Most great ideas start with “what if?” The new Specialized Turbo Kenevo is how they answer the question, “What if we could have our own personal uplift?”
Specialized Turbo Kenevo Expert review
Launch earlier this season, the Kenevo Expert takes Specialized’s Turbo e-bike range to a whole new level. With 180mm travel, 2.8in tyres and an Ohlins TTX Coil shock it’s the e-bike equivalent of a monster truck.
Under the hood it boasts a custom Brose 250W motor that’s both high on torque and low in friction. It’s also blissfully quite compared to constant hum of the Shimano motor. In fact, it’s only on the steepest climbs that the whirl of the Specialized motor starts to drown out the sound of the tyres on the trail. The near silent motor making the whole experience feel much closer to nature and that of a regular mountain bike.
Going down the custom route means Specialized has some other neat features too. No key, other than an Allen key, is needed to remove the 504Wh battery that’s neatly tucked up into the underside of the oversized aluminium downtube. The SWAT bottle cage even has a muti-tool attached.
The dashboard is refreshingly clutter free too, with nothing more than a slender push button remote right next to the L-hand grip that makes it super easy to toggling between the three power modes, which, just like on the Shimano motor are fully customisable with an app.
Sure, there’s an day-glow LED display on the side of the battery that raps around the power button, just so you can see how much juice is left in the tank, but for a modern e-bike the Turbo Kenevo keeps distractions to a bare minimum. The end result is a clean and very robust e-bike.
Good as modern air shocks are, they are no match for the sensitivity and grip that a coil sprung shock provides. As such, the 180mm rear end on the Kenevo is superb at swallowing square edge roots and rocks. It’s got plenty of support too, but the Ohlins TTX Coil shock isn’t the easiest to set up, so having a basic understanding of how high and low-speed compression adjustments interact will really enable you to get the most out of this bike. You’ll also need the correct spring rate for your weight, which is way more of a faff than simply changing the air pressure.
Matching travel up front is the RockShox Lyrik RCT3. Externally, it looks just like the Lyrik on the Vitus E-Sommet VR, but the RCT3 damper gives you a more useable range of adjustment. Even with the extra dials, we struggled to find the perfect balance front and rear on the Kenevo.
One component on the Kenevo that really stood out, but for all of the wrong reasons, was the Specialized Command WU post. Having a dropper post that alters the angle of the saddle as it goes up and down is a great idea, but the execution is flawed. The stack height of the post is simply too tall, and with only 120mm of genuine drop, the other 30mm is accounted for by the tail of the saddle dropping down, it’s simply not got enough range on a 180mm travel frame with a relatively tall seat mast.
Given our excitement on first seeing the stealth back Kenevo we were somewhat underwhelmed by it on the first couple of rides. It felt bouncy, unpredictable and lacked cornering traction, even though it has by far the most suspension and biggest tyres on test.
As at short-term solution we cranked up the damping to gain some control, but it quickly became evident that the 2.8in Butcher Grid Gripton tyres would have to go. With 2.5in DH casing tyres the BB height dropped, traction returned and the Kenevo started to deliver on its big hit promise. Still, it only felt at home on the steepest, roughest sections of trail where gradient and momentum helped overcome its 24.38kg (53.75lb) payload. Everywhere else the Kenevo felt more laboured and lifeless than the lighter, shorter travel bikes in this test. For such a monster truck the geometry and sizing are somewhat conservative too, but boy does the Kenevo look the part.
Before this test we thought more travel on an e-bike would obviously be better. After all, with the motor flattening out the climbs, why not have the extra suspension firepower to smooth out the descents? Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? But in the case of the Specialized Turbo Kenevo Expert, the extra travel and weight make the bike less effective and less engaging on all but full-on downhill tracks. And if that’s your bread and butter, the Kenevo could well be the perfect topping. Here in the UK though, the Vitus proved more versatile, just as capable and way better value.