We’ve become familiar with Specialized’s eMTB system over the past few months as we’ve not only had one in the office on test but we saw the latest version of their Turbo Levo launched in the US in June. What we also saw while we were out at what Specialized termed their ‘Summer Camp’ was their second launch into the eMTB market. And this was a big one – both metaphorically and literally.
The Levo Kenevo is an eMTB aimed squarely at the DH set. Yes, that’s right! An eMTB for going down hill. AT this juncture I feel we should all pause for a few seconds and let that one sink in.
Apologies for the poor sound. If you can’t see the video click here
And you’re back in the room!
OK so there’s some explanation needed here in case this doesn’t make any sense to you. The motor assist system is not designed to help you go faster on the descents, it cuts out at the usual 25kmh anyway – no, this is a system designed to help you get back up to the top without an uplift so you can do it all again and again and again. It makes sense when you think of it as a big burly DH bike, complete with 180mm of travel at both ends that would be awful to drag back up the hill without an uplift, be that a gondola/chair at an Alpine bike park or a van/trailer at a typically British one.
Having an eMTB for this part of the job does actually make sense.. so long as the performance on the trail isn’t compromised too much as a result. It’s all about balance. Luckily, big heavy bikes are something we’ve all got used too when it comes to riding hard DH courses, in a relative sense to other bike genres anyway – even DH rigs have got much lighter over the years.
Once you have got over the shock of such a massive eMTB your mind starts to wonder about how you could use it. My mind wandered right over to one of my favourite trails that includes a really fun and steep DH section. Usually it’s ridden like every other part of that loop ie once. Turning around and pushing back up has always crossed my mind but I’ve never really done it. I just get on with the rest of the trail. But now, on this bike I imagine turning around and, to use the common parlance in these situations, ‘sessioning’ parts of my favourite trails I would otherwise just ride the once. It does give you a new perspective on riding familiar trails if all the big steep DH sections are now effectively uplifted.
So there. That’s the theory behind this bike. It’s not a range extender; it’s not designed for beginners with little fitness. It’s a bike for the gravity set who want to put in more runs where there is no uplift service, which to be realistic is most places.
Yes, it’s a bike that will turn normal trails into sessionable DH sections and yes, it’s going to play havoc with Strava no doubt. There are pro’s and con’s to this bike and it’s going to cause arguments. But here it is anyway.
We had a giggle at the name when it was announced. By ‘we’ I mean the British contingent of journos. No one else seemed to find it funny and indeed most found it ‘cool’. We were kind of forced to put it down to our unique sense of humour. let us know what you think. ‘Kenevo’ – Hot or Not?
What’s Hanging On It?
It’s got 180mm of travel, that’s what’s hangin’.
At the front there’s a 180mm Rockshox Lyric form and at the back there’s an Ohlins Coil shock. AT this stage it’s probably important to point out that there is effectively just one model of this bike. There’s no budget version with lesser kit. Specialized have a single model and a single price of £5500. Now, we were a little surprised by that price. So much so that we checked it twice with Specialized UK. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great deal of cash for a bike but we’ve seen less beefy eMTBs for a lot more than this. That Ohlins coil shock is no budget spring. For an Ohlins equipped DH oriented bike complete with Specialized’s 3rd generation motor system, we don’t think this is badly priced at all. Yes, it’s definitely a bike with a specific purpose and you wouldn’t really want to go on a big old XC loop on it, but still, when some top end eMTBs seem to be heading for five figures, it’s almost a relief to see one of the world’s biggest manufacturers buck that trend.
Lets go through the spec in a bit more detail.
As I said up there this is Specialized’s third generation of motor. This means the 1.3 version here has better heat dissipation ability. On the surface it may seem a bit of a none issue to have a motor get hot on a bike – I mean it’s not like you are touching it all the time. But it is when you realise that an over heating motor loses power output. So, by increasing the heat dissipation from the motor the motor delivers more power when needed.
The motor is also remarkably quiet, which Specialized claim is down to the internal belt drive system rather than the more typical systems involving lots of meshing gears.
The way all that power is delivered is more controllable thanks to improved software in the system. Rather than have a choice of power outputs that are fixed, the Specialized way is to have power settings that match and vary depending on the riders input. So, on a low setting the motor will add say 25% of what you are putting in to the pedals. In full power mode it will match your power input like for like. You put in 100 watts and so will the motor. You back off the power and so will the motor. It’s all tunable via the Specialized Mission Control app too. The result is a much more natural and crucially, more controllable delivery of power. You don’t get the sudden panic moment of having the motor try and separate you from the bike as you do/did on the early motor systems. (Even Bosch have updated their motor software to try and calm their boost modes down a bit recently). It’s all starting to feel more sophisticated and much more like you are suddenly fit again rather than sitting atop a motor bike that tries to throw you off at the merest pedal stroke.
