SPECIALIZED LEVO GEN 3 EMTB

Putting the “E” in dElightful

Words by Drew Rohde | Photos by Paris Gore
Video by Brian Niles/Treeline Cinematics

SPONSORED CONTENT

A couple months ago we drove out to the Oregon/Washington border to get our dirty mitts on the brand new 2021 Specialized Levo Gen 3. We met up with two Specialized Bicycle employees, Allan Cooke and Joe Buckley. While Cooke handles more of the marketing and media relations, Buckley, also known as Buck, is the product manager for full suspension mountain bikes coming from the big S. Behind the lens we were lucky enough to have Paris Gore shooting stills and Brian Niles (Treeline Cinematic) captured the moving pictures and interview with the crew post-ride. We’re excited to see the release of this new bike, and while we’re certain the two launch models and their price tags will create a lot of buzz, we’re going to spend more time focusing on the performance and internals rather than the sticker shock.

As with all of our Dissected Features, this is not intended to be a long term review or endorsement of a product but is instead a chance for our viewers and readers to get a deep dive look into some of the newest tech and products in the mountain bike space. We thank Specialized for the opportunity to create this feature and getting you some valuable beta on this new eMTB.

Specialized Levo Gen 3 Dissected
Specialized Levo Gen 3 Dissected

LONG TIME COMING

During the presentation, representatives from several media outlets sat-in and learned all about the new Specialized Levo and its improvements. Specialized revealed that they’d begun working on the bike you see before you almost immediately after the last version was released. Things don’t happen overnight in manufacturing and by the time the last generation Levo hit showroom floors it was a considerable amount of time after decisions had been made, trends had changed and riders had grown more demanding. For that reason, Specialized knew they needed to look ahead and not play it safe with where current trends were.

Specialized Levo Gen 3 Dissected

FROM THE GROUND UP
Contacting the earth are two mixed wheels, a 29-inch front wheel is mated to a 27.5-inch rear wheel to blend rollover speed with traction, confidence and a snappy, stiff rear end. This mullet wheel configuration is definitely something we’re happy to see and enjoy on the trails. Moving up from there, Specialized Bicycles totally revamped the geometry on the new Levo and as they say, “Put a major focus on control and capability.” Yes, it received the usual longer, slacker front, steeper rear treatment, but that’s not all. Taking cue from the new Stumpjumper Evo, the new Specialized Levo has six geometry settings that are easy to manipulate and are guaranteed to give you just the right handling on your local terrain.

Riders will be able to fine-tune the Specialized Levo via a Horst link flip chip and easily adjustable aluminum headset cups. The Horst link chip adjusts the bottom bracket height by 7mm and half a degree at the head tube angle. For those looking to alter the 64.5-degree head tube angle in a larger increment, you can play with the headset cup which will give you one full degree slacker or steeper. Combine that with the half-degree increments of the link and you have got an eMTB that can really be set up just as you like it.

Rx TUNE
Of course, good geometry only gets you so far. Once again, the crew at Specialized took feedback from the award-winning Stumpjumper Evo and modified the tune for the eMTB application. The new Levo borrows the Stumpy Evo’s progressive leverage curve with some tweaks for the torque and power delivered by the drive unit. The Levo’s axle path has a rearward move in the first third of the travel before shifting vertical in the mid-travel and finally arcing towards a forward trajectory at bottom out. After our initial rides on the Specialized Levo Gen 3, we think they nailed it so far.

Specialized Levo Gen 3 Dissected

TECH TALK
We cannot talk Levo without talking tech, it is an eBike after all. During our time with the Specialized team in Hood River, we appreciated their candor and acknowledgement of some areas of contention. They seem very aware that although the last generation Levo is a very popular and beloved eMTB, there have been plenty of complaints and areas for improvement. Rather than try to sweep them under the rug, the team put their heads down and went to work. Several of those areas have been addressed and we are happy to see the improvements, and we are sure customers are too.

