Riders have been running triple clamp forks on the old Kenevo, so Specialized decided to offer it as standard on the latest version, and for good reason

Product Overview

Specialized Turbo Kenevo Expert

Pros:

  • Better sizing, geometry and handling than the old Kenevo. 700Wh battery and shuttle mode make for blisteringly-hot laps. Boxxer fork brings a new level of security and control.

Cons:

  • The motor is louder than the old one. The bike is still pretty heavy so it's a good thing you don't need to hook it on a chair lift.

Product:

Specialized Turbo Kenevo Expert: first ride review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£6,999.00

Riders have been running triple clamp forks on the old Kenevo, so Specialized decided to offer it as standard on the latest version, and for good reason.

>>> Best electric mountain bikes in 2019

Specialized Turbo Kenevo need to know

  • Big hitting e-bike with 180mm travel, 27.5in wheels and DH attitude
  • New alloy frame is 1kg lighter and gets revised suspension, geometry and sizing
  • Dual crown RockShox Boxxer fork increases control and steering precision
  • A 700Wh battery delivers more smiles from every charge
  • Available in two modes, where the entry-level Turbo Kenevo Comp at £4,999 gets a single crown fork and 500Wh battery

Every time I sling a leg over a modern e-bike it feels like stepping back in time. Maybe it’s the weight of the bikes, or the simple fact that with a 250Wh motor helping me turn the pedals I feel 20 years younger. Either way, I’m instantly transported back to the late 90s, a time when I was racing downhill.

Yes, modern e-bikes feel a lot like downhill bikes from yester-year… just way better, even if they don’t seem to be any more reliable. And now that there’s a new crop of long-travel e-bikes coming with dual crown forks it’s a parallel that is even more striking.

One such bike is the 2020 Specialized Kenevo, the top-end Expert model coming stock with a 180mm travel RockShox Boxxer fork.

With longer travel e-bikes weighing over 23kg, the load, speeds and braking forces placed on the fork are much higher than on regular enduro bikes. Fitting a dual crown fork typically adds 0.5kg in weight to the steering assembly, but the upside is that steering precision and control are dramatically improved.

But Specialized hasn’t simply bolted on a bigger fork to roll out a new model; it’s completely reworked the Kenevo frame. The latest version borrowing the sidearm frame design that’s synonymous with the Specialized Stumpjumper and Turbo Levo.

And while you’d expect a bike with 180mm travel and a downhill fork to have more in common with the new Demo or Enduro, motor and battery placement makes the low-slung shock design of Specialized’s gravity focused bikes currently off limits to the Kenevo. It still borrows the more rearward axle path of the new Specialized Enduro and Demo though, so steamrolling over the chunder and chop should be better than ever.

The new Kenevo frame is still crafted from M5 aluminium but Specialized has managed to save 1kg in weight by switching to a closed down tube design that houses the internal battery. Also the motor now hangs off the frame, rather than being cradled by it, a move first introduced on the new Levo and one that also chips away material and additional weight. By updating the motor to the latest 2.1 version, which is reported to be 15% smaller, 12% lighter Specialized has made a further 400g weight saving. So the combined weight saving in the frame and motor is and impressive 1.4kg.

With a 700Wh battery on the Kenevo Expert, the range has been extended by 40%, but it’s a move that also increases weight. You can still charge the battery on or off the bike, and one of my favourite features on all of Specialized’s e-mtbs is that the only key you need to remove the battery is an Allen key. Specialized kindly supplying a multi-tool on the SWAT bottle cage for this very purpose.

What about wheel size? The new Kenevo is still rolling on 27.5in wheels but Specialized has switched to downhill rims with a narrower 28mm internal width. The tyres have also been downsized from 2.8in to 2.6in, and sidewall strength has been upped with Specialized’s BLCK DMND casing for maximum puncture resistance. It’s a wheelset designed for the toughest downhill tracks, so it should align perfectly with the attitude of the new Kenevo.

Now if you’ve been doing the maths, you’ll have noticed that all of the weight savings are somewhat negated by the increased weight of the dual crown fork, bigger 700Wh battery and heavier wheels. In fact, the end result is that while the new Kenevo frame and motor are significantly lighter than the out going model, the more capable build kit means it’s still a 24.02kg (53lb) bike.

Specialized Turbo Kenevo

Specialized Turbo Kenevo Expert: first ride review

While the weight is the same, the new Kenevo is a very different proposition, and that’s because the sizing and geometry have changed too. The shape of the old Kenevo always felt a bit boxy and upright, not the latest version, the reach measurement growing by approximately 40mm on the S4 over the old size L. There is also improved standover clearance as seat tube lengths and top tube heights have been reduced.

To improve weight distribution for climbing, the seat tube angle has been increased by two full degrees, so even though the new Kenevo looks like a DH rig, you can still slay step, techy climbs. Something I’d never have considered on my ‘97 Intense M1.

It’s got power in spades too, so even with the relatively compact 11-42t cassette, I had no problems keeping the revs high on the steepest climbs. Granted, the latest motor isn’t as quiet as the old design, but I guess that’s the price you pay for increased power in a lighter, more compact package.

By far the biggest improvement though is how much more dynamic the bike feels. It is easier to preload the suspension and get the Kenevo off the ground, something the old Ohlins equipped Kenevo stubbornly refused to do. With the revised sizing and geometry the riding position is more commanding too, which in turn makes it easier to pick lines and manoeuvre the bike. And if your more of a point as shoot rider, the extra length up front also mean you can simply drop your heels, lean back and let the 180mm of travel do all of the work for you.

Verdict

So the new Kenevo Expert is a seriously capable piece of kit with improved geometry, sizing, range and suspension. It still remains to be seen though if the dual crown fork is welcomed with open arms, or if it just ignites an arms race for oversized single crown forks and new head tube standards like in the freeride era of 2004. That’s progress, though… right?

Details

Frame:M5 aluminium, 180mm travel
Shock:RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Select, 550lb S4
Fork:RockShox Boxxer Select RC, 180mm travel
Motor:Specialized 2.1, Trail-tuned motor, 250W
Battery:Specialized M2-700, 700Wh integrated battery w/rock guard
Display:Specialized TCU, 10-LED State of charge, 3-LED Ride Mode, ANT+/Bluetooth
Wheels:Specialized 110/148mm hubs, Roval Alloy DH rims, Butcher BLCK DMND casing 27.5x2.6in tyres
Drivetrain:Praxis, 2D cold-forged 32t chainset 165mm, SRAM GX r mech and SRAM S700 11-speed single shift shifter
Brakes:SRAM Code R, 200mm
Components:Specialized alloy 800mm bar, Specialized Direct Mount 45mm stem, Command Post IRcc 160mm, BG Henge Comp saddle
Sizes:S2, S3, S4, S5
Weight:24.04kg (53lb)
Size tested:S4 (L)
Head angle:64°
Sea angle:77° effective
BB height:345mm
Chain stay:454mm
Front centre:839mm
Wheelbase:1,293mm
Top tube:639mm
Reach:495mm
Conact:specialized.com