SPECIALIZED TURBO KENEVO SL EXPERT Bike REVIEW

TURBOCHARGE THE WAY DOWN, EASE THE WAY UP

Main Photo (above) by Paris Gore / Detail Photos by Dusten Ryen

Have you written off eBikes because they’re just too heavy, have too much artificial power, or aren’t gnarly enough for your shreddy style? Then chances are the Specialized Kenevo SL was designed to cmatch your attention. When it comes to aggressive, lightweight eBikes, not much competes with the Specialized Kenevo SL. We recently reviewed the shorter travel eBike Light trail bike contenders, the Specialized Levo SL and the Orbea Rise, but the Kenevo SL is the big swinging answer to riders who want a lightweight eMTB but need more travel. Like the Levo SL, Specialized’s Kenevo SL is like a supercharged Enduro or a lighter, less-powerful Kenevo. We’ve been putting the hurt on our Turbo Kenevo SL Expert for nearly a year now and are ready to share our final verdict.

QUICK HITS

• 170mm 6 Bar FSR Suspension
• HTA 63.5° (Low BB, Middle Headset)
• STA 76° (effective)
• REACH 485mm (S4)
• Motor Power 240W
• Max Torque 35Nm

Price: $9000/£7000 (Comp) – $15000/£12500 (S-Works)
Website: Specialized.com

THE LAB
If you’re interested in the tech and geo details, check out our First Ride and the press release. We’ll keep this write up brief as you’re most likely here for the final verdict anyway.

Taking much of its design and influence from the Specialized Enduro, the Turbo Kenevo SL is a 170mm travel eMTB Light with 29” wheels on both ends. The Kenevo SL is powered by the Specialized SL 1.1 motor, which provides 240W of power with 35Nm of peak torque to deliver twice the rider input to the rear wheel in the Turbo mode. The Mastermind Turbo Control Unit (TCU) controls how much power is delivered, with a neatly integrated top tube display and their sleek bar mounted Microtune controller. This lightweight motor is powered by a similarly pared down 320Wh battery, which helps our Expert spec level build to tip the scales at 42.75 lbs. The FACT 11M Carbon Fiber frame is no doubt a contributor to this low weight, and features a size-specific layup to tailor the frame stiffness to the average weight of rider on each frame size.

Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL Expert

The Kenevo SL’s frame geometry can be tweaked between six configurations of head tube angle and bottom bracket height to tailor it to the trails. Specialized uses their “S” sizing system, which lets riders select the size they want based on the reach they desire as seat tube and head tube lengths are generally low. It’s a newer-school style of frame sizing that is taking hold in aggressive enduro and downhill bikes as more brands begin following this example.

In the Low bottom bracket, middle headset configuration our size S4 bike sported a 485mm reach and 635mm stack; 63.5° headtube angle and 76° seat tube angle; 26mm BB drop, and 447mm rear end. As a machine designed to tackle the gnarliest enduro tracks, the long 1,287mm wheelbase is appropriate to deliver the stability at speed required. Adjustments to the frame allow for larger or more mild tweaks to be made and is something tuners will greatly enjoy.

The Turbo Kenevo SL is available in three spec levels, from the $9,000/£7,000 Comp through to the $15,000/£12,500 S-Works. Our Expert build retailed for $11,000/£8,750, in which you get a decidedly solid build kit that foregoes any particularly flashy components. There’s Fox’s 38 Performance Elite and Float X2 Performance suspension products, SRAM’s X01 Eagle drivetrain and Code RS brakes, and an X-Fusion Manic dropper post. The rest of the kit is handled by Specialized in-house with their Alloy bar and stem; Bridge Comp saddle; and Butcher Grid Trail tires wrapped around Roval Traverse 29 rims with a DT Swiss 370 rear hub.

Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL Expert Action

THE DIRT
After spending months on this impressively lightweight machine, we have so many good things to say about it. It rides like a modern enduro bike: long and slack, but the weight of the motor being at the lowest center of gravity makes it handle very differently than its analog equivalent. The Kenevo SL has incredible cornering ability; superior even to that of the Specialized Enduro. The extra few pounds of the motor and battery help with the suppleness of the Fox X2 off the top and small bumps seem to nearly disappear. We’ve transitioned to spending most of our time aboard either full-powered eBikes or downhill bikes, so riding this eBike Light was a real treat and offered nearly downhill bike performance mixed with eMTB stability. While it has just enough weight to give it that plush suspension feel and enhanced traction we love, it is light enough to remain poppy and playful on smaller features on the sides of the trail. The types of features that the full-powered Kenevo might mute out.

Our favorite thing about the Kenevo SL is its handling in the air. As riders who grew up racing downhill bikes in the late 90’s and 2000s, a 42-pound bike would have been on the lighter side of what we were riding. It was plenty capable when it came time to get this thing off the ground and all of our testers had similarly impressive things to say. One tester commented “I am dumbfounded by this bike’s playful demeanor in the air. It’s a night and day comparison to a full powered E-bike, mainly in that it doesn’t feel like an eBike at all. Sure, it doesn’t feel like a 25-pound dirt jumper, but it handles the way a 170mm 29er should.”

Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL Expert Action

In terms of pedal assistance, the Kenevo isn’t a powerhouse by any means. Its turbo mode has a little more pep than Eco or Trail mode on most full power eBikes. However, it’s not intended to ride like a full powered eMTB, it is designed to offer just enough assistance to take the sting out of the climbs and get riders the most natural feeling up and down the mountain. While some testers preferred less range and assistance as a tradeoff for playfulness, others feel the SL (both Levo SL and Kenevo SL) are neither bikes. What we mean by that is, technically it’s an eBike so we can’t ride them at trails that discriminate against pedal-assist, but when we go to an e-friendly trail network, SL riders are going to be the slowest ones to the top and the first to run out of battery.

For one tester, that isn’t an issue as he noted, “I don’t have any complaints about the amount of power or battery life of the Kenevo, but I’m no marathon rider. Two or three hours is my sweet spot for trail rides, and the only day that I found myself in need of the range extender was a six-lap day on a very steep pitch when I was chasing full power E-bikes in Turbo mode.” The Kenevo SL doesn’t have the sit and spin power of a Specialized Levo, Trek Rail or a Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay. This is not the type of eBike that’s going to do all the work for you, but chances are you’re not looking for that if you’re considering an SL. If you’re looking for the bike that is going to get you the world record for most vertical feet in a day, the Specialized Kenevo may be a better option.

Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL Expert

The spec list on the Kenevo SL is decidedly solid, but the price tag is certainly a bitter pill to swallow. You may say it’s hard to put a price on fun, but in this case it’s clear exactly what that price is. Our Expert model came decked with great suspension, wheels, tires, and drivetrain. The one thing that we didn’t get on with were the Code RS brakes, which just didn’t cut it on an otherwise sorted spec. The Kenevo SLprobably comes spec’d with organic pads, which are notoriously less powerful than metallic. But for the price tag, it would be nice if Specialized could put some RSC’s on the Expert model to bump up the braking performance to a worthy level.

We also swapped out the Specialized bar and stem to our own 40mm rise bars and a 35mm reach stem. We found that the higher front end made the bike a bit more maneuverable and helped us stay in the back seat for manuals and other style elements. The S4 frame paired with the factory 50mm stem and 800mm wide bars made this bike feel a touch too big for our 5’11”- 6’1” testers; however, we tend to like smaller bikes in general, and thankfully swapping the stem and cutting down the bars had us in a much more comfortable place.

Longevity wise, the Kenevo SL has done really well in being a low maintenance, and reliable machine. Other than some chain lube and a brake bleed, the past few months and countless miles have been stress free (besides forgetting to plug it in to charge a time or two). The X01 Eagle derailleur and shifter have held up great along with the Praxis cranks. I haven’t serviced the suspension at this time, but haven’t seen or felt any signs of the fork or shock needing service. It’s clear that the price tag has gone into the quality of the construction, and the selection of durable and heavy hitting parts, for the most part, should ensure the Turbo Kenevo SL is built for the long haul.

Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL Expert

The Wolf’s Last Word

Is the Specialized Kenevo SL the bike that will polarize the masses? Not really, but it’s most definitely a conversation piece and a bike that has had our whole crew debating every time we take it out. The Kenevo SL is simply different. Not so much a halfway house, but a whole different animal that works so damn well for what it’s intended to do. All in all, the Kenevo SL may be one of our tester’s new favorite bike – the edge it takes off climbing and its unhindered downhill ability make it the first bike he now reaches for when he gets off work. Still, other testers will stick with the full powered Kenevo or Levo as it lets them cover more ground and get more laps in. Ultimately, the decision on whether you want a lighter, more playful bike that offers less assistance and range is more valuable than burning vert up and down is up to you. Most of our testers are full-power converts and want all the juice for more laps. We’ve found that the newer-to-eBike testers preferred the Kenevo SL’s more traditional qualities…But we think they’ll be wishing for more sooner than later, and that could be an expensive lesson to learn.

Price: $11000 / £8750
Weight: 42.75lbs (S4)
Website: Specialized.com

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SPECIFICATIONS

CHASSIS
Frame: FACT 11m Full Carbon | 170mm

Fork: Fox Float 38 Performance Elite 29 Grip2 | 170mm
Shock: Fox Float X2 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 | 800mm
Stem: Specialized Alloy Trail
Saddle: Specialized 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, T9 | 29×2.3″
Rear Tire: Specialized Butcher Grid Trail, T7 | 29×2.3″

DRIVETRAIN
Cassette: SRAM XG-1295 Eagle | 10-52t

Cranks: Praxis Forged M30, 32t | S2 & S3: 165mm, S4 & S5: 170mm
Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle

Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL Expert

We Dig

Agility
Weight
Geometry
Sleekness
Suspension Spec
FUN!

We Don’t

Bar/stem combo
Brake Spec
Lack of power (compared to full power)
Price
SL vs Full Powered Kenevo

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