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 LAB
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.

Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL First Ride

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.

Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL First Ride

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.

Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL First Ride

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.

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2022 Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL

THE WOLF’S FIRST IMPRESSIONS

During our initial testing, the instant takeaway is that the Kenevo SL rides like a normal bike on the downs, with that little extra feel of the traction-inducing weight down low, with just enough juice to keep you lapping your favorite trails. Depending on where you stand on the eMTB issue, there is very little compromise. Sure it is nearly 42lbs but my personal enduro bike tips the scale at 37.5, and yes it’s less than half the power of a full-powered eMTB, but it’s so much lighter… For some of our testers, the SL is a neither bike, for others it’s exactly the bike they’ve been waiting for. If you’re a full-blown Turbo slut like Drew and Sourpatch Sean, then the reduction in power and range will be a bummer. If you haven’t made the switch to E yet, or if you tried one and just couldn’t get into it with all that extra weight, then dropping major weight and doubling your power to take the edge off those gnarly climbs, then you could already be thinking about how much you could get for your used mountain bike. As of right now we’re going to need to keep riding the bike to see where our crew’s final vote ends up, cuz that 2021 Levo is a tough one to beat with all the power and range. But, let’s get back to that new Kenevo SL.

For our media gathering we spent a couple days riding Dry Hill bike park and the surrounding trails in Port Angeles, Washington. It was a great mix and allowed us to really test the bike out in a short time. We quickly realized this thing was going to be a force to be reckoned with. We started the test by climbing out of the parking lot on a trail that, honestly, we would not want to do on with an analog bike. It was steep almost the entire way and had plenty of technical roots naturally placed in the corners for added challenge. With the SL on 70% power, the climbing fears were nipped as there was enough power to keep the pace up without burning out. Power delivery over the wet roots was really well managed and after riding some other brand’s motor systems, it was neat to see how the torque was managed. It put power down, but did not cause any loss in traction. We look forward to more testing on loose, rocky terrain and comparing this bike to others in our fleet.

2022 Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL

Another test day included a major session at Dry Hill – our goal was to stack vert fast. With a fully charged battery we figured this would be the time to get full Turbo drunk on the climbs. We did a total of four laps or 4,200 feet of climbing in one hour and twenty minutes. Even more impressive, after the ride I still showed 18% battery left. To me this sort of range is 100% acceptable for the amount of assistance the bike provided. If I was to attach the range extender, that battery life number would shoot up to 68%. So, by my basic math skills you could, in theory, climb 10K feet and have some juice left over in full Turbo. Now I am 170lbs so rider weight will certainly come into play, but I mean come on, that’s insane!

Now let’s get into what the Kenevo SL is really designed to do, go downhill. It’s something that gets thrown around a lot we know, but this thing truly feels like a mini downhill bike. It’s plush through high speed chunder but the rear end ramps up very smoothly. It also tracks through rough bits of trail incredibly well but still allows for plenty of fun and side-hit jumps. The Kenevo SL has a great balance of heal-dropping confidence that lets you eat rough sections of trail but then still lets you play around and find gaps on the trail with minimal effort.

2022 Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL

Nearly all of the trails we rode on the second day of the camp were fresh cut, mixed use moto/MTB trails that seemed to have been dropped from the heavens. Deep loam, supportive ruts and plenty of high lines that really tested how nimble the bike could be. Confidence was high knowing that even while riding trails blind, we could get the bike to easily change directions. Trusting your bike and ability to move it are both super important and the Kenevo SL offered that and more right from the get-go and allowed us to push our speed on unknown trails. After having spent some serious time on a Specialized Demo last summer, it’s very reminiscent to how that bike feels, but with less travel and more pop.

After some first break-in rides, the 2022 Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL is a bike that we are very excited about. We look forward to testing it more, seeing if the lower power motor will have us leaning more towards the Turbo Levo we love so much, or if the lighter weight and more capable downhill prowess will have us gladly pedaling this SL motor up to our favorite DH trails. If you’re looking for a bike in what we’re calling the eBike Light category, the Kenevo SL is going to be a welcome addition. This thing packs some serious travel, rides with the best of them and looks damn good doing it. The improvements Specialized made to their TCU, the on-the-fly tuneability, and impressive firmware updates across the board work together with an impressive suspension platform and geometry to create an eMTB that are going to get a lot of people talking.

Price: $11,000
Weight: 42.75lbs
Website: Specialized.com

2022 Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL

SPECIFICATIONS

CHASSIS
Frame: FACT 11m Full Carbon | 170mm
Fork: Fox Float 38 Performance Elite 29 | 170mm
Shock: Fox Float X Performance

ELECTRONICS
Motor: Specialized SL 1.1
Battery: Specialized SL1-320 | 320Wh
Display: Specialized Mastermind TCU

COCKPIT
Brakes: SRAM Code RS | 220/200mm
Shifter: SRAM X01 Trigger
Handlebar: Specialized Trail, Alloy | 780mm
Stem: Alloy Trail
Saddle: Bridge Comp
Seatpost: X-Fusion Manic | S2: 125mm, S3: 150mm, S4 & S5: 170mm

WHEELS
Hubs: Roval (f), DT Swiss 370 (r)
Rims: Roval Traverse 29
Front tire: Specialized Butcher Grid Trail, T7 | 29×2.6″
Rear tire: Specialized Eliminator Grid Trail, T7 | 29×2.6″

DRIVETRAIN
Cassette: SRAM XG-1295 Eagle | 10-52t
Cranks: Praxis Forged, 32t | S2 & S3: 165mm, S4 & S5: 170mm
Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle

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