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The Specialized Turbo Levo was the first e-bike model introduced by Specialized. It’s based around the Stumpjumper ‘acoustic’ model with the trademark FSR rear suspension that has that strange looking asymmetrical sidearm shock mounting arrangement. It’s all in the name of extra stiffness though so it’s not just to be clever.
This review first appeared in Singletrack World Magazine issue 139
- Brand: Specialized
- Product: Turbo Levo S-Works
- Price: £13,000 (at time of review)
- From: Specialized
- Review by: Singletrack World Magazine Issue 139
For the uninitiated, the Stumpjumper comparison means the Specialized Turbo Levo S-Works is a less gnarly bike than the Specialized Enduro platform. That said, it’s still got lots of travel. As an e-MTB model it sits bang in the middle of the pack between the Kenevo and the Levo SL, making it slightly less specialist and more of an all-rounder.
This Specialized Turbo Levo S-Works model is the top of the range version. It’s the all bells and whistles option complete with full FACT 11 carbon frame (only their pro spec road bikes get better carbon), SRAM AXS wireless shifting and dropper post, and high-end braking from Magura. If it could be carbon then it is carbon, from cranks to bars. No expense has been spared here and that’s why the price comes in at a whopping £13k.
With the carbon and the price you might think that would make this bike a bit of a lightweight, but this is what I like to call a full-fat e-MTB – it has a fully powered motor and large capacity battery and tops the scales at a whisker over 22kg without pedals, which might be practically heavy, but is still pretty good for a full-fat e-MTB.
So how ‘full-fat’ is this model? The battery is a whopper at 700Wh capacity, which suddenly makes that 22kg figure look a bit more impressive. It’s contained in the downtube, of course, which does mean the handy SWAT box storage of the Stumpjumper is not an option here. But no matter, there’s still the really handy hidden tool located in the steerer tube, which I can’t praise enough as it’s always on hand and ready to use.
The heart of the bike is obviously the motor and this remains a collaboration with German brand Brose. It’s a belt driven 90Nm motor that can kick out a peak of 565Wh. This is the 2.2 version of the motor which differs from the previous version with its much more robust belt that it’s hoped will improve reliability.
Further changes come with the wheels. The previous Levo was all 29er but this new model has been given the mullet treatment with a 27.5 rear.
Beyond the tech there are new geometry options – six in fact. The adjustable headset gives three positions and when coupled with the flip chip at the rear offers a total of six geometry options with head tube angles from 63.5–65.5°. Of course, I immediately went for the slackest option.
We have upgraded forks at the front in the guise of the Fox 38 Factory fork and Float X2 rear shock. It does appear that in terms of high-end enduro bikes, 38 is becoming the new 36.
Specialized has always avoided cluttering up the cockpit on their e-MTB ranges by having a low profile and simple controller coupled with a similarly simple battery indicator on the top tube. It has always been a contrast to the more detailed and bulky displays from the likes of Bosch. The new Levo sticks with that aesthetic principle but now includes a small display screen on the top tube that provides a bit more detail about what is going on while you ride. Whereas all you had before was a ten bar light to indicate battery level and small circle showing which mode you’re in – now there’s everything from battery percentage, mode, speed, time and even altitude gain. And it’s all contained in the same compact footprint as the previous TCU.
There’s the same level of connectivity as before with a very useful and versatile app that not only allows you to fine tune the power settings, including torque, but also to log your rides. It’s ANT+ compatible too.
The carbon moulding, slim battery and the high-end component spec gives an overall effect of a bike that belies its quite phenomenal power. It’s certainly a lot more svelte in appearance than many of its big brand competitors.
Our test model Specialized Turbo Levo S-Works was a size S3. For many that will simply convert to ‘medium’, but that’s not the whole story. Specialized’s sizing is focused on reach numbers rather than rider height. If you like a shorter, more lively ride, then Specialized suggests you size down. Conversely if you prefer fast and stable then a longer reach may suit and so the option is to size up. For me and my 5ft 6in stature this meant ‘longer’ would equate to an S4, however, the S3 with its reach of 452mm was a good fit for me. I certainly wouldn’t like to size down from that. The longer reach of the S4 at 477mm does appeal, but for me the height difference became an issue, and with my seatpost pretty much slammed already on the S3, moving up to S4 and that longer reach was awkward. Despite there only being 80mm in seat tube length variation across the entire model range, it appears 5ft 6in is quite the awkward height to be.