Like the Turbo Levo the Kenevo has a very simple cockpit thumb control. There are no screens, just a low profile couple of thumb buttons to scroll up through the power modes. The power you have remaining is displayed on the side of the downtube. Just like the Levo there’s also an intelligent control option where you tell the bike how far you are going to ride and it manages the power for you to minimise the chances of you running out of power.
..And you really don’t want to run out of power. Not on this bike. It weighs in at 55lbs. You could pedal it with a flat battery but you really wouldn’t want to. In fact the Specialized control system doesn’t actually have an unassisted option.
We got to ride this bike in a US bike park, just outside New York for a day. The bike park had a gondola lift for the almost 1000 feet of vertical between the top and bottom. Of course we didn’t use it. Well not at first.
The trail to the top was singletrack, fun and technical. I pedalled and by the time I got to the top I was breathing hard. The uplift is not cost free. There were journo’s present who decided to see how many uplift runs they could do an a single charge in full power mode and the claim was they got five runs in before needing a recharge. I opted for full power on the first run but then backed it off to a mid power setting after that. I didn’t do enough runs to flatten the battery but I reckon it was good for at least 7 runs on a single charge. That would be 7000 feet of climbing!
The reason I didn’t run it flat was because the bike turned out to be so much fun on the descents that we opted for the quicker gondola uplift after a few runs just so we could do more of the really fun stuff quicker. Yes, I know what you are thinking. an eMTB on a gondola is just daft, but we had one day and to be honest, once you’ve ridden up the track a couple of times it starts to get in the way of the descents.
On the descents it was surprising just how you quickly forgot about the huge weight. The handling with 180mm of travel all round helped in that forgetting. Off bikepark kickers and table tops it was just a big burly bike. In fact it was only in quick snaking berms that you were made to feel the weight as you needed to throw more of your own weight into transitioning from one lean to the other. But those moments were brief – at least in this particular park.
The strange Wu post was surprisingly comfortable too, despite all our cynicism at the unveiling about how something so simple could be made so complicated.
It was the highlight bike of the launch. It was the bike everyone wanted to ride and it was the bike everyone had the most fun on. It is also probably the most controversial bike Specialized have ever released. We have one on order with Specialized for review and we’ll obviously have a lot more to say about it when we’ve ridden it on our own, normal trails in a month or so.
The Full Spec
- FRAME // Specialized M5 Premium Aluminum, 650b Trail Geometry, integrated down tube battery, enclosed internal cable and Command Post IR routing, 148mm spacing, fully sealed cartridge bearings, 180mm of travel
- REAR SHOCK // Öhlins TTX22M, Coil
- FORK // RockShox Lyrik RCT3, 27.5″, Dual Position Air, Boost 15x110mm, 35mm stanchions, 180mm of travel
- STEM // Specialized Trail, 3D forged alloy, 4-bolt, 6-degree rise
- HANDLEBARS // Specialized, 6061 alloy, 6-degree upsweep, 8-degree backsweep, 27mm rise, 780mm width
- GRIPS //MTB Lock-on CIP Grip SM & MD Thin lock-on / LG & XL Thick MTB lock-on
- FRONT BRAKE // SRAM Code R, hydraulic disc, 200mm
- REAR BRAKE // SRAM Code R, hydraulic disc, 200mm
- REAR DERAILLEUR // SRAM GX, long cage, 11-speed
- SHIFT LEVERS // SRAM GX, one-click shift-lever
- CASSETTE SRAM // PG-1130, 11-speed, 11-42t
- CHAIN // KMC X11ET, 11-speed w/ Missing Link™
- CRANKSET // Custom alloy crankarms
- CHAINRINGS // Forged steel, 32T
- RIMS // Roval 650b, alloy construction, 38mm internal width, 24/28h
- FRONT HUB // Specialized alloy disc, sealed cartridge bearings, 15x110mm, torque caps, 24h
- REAR HUB // Specialized alloy disc, sealed cartridge bearings, 12x148mm, 10-/11- speed freehub, 28h
- SPOKES // DT Swiss, stainless
- FRONT TIRE // Butcher, GRID casing, 2Bliss Ready, 650b x 2.8″
- REAR TIRE // Butcher, GRID casing, 2Bliss Ready, 650b x 2.8″
- SADDLE // Body Geometry Henge Comp, hollow Cr-Mo rails, 143mm
- SEATPOST // Command Post Wu, S/M: 125mm of travel, L/XL: 150mm, 34.9mm, 8mm offset
- MOTOR // Turbo 1.3, custom Rx Trail-tuned motor
- UI/REMOTE // Trail Handlebar Remote, motor mode switch & walk-assist
- BATTERY // Turbo M1-504, integrated Trail Display, ANT+/Bluetooth® module, 504Wh, Mission Control App connectivity
- CHARGER // Custom charger, 42V4A with Rosenberger plug
- WIRING HARNESS // Custom Specialized wiring harness