific intensity for a ride. Obviously, the ability of the bike to assist you is limited to the maximum power of the motor. As a result, the Levo and Kenevo will provide you with more support should you push through your desired heart rate limit than the Levo SL can. The App can also be used for diagnostics such as error messages should something go awry with the Levo.

 

Mission Control App Homescreen.png
Mission Control App Tuning.png
Mission Control App Smart Control.png

Mission Control App Ride History.jpg
Mission Control App Ride View.jpg

 

The Frame


The Turbo Levo SL frame is similar to the Turbo Levo and Stumpjumper frames. The geometry matches the Turbo Levo but with the placement of the smaller motor, Specialized can shorten the chainstay length more in line with the Stumpjumper. Further improving the Levo SL’s agility on the trail. There are some minor adjustments to the suspension kinematics but it largely mimics the Turbo Levo.

 

Levo SL Frame.jpg

Levo SL Strut.jpg
Levo SL headtube.jpg
Levo SL stays.jpg
Photo credit: Etienne Schoeman

 

The chassis is based on the Stumpjumper but without the SWAT box storage. The Levo SL downtube is a single piece with the battery stored on the inside. Like the Stumpjumper, the frame side arm improves stiffness to control the compression of the frame into the suspension system. There are some minor adjustments to the suspension kinematics but it largely mimics the Turbo Levo. The Turbo SL also has a flip-chip to allow for two geometry settings.

 

Turbo Levo SL Geometry


Specialized Turbo Levo SL Geometry.png

 

Available Models


There are five models in the Turbo Levo SL range. The Founder’s Edition S-Works Levo SL, S-Works Levo SL, Levo SL Expert Carbon, Levo SL Comp Carbon, and Levo SL Comp. The bikes are available in sizes small, medium, large, and extra-large. The aluminium Levo SL Comp has an additional size, an extra small frame for small adults and even children.

 

