Specialized Kenevo Expert eMTB seat and frame

Specialized Kenevo Expert eMTB Review

THE BIG MOUNTAIN AWARD WINNER

Words by Drew Rohde | Photos by Dusten Ryen
Charged by RISE BREWING

One of the best bikes in our 2020 eMTB roundup, bar none, is the Specialized Kenevo Expert. Sporting 180mm of front and rear wheel travel, a 700Wh battery with impressive range and a powerful Specialized 2.1 250w motor, this bike blew minds up and down the trail. It’s not quite perfect, but it’s pretty dang close. Before we address what we loved so much about this bike and the areas we think could be improved, we’ll highlight the geometry and component spec on this $8,225 eMTB.

THE LAB
Specialized offers the Kenevo at four price points from $5,750 to $8,225. We tested the top of the line Kenevo Expert model, which comes with a full SRAM build. SRAM S700 shifters control the GX long cage 11-speed derailleur along the 11-42t PG-1130 cassette. Some may criticize the lack of Eagle but our bigger critique on Specialized’s spec choice comes from the SRAM Code R brakes. They were underpowered on this machine and we would have liked to see something nicer, especially for the price and not having an Eagle drivetrain on the bike.

Specialized Kenevo Expert eMTB Review

When the Kenevo lined up with all the other test bikes it stood out most thanks to the Rock Shox Boxxer Select RC fork. Paired up with a Rock Shox Super Deluxe Coil Select shock, the dampers worked very well and were vital to the bike’s impressive on-trail performance.

Roval rims with a 28mm internal width are laced to a Specialized front hub and DT Swiss 370 rear. Specialized ships the bike with Butcher 27.5 x 2.6” tires that treated us very well before swapping over to the official tire of our eMTB Roundup, Schwalbe’s ebike specific Eddy Current. Cockpit spec comes in the form of Specialized in-house products and didn’t really impress us in terms of appearance or finish, yet they performed without issue.

Sizing and geometry on the Kenevo Expert are a bit interesting as it falls in Specialized’s newer “S” sizing structure. The Kenevo is available in sizes S2 through S5 and we opted to run the S3 as most of our 5’11ish riders prefer snappier, playful bikes opposed to longer sleds. It was a compromise either way, but we’d rather have a reach of 470mm than 495mm. The front center on our S3 is 809mm and has a 64-degree head tube angle with a 77-degree seat tube angle. Stack height on the Kenevo S3 sits at 614mm. The overall wheelbase of the S3 is 1,263mm and comes with 454mm chainstays and a 345mm bottom bracket height.

Specialized packs a 700Wh battery in the Kenevo Expert that powers a 2.1 custom Rx Trail-tuned motor with 250W of power. It’s definitely one of the most powerful motors in the test and also has a very robust app that allows the user to monitor performance and customize settings. Our riders all enjoyed the power and climbing performance of the Specialized 2.1 motors.

Specialized Kenevo Expert eMTB in action

THE DIRT
Let’s address the climbing performance of this bike first, as it was probably the biggest surprise to our testers. This bike climbs like a mountain goat! Sure, we know it has a motor, but we didn’t expect a “DH bike with a motor,” to climb better than some of the bikes in our Trail category. Whether it was seated efforts climbing steep fire roads, out of the saddle hill climb challenges, or navigating super tight switchbacks, the Specialized Kenevo Expert greased them all. We loved the traction and ground-hugging performance right away.

Once we got to the top and pointed the bike back down, our love affair only grew. The Kenevo Expert is an incredibly capable and well-rounded bike. The Kenevo isn’t the lightest or poppiest bike when it comes to playful jibbing, however, what it loses there it makes up for in traction, confidence, and trail-smoothing suspension. Much to our surprise even on mellower trails where we thought the bike would be overkill, it was still a lot of fun.

Specialized Kenevo Expert eMTB front tire view

One downside to us selecting the S3 size, however, was the spring spec on the rear shock. Specialized bikes have the tendency to blow through travel on larger hits like landing drops or in big G-outs and having a 500lb spring exacerbated that a bit. The S4 comes spec’d with a 550lb spring and we found that spring weight kept us a bit higher in the travel throughout the ride. With the right spring rate onboard the bike livened up a bit yet still had that coil-spring sensitivity we all love.

This bike got named the bulldog while in Palm Springs. One tester described riding it and said, “This is the line I’m on, if it’s bad no problem, if it’s a good line, even better.” The Kenevo Expert is probably the bike that best exemplifies what we spent so many years dreaming about as young downhillers who spent their weekends hiking up mountains for five minutes of heaven. It takes those 45-minute hikes and turns them into 18-minute fun-filled workouts where we can test our technique, skills, and climbing abilities, and that means we can do even more downhilling.

Specialized Kenevo Expert eMTB downhill

The Wolf’s Last Word

As we’ve said in other award-winning bike reviews, the Specialized Kenevo Expert did not win the Big Mountain award in the Enduro category without a fight. The Enduro category is for bikes with 155mm or more of rear-wheel travel, and the Kenevo was a star shower in the category. The Big Mountain Award within the Enduro category is meant to showcase the Kenevo’s mindset. Specialized designed the Kenevo to ride big mountains, up and down. They completely succeeded in their quest as it’s one of the most versatile and fun ebikes we’ve ever ridden.

The sizing is a bit tricky so be sure to check out the numbers and don’t always believe that longer is better, as a shorter bike will enhance the fun factor on mellower and tighter trails. We battled a bit as the S3 was slightly cramped for us on the rowdy, high-speed DH trails, but the S4’s reach would have made the bike too long and a total dog on mellower trails. Ultimately, we think we’d stick with the S3 as we’d opt for a more playful bike. The rear suspension is also a bit linear and soft but can be easily addressed by a coil swap. We also felt the spec to value ratio wasn’t quite there but thankfully the ride quality made us forget all those nitpicky things because this bike is just too damn fun to ride. If you are looking for a bike with a solid battery range, impressive power for climbing, handy geometry on your local loops, and the ability to tackle true downhill terrain, the Kenevo should be near the top of your list!

Price: $8,225;
Weight: 53.10lbs;
Website: Specialized.com

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE ENDURO ROUNDUP VIDEO
Specialized Kenevo Expert frame and chain

CHASSIS
Frame: Specialized M5 Premium Aluminum, 27.5 Trail Geometry, 180mm
Fork: RockShox Boxxer Select RC, 180mm
Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Select

POWERPLANT
Battery: Specialized M2-700, 700Wh
Drive Unit: Specialized 2.1, custom Rx Trail-tuned motor, 250W

COCKPIT
Brakes: SRAM Code R; 200mm
Handlebar: Specialized, 7050 alloy, 800mm
Headset: Acros AZX-260 Block Lock
Saddle: Body Geometry Henge Comp
Seatpost: Command Post IRcc, 160mm
Shifter: SRAM S700, single-click lever
Stem: Specialized Direct Mount

WHEELS
Rims: Roval 27.5″ Alloy DH, 28mm internal width
Tires: Butcher, BLCK DMND casing, 2Bliss Ready, 27.5 x 2.6″

DRIVETRAIN
Cassette: SRAM PG-1130, 11-speed, 11-42t
Cranks: Praxis
Derailleur:SRAM GX, long cage, 11-speed

Specialized Kenevo Expert Review

We Dig

So Much Fun
Climbs Like a Goat
DH Performance
Traction
Motor Power
Battery Range

We Don’t

“S” Sizing System Just a Bit Off
Linear/Soft Rear Suspension
Price/Spec Value
Brakes

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