Specialized have added a new eMTB to their lineup – the Turbo Levo SL. As the name implies, it's a slimmed down version of the Turbo Levo. By going with a lighter, less powerful motor, Specialized were able to bring the weight down to an impressively low 38.25 pounds (17.3 kg). It's aimed at riders who would rather have a more nimble, easier to maneuver bike instead of a big, powerful, gravity-oriented beast like the Kenevo
Like the Turbo Levo, the SL has 150mm of front and rear travel and rolls on 29” wheels. The geometry is nearly identical between the two bikes, except for the chainstay length. The use of a smaller motor allowed Specialized to trim the chainstays to 437mm, versus the 455mm length found on the Turbo Levo.
Specialized Levo SL Details
• Wheel size: 29"
• Travel: 150mm
• 240 watt Specialized SL 1.1 motor
• 350 Wh internal battery, Range Extender available
• Aluminum and carbon frame options
• 66° - 65.5° head angle
• Chainstays: 437mm
• Weight: 38.25 lb (17.3 kg) - S-Works, size Large
• Price: $6,535 - to $16,525 USD.www.specialized.com
In total, there are 5 models in the Tubo Levo SL lineup. Prices start at $6,535 for the aluminum framed SL Comp model, and go all the way up to a bank-account emptying $16,525 USD for the Founder's Edition, which has a carbon frame, carbon wheels, and SRAM AXS wireless drivetrain and dropper. Motor
The Levo SL is propelled by Specialized's 240 watt SL 1.1 motor, the same one that's found in the Turbo Creo e-road bike. A magnesium motor casing is one of the features that helps keep the weight down, along with the fact that it's gear- rather than belt-driven.
The SL1.1 motor weighs 4.3 pounds, half the weight of the motor used on the Turbo Levo and Kenevo. Of course, it also has half the power. With the SL 1.1 motor a rider's pedaling input is doubled, while on the Turbo Levo and Kenevo that input is multiplied by four. Battery
All Levo SL models are equipped with a 350Wh battery, which is located in the down tube. The battery isn't removable without also taking out the motor, a concession that Specialized chose to make in order to keep the bike's weight as low as possible.
Charging is accomplished via a port on the non-drive side of the frame, the same port that a Range Extender can be plugged into. A Range Extender is just that – an additional 160Wh battery that sits in the bottle cage and provides some extra juice for longer rides. It's a standard feature on the S-Works and Founder's Edition models, or it can be purchased separately for $450.
Battery life depends on a number of factors, including rider weight, terrain, and how often that Turbo mode gets used, but Specialized say that the Levo SL can go for approximately 3 hours in Eco mode using just the internal battery, a number that can be increased by 2 hours if the Range Extender is used.
Charging time for the internal battery (from 3% to 100%) is said to take 2 hours and 35 minutes, and the internal battery and a Range Extender can be charged simultaneously in 3 hours and 20 minutes. Geometry
As I mentioned, the geometry of the Levo SL is nearly identical to the non-SL version, other than those shorter chainstays. A flip chip at the rear shock mount allows the head angle to be set at either 66- or 65.5-degrees, while also altering the bottom bracket height slightly. Overall, the Levo SL's numbers are on the more conservative side of the spectrum – the reach sits at 455mm for a size large, and the seat tube angle measures 74.5-degrees. I'm sure some riders will be tempted to install a 160mm fork, but Specialized's official line is that, “We do not recommend running 160mm travel (or greater) forks."Ride Impressions
I was able to get in two solid days of riding on the Levo SL. The first ride ended up being a big loop with around 40 miles and 8,000 ft of vertical, and the second day of riding was in an area where it was easy to use the same climbing trail to access a variety of options for the descent.
I've spent a bunch of time on the Stumpjumper, so the overall feel of the bike was familiar, other than the fact that there was a motor hidden inside. The power that the motor puts out makes it feel like someone's running next to you and pushing you with one hand. The assistance is very noticeable, but it's not as drastic as the more powerful Levo or Kenevo. On those bikes it feels like someone's pushing you along with two hands, and it'd be hard to forget you were on an eMTB.
With the Turbo SL, the high-pitched whine of the motor serves as the biggest reminder that you're on a motorized mountain bike – otherwise, the power delivery is very smooth and the handling isn't awkward or cumbersome; it's quite close to the feeling of a 'regular' mountain bike. The shock tune was specifically designed for e-bike usage, with a more digressive curve that makes the shock firmer off the top for better support while climbing. That worked well, and I was able to leave it alone for the entirety of both rides. On really steep climbs, ones that you probably wouldn't even consider on a non-motorized bike, the front end did get pretty light, and I had to lean as far forward as possible to keep it on the ground. I couldn't help but wonder if a slacker head angle and longer chainstays would have helped with this, despite the fact that one of the selling points of the Levo SL is the shorter chainstay length.
On the descents, the Levo SL feels like an extra-solid Stumpjumper. There's an additional level of stability to it compared to the non-motorized version, which helps keep it stuck to the trail during hard cornering or at higher speeds. Getting airborne does take a little extra work on flatter sections of trail, but it's not a chore, and with a little practice the motor can be used to provide some extra boost to propel the bike up and over stacks of logs or other trail obstacles.
Personally, if I was in the market for an e-bike I'd be looking for something with as much power and battery life as possible, but I also don't think I'm exactly the target audience for the Levo SL. I can see the Levo SL being an appealing option for riders who want some extra assistance for knocking off longer trail rides without needing to deal with a heavy, harder to handle bike. Even getting the bike onto a rack or into the bed of a truck is much easier due to that lighter weight.
More than anything, the Levo SL could be a glimpse at the future of e-bikes. As batteries shrink and motors become more powerful it's not hard to envision a time when e-bikes don't look all that different from regular mountain bikes, and the bulky monstrosities that look like they came out of a Mad Max movie will be things of the past.
Photos courtesy of Specialized