2019 Specialized Turbo Levo e-bike first ride review

Dramatic improvement over previous edition — and most of today's e-bikes

E-bike News

The Specialized Turbo Levo Expert Carbon in Storm Grey and Rocket Red. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

What is it

Three years ago, the Specialized Turbo Levo e-bike was introduced with 140mm of travel, plus tires, and a motor assist system that was better and more integrated than the competition. Three years later, the Turbo Levo is still very relevant — but the competition has caught up. The 2019 Specialized Turbo Levo is v2.0 of the landmark bike and it addresses three years of ideas, suggestions, and complaints about the previous model.

A team of 19 engineers worked on this project. What they came up with is a special bike. It is a 150mm travel 29er based on the new Stumpjumper. It is significantly lighter than the old Specialized Turbo Levo and has much-improved battery capacity. It also has a powerful motor with much better controls, electronics, and overall integration.

These are the leaders of the Specialized Turbo Levo development team. They’ve had a team 19 in Switzerland working on the new e-bike for the last three years.

What Changed

Every aspect of the Specialized Turbo Levo has been improved. Here are the highlights:

  • Much lighter with lighter motor and frame
  • Modern, dialed geometry now in 29er format
  • New batteries with 40% more capacity with the same form factor
  • New electronics and app
  • Capable suspension matched for this weight
  • Better aluminum options and price options
  • Standard components and metric shock

The Specialized Turbo Levo finding traction through a loose turn. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

Actual Weights

Weight has been decreased significantly on all models. And the bottom bracket area of the bike lost about 800 grams of weight making the bike more nimble. With the use of higher capacity 700Wh batteries on the S-Works and Expert Carbon models, 700 grams of weight is added back to the bike. But since the batteries are exactly the same form factor, a rider can use the lighter 500Wh battery to save weight.

A key weight to note is an S-Works bike in size Large with a 500Wh battery weighs 44 lbs.

New Specialized Turbo Levo Geometry

Taking a page from the Stumpjumper, the Turbo Levo is now a fully progressive trail bike that addresses the long and slack needs of today’s riders. They’ve lengthened the reach, kept the chainstays short, and maintained a low center of gravity. Next, the head angle was slackened for more confident descents and seat angle was steepened for climbing efficiency, with the saddle getting out of the way during descents. A new 160mm dropper was added as well as a flip chip so you can adjust your bottom bracket height and head angle to accommodate preferred riding style and wheel sizes.

Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

New Battery

The new Specialized Turbo Levo offers 40% more range than the previous version. The battery is now fully encased to protect it from the elements. They also strategically placed the cells to provide the Turbo Levo with an ideal weight distribution for better handling. And the Battery Management System (BMS) regulates battery health, protects it from overcharging (or under voltage), and ensures that you get as many miles as possible during the life of your battery and maximum battery lifetime.

The lower priced Turbo Levo e-bikes will come with a 500Wh battery, while the S-Works and Expert Carbon will come with a 700Wh battery. The 700Wh has 40% more capacity but weighs 750 grams more than the 500Wh option.

The Brains and Turbo Connect

Now better placed on top of the top tube, the switch and Turbo Connect Unit sits to connect the bike (via ANT+ and Bluetooth) to both the outside world and the Mission Control App. Mission Control can now customize motor characteristics, monitor your power use, control your range, perform basic system diagnoses, record, and upload rides. The on/off switch is in a much more convenient place for better access. And the switch and the battery level lights are now away from public view.

Specialized Turbo Levo. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

Riding the Specialized Turbo Levo

The ride is impeccable! The descending performance is a few notches above the old Turbo Levo. First and foremost, the bