The 2020 Specialized Kenevo don’t need no stinking chairlift | First Ride

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Specialized unveils the 2nd generation Turbo Kenevo e-MTB for 2020

The original Kenevo debuted back in 2017 as a 180mm travel self-shuttling electric mountain bike. Specialized admits that the masses weren’t really asking for such a big travel e-MTB at the time, but it didn’t take long for riders to realise the Kenevo’s potential – particularly for those those who don’t live near a chairlift.

The first generation Kenevo had room for improvement though. With many pushing it well beyond just general trail riding, Specialized noticed that riders modifying the bike with dual crown forks, and replacing the flimsy 6Fattie plus-tyre setup with narrower, but burlier tyre casings.

The Kenevo Mk.1

Of course last year the new Turbo Levo came out too, which brought forward significant improvements in geometry, suspension and chassis stiffness thanks to its new Sidearm frame. It also brought advances in both battery and motor technology that offered smoother and quieter performance in a smaller and lighter package.

With those lessons in hand, Specialized’s engineers turned their collective hands towards the big travel Kenevo. The goal? To create the most capable e-MTB possible. A bike that would be faster in really rocky and technical alpine terrain, while having more range than the original version.

And this behemoth, is the result.

And the 2nd generation Kenevo, which is all-new for 2020.

An Absolute Unit Of An e-MTB

The fundamental ingredients that baked the original Kenevo into such a popular cake haven’t changed too much. Suspension travel on the 2020 Kenevo remains at 180mm front and rear, though the new frame has been brought up to date by being made longer and slacker.

There’s a coil-sprung shock on the back, and the FSR suspension design has been subtly altered to provide a more rearward axle path that supposedly mirrors that of the new Enduro. Oh, and the Expert model also comes equipped with a dual crown Boxxer fork on the front, which looks totally badass.

Like the original, the 2020 Kenevo is rolling on 27.5in wheels, and not 29in wheels like the new Enduro and Demo. Specialized’s e-MTB Product Manager, Buck, told us during the launch that they were conscious of the Kenevo becoming too big and unwieldy, so they decided to stick with more nimble 27.5in wheels. Thankfully the flimsy plus tyres are gone though, and in their place are sturdy 2.6in tyres equipped with the new reinforced BLK DMND casing.

The Expert model makes its intentions clear with a huge 180mm travel Boxxer dual-crown fork up front.

For those who still prefer the ride of plus rubber, the Kenevo frame will take up to a 27.5×3.0in wide tyre. And while it isn’t really optimised for it, it’s also possible to fit a 29in wheel in the back on the larger frame sizes (smaller sizes run into clearance issues with the rear tyre and saddle).

There’s a lot more going on with the new Kenevo, so let’s dive in to look at some of the highlights of this raucous long travel e-MTB.

New Lighter & Stiffer Sidearm Frame

The most striking visual difference on the new Kenevo is its Sidearm chassis, which draws on the latest Stumpjumper and Levo platforms. By reinforcing the key pivot points around the rear shock, Specialized has been able to make the new Kenevo frame stiffer than the old one.

Specialized has taken no less thank 1kg out of the Kenevo’s alloy frame.

It’s also lighter too, having dropped 1kg off the frame alone. Yes, the frame is literally one kilo lighter. This has largely been achieved with a new downtube structure, which uses a complete tube to house the integrated battery within.

The previous frame relied on an open C-section downtube that the battery clipped onto. And so in order to provide the necessary stiffness while using an open tube, Specialized had to rely on very robust, 3mm thick alloy tubing, which obviously adds quite a bit of weight. The new fully-enclosed downtube is considerably thinner, which allows it to be lighter and stiffer.

Further down, the motor mount has also been refined significantly. Rather than housing the motor inside a heavy and complicated BB forging, the new frame utilises a stamped alloy BB receiver that the motor slides into, with bolts either side securing it in place. As well as utilising material more efficiently, the new stamped housing is also cheaper to manufacture.

Battery slides into here.

Brose 2.1 Drive System

Whereas the previous Kenevo used the 1.3 generation motor, the 2020 Kenevo is loaded with the same 2.1 motor found in the latest Levo. As well as being 15% smaller in size, the 2.1 motor also gets a magnesium housing that comes with a useful 400g weight saving.

The drive system is manufactured by German brand Brose, but Specialized says all of the software development has been carried out in-house. That is to say that the ‘brains’ of the system are all Specialized, with particular attention spent on integrating the Brose 2.1 motor into the Kenevo’s chassis for a more natural pedalling feel.

The new Brose 2.1 motor is the same as what you’ll find in the Levo.

With up to 560 watts of peak power output and 90nM of torque, Specialized says the 2.1 motor is capable of amplifying your pedalling efforts by 410%.

Of course in Europe, it still has the same 25km/h speed restriction. However, once over that speed, the motor completely decouples from the drivetrain so that there’s no extra resistance felt through the pedals. Speaking of the limiter, Specialized says it has bolstered its software to make it harder for riders to chip the Kenevo de-restrict it.

It’s lighter and more compact than the previous version.

Inside the downtube is the new M2 battery, which comes in two sizes. There’s a 500wh battery in the Comp model (the same size used in the previous Kenevo), and a larger 700wh battery for the Expert model that offers 40% more range.

The integrated battery can be charged on or off the bike. It’ll take around 4-hours for the 500wh battery, and 6-hours for the 700wh battery. If you want to remove the battery, it’s a case of undoing a few bolts and sliding it down and out of the BB area. However, you probably won’t want to carry a spare with you in your backpack, since it’s a pretty damn big battery.

