The lightweight Kenevo SL weighs around 30 per cent less than the average e-bike but effectively doubles your power. We take it into the hills of South Wales on a classic ride appended by some progressive bike park laps to find out if it offers the best of both worlds.
Mountain biking has evolved rapidly over the last ten years. Advances in handling and geometry have made bikes fit better with more stable handling, parts have become more robust, leading to fewer breakages, and the integration of motors and batteries has added a whole new dimension to the riding experience – giving riders the opportunity to ride further and faster while tackling terrain that was previously out of reach. In parallel, the trails we ride have changed as well. Rougher, steeper enduro trails have sprung up in forests across the country, while the number of bike parks – along with their signature high-speed, jump-infested tracks – has exploded. It’s a symbiotic relationship; the bikes developing in capability as the tracks get gnarlier and more advanced.
With all this excitement around new-school riding, it’s easy to overlook the wealth of amazing natural trails across the UK. A network of ancient byways and bridleways that trace the contours of some of the most beautiful parts of the country. To rediscover the joy of a big ride out in the hills, I put together a route in the Black Mountains, but to bring it bang up-to-date, I manipulated the loop to start and finish in a bike park. The idea was to combine the best of new school and old school riding into a single bumper day out.
And to tackle the multiple climbs and varied terrain, I needed a bike that could go the distance, cope with big jumps, drops and berms, and keep us fresh enough to enjoy those final laps in the bike park. Something like the new Specialized Kenevo SL; a e-bike that blends the best of electric and acoustic into one genre-defying package.
Built around the acclaimed Enduro platform, the Kenevo SL chassis seamlessly integrates Specialized’s lightweight SL 1.1 motor. Which translates into a 170mm travel 29er that effectively doubles your power but weighs only 18.8kg. To put that into context, it’s almost 6 kilos lighter than most full-fat e-bikes. Which means you can throw it around like a regular enduro bike, but it descends better, climbs faster and, thanks to that motor, effectively doubles your power. It’s like donning a cape, gulping down a can of spinach or ordering a dodgy looking brown jiffy bag from your “doctor”.
On most e-bikes, once you exceed the 25kph speed limiter it feels like you’re pedalling through quicksand. Not so with this motor. There’s minimal friction, so I can easily pedal along with less assistance, and save the battery for the climbs.
Equally, the battery itself can be smaller and lighter and still give a healthy range. I’ve managed to get over 80km and 1,800m of climbing out of the standard 320Wh internal battery, but if you really want to cover some monster miles, Specialized offers this clever booster pack. It fits snugly in the bottle cage and adds another 50 per cent to the range. I’ve chosen to drain the external battery pack first, using the Mission Control app, which means I can ditch the booster and reduce the weight when I get back to the bike park in order to maximise the bike’s agility.
Watch the video and you’ll see that we started off on some of south Wales’s best natural singletrack and ended it with a few laps of one of its most thrilling bike parks in the form of Black Mountains Cycle Centre. And the Kenevo SL was the perfect tool for the job. It’s been as engaging to ride as any analogue bike, but it’s kept me fresh and fired up to hit some super fun jumps at the end of the day. What a ride. What a machine. The best of old school and new school combined.