S-Works Levo SL Founder's Edition
LEVO-SL-SWorks-CARBON-FOUNDERS-EDITION.jpg
  • FrameFACT 11m full carbon, 29 Trail Geometry, Integrated down tube battery, enclosed internal cable, Command Post routing, 148mm spacing, fully sealed cartridge bearings, 150mm of travel
  • Rear ShockFOX FLOAT DPS Factory, Kashima coating, 3-position adjustment, 52.5x210mm, Rx Trail Tune
  • ForkFOX Factory 34 FLOAT 29, Kashima Coating, FIT4 damper, 51mm offset, 3-position adjustment, 15x110mm, tapered alloy steerer, 150mm of travel
  • StemSyntace MegaForce 2, 6-degree, 31.8mm clamp
  • HandlebarsSpecialized Trail, FACT Carbon, 6-degree upsweep, 8-degree backsweep, 27mm rise, 780mm, 31.8mm
  • GripsSpecialized Trail Grips
  • Front BrakeSRAM G2 ULTIMATE, 4-piston caliper, hydraulic disc, 200mm, rainbow
  • Rear BrakeSRAM G2 ULTIMATE, 4-piston caliper, hydraulic disc, 180mm, rainbow
  • Rear DerailleurSRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
  • Shift LeversSRAM XX1 Eagle AXS, trigger, 12-speed
  • CassetteSRAM XG-1299 Eagle, 10-50t, rainbow
  • ChainSRAM XX1 Eagle, rainbow
  • CranksetPraxis, carbon M30, custom offset
  • ChainringsSRAM X-Sync Eagle, 94 BCD, 30T
  • RimsRoval Traverse SL 29, hookless carbon, 30mm inner width, 2Bliss Ready, hand-built, 28h
  • Front HubRoval Traverse SL, sealed cartridge bearings, 15mm thru-axle, 110mm spacing
  • Rear HubRoval Traverse SL, DT Swiss Star Ratchet, 54t engagement, SRAM XD driver body, 12mm thru-axle, 148mm spacing
  • SpokesDT Competition Race
  • Front TyreButcher, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON® compound, 29x2.3"
  • Rear TyreEliminator, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON® compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29x2.3"
  • SaddlePower, Hollow Ti-Rail, Carbon Base, 155/143mm
  • SeatpostRockShox Reverb AXS, 30.9mm, S: 125, M:150, L/XL: 170mm
  • MotorSpecialized SL 1.1, custom lightweight motor
  • UI/REMOTESpecialized Handlebar Trail Remote w/walk-assist
  • BatterySpecialized SL1-320, fully integrated, 320Wh; also included a Specialized SL1-160, external battery w/Cable, 160Wh
  • ChargerCustom charger, 48V System w/ SL system charger plug
  • Wiring HarnessCustom Specialized wiring harness w/ chargeport
  • SWATSpecialized Z-Cage, Swat CC Multitool in steerer tube w/ Chaintool
S-Works Levo SL
LEVO-SL-SWorks-CARBON.jpg
  • FrameFACT 11m full carbon, 29 Trail Geometry, Integrated down tube battery, enclosed internal cable, Command Post routing, 148mm spacing, fully sealed cartridge bearings, 150mm of travel
  • Rear ShockFOX FLOAT DPS Factory, Kashima coating, 3-position adjustment, 52.5x210mm, Rx Trail Tune
  • ForkFOX Factory 34 FLOAT 29, Kashima Coating, FIT4 damper, 51mm offset, 3-position adjustment, 15x110mm, tapered alloy steerer, 150mm of travel
  • StemSyntace MegaForce 2, 6-degree, 31.8mm clamp
  • HandlebarsSpecialized Trail, FACT Carbon, 6-degree upsweep, 8-degree backsweep, 27mm rise, 780mm, 31.8mm
  • GripsSpecialized Trail Grips
  • Front BrakeSRAM G2 ULTIMATE, 4-piston caliper, hydraulic disc, 200mm
  • Rear BrakeSRAM G2 ULTIMATE, 4-piston caliper, hydraulic disc, 180mm
  • Rear DerailleurSRAM XX1 Eagle,12-speed
  • Shift LeversSRAM XX1 Eagle, trigger, 12-speed
  • CassetteSRAM XG-1299 Eagle, 10-50t
  • ChainSRAM XX1 Eagle, 12-speed
  • CranksetPraxis, carbon M30, custom offset
  • ChainringsSRAM X-Sync Eagle, 94 BCD, 30T
  • RimsRoval Traverse SL 29, hookless carbon, 30mm inner width, 2Bliss Ready, hand-built, 28h
  • Front HubRoval Traverse SL, sealed cartridge bearings, 15mm thru-axle, 110mm spacing, 28h
  • Rear HubRoval Traverse SL, DT Swiss Star Ratchet, 54t engagement, SRAM XD driver body, 12mm thru-axle, 148mm spacing, 28h
  • SpokesDT Competition Race
  • Front TyreButcher, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON® compound, 29x2.3"
  • Rear TyreEliminator, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON® compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29x2.3"
  • SeatpostRockShox Reverb AXS, 30.9mm, S: 125, M:150, L/XL: 170mm
  • MotorSpecialized SL 1.1, custom lightweight motor
  • UI/REMOTESpecialized TCU, 10-LED State of charge, 3-LED Ride Mode display, ANT+/Bluetooth®
  • BatterySpecialized SL1-320, fully integrated, 320Wh
  • ChargerCustom charger, 48V System w/ SL system charger plug
  • Wiring HarnessCustom Specialized wiring harness w/ chargeport
  • SWATSpecialized Z-Cage, Swat CC Multitool in steerer tube w/ Chaintool

 

The Founder's Edition is limited to 250 bikes and sports top of the range components. The standout feature on the Founder's Edition is the paint scheme. It is a rich purple with a light shading of blue and gold leaf decals that pop in the sun. If you want to stand out in a crowd, the Founders Edition is your bike. It is a similar specification choice as the S-Works model but with the pricier wireless SRAM Eagle XX1 AXS drivetrain. The Founder's Edition includes two range extender battery packs.

 

The S-Works Levo SL boasts the Fox Factory 34 fork and Float DPS shock, SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain, SRAM G2 Ultimate brakes, Roval Traverse SL wheels, and a RockShox Reverb AXS dropper seatpost. The S-Works Levo SL includes one range extender battery pack.

