The new Turbo Levo is here and Specialized has turned up the boost
Tailgating the launch of the new Stumpjumper FSR earlier this year is the completely overhauled Specialized Turbo Levo electric mountain bike.
This new model raises the bar in terms of design and integration, while simultaneously updating the geometry, sizing, suspension and powertrain to make this one of the most impressive e-bikes we’ve ever ridden.
2019 Specialized Turbo Levo pricing
In the UK, pricing is as follows:
- S-Works £9,999
- Expert £7,250
- Comp Carbon £5,999
- Comp/Women’s Comp £4,999
- Base/Women’s Base £4,000
2019 Specialized Turbo Levo need to know
- Big weight savings over previous bike – frame alone saves 1.2kg
- New 700wh battery option increases range by an estimated 40 per cent
- Side Arm frame design adopted from Stumpjumper and brings new geometry, sizing and kinematics
- Full carbon, carbon/alloy and alloy frame options
- Motor/battery can be controlled by top tube buttons, remote unit or smartphone app
- Belt driven Brose motor offers up to 410 per cent assistance with up to 560 watts of power and 90 Nm of torque and near silent operation
- Fully integrated battery can be removed quickly for indoor charging
- Five model range starts at £4,000 and extends to £9,999 including two women-specific models with different contact points and lighter shock tunes
- No more 27.5 Plus wheels (although they will fit) – the new Turbo Levo is 29
Specialized acknowledges that the old Turbo Levo was overbuilt. It was the first e-bike it had produced and wanted to err on the side of caution. Consequently it has managed to hack chunks of weight off the new bike. Gone is the old motor mount, instantly saving 400g – instead it bolts directly to the frame. The motor itself has shrunk by a claimed 15 per cent and a new magnesium housing drops a further 400g. Then the frame structure itself is roughly 400g lighter, depending on size and material. All that adds up to a claimed 19.9kg all-up weight for the top of the range S-Works model with 500wh battery. Which seems entirely feasible since we weighed our own Comp Carbon model (size large) with alloy rear end and cheaper components at 20.51kg. Compare that to the carbon Focus Jam2 29 we weighed earlier this year at 20.49kg with much smaller 380wh battery and this is an impressively light e-bike.
More impressive still is that the new all-alloy frame is lighter than the old S-Works carbon frame. For reference, the weight difference between the carbon and alloy front triangles is between 6-700g depending on the frame size.
Two battery capacities are offered for the new Turbo Levo – 500wh and 700wh. There is a 750g weight penalty for the latter, but they are exactly the same physical size, so you can run either battery in any new Turbo Levo. The large capacity battery will come standard on the Expert and S-Works models, or can be bought separately for a whopping £900.
Removing it is simple and quick. Remove the SWAT tool inside the head tube, flip the bike upside down, unscrew the bolt at the base of the down tube, disconnect the charging port at the side of the motor, grab the battery rock guard/carry handle and slide out.
Specialized is not the only brand to use the Brose 2.1 motor, but it’s certainly a rare sight compared with Shimano’s STEPS and Bosch’s Performance CX. And that’s a real shame because the new Brose is compact, powerful and whisper quiet with a really natural response. What’s more, it’s incredibly tuneable through the Specialized Mission Control app.
The raw numbers are as follows: 560 watts max power, 410 per cent max assistance and a massive 90Nm of torque. In terms of cadence, it works most effectively when you pedal between 60-90rpm – which suits most MTB applications – but doesn’t fade away noticeably when you go over 100rpm.
We were really impressed with the performance of the motor, and the work Specialized has put into tuning the firmware that controls it, during the launch. It responds as naturally and smoothly as the Shimano STEPS unit, but packs the torque punch of the Bosch system, and is quieter than either. Like the Shimano unit, there’s also an overrun when you stop pedalling – which is useful for ratcheting pedal strokes and gassing out of turns.
