This review is for a RockShox Reverb AXS seatpost, 31.6mm post diameter with 170mm travel.…
The Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL is a fabulous trail bike. It’s not a bike just for self-shuttling. This bike loves it out on the hills.
- Brand: Specialized
- Product: Turbo Kenevo SL Comp
£7,750£5,435 currently on sale
- From: Specialized
- Reviewed by: Benji for 5 months
Three things I loved:
- The ride
- The handling
- The range
Three things I’d change:
- More dropper insertion
- Better tyres
- Shorter stem
Due to the development of electric mountain bikes being so fast, and the uptake so great, we’re now seeing e-MTB not just as a spin-off from mountain biking, but with new categories within this segment. In addition to enduro, trail and cross-country, we also have ‘full-fat’ e-bikes competing for market share with lighter weight, lower-powered models.
The Levo SL was a decent enough trail ebike, but for some riders – myself included – the geometry and the suspension capability didn’t suit their preferred terrain or riding style. What we wanted was an electric Enduro please!
Enter the Kenevo SL. Which, to all intents and purposes, is exactly that. An Specialized E-Enduro. Actually, “exactly” is not quite right. Although the general geometry and suspension layout (not a 6-bar, it’s a 4-bar with an extra set of links driving the shock) are very much Enduro, there is one small but totally significant difference. Namely, there’s less dropper post insertion. This is because the motor has ‘forced’ the shock tunnel further upon the seat tube. This S4 (kinda like a regular Large) can only just about fit the 170mm travel X-Fusion dropper in it.
Is this a real deal-breaker? Hmm… yes and no. At 185cm tall, my legs and I can live with 170mm droppers (and would probably swap out the X-Fusion post for another brand dropper that packs more drop into the same overall post length). Shorter legged riders will have to think hard and do some maths and dropper post browsing.
The Kenevo SL gets the same Specialized SL 1.1 lightweight motor and 320Wh integrated battery as the Levo SL. This offers 35Nm of torque and, roughly speaking, doubles your own input effort. This combination of lightweight technology and carbon frame equals a bike that weighs as much as 12lbs less than a full-power Kenevo.
Suspension and spec
Despite the weight saving, the SL version doesn’t really cut corners in terms of spec. Everything on the bike is fit for purpose. And that includes the Fox 36 fork which I prefer to the bigger Fox 38; the travel of the 36 feels much more achievable and useable. And for 73kg me, it’s stiff enough thanks.
On the rear suspension side of the build, we have a Fox Float X shock. Which, again, is totally fine. I didn’t miss the bells and whistles of the X2.
In terms of suspension set-up I typically ran both dampers fully open in terms of compression (the rear shock doesn’t have any compression adjustment apart from a rather redundant Climb switch) and twiddled the rebound as and when required. Running the rebound entirely open for fast tracks and dialling it to around 75% open when terrain speeds were generally slower.
The bike ships with removable and replaceable headset cups for adjusting the head angle, while a flip chip in the chain stays allows adjustment of BB height, chain stay length and seat angle.
Needless to say I messed with all these geometry adjustments. FWIW in the end I ran slackest headset cup and the chain stay in short/steep/high setting. With the chain stay in long/slack/low position the seat angle was uncomfortably slack uphill and the BB was just too low and robbed the bike of dynamism when hustling curvy and tricksy trails.
Despite all the adjustments, I’d actually like it if the BB/stays/seat angle were more independently adjustable. Slack head angle, steep seat angle, high BB and longer chain stays would be great.
Specialized’s control panel interface is the best there is. Located in the top tube it’s called the MasterMind TCU. This unit includes the power button for switching on, along with a clear colour display for displaying how much battery remains, the speed, assist mode and other useful features. The TCU is also the brain of the system that allows riders to connect via smartphone Bluetooth to unlock more features and tuning options.
You can also ‘trim’ the various power setting in 10% increments purely via the handlebar remote, if you’re a fiddler (press-and-hold etc).
For testing we had a range extender battery supplied. This 160Wh battery weighs a tad more than a bottle of water and connects to the bike via a short cable that locks into position in the main charging port. When connected, and fully charged, the Kenevo SL displays 150% of battery. It’s a nice option to have, and at around £340 it’s not insanely expensive.
We did experience the piggyback battery cable being disconnected (which cuts off the whole system power) a few times when the bike received a big impact. It wasn’t a major problem and didn’t cause any crashes or anything. Just a bit annoying now and then. Maybe it was us not pushing it in properly and/or having a clean port? Either way, for a brand that does the whole bike packaging better than anyone else, a slightly more secure cable would be nice.
Spec-wise, there were no real clangers. The bars were a bit low rise for me. The stem was too long for everyone. The Butcher tyres are okayish but not anywhere near as capable as the rest of the bike (I swapped in a pair of T9 Hillbilly rubbers for most of the set period). The drivetrain was fine. The brakes were great.
Is it any good then?
I’ll just come out and say that the Kenevo SL is one of the finest handling bikes I’ve ever ridden. It made me think that 40ish lbs is the perfect weight for an amazing handling mountain bike. Stay with me here.
The motor is there to help offset the extra weight/inertia to help the bike ride like a regular non-E bike when it needs to. The rest of the time the bike just feels incredible. Planted but nimble. It’s a feeling that is totally unreachable on a non-E bike. It’s amazing, addictive, beautiful even.
Getting back on lighter (non-E) bikes, they feel skittish and frightening. Getting back on full-bore ebikes, they feel sluggish and frightening. The weight of the Kenevo SL is entirely Goldilocks and is something that it not really picked up upon by a lot of folk.
The weight, how it’s positioned on the bike and the excellent suspension feel is just ace.
A great trail bike
Ignore/because/despite the abundance of suspension travel on offer, the Kenevo SL is a fabulous trail bike. It’s not a bike that is shackled to some odd self-shuttling woodland play area. This bike loves it out on the fells and mountains.
Having said that, it will absolutely do the whole ‘local laps’ self-shuttling thing. And do it incredibly well. But the bike is much more capable and versatile than that.
It’s not perfect. The actual seat angle is not as steep as I’d like. It can get a bit front wheel lifty on steep ascents and is just not as all-day comfy as a steep seat angled bike is.
In terms of ‘stood-up riding’ (descending or technical traversing) the Kenevo SL has great overall geometry. No doubt helped by being able to tweak it via headset cups and flip chips. But still, this was one of the few ebikes I’ve ridden that I was perfectly calm (happy!) to hit sketchy trails on ‘blind’. Everything about the bike seems to help – rather than freak – you out.
Power and range
Power then. Is 35Nm enough? I don’t know. I can’t answer that. A 35Nm ebike is a lot closer to a 85Nm ebike than it is to a 0Nm normal bike. The Kenevo SL may be a ‘diet ebike’ but it’s still loads easier than a non-assisted bike. Loads easier.
I would say that the 35Nm Keneno SL cannot do the severity of climbs that full fat 85Nm ebikes can do. You won’t be doing trials-motorbike style climbing challenges on the Kenevo SL, as you might find yourself doing on full power ebikes.
A word here about range. The Kenevo SL constantly impressed me with how far it would go on a full charge (especially with the piggyback battery). It’s this decent ‘MPG’ that helps the bike rides alongside full-power ebike riders. While they’re riding along in Eco and Trail, the Kenevo SL is fine to be working at Trail and Turbo respectively.
I also think that brochure Nm and Wh numbers don’t tell the whole story. I’ve ridden the Kenevo SL back to back with 50Nm bikes and there is little on trail difference to both the power on offer and the range capabilty. In fact, the 50Nm bikes ran their battery down noticeably faster whilst not offering any real extra power. Well, that’s how it felt to me anyway. YMMV. Literally.
The Kenevo SL is a future classic mountain bike.
p.s. a word about noise. Yes, the Kenevo SL is as whiny-loud as a normal full-fat ebike. It is in no way as silent as the new breed of super quiet mid-power ebikes. I personally don’t mind the noise (I actually quite like it!) but appreciate that some folks are resentful of it/bothered about such things!
Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL Comp Specification
- Frame // FACT 11m full carbon, 170mm
- Shock // FOX FLOAT X Performance, LSR, 2-position lever, 62.5x230mm
- Fork // FOX FLOAT 36 RHYTHM 29, GRIP damper, 44mm offset, 2-position sweep adjust, 170mm
- Wheels // Specialized 29
- Front Tyre // Butcher, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON® T9 compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29×2.3″
- Rear Tyre // Butcher, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON® T7 compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29×2.3″
- Chainset // Praxis Forged/M30 Spindle Interface
- Drivetrain // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
- Brakes // SRAM Code R, 4-piston caliper, 220mm/200mm
- Stem // Alloy Trail Stem
- Bars // Specialized, 6061 alloy, 6-degree upsweep, 8-degree backsweep, 30mm rise, 800mm width
- Grips // Specialized Lock-On
- Seatpost // X-Fusion Manic, 170mm
- Saddle // Bridge Comp
- Motor // Specialized SL 1.1, 35Nm
- Battery // Specialized SL1-320, fully integrated, 320Wh (plus 160Wh range extender)
- Size Tested // S4
- Sizes Available // S2, S3, S4, S5
- Weight // 20kg/44lb
*slack headset cup & short/steep/high chainstay setting
|Top Tube Length (MM)|
|Seat Tube Length (MM)||400||420||440||465|
|Seat Tube Angle||76||76||76||76|
|Head Tube Length (MM)||105||115||125||135|
|Head Tube Angle||63.5||63.5||63.5||63.5|
|Chainstay Length (MM)||447||447.3||447||447|
|Bottom Bracket Drop (MM)||25||25||25||25|
|Bottom Bracket Height (MM)||350||350||350||350|
|Stack Reach Ratio||1.421||1.361||1.309||1.263|
|Front Center (MM)||782||812||841||870|
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