 

Levo SL Expert Carbon
LEVO-SL-EXPERT-CARBON.jpg
  • FrameFACT 11m full carbon, 29 Trail Geometry, Integrated down tube battery, enclosed internal cable, Command Post routing, 148mm spacing, fully sealed cartridge bearings, 150mm of travel
  • Rear ShockFOX FLOAT DPS Performance, 3-position adjustment, 52.5x210mm, Rx Trail Tune
  • ForkFOX Performance Elite 34 FLOAT 29, FIT4 damper, 51mm offset, 3-position adjustment, 15x110mm, tapered alloy steerer, 150mm of travel
  • StemSpecialized Trail, forged alloy, 4-bolt, 5mm rise, 40mm
  • HandlebarsSpecialized Trail, 7050 alloy, 8-degree backsweep, 6-degree upsweep, 27mm rise, 780mm, 31.8mm clamp
  • GripsSpecialized Trail Grips
  • Front BrakeSRAM G2 RSC, 4-piston caliper, hydraulic disc, 200mm
  • Rear BrakeSRAM G2 RSC, 4-piston caliper, hydraulic disc, 180mm
  • Rear DerailleurSRAM GX Eagle,12-speed
  • Shift LeversSRAM GX Eagle, trigger, 12-speed
  • CassetteSRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed, 10-50t
  • ChainSRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
  • CranksetPraxis, forged M30, custom offset
  • ChainringsSRAM X-Sync Eagle, 94 BCD, 30T
  • RimsRoval Traverse Carbon 29, hookless carbon, 30mm inner width, hand-built, 2Bliss Ready
  • Rear HubDT Swiss 370, 3-Pawl System, SRAM XD driver body, 12mm thru-axle, 148mm spacing, 28h
  • SpokesDT Swiss Industry
  • Front TyreButcher, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON® compound, 29x2.3"
  • Rear TyreEliminator, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON® compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29x2.3"
  • SaddleBridge Comp, Hollow Cr-mo rails, 155/143mm
  • SeatpostX-Fusion Manic, infinite adjustable, two-bolt head, bottom mount cable routing, remote SRL LE lever, 34.9mm, S: 125mm, M/L: 150mm, XL: 170mm
  • MotorSpecialized SL 1.1, custom lightweight motor
  • UI/REMOTESpecialized TCU, 10-LED State of charge, 3-LED Ride Mode display, ANT+/Bluetooth®
  • BatterySpecialized SL1-320, fully integrated, 320Wh
  • ChargerCustom charger, 48V System w/ SL system charger plug
  • Wiring HarnessCustom Specialized wiring harness w/ chargeport
  • SWATSpecialized Z-Cage, Swat CC Multitool in steerer tube without Chaintool
Levo SL Comp Carbon
Levo SL COMP CARBON.jpg
  • FrameFACT 11m full carbon, 29 Trail Geometry, Integrated down tube battery, enclosed internal cable, Command Post routing, 148mm spacing, fully sealed cartridge bearings, 150mm of travel
  • Rear ShockFOX FLOAT DPS Performance, 3-position adjustment, 52.5x210mm, Rx Trail Tune
  • ForkFOX RHYTHM 34 FLOAT 29, GRIP damper, 51mm offset, 2-position sweep adjust, 15x110mm, tapered alloy steerer, 150mm of travel
  • StemSpecialized Trail, 3D-forged alloy, 4-bolt, 6-degree rise
  • HandlebarsSpecialized Trail, 6061 alloy, 8-degree backsweep, 6-degree upsweep, 27mm rise, 780mm, 31.8mm clamp
  • GripsSpecialized Trail Grips
  • Front BrakeSRAM Guide R, hydraulic disc, 200mm
  • Rear BrakeSRAM Guide R, hydraulic disc, 180mm
  • Rear DerailleurSRAM NX Eagle,12-speed
  • Shift LeversSRAM NX Eagle, trigger, 12-speed
  • CassetteSRAM NX Eagle, 12-speed, 11-50t
  • ChainSRAM NX Eagle, 12-speed
  • CranksetPraxis, forged M30, custom offset
  • ChainringsSRAM X-Sync Eagle, 94 BCD, 30T
  • RimsRoval Traverse 29, hookless alloy, 30mm inner width, tubeless ready
