By Drew Rohde | Photos by Dusten Ryen Charged by RISE Brewing
When we were planning our trip to Palm Springs for the 2020 eMTB Roundup, there were a few bikes we already knew would be top contenders. The Specialized Turbo Levo Expert was one of those bikes. We’d been lucky enough to spend several months on the bike in Bend, Oregon before putting it head to head with some of the newest ebikes on the market. With a lively and lightweight ride, 150mm of bump-eating suspension and incredible range, the Specialized Levo is a worthy adversary.
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 uses a 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. Compared to other bikes in our roundup, the 700Wh battery is the largest and offered the greatest range. Followed closely by Gen 4 Bosch-equipped bikes and their 630Wh batteries.
Specialized has a Mission Control app that is handy and fun. In the app you can customize 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.
Geometry on the Specialized Turbo Levo is fun and snappy. We tested a size large, which has a 455mm reach. The overall wheelbase on the Levo is 1,235mm and sports 455mm chainstays with a 347.5mm bottom bracket height. The Levo battled head to head with the Trek Railfor the top spot in our Trail category, so we’ll share a couple key differences in measurements. The Specialized Levo wheelbase is 8mm shorter than the Trek and has a 10-15mm shorter reach, with 8mm longer chainstays. The Trek has a 160mm fork with a 64.5 to 64.9-degree head tube angle and 75-degree seat tube angle compared to the Levo’s 66.04-degree head tube and 74.48-degree seat tube angle. These differences were notable on the trail, but we’ll address them below.
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.
Specialized in-house components make up much of the cockpit and wheels. We had a few issues with a couple pairs of Roval wheels in recent reviews. We found that the wheels on our recently reviewed Stumpjumper Evo and the Turbo Levo suffered the same issues. The spokes regularly came loose on both bike’s wheels, and we eventually snapped two spokes on the Specialized Turbo Levo.
This is one of the most fun and playful ebikes we’ve ridden. Our testers all love this bike and want to take it home. The Specialized 2.1 motor is quiet and powerful, the battery range is impressive and it rides lighter than many other bikes in the category.
As much as we liked the bike on the trail, it had it’s limitations. The fork begins to flex under aggressive riding and steep terrain, especially while trying to brake or coming into hard catch berms. The head tube angle, at just over 66 degrees is incredibly fun and lively on 95% of terrain, but when you get it into that 5%, it gets a bit steep. The head tube and fork flex were two major factors in the bike coming in second place in our eMTB Roundup for the All Trail win. Now, this will only be a factor for aggressive riders who spend time pushing their equipment and charging steep and rough terrain. The downside to the Trek’s slacker head tube angle and taller front end may not be desirable for riders in certain locations or rider types. The Specialized will be snappier for riders looking at an ebike with those types of characteristics.
As much fun as we had on the Specialized Turbo Levo we felt the spec could have been a little bit better for the price. 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 before switching to our Schwalbe Eddy Current rubber. The Levo 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 in which case we felt the front end deflecting and tires flatting.
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 encourages non-ebike riding styles. What we mean is that manuals, nose bonks, poppy playful lines are all welcome aboard the Levo. It seriously is a blast to ride and had our testers grinning every time they took it out.
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 frame’s stiffness combined with the wheelbase and head tube angle had our riders pulling all sorts of inside lines and slamming the bike into ruts and catch berms with reckless abandon. Now that we think about it, that could be part of the reason we had some problems with the Roval wheels holding up.
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 Specialized Turbo 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. If you want to build your own slalom track, this thing will slay.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The Specialized Turbo Levo Expert is 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 Specialized Turbo Levo Expert certainly gets our recommendation. It wasn’t an easy decision putting the Levo in second place at this year’s eMTB Roundup as it fought tooth and nail with the Trek Rail and many other notable ebikes. Ultimately we think minor geometry differences and Bosch’s new CX motor were the deciding factors for our crew.
So Fun to Ride
Wheel & Tire Spec
Wish it was 0.5- to 1-degree Slacker
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