Specialized Turbo Levo Expert E-Bike Review
By Drew Rohde | Photos by Nic Hall & Brian Niles
Video Brian Niles
Some bikes take a while to learn, while others, like the Specialized Turbo Levo Expert, immediately win you over. Over the last 14 months, we’ve transitioned from die-hard mountain bikers to converted ebike fiends. At first, these pedal-assisted beasts were more novelty than high-performance bikes. Sure, it sounds like we’re high on Kool-Aid, and we’re getting paid by The Man, but we’ve got the cobwebs in our wallets to prove otherwise.
The fact is, the eMTB sector is the new arms race, and brands are pumping out better bikes every single year. Things are changing so fast in fact, that buying a new ebike is probably a terrible financial investment because there’s sure to be a better one coming out every few months. Specialized may hate us for saying that, but it’s the truth. I guess that means it’s time to get The Loam Wolf ebike classified section up and running!
Before we start slipping off our soapbox, let’s get back on track. We got this Specialized Turbo Levo Expert several months ago and have been passing it around from rider to rider. Of course, it hasn’t been that easy. We’ve had to wrestle it away from a couple of guys who weren’t quite ready to let go.
Weighing in at just over 47 pounds and retailing for $8,250, the Turbo Levo Expert is Specialized’s upper-middle-class ebike. It’s several thousand less than the flagship S-Works model but a bit spendier than their $4,950 entry-level Levo. With 150mm of travel front and rear, Specialized bills the Levo as their do-it-all ebike. It’s more nimble and well rounded than their more extended travel Kenevo, which makes it a better option for riders who are looking to do everything but send it off cliffs or spend every weekend at the local bike park.
Specialized made some notable improvements to the latest Turbo Levo. Starting at the heart of the bike, Specialized used a custom made Brose 2.1 Rx trail-tuned motor. The new magnesium body reduces weight by 11% and is 15% smaller than its predecessor. Rider power is amplified up to 410% thanks to this 250W unit. One of our favorite features is the double freewheel design that disengages the gearbox when the 20mph governor is hit. This allows the bike to continue accelerating under the rider’s power without the drag of the motor slowing your efforts.
Specialized also claims improvements in the motor’s efficiency. The new motor combined with the larger 700Wh battery means an even longer range for the truly adventurous. The new M2-series battery increases range and capacity by 40% and is fully integrated inside the frame. Removal of the battery is rather quick if you’ve got the bike in a stand, on its side, or upside down.
One of the neatest features of Specialized ebikes isn’t even on the bike, however. The Mission Control app is a handy and fun tool, and if you’re any sort of a bike geek, you’ll spend way too much time tweaking out on your bike’s data and tuning options. Owners can log in and adjust power modes, monitor power use, control range, perform basic diagnostics, record and upload rides, and even tap into the new Shuttle mode. Shuttle mode offers up max power to zip you back up to the top of your favorite descent.
Moving away from the electrical components, we get into the bread and butter of the Turbo Levo. Sporting many similarities to the Specialized Stumpjumper, the Turbo Levo Expert is built to be a capable mountain bike above all else. And capable it is. The carbon frame is quite stiff, geometry is competent without being sluggish, and the improved suspension tune helps the rear end keep up with the demands of aggressive riders.
Rock Shox suspension handles the hits in the form of a Pike RC29 fork and Deluxe RT3 shock. The suspension worked well. However, the fork was a bit flexy for some of our heavier or more aggressive riders on the steep descents. We also felt for the price point, it would have been nicer to get a slightly higher-end suspension spec on the bike.
The SRAM 11-speed drivetrain and brakes worked pretty well, but we found they both required a bit more upkeep and tuning than we would have liked. Especially considering the relatively short period of our testing compared to the long-term use the parts would see from an owner.
Many of the other components on the bike come in the form of Specialized’s in-house brand, Roval. Not to discredit the brand, as Roval has been working very hard to differentiate themselves as a worthy wheel manufacturer, but we did have a few issues with a couple pairs of their wheels in recent reviews. We found that the wheels on our recently reviewed Stumpjumper Evo and the Levo suffered the same issues. The spokes regularly came loose on both bike’s wheels, and we eventually snapped two spokes on the Levo.
Our time aboard the Specialized Turbo Levo Expert was definitely fun. It’s a bike we hope to keep and use as a testbed for future ebike products that keep showing up on our doorstep. Some bikes take several rides to dial in and learn. We instantly felt comfortable on the Levo and continued to enjoy it throughout the test period.