Before we get to the electrics I’m going to proclaim my true love for the Fox 38 Factory fork. It is by far the sweetest big trail fork I’ve ridden. On e-MTBs I tend to be somewhat inefficient with my suspension set-up knowing that in terms of climbing at least, I can call on the motor to give me some help with powering through the slightly soft set-up I like. On an acoustic bike I would certainly sharpen the fork up a bit with more air and an extra few clicks on the compression. Similarly the rear Float X2 is a dream of an air shock and despite the extra heft of the 22kg frame still manages to be both supportive and plush through rocks and on big landings.
The Magura MT7 brakes are great. We reviewed them not long ago and we love them. They are amazingly engineered and for such dainty little levers and svelte-looking callipers they offer a surprising amount of power. They are more than capable on this monster of a bike despite their looks. I’m more of a stick in the spokes kind of rider when it comes to braking. I like lots of bite early on in the lever throw. The MT7s offer lots of modulation and if you like that sort of thing you will love them. I prefer the quick bite of a good XT lever myself.
The SRAM AXS shifting is sublime, as it should be. The lack of cables, the low profile and very understated power controller create a very clean looking cockpit. Shifting by button clicks rather than a lever throw that pulls a cable takes a bit of getting used to and I did spend quite some time getting the shifter paddles in just the right position. Similarly the dropper actuator paddle is just an electronic switch, activated by the lightest of touches. In fact the rather aggressive return action of the post coupled with the minimal required touch of the ‘lever’ can catch you out from time to time… If you know what I mean.
The main feature here is, of course, that motor. Via the Specialized app it can be tuned – not just for how much power it delivers in each of the three modes, but also how much instant torque is delivered too. I ramped up the default power of eco mode to 35% but took the torque setting there right down. In trail mode I finally settled on 50% across the board for both power and torque and in turbo I set power to 100% and torque at 50%. But, to be honest, I can’t actually recall when I last used turbo.
The motor is incredibly quiet, even in turbo mode – and certainly when compared to the SL motor on the Kenevo SL, which was described to me as like being followed by a swarm of bees all day. The reason is the belt drive internals of the Levo compared to the mechanical gears of the smaller SL system. But even compared to Shimano motors it’s one of the quietest motors I’ve ridden. In eco and trail modes the power delivery is very natural feeling and with careful tuning you can have a bike that feels less like it has a motor and more like your legs felt 20 years ago. With all the weight contained in the lower half of the bike, the handling is good and after a few rides you will be throwing it around berms with the occasional rear flick to boot.
Overall there’s no getting away from the price tag on this Specialized Turbo Levo S-Works. It’s immense and you aren’t really getting a deal on a full bike when you add up the cost of all the components if you bought them individually. That said, the quality of the components and the ride experience are top drawer. But there’s a Carbon Expert model that still comes with the same electrics, but Performance level Fox 38 and shock, with mostly SRAM X01 gear for over £4k less and let’s not forget these are carbon models – there’s no word yet as to an alloy version, but we can perhaps assume that is likely.
Specialized seems to have ironed out some of the reliability issues of the previous Levo with much improved sealing around the motor and the new TCU unit. The 700Wh battery coupled with the efficiency and fine tunability of the motor means this bike has a huge range. In fact, despite taking this bike on some huge rides so far I’ve not come close to emptying the battery. Which does make me wonder if there’s a lighter, better handling version of this new Levo to be had with a 525Wh battery. Maybe get that 22kg down under the 20kg mark? It’s not all about the power after all.
Specialized Turbo Levo S-Works specification
- Frame // S-Works FACT 11m full carbon 150mm travel 29”
- Shock // Fox Float DPS Factory, Kashima
- Fork // Fox Float 38 Factory
- Front Wheel // Roval Traverse SL
- Rear Wheel // Roval Traverse SL
- Tyres // Butcher T9, GRID TRAIL
- Cranks // Praxis Carbon M30, custom offset
- Rear Mech // SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
- Shifters // SRAM AXS Eagle
- Cassette // RAM AXS Eagle
- Brakes // Magura MT7
- Stem // Deity, 35.0mm
- Bars // Roval Traverse SL Carbon
- Grips // Deity, Knuckleduster, Black
- Seatpost // RockShox Reverb AXS
- Saddle // Bridge, 155/143mm, Hollow Ti-rails
- Motor // Specialized Turbo Full Power System 2.2 Motor
- Battery // Specialized M3-700, Integrated, 700Wh
- Size Tested // S3
- Sizes Available // S2, S3, S4, S5, S6
- Weight // 22.4kg/49.38lbs
This review first appeared in Singletrack World Magazine issue 139
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