For those wondering, it’s worth noting that the new batteries are not compatible with the old Kenevo, and vice versa.

Inside the Kenevo Expert’s downtube is a huge 700Wh battery.

Mission Control Tuning

Like the Levo, the new Kenevo also updates to the Turbo Connect Unit (TCU), which is integrated into the front of the top tube. This houses the system’s brain, and it’s where you’ll find the on/off button and an optical LED fuel gauge that utilises a stack of horizontal lines, with each bar representing 10% of the battery life.

On the left-hand grip you’ll find a discreet remote with three buttons on it. The up/down buttons allow you to scroll between between Eco (1), Trail (2) and Turbo (3) modes. Underneath is the ‘Walk’ button, which is designed to help push the bike along while you’re walking it uphill.

Once turned on, the TCU then pairs wirelessly to your smartphone via Bluetooth or ANT+, where Specialized’s own Mission Control app then offers you the ability to fine-tune power and range.

The Turbo Connect Unit (TCU).

For example, if you’re finding the assist level to be a little too much, you can limit the peak power output for each mode, which will help you eek out more range from the battery. Alternatively, tell the app how long your ride is going to be, and the system will automatically meter the assist levels to ensure the battery lasts for the duration of your ride.

On top of this, you also have the ‘Shuttle Mode’, which when selected, will see the motor giving you maximum power output more easily with less pedalling force – ideal for those lazy riders shuttling up fireroads who want to get to the top of the run as quickly as possible.

And for those who’d prefer not to be distracted by LEDs, there’s a ‘Stealth Mode’, which will keep the system on while turning all the LEDs off – likely something that night riders will appreciate.

While I quite like how clean and tidy the cockpit is with the Kenevo, for riders who want all the information at their fingertips, you can add on the £75 Turbo Connect Display – a small computer that sits on the bars to give you basic metrics like riding speed, distance and ride time, while also telling you how much juice you’ve got left in the tank, and what mode you’re riding in.

Colin from Specialized showing us how its done on the new Kenevo.

DH-Ready Geometry

Specialized has rolled out some geometrical updates with the new Kenevo, which gets a 1-degree slacker head tube (now 64°) and a 2-degree steeper seat tube angle (now 77°).

Reach has increased massively, with an extra 40mm per size on average. And like the latest Enduro and Demo models, the Kenevo moves to the S-Sizing system, with S2, S3, S4 and S5 sizes replacing the traditional Small, Medium, Large and X-Large sizes.

Why the change? Specialized wants riders to choose their frame based on the reach they prefer, and not on their saddle height. To facilitate this, seat tubes have gotten much shorter, which provides more flexibility for up and down-sizing, while also improving compatibility with modern long-stroke dropper posts. Head tubes have also gotten shorter, and Specialized is encouraging riders to dial in their stem/bar height by making use of the included headset spacers.

The Kenevo’s geometry emulates a full-on downhill bike, albeit with a steep 77° seat angle.

For those who like to fine-tune geometry, there’s adjustability built into the Kenevo’s chassis. A small stainless steel insert inside the lower shock mount allows riders to flip between High and Low settings, which changes the head angle by half a degree, while also raising or lowering the BB height.

Along with the generous tyre clearance and bigger fork capability, there’s certainly options for switching up the Kenevo’s style.

The Lineup

There will be two models of Kenevo coming into the UK for 2020; the Expert (£6,999) and the Comp (£4,999).

Both models make use of the same alloy frame and 2.1 drive system, though the Expert receives bigger 700wh battery with 40% more range.

Whereas the Expert gets the RockShox suspension package with the dual-crown Boxxer up front though, the Comp gets a cheaper Marzocchi setup, which includes a 180mm travel Z1 single-crown fork. It’s just like 2005 all over again!

Both Kenevo models will come with a coil rear shock. Note the guided cables on the inside of the Sidearm strut behind the shock.

Specialized has updated its DH wheels for the latest Kenevo, which feature 2Bliss ready alloy rims with a 30mm internal width. They now get 32 J-bend spokes front and rear for added strength and durability, and they’re laced to a Stout front hub and a DT Swiss rear hub. The wheels are shod with 2.6in wide Specialized Butcher BLK DMND tyres.

Both models receive 125-160mm stroke dropper posts, along with 4-piston brakes with proper 200mm rotors front and rear – an essential for a heavy e-MTB like the Kenevo.

Speaking of weight, while the frame has gotten lighter, Specialized has added more robust components elsewhere that sees the Kenevo Expert coming in about the same weight as its predecessor. According to Specialized, a Medium sized Kenevo Expert comes in at 24.58kg (54.1lb), while the Kenevo Comp weighs in at 23.63kg (52lb).

You’ll notice that like the Levo range, Specialized has chosen to spec SRAM 1×11 drivetrains on the Kenevos. This is because in its 12-speed Eagle range, SRAM only approves the 616g NX cassette for e-MTB use, and Specialized prefers not to run such a heavy cassette. And since Shimano is taking its sweet time to roll out its 12-speed alternatives, Specialized has stuck to the proven SRAM 1×11 drivetrains for the time being.

Riding the 2020 Specialized Kenevo at the Northstar Bike Park in Lake Tahoe, California.

2020 Specialized Turbo Kenevo Expert First Ride Impressions

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Disclaimer

Wil’s fights & accommodation for this trip were covered by Specialized

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