  • Front HubSpecialized, sealed cartridge bearings, 15x110mm spacing, 28h
  • Rear HubSpecialized Turbo, sealed cartridge bearings, 12x148mm thru-axle, 28h
  • SpokesDT Swiss Industry
  • Front TyreButcher, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON compound, 29x2.3"
  • Rear TyreEliminator, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29x2.3"
  • SaddleBridge Comp, Hollow Cr-mo rails, 155/143mm
  • SeatpostX-Fusion Manic, infinite adjustable, two-bolt head, bottom mount cable routing, remote SRL LE lever, 34.9mm, S: 125mm, M/L: 150mm, XL: 170mm
  • MotorSpecialized SL 1.1, custom lightweight motor
  • UI/REMOTESpecialized TCU, 10-LED State of charge, 3-LED Ride Mode display, ANT+/Bluetooth
  • BatterySpecialized SL1-320, fully integrated, 320Wh
  • ChargerCustom charger, 48V System w/ SL system charger plug
  • Wiring HarnessCustom Specialized wiring harness w/ chargeport
  • SWATSpecialized Z-Cage, Swat CC Multitool in steerer tube without Chaintool
Levo SL Comp
LEVO-SL-COMP-ALLOY.jpg
  • FrameSpecialized M5 Premium Aluminum, 29 Trail Geometry, integrated down tube battery, enclosed internal cable, Command Post routing, 148mm spacing, fully sealed cartridge bearings, 150mm of travel
  • Rear ShockFOX FLOAT DPS Performance, 3-position adjustment, 52.5x210mm, Rx Trail Tune
  • ForkFOX RHYTHM 34 FLOAT 29, GRIP damper, 51mm offset, 2-position sweep adjust, 15x110mm, tapered alloy steerer, 150mm of travel
  • StemSpecialized Trail, 3D-forged alloy, 4-bolt, 6-degree rise
  • HandlebarsSpecialized Trail, 6061 alloy, 8-degree backsweep, 6-degree upsweep, 27mm rise, 780mm, 31.8mm clamp
  • GripsSpecialized Trail Grips
  • Front BrakeSRAM Guide R, hydraulic disc, 200mm
  • Rear BrakeSRAM Guide R, hydraulic disc, 180mm
  • Rear DerailleurSRAM NX Eagle,12-speed
  • Shift LeversSRAM NX Eagle, trigger, 12-speed
  • CassetteSRAM NX Eagle, 12-speed, 11-50t
  • ChainSRAM NX Eagle, 12-speed
  • CranksetPraxis, forged M30, custom offset
  • ChainringsSRAM X-Sync Eagle, 94 BCD, 30T
  • RimsRoval Traverse 29, hookless alloy, 30mm inner width, tubeless ready
  • Front HubSpecialized, sealed cartridge bearings, 15x110mm spacing, 28h
  • Rear HubSpecialized Turbo, sealed cartridge bearings, 12x148mm thru-axle, 28h
  • SpokesDT Swiss Industry
  • Front TyreButcher, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON® compound, 29x2.3"
  • Rear TyreEliminator, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON® compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29x2.3"
  • SaddleBridge Comp, Hollow Cr-mo rails, 155/143mm
  • SeatpostX-Fusion Manic, infinite adjustable, two-bolt head, bottom mount cable routing, remote SRL LE lever, 34.9mm, XS:100 mm, S: 125mm, M/L: 150mm, XL:170mm of travel
  • MotorSpecialized SL 1.1, custom lightweight motor
  • UI/REMOTESpecialized TCU, 10-LED State of charge, 3-LED Ride Mode display, ANT+/Bluetooth®
  • BatterySpecialized SL1-320, fully integrated, 320Wh
  • ChargerCustom charger, 48V System w/ SL system charger plug
  • Wiring HarnessCustom Specialized wiring harness w/ chargeport
  • SWATSpecialized Z-Cage, Swat CC Multitool in steerer tube without Chaintool

 

The Levo SL Expert is equipped with a Fox 34 Performance Elite fork and Float DPS shock, SRAM G2 RSC brakes, SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, Roval Traverse carbon wheels, and an X-Fusion Manic dropper seat post.