But there was one specific instance where the motor really delivered over and above my expectations, and where other motors may have tripped up. It was a steep, cobbled, switchback climb and one of the hairpins was so tight it was impossible to pedal around. I managed to stop, hop the bike around and pedal out of the corner up a steep slope without having to put a foot down – the motor assistance came in instantly and without any overwhelming surge that could have compromised traction.
If the Sidearm shock strut ensures the new Turbo Levo stands out from the crowd (as well as increasing stiffness at bottom out), it’s the concealment of the battery within the down tube that makes it blend in with non-assisted mountain bikes. Specialized really has done a great job of packaging the battery within the frame to make it look like a normal bike, but still keep it easily removable to charge remotely.
Travel is 150mm front and rear and the new frame gets the same metric shock and standard mounting hardware as the Stumpjumper. All the cables are routed through the sidearm, keeping them out of harms way, emphasising the clean look of the frame and improving ease of maintenance.
Geometry and sizing
There are four frame sizes available, and all have grown over the previous bike. The reach is now between 24 and 29mm longer depending on the frame size and position of the flip chip. At 5ft 10in, we rode both L and XL frames, and felt most comfortable on the L as the motor and battery weight adds so much stability that, even though the reach numbers feel relatively conservative, the smaller frames are rock-solid at high speeds. In other words, fight the urge to size up.
With a more compact motor, Specialized has managed to shrink the chainstays by 5mm, although they remain relatively long at 455mm to conserve climbing prowess. There’s a slacker head angle (-1.5°) at 65°, increased standover height and reduced seat tube height to better interface with long dropper posts. Just like the Stumpjumper, a flip chip at the rear shock mount lets you play with the head angle and BB height (+/- 0.5° and 5mm) or raise the ride height if you decide to run smaller 27.5×2.8in wheels/tyres.
With the new Stumpjumper came improved progression and more mid-stroke support, and it’s a similar story with the Turbo Levo. To cope with the extra mass and help riders weight and unweight the bike there are reduced air volumes and firmer compression damping tunes on the Turbo Levo versus the Stumpjumper. As such, we found the new tunes helped inject some real dynamism into the ride, making it agile and responsive.
If you like a clean cockpit, it’s possible to control the Turbo Levo purely through the two buttons on the top tube and the Mission Control app on your smartphone. If you want to manage power on-the-fly there’s a discreet remote that lets you easily switch between the four modes (off, eco, trail, turbo), as well as access the ‘Shuttle mode’ (gives full power with minimal effort) and a strong walk assist mode. The unit wraps around the bar and takes up an inch or so of bar space, so Specialized can run a standard under bar remote for the dropper post. Round of applause due for that one.
Geeks will love the Mission Control app, as well. It lets you customise motor characteristics, perform system checks and diagnosis, record and upload rides and monitor your power use and battery consumption. It’s extremely sophisticated and a big selling point over alternative systems.
If the original Turbo Levo raised the bar in terms of e-bike design, integration and packaging, this new model refines those aspects alongside significant improvements to the ride experience. This bike gives takes very little away from the fun of razzing along a sweet section of singletrack, or a technical descent, but lets you feast on lap after lap of the good stuff. It’s pure riding gluttony.
Although you’ll have pay a premium for the privilege compared to something like a direct-sales Canyon Spectral:On, the Turbo Levo is a lighter, better packaged and more sophisticated option.
I’m scratching around here, but there are a few. In my opinion the seat angle could be steeper to help keep you above the BB for better weight distribution when climbing – particularly on the larger frame sizes. On a related note, Specialized’s Phenom saddle fitted to the Turbo Levo range is pretty minimal and lacks a bit of padding considering how much more time you spend in the saddle on an e-bike. Finally, the gearing range could be wider to fully exploit the bike’s climbing potential. Specialized has decided to run 1×11 drivetrains with 10-42 cassettes rather than SRAM’s EX1 or NX Eagle e-bike drivetrains. And while we understand the reasons why, that doesn’t mean we don’t miss the winch potential of a 50t sprocket.