Some highlights include long-range and battery life! We were able to get some huge rides in the bag thanks to the larger battery and more efficient motor. The Specialized 2.1 Rx motor is definitely one of, if not the quietest motors we’ve tested. We did notice that the frame does have a slight harmonic hum and vibration through it, which we haven’t experienced on other ebikes. It wasn’t really enough to make us complain, though, and maybe we only noticed it on the Levo because it’s quieter than other ebikes we’ve ridden.
The Mission Control app is a lot of fun to play with and let us adjust power modes, and monitor battery usage. We do wish the bike had a display on the bars, though. We’ve grown quite used to seeing all our ride data and speed on the Turbo Connect Display.
As we mentioned above, the spec is certainly fair for the bike, but we felt it could have been a little bit better for the price or demands of the bike. Specifically, in terms of drivetrain, tires, and suspension. We had reliability and tuning issues with the drivetrain frequently, the brakes were mediocre, and we punctured the tires more than once. The bike encourages aggressive riding, and it really made us push the boundaries until we entered rock gardens or sent a few natural gaps with a little too much juice. Even with air pressure well over our normal riding set up, we were able to puncture the 29×2.6” Grid-equipped tires. Of course, the first times were because the tires had tubes in them, which is another issue altogether.
Moving on from our nitpicking and focusing on the many great things this bike has to offer, it’s easy to see why we love it. It is a very precise bike, and we believe the 29er set up with 2.6-inch tires has a bit to do with it. The bike rolls fast and smooth, and the sub-Plus sized tires give rides searching for precision a scalpel to carve the trail.
The improved shock tune really makes a difference in how the rear end handles compressions. We no longer have to add extra air pressure to keep the shock higher in the travel, which took away from the small bump compliance. Riders can now run a more appropriate air pressure for their riding weight/level and enjoy the benefits of a reactive rear end that won’t wallow.
The FACT 9m carbon frame is stiff and responds well to rider input. The alloy rear end didn’t bother us at all. It was snappy, stiff, and we didn’t cry every time we dragged it across a rock face trying to climb weird new lines. The short aluminum chainstays weren’t the best for super steep climbs, but we found the playfulness and lively feel of the bike overweighed the extra effort to lean over the front end on super steep climbs.
During our test period, we took the Levo on more trails than we can remember. It performs well on rocky, chunder, and loose trails. We had a blast riding it on flatter, pedaly rides where beginners or those who aren’t looking to push the limits of gravity will ride. Our favorite place to ride the Levo, however, was on trails with some speed and sharp, quick turns. Laying this bike over in rutted corners, berms, or dropping a foot and drifting flat turns at speed all resulted in huge grins as fingers moved farther off the brake levers and firmly wrapped around the grips instead.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Some owe’ve private test loops blend rut track slaloms with rock gardens, awkward gaps out of corners, and moto-whoop inspired washboard sections. We originally built the trails to test 160mm pedal bikes like the Specialized Enduro, but we’ve recently spent more time up there pushing the limits of ebikes. We found that some ebikes handle rowdy terrain much better than others, and since we’re mountain bikers above all else, this is of the utmost importance to us. Specialized’s Turbo Levo Expert handled our trails better than most. We were able to brake late, exit hard, pop the awkward jumps and let it loose on the high-speed chunder.
It’s not a perfect bike, and we think some improvements to spec could be made, especially for the price tag, but those minor tweaks wouldn’t mean anything if the backbone of the bike wasn’t there. The Levo is a very impressive eMTB and one of those machines that makes us excited for the future of ebikes. If you are looking for an ebike, the Levo Expert certainly gets our recommendation. Still, we’d suggest you get the best suspension spec you can afford as it’s going to play a more critical role in how well the bike rides compared to say, carbon wheels, or a nicer derailleur.
Weight: 47.12 lbs
Frame: FACT 9m Carbon w/ Aluminum rear triangle, 150mm
Fork: Rock Shox Pike RC29; 150mm
Shock: Rock Shox Deluxe RT3
Battery: Turbo M2-700 w/rock guard; 700wH
Drive Unit: Specialized 2.1 Rx; 250w
Brakes: SRAM Code R; 200mm
Handlebar: Specialized Trail; 780mm
Saddle: Body Geometry Phenom
Seatpost: Specialized Command Post; 160mm
Shifter: SRAM S700, E-Click
Stem: Specialized Trail, 50mm
Hubs: Specialized (f); DT Swiss 360 (r)
Rims: Roval Traverse 29
Tires: Specialized Butcher Grid Casing; 29×2.6
Cassette: SRAM XG-1175; 10-42t
Cranks: Praxis; 165mm, 32t
Derailleur: SRAM X1; 11s
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