 

The Levo SL Comp Carbon features a Fox Rhythm 34 fork and Float DPS Performance shock, SRAM NX Eagle gears, SRAM Guide R brakes, Roval Traverse alloy wheels, and an X-Fusion Manic dropper seat post. This is the model we tested at the launch event.

 

The aluminium frame Levo SL Comp matches the specification of the Comp Carbon model. This alloy frame is also available in an extra small size where the carbon models are not.

 

Riding the Turbo Levo SL


Specialized invited Bike Hub to the global press launch for the Turbo Levo SL. It was hosted in Stellenbosch, the town that I live in. While it was a missed opportunity to explore some trails in a foreign country, there is no better place to test a new bike than on the trails I ride daily. Plus, it is always rewarding watching others experience the trails for the first time. For those that know the area, most of the riding took place in Jonkershoek with some riding at GSpot, Eden, Mont Marie, and Coetzenberg.

 

Levo SL Comp Carbon ET.jpg
We tested a Levo SL Comp Carbon, the same as the bike above, except ours was an extra large frame and painted black. Photo credit: Etienne Schoeman

 

After jumping on the Levo SL for the first time the clutter of technical details surrounding the Levo SL immediately becomes clear. The bike is instantly more recognisable as a trail bike than it is an e-bike. For starters, you can pick it up without damaging your back. The real magic begins once you turn the motor on. The smooth, controlled delivery of power is unlike any e-bike I've ridden before.

 

Climbing


Specialized Turbo Levo SL Jonkershoek Berm Climb GP.jpg
Photo credit: Gary Perkin

 

I'll start with climbing because that is how rides in Stellenbosch usually begin. The power delivery of the assistance on the climbs is unbelievably intuitive and naturally smooth. There is no lurking as you stab at a pedal around corners, the bike seemingly senses your intentions and delivers precisely on your inputs. It is a remarkable technological achievement.

 

Specialized Turbo Levo SL climb Jonkershoek view point GP.jpg
Even with an extra 240 watts, the climb to the viewpoint atop Saaltjie is no easy task. Photo credit: Gary Perkin

 

It’s worth remembering that the SL motor only produces 240 watts, and it only does so in TURBO mode (if you haven’t tuned custom settings). This means that the rider still has to contribute significantly on the climbs even in TURBO mode. The Levo SL does not give you a free ride.

 

For what it is worth, let's dig into my power numbers to see how much effort is required climbing the Levo SL. In TURBO mode, with the most assistance, climbing to the top of Saaltjie (to the viewpoint deck) in Jonkershoek took 38 minutes. I (me the rider) averaged 264 watts with a maximum of 740 watts. While I didn’t bend myself into a pretzel with the effort, I certainly reached the higher end of my heart rate and puffed heavily. When switching to modes with less motor assistance, the motor expects even more of me and my power numbers climbed, averaging in the 300-watt range. On the steepest sections of the mountain, the motor feels almost helpless in propelling you up the hill as you fully embrace the 50 tooth on the 12-speed cassette. Like on regular bikes, the fit soon moved to the front of the group and waited at the tops.

 

Specialized Turbo Levo SL Climb Ledge Fun ES.jpg
Photo credit: Etienne Schoeman

 

While you still shed buckets of sweat with the effort of climbing, the speed at which you ascend is significantly faster. Specialized’s slogan “It’s you, only faster” is incredibly cheesy but it is honestly the best way to describe riding a Levo, especially the Levo SL. You have the sensation of working almost as hard as you do on a normal bike but it helps you go so much faster. The added speed also makes climbing fun (yes, fun) as the trail features require a wholly different approach than you’d take on a regular bike.