First up, Specialized worked hard to update the firmware and algorithms to get riders the performance they want, when they want it. With more refined sensors and programming, Specialized have been able to take more erratic pedal strokes and turn them into a smoother, more circular distribution of power. This MasterMind firmware actually reduces erosion on hill climbs while also helping keep the rear tire from spinning out or having surges in power. Specialized also claims that it will increase the lifespan of your drivetrain. The integrated controller responds to pedal input with intuitive amplification at as much as four times the power you put in, without roaching your gear or the trail. The Specialized Levo power system can deliver up to 565 Watts of power and 90Nm of torque.

Specialized Levo Gen 3 Dissected

Reliability and longevity are certainly issues Specialized and Levo owners are both aware of, and for that reason they have made some changes to the Turbo Full Power System. When it came to increasing the life and reliability of the Levo’s motor parts, there have been some major efforts made, starting with an all-new belt. The 2.2 drive unit has a wider, stiffer, and overall much sturdier belt. According to Specialized, they have been testing this belt for nearly two years with great results. This belt, in conjunction with the MasterMind firmware mean the motor and components are not working as hard or wearing as fast.

Another focus was updating the waterproofing and sealing of the bike’s critical electrical plugs and connectors. The bike now features redundant barriers to make the bike more resistant to errors caused by the elements. The new Specialized Levo harness and charge port are completely redesigned, and we have certainly put it to the test this winter with a couple muddy rides and bike washes. There is an outer door with a switch that opens up and then allows access to the actual charging port, which has a locked, snug fitting seal as well. This double-door barrier worked incredibly well, and we couldn’t believe that after muddy rides and washing, it remained clean of debris and dry.

Specialized Levo Gen 3 Dissected

Another major criticism came from the TCU display. Small tick marks are easy to count when you are not moving, but at speed, small tick bars are not that easy to see. With TCU 2, riders will now have a really impressive looking display that shows a variety of information, including battery life in terms of a percentage. We were blown away that the display stayed clean and scratch free, even after some terribly muddy conditions and rain. Specialized partnered with Gorilla Glass to create a vivid and durable TCU display and we really liked how well it works. The new MasterMind TCU can be updated over the air, so riders can easily benefit from improvements made just by having the App downloaded to their smart phone. For the real techies out there, the display is customizable and has 30 possible data values that riders can select from to monitor the metrics of their choice.

Another cool new feature is the Specialized Levo’s MicroTune. This feature is accessible on-the-fly and allows riders to simply hold the (+) Plus mode button for two seconds and then adjust power from 0-100% in 10% increments. For example, if you are near battery exhaustion, or riding with a friend who is on a non-eBike, you will be able to reduce your power to better match your riding partner and maximize range. No longer will you need to get out the phone, open the App and tune your ride. Simply manage your assistance at the bar control and off you go.

Specialized Levo Gen 3 Dissected

THE WOLF’S FIRST IMPRESSION

To be totally clear, our Dissected Series stories are not intended to be reviews and are made possible with support from the brands involved. Disclaimer aside, this bike is an absolute unit. From the first descent we knew this thing was different. Since our first ride day with Specialized we have put in nearly two hundred miles of testing and look forward to quadrupling that number as we work towards our long-term review.

At 5’11, we opted to ride the size S4, which has a 475-477mm reach, my ideal range. I rode the bike in the nominal headset position and played with the BB chip a bit. So far, I have been happy with it in both positions and depending on my ride I will quickly switch between High or Low.

What really stands out to me after these first rides is the absolute speed, and composure this bike offers. The Fox Float X2 rear shock is an absolute beast and beautifully blends bump compliance with playfulness and stability when charging into the rough stuff at speed. Simply put, the bike stays planted and accelerates downhill like a DH bike at Mont St. Anne. It is almost frightening how fast the Levo picks up speed and pulls us down the hill.

Specialized Levo Gen 3 Dissected

Not wanting to forget uphill performance, although it is easy to do with how good this bike goes down, we have spent a fair amount of time climbing the Levo and look forward to some head-to-head climbs with Bosch and Shimano systems on our local test loops. We look forward to more time experimenting with the MicroTune mode to see how much support we can get at max power and what it feels like to ride with minimal assistance next to riders on traditional mountain bikes.

So far though, we can say it is very impressive how Specialized has made the power come on in what seems like 360-degrees of crank rotation. Even in Turbo, the new Levo does not have a jerky, throw you back in the saddle, acceleration and although that may remove some of the “racey” feel, it may not actually mean it is any slower. Think about a 4-cylinder Honda Civic with super loud exhaust and a stock Toyota Camry 6-cyclinder that is comfortably silent. You may feel faster in that super loud Civic, but that quiet Camry is probably in the lead. That is the impression we’re starting to get on this 90Nm Levo.

While we still have a lot to learn about the new Levo out on the trail and while tinkering with the App and MasterMind TCU, one thing we do not have to spend more time figuring out is how damn awesome it rides downhill. Specialized appear to have nailed suspension tune, geo and shreddability on this 160/150mm eMTB. This is going to be fun.

VISIT SPECIALIZED’S WEBSITE TO LEARN MORE
Specialized Levo Gen 3 Dissected

SPECIALIZED LEVO PRO

Price: $13,000

Specialized Levo Gen 3 Pro

Frame: FACT 11m full carbon | geo adjust head tube | geo adjust horst pivot | 150mm
Fork: FOX FLOAT 38 Factory 29 | 160mm
Shock: FOX FLOAT X2 Factory

Drive Unit: Specialized 2.2
Battery: Specialized M3-700 | Integrated Battery | 700WH
Display: Specialized 2.2

Handlebar: Specialized Trail | FACT Carbon | 780mm – 27mm Rise
Stem: Deity Copperhead
Shifters: SRAM XO1 Eagle Trigger
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC
Saddle: Specialized Bridge
Seatpost: FOX Transfer | S1: 100mm, S2: 125mm, S3: 150mm, S4/S5: 175mm, S6: 200mm

Wheels: Traverse Carbon 29 (f) | 27.5 (r)
Front Tire: Specialized Butcher | GRID TRAIL casing | GRIPTON T9 compound | 29×2.6″
Rear Tire: Specialized Eliminator | GRID TRAIL casing | GRIPTON T7 compound | 27.5×2.6”

Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle
Crankset: Praxis carbon M30 | 32t | 160mm
Cassette: SRAM XG-1295 Eagle | 10-52t
Chain: SRAX X01 Eagle

SPECIALIZED LEVO S-WORKS

Price: $15,000

Specialized Levo Gen 3 S-Works

Frame: FACT 11m full carbon | geo adjust head tube | geo adjust horst pivot | 150mm
Fork: FOX FLOAT 38 Factory 29 | 160mm
Shock: FOX FLOAT X2 Factory

Drive Unit: Specialized 2.2
Battery: Specialized M3-700 | Integrated Battery | 700WH
Display: Specialized 2.2

Handlebar: Specialized Trail | FACT Carbon | 780mm – 27mm Rise
Stem: Deity Copperhead
Shifters: SRAM Eagle AXS Rocker Paddle
Brakes: Magura MT7 | Custom Loic Lever Blade | 203mm
Saddle: Specialized Bridge
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb AXS | S1:100mm, S2: 125mm, S3: 150mm, S4-S6: 170mm

Wheels: Roval Traverse SL 29 (f) | 27.5 (r)
Front Tire: Specialized Butcher | GRID TRAIL casing | GRIPTON T9 compound | 29×2.6″
Rear Tire: Specialized Eliminator | GRID TRAIL casing | GRIPTON T7 compound | 27.5×2.6”

Derailleur: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
Crankset: Praxis carbon M30 | 32t | 160mm
Cassette: SRAM XG-1299 | 10-52t
Chain: SRAM XX1 Eagle

Specialized Levo Gen 3 Dissected