Specialized Turbo Levo SL
THE GATEWAY eMTB?
Words by Drew Rohde | Photos by Dusten Ryen
Video by Brian Niles/Treeline Cinematics
It’s hard to talk about ebikes like the Specialized Turbo Levo without talking about the stigma and hate that North American riders have spewed for the last few years. We know that hate because we too held it up until about 16 months ago. We feared trail access, unskilled and uneducated riders crashing into families of hikers, and on top of that, they were heavy turds. Yes, they made climbing easier, but quite frankly they resembled 55-lb Walmart bikes more than the svelte carbon performance machines we’d grown to love. Like their non-powered siblings however, eMTBs are getting lighter, more refined and ride better with every iteration. Slowly the masses are converting, and chances are, the last holdouts are starting to wonder if they’re the only ones not taking craz-E pills. We’re not going to speak for Specialized here, but we’re guessing that the new Turbo Levo SL was designed to bridge the gap between holdouts and guys who, “rode one a couple times” in a parking lot or demo a couple years ago and haven’t enjoyed the leaps made by contemporary eMTBs since.
It seems a good portion of riders who aren’t on the e-train either felt the power and weight were just too much to make it enjoyable or spent so much time talking sh*t over the last couple of years they’d feel guilty riding a “full powered” eMTB. The new Turbo Levo SL could be the bike to lure even more converts over to the e-side. We’ve already seen it firsthand. Riders who we bet $200 just one year ago that they’d love ebikes by 2021, trying to weasel out of the deal, “Well, those other bikes have 565 watts of power and such huge batteries, but, the SL only has 240 watts and a smaller battery, it’s not the same.” We smile and nod, but at the end of the day we don’t really care because we spent plenty of time making excuses ourselves before we just said screw it, we like fun, and these bikes are fun! They may not be fun for everyone, but hell, we don’t all have to have fun the same way. Riding road bikes that are basically retracing the evolution of mountain bikes in the 1980’s doesn’t look very fun to us, yet the exploding “gravel” scene says otherwise. So, let’s talk about the latest technology in the off road bicycle world – lightweight eMTBs.
Based off the ever-popular Specialized Stumpjumper, the Turbo Levo SL looks and rides a lot like its analog sibling. Sporting 150mm of front and rear wheel travel, this Class 1 (pedal assist 20mph cutoff) eMTB comes in a variety of builds and price points. The Specialized Turbo Levo SL Comp starts at $6,525 and models go all the way up to the S-Works Levo SL at $13,525. Specialized also made a limited number of S-Works Turbo Levo SL Founder’s Edition bikes that retail for $16,525. We tested the Levo SL Expert Carbon, which retails for $9,025 and comes with a pretty solid spec overall.
Built using Specialized’s FACT 11m carbon fiber, the Turbo Levo SL neatly houses the removable 320Wh in a slim downtube. Along with the smaller, lighter battery, the Levo SL saves major weight in the drive unit. Specialized uses their SL 1.1 motor, which is 2.4 pounds lighter than the 2.1 motor found on the Levo and Kenevo models. Along with being significantly lighter, the SL system also delivers less power and potentially, a shorter range. The Levo SL 1.1 motor delivers 240 watts of power compared to the 565 watts pumped out by the larger 2.1 motors found on the Kenevo and Levo. Depending on power mode selected and terrain, riders on the Levo SL can still get similar ride times at a pace somewhere between non-ebikes and their more powerful Levo/Kenevo bikes.
Specialized claims riders can get roughly a five-hour ride out of the Levo SL but that can vary greatly depending on many factors like rider weight, elevation and the settings selected in your Mission Control app. Specialized offers a 160Wh Range Extender battery that fits in the water bottle cage and will bump total battery capacity to 480Wh.
The Mission Control app is easy to use and allows riders the ability to customize power settings and support in various modes. If you’re rides aren’t very long and you want max power, simply slide the power up, if you’re going out for a mega-epic, simply log in and adjust the power down to maximize range. You can even use Specialized’s range calculator to help you gauge battery usage on your upcoming rides.
Spec on the Expert Carbon Levo SL is competent and capable for a 150mm trail bike. Fox Performance suspension front and rear come in the form of a 34 Float GRIP 51mm offset fork and Float DPS 3-position shock. Drivetrain components include SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed shifter, derailleur, cassette and chain, with a 30t X-Sync chainring and 170mm Praxis forged crankset. SRAM G2 RSC 4-piston brakes handle stopping duties while a mix of Specialized components make up the cockpit and Roval Traverse Carbon wheels get wrapped in Specialized Butcher (f) and Eliminator (r) 29×2.3 tires. Our size large also comes with an X-fusion Manic 150mm dropper post.
Geometry on the Levo SL is what you’d expect from a Stumpjumper, well-rounded and versatile. The reach on our large test bike measures 455mm with a 781mm front-center and 633mm stack height. Chainstays sit at 437mm and connect to a 348mm high bottom bracket. Overall wheelbase on the Levo SL is 1,217mm with a 66-degree head tube angle and 74.6-degree seat tube angle. The numbers are far from edgy but are what make this bike so loved by so many riders. You don’t have to ride this bike on extreme terrain or down the steepest hills to get it to work right. The geometry will suit a wide variety of terrains and riders without much compromise. The downside to that is, if you do live in a super gnarly, steep region and want a longer and slacker bike to keep you confident on the downhills, it may be a bit short and the Fox 34 fork could be an area of concern, but it’s important to remember the bike’s intentions as a trail bike. We’ll have more to report on this as we ride the bike over the coming months.
Over the last month we’ve just started to break-in the Turbo Levo SL and can’t wait to get even more familiar with it on trails around the Pacific Northwest. We’ll continue to experiment with range, the Mission Control app tuning and more as we accumulate miles and experience for our long-term review. In the meantime, we’ll keep having fun shredding trails and trying to pass this bike around to both our testers and e-curious riders we see out in the wild.
If you have any questions or things, you’d like to see us focus on in our upcoming review, please leave them below so we can be sure to focus on them.