FIRST RIDE REPORT
SPECIALIZED TURBO KENEVO SL
Words by Cole Gregg | Photos by Paris Gore
Hot on the heels of the recently released Turbo Levo, big hit eMTB fans are sure to get their electrons moving at the sight of the new Specialized Kenevo SL. Offering a rider a “2X You” amplified ride that’s 12-pounds lighter than their full-powered Kenevo, the new Kenevo SL promises a ride experience closer to that of the Specialized Enduro than that of heavier, full-power eBikes. While we’ve only had a limited amount of time on the new Kenevo SL, here’s our first take and the tech on what makes this bike tick.
The new Specialized Kenevo SL comes in at 41 3/4lbs for the S-Works model and packs 170mm of travel both front and rear. An impressive weight for such a capable big travel eBike for sure. The Kenevo SL is 12lbs lighter than the previous Kenevo and 8.8lbs heavier than its analog cousin, the Enduro.
Specialized’s Super Light or SL motor and controller are the heartbeat of this new Kenevo. Much like the new Levo, the Kenevo SL benefits from advancements in technology, more sophisticated algorithms and software improvements to offer a very intuitive and seamless application of power. We are excited to spend more time on the bike on our home trails to see how these big claims hold up. The new motor puts out 240 watts of power and 35Nm of torque with a very natural power curve, supplied with juice from a 320wh battery. Specialized claim that the ideal cadence for power delivery and maximum efficiency is 75 RPM, which is a pretty natural stroke for most riders. Obviously for converted eBikers, 35Nm is a definite reduction in power compared to other Specialized Turbo-equipped bikes, and those from Shimano and Bosch who have max torque numbers of 80Nm or more, but this also is a different category of bike.
Controlling and modulating that power is Specialized’s latest hardware and software. The Mastermind TCU is very simple to use but offers a ton of rider data and control over the bike, even on the fly. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass and keeps you worry free out on the trail whether it’s raining or splattering mud. This new system displays exact battery percentage (bonus when you add a range extender it goes up to 150%!) and has the ability to be personalized to display one of several arrangements of your choosing.
One of my favorite features of the new TCU (new Levo and Kenevo SL) is the MicroTune. It can be accessed on the fly and it allows the rider to choose their power delivery in increments of 10%. Want to get back to the top as fast as possible? Crank it up! Out for a ride with a bunch of rigid singlespeeders who hate technology? Drop that power all the way down and maximize your range and suffering! The MicroTune feature allows you to fine tune the power delivery for your day and ride while not having to stick to the stock modes.
The Kenevo SL is very much based on the Enduro, a platform Specialized has seen great success with. Think of the Kenevo SL as it’s more powerful big brother. Being able to create an eMTB so close to its analog sibling is both impressive and a sign that the bike is going to ride pretty dang well. The linkage on the Kenevo SL is nearly identical to the Demo and the Enduro, with six bars and six pivots, all coming together to offer a plush, active trail feel. The only main difference geometry wise for the Kenevo SL compared to the Enduro is bottom bracket height, all other figures are nearly identical.
According to Specialized their Six Bar linkage was first seen on their World Championship-winning Demo DH bike before also carrying over to the Enduro. It’s essentially an FSR design/Horst Link design that still relies on the tried and true four-bar concept. What’s different is Specialized adds two “Tension Links” designed to drive the shock compression so engineers can work towards separating and controlling leverage rate and axle path. The additional links also offer increased stiffness and reduce binding and side-loading in the shock, which also means a smoother more responsive suspension feel.
Certainly a costly endeavor but one that makes a huge difference for riders, is size-specific frame layup tuning. By taking a universal height-to-weight ratio into account Specialized engineers give each size frame a unique layup to offer the desired amount of stiffness and compliance. This gives every rider the same on-trail feel no matter their weight. This is especially nice for those lighter weight and heavier riders that really want to push the limits of this bike.
Speaking of custom options, much like the Enduro, the Kenevo SL has multiple custom geometry configurations, six in total. In the High/Steep setting you will have a 64.7-degree headtube angle, 1,273mm wheelbase (S4), a 17mm bottom bracket drop and a 488mm reach. When you step into the Low/Slack setting the headtube angle drops to 62.5mm, the wheelbase hits 1,298mm (S4), bottom bracket drop goes to 27mm, and the reach goes down 3mm to 485mm. Those two setting represent the extremes side and there are four other configurations in-between to best suit your local terrain. For our quick little media weekend I kept the bike in the Middle/Middle setting and found it to be quite balanced. At the bike park I could really see where going into that Low/Slack setting would have added some stability on those higher paced sections of trail, but out in the backcountry the Middle/Middle setting was spot on for the mix of trails we saw.
Next we’ll get into spec, and in doing so we’ll have to address what we know a lot of people are going to talk about…The price tag. While we’ve tried getting answers from many brands in the past regarding the price of their bikes, we know that ultimately all brands can justify their MSRP’s and as long as bikes keep selling out the way they are, maybe they aren’t that out of line. But, only you and your budget can be the judge of what’s a fair or reasonable deal, so we’ll focus instead on reporting the parts.
Spec on our Kenevo SL Expert model isn’t top tier, as you’d expect for an $11,000 bike, but in terms of performance it is more than capable and ready to shred. Fox’s new range is a perfect match for this bike. Out back the Float X2 Performance managed every big hit and braking bump with ease while still providing plenty of buttery smooth off the top sensitivity. The Float X2 has an internal jounce bumper, like what you see on the shafts of coil shocks. This bumper gives the end of the stroke an incredibly smooth transition to the end of the travel range. Both days I did not get a harsh bottom out even with running a slightly softer set up. The Fox Float 38 Performance Elite handled a weekend of hard riding and is a great compliment to the bike. I set my pressure on day one and then fine-tuned compression over the first few laps and haven’t had to touch it since.
For the rest of the build Specialized opted to use a host of SRAM products. Stopping power comes from SRAM’s Code RS 4-piston brakes with a 220mm rotor up front and a 200mm out back. Even though this is not as heavy as a full-power eMTB, it is still nice to get all the stopping power you can as this bike loves going fast. A mix of XO1 and XO drivetrain components round out the stop, go and shift portion of the build. SRAM XO1 12spd shifter and derailleur have been working well so far while the SRAM XO cassette is breaking in nicely. We are curious to see how many miles we get out of the SRAM GX Eagle chain and will report back as our long term test proceeds. A Roval wheelset and Butcher tires spin the Kenevo SL down the trail and we’re certainly not mad at the selection there.