 

Descending


Specialized Turbo Levo SL GSpot Tree GP.jpg
Photo credit: Gary Perkin

 

Climbing can be enjoyable with the views and endorphins but the real reason you push a 150mm trail bike out the door is for the downhills. While the whole idea of an e-bike is to assist you in getting to the trailhead faster, the motor and battery do have an impact on descending agility. This is where the Levo SL is different.

 

Specialized Turbo Levo SL GSpot Berm GP.jpgPhoto credit: Gary Perkin
Specialized Turbo Levo SL wall ride Phoenix.jpgPhoto credit: Justin Sullivan

 

The Levo SL is the most lively e-bike that I've ridden down a trail. The reduction in weight makes a significant difference. There is far more resemblance in handling to a regular trail bike than the Levo SL’s heavier e-bike brethren. The most obvious departure is the ability to throw the bike around, both into the air and around corners. The rear end does not have the same affinity to sticking to the ground as heavier e-bikes do. For example, bunny hopping is typically a feat of strength on an e-bike but with the SL it is an achievable manoeuvre with the bike urging you to boost of even the smallest bump in the trail.

 

There are some signs that the Levo SL is still an e-bike though. There is still a slight hint of muted feedback in the rear end due to the weight while stepping off and pushing the bike is much improved using the walk assist mode.

 

Specialized Turbo Levo SL Armageddon Corner GP.jpg
Photo credit: Gary Perkin

 

For those that know the Jonkershoek trails, the Levo SL was leaps and bounds ahead of bigger e-bikes on the smoother, flowing trails like Fire Hut and Armageddon. In both fun and speed. Pointing it down a steeper, tighter trail like Status Quo did not expose any faults in the Levo SL either. It maintained controlled on the slippery rocky shoots and soaked up the bigger drops with ease.

 

Specialized Turbo Levo SL blur corner JS.jpgPhoto credit: Justin Sullivan

Specialized Turbo Levo SL Mont Marie rocks ES.jpgPhoto credit: Etienne Schoeman
Specialized Turbo Levo SL Element Jump ES.jpg

 

The Comp Carbon Build Kit


I am impressed by the Comp Carbon build kit. I know some riders will turn their noses up at the Rhythm fork, NX drivetrain, and Guide R brakes at this price point but with the battery and motor you need to adjust your expectations. On the trails the Comp Carbon was up to the task. And yes, the 34mm forks on the Levo SL range are suitably stiff for the bike. Only the brakes showed some fatigue during the long, hot Jonkershoek descents. I saw no immediate need to upgrade any part on the Comp Carbon. Instead, I'd spend any spare upgrade cash on purchasing a range extender.

 

So what’s the catch?


After riding the Levo SL, I'm convinced that lightweight e-bikes are the future of trail riding but there is one thing holding them back from mainstream adoption. The price.

 

Turbo Levo SL Comp Alloy - ZAR 105,000
Turbo Levo SL Comp Carbon - ZAR 125,000
Turbo Levo SL Expert Carbon - ZAR 155,000
Turbo Levo SL S-Works Carbon - ZAR 200,000
Turbo Levo SL S-Works Founder's Edition (limited to 250 bikes) - ZAR 250,000

 

Electric bikes, in general, are pricier than regular bikes but Specialized's e-bikes do carry a premium price tag. Specialized spend huge amounts of time and money developing in-house motors and batteries, and this reach for perfection does come at a price. If you can afford it, it is the best e-bike there is.

 

That said if you can cope with not keeping up the MTB Jones’s, the Comp Carbon model we tested is a well-balanced bike with no obvious weakness. You will not miss out on the full Levo SL experience owning this more affordable model.

 

In the end


Turbo Levo SL will have you climbing much faster but not necessarily any easier. Turn it down a mountain and it shows the agility of a regular trail bike. In short, the Levo SL is the ideal trail e-bike. Scratch that, it is the ideal trail bike full stop.




72 Comments

stefmeister, Feb 04 2020 10:21

This costs about the same;

ba094920-a0d4-be49-fd7a-9741b65b09ab?t=1

Pieterlab1, Feb 04 2020 10:29

R250 000.00?

Jho!

gummibear, Feb 04 2020 11:16

R250 000.00?

Jho!

It's seriously insane .

Jewbacca, Feb 04 2020 11:25

This costs about the same;

 

BUT.... can you ride that round Jonkers doing all the rad trails over and over again?

 

That thing either puts you on the track or has you breaking the law speeding to enjoy it and dodge all the taxi's and drivers too busy on their phones to bother seeing you.

 

I don't really get the comparison. You can buy a new car for R250k and you can buy a bottle of Whiskey for 250k and a whole lot of other things in between.

 

A quarter of a million zar is about R220000 out of my price bracket for a bike, but IMHO, with these bikes getting better and better, the 'normal' trail bike is DED.

Eddy Gordo, Feb 04 2020 11:31

Maybe with this

 

freerider-electric.jpeg

dave303e, Feb 04 2020 11:35

BUT.... can you ride that round Jonkers doing all the rad trails over and over again?

 

That thing either puts you on the track or has you breaking the law speeding to enjoy it and dodge all the taxi's and drivers too busy on their phones to bother seeing you.

 

I don't really get the comparison. You can buy a new car for R250k and you can buy a bottle of Whiskey for 250k and a whole lot of other things in between.

 

A quarter of a million zar is about R220000 out of my price bracket for a bike, but IMHO, with these bikes getting better and better, the 'normal' trail bike is DED.

 

For half the price you can a KTM freeride E, with proper suspension, brakes, tyres etc...

Headshot, Feb 04 2020 11:42

Spaz has chutzpah is bucket loads, ne.

Headshot, Feb 04 2020 11:46

For half the price you can a KTM freeride E, with proper suspension, brakes, tyres etc...

Ah but you know, you wouldn't get a proper work out on that thing...

 

Now this new Spaz has a motor but still gives you a work out - imagine that. Its like a normal bike. What an innovation. Maybe things will go full circle eventually. 

 

I'd rather have a more powerful eBike - for the same effort you can go even faster uphill. Why sell yourself short just to get a bike that looks like a real bike? 

Jewbacca, Feb 04 2020 11:53

For half the price you can a KTM freeride E, with proper suspension, brakes, tyres etc...

Ja... again, I'm not debating how expensive it is, but comparing an e-bike to a moto is like saying 'That car is so expensive, I could buy a house for the same price'

 

You can, yes. But it's not relative. 

 

I reckon the next trail bike I buy will be an e-bike. Being able to loop trails top to bottom is the dream

dave303e, Feb 04 2020 12:02

Ah but you know, you wouldn't get a proper work out on that thing...

 

Now this new Spaz has a motor but still gives you a work out - imagine that. Its like a normal bike. What an innovation. Maybe things will go full circle eventually. 

 

I'd rather have a more powerful eBike - for the same effort you can go even faster uphill. Why sell yourself short just to get a bike that looks like a real bike? 

You have obviously never ever ridden proper enduro on a dirtbike, 4 Laps at a place like wild west will leave you hurting properly. 

 

Ja... again, I'm not debating how expensive it is, but comparing an e-bike to a moto is like saying 'That car is so expensive, I could buy a house for the same price'

 

You can, yes. But it's not relative. 

 

I reckon the next trail bike I buy will be an e-bike. Being able to loop trails top to bottom is the dream

 

But it is, both are electric powered 2 wheel vehicles designed for offroad use for the enjoyment of riding. 

Nick, Feb 04 2020 12:05

I'd rather have a more powerful eBike - for the same effort you can go even faster uphill. Why sell yourself short just to get a bike that looks like a real bike? 

 

They were aiming for real bike handling. The look just comes with everything being smaller.

I view this bike as a replacement to the real bike instead of competing against other e-bikes. I reckon the Levo SL will dig into top spec Stumpy sales the most.

Long Wheel Base, Feb 04 2020 12:09

I suppose when the e-bike world champ rides Spez then you think you can charge a quarter of a million zar for a bike.

Nick, Feb 04 2020 12:16

I suppose when the e-bike world champ rides Spez then you think you can charge a quarter of a million zar for a bike.

 

There are probably 250 people who'd buy that sales pitch  ;)

 

Alan was at the launch. His World Champion jersey looks electric...

Headshot, Feb 04 2020 12:39

You have obviously never ever ridden proper enduro on a dirtbike, 4 Laps at a place like wild west will leave you hurting properly. 

 

 

But it is, both are electric powered 2 wheel vehicles designed for offroad use for the enjoyment of riding. 

I think you missed the point. 

LazyTrailRider, Feb 04 2020 01:22

They were aiming for real bike handling. The look just comes with everything being smaller.

I view this bike as a replacement to the real bike instead of competing against other e-bikes. I reckon the Levo SL will dig into top spec Stumpy sales the most.

 

Spot on.

 

My wife rides a Levo. I've given it a proper spin or two but it just doesn't work perfectly for me, so when I sold my Enduro recently I got a new Stumpy without seriously considering a Levo. This however...

Milkman, Feb 04 2020 02:05

I think I found my next bike !

DuncanDoughnuts, Feb 04 2020 02:12

love my Levo ... and i would probably love this bike ....but afraid I don't have corrupt government tender money ....

 

ill wait till they start going for second hand.... there is always something better on the horizon for those ahead of the curve to upgrade to

SCD, Feb 04 2020 06:13

I usually respect when companies built the development cost into the price of their product. But the bike industry unfortunately has lost the plot.

If entry level gear of a sport requires the user to belong to the top 1% of a society then the sport has left grass roots level people to watch on... and I am not even talking about the prices of those eBikes anymore. These are elite toys for the elite. Sitting in the garage next to a Porsche. And this is just not the an image that I associate with mountain biking.
Kind of sad.

ChrisF, Feb 04 2020 06:14

Been looking at ebikes .... but out of my budget ....  actually scary to see how the prices have krept up in the last two years !!  Thought we would see more affordable options as the technology settles in ....

 

so as much as I admire the technology of this new beast, it is totally out of my budget .....

sirmoun10goat, Feb 04 2020 07:28

Turbo Levo SL S-Works Founder's Edition (limited to 250 bikes) - ZAR 250,000

 

If they made 300 would the price be ZAR 300,000?

Mamil, Feb 04 2020 07:56

How many more times is the newest thing going to change the game I wonder?

JohanC, Feb 04 2020 08:30

There is another familiar brand launching an ebike in the next couple of weeks...+R200k :ph34r:

Tim Brink, Feb 04 2020 08:30

There are probably 250 people who'd buy that sales pitch  ;)

 

Alan was at the launch. His World Champion jersey looks electric...

Shocker...

intern, Feb 04 2020 10:40

I usually respect when companies built the development cost into the price of their product. But the bike industry unfortunately has lost the plot.

If entry level gear of a sport requires the user to belong to the top 1% of a society then the sport has left grass roots level people to watch on... and I am not even talking about the prices of those eBikes anymore. These are elite toys for the elite. Sitting in the garage next to a Porsche. And this is just not the an image that I associate with mountain biking.
Kind of sad.

Doesn't matter what you think. If people are buying it, then the bike company's done it's work.

There's plenty of toys for the plebs like you and me, don't worry.

Also, I'm chucking it in and just buying a motorcycle instead. Ordered the wife a CRF250 and will get one for myself once I can afford it. Gonna have just as much fun as the ebike crowd, at less than half the price (my S-Works MTB retailed at $14000 when I got it, the Honda is $8500).

WrightJnr, Feb 05 2020 04:29

Doesn't matter what you think. If people are buying it, then the bike company's done it's work.
There's plenty of toys for the plebs like you and me, don't worry.
Also, I'm chucking it in and just buying a motorcycle instead. Ordered the wife a CRF250 and will get one for myself once I can afford it. Gonna have just as much fun as the ebike crowd, at less than half the price (my S-Works MTB retailed at $14000 when I got it, the Honda is $8500).


I get your point but.....coming from someone that has done both disciplines for a long time....The CRF you will ride once a week, then twice a month, then once a month, then dust..... An eBike you will ride multiple times a week and continue to do so.

And, if you think we are pressed for good and variety MTB trails, wait until you try find motorbike trails that are close to home and safe to ride. Most people can’t ride a CRF from their doorstep.

Bottom line, you will have more hours of enjoyment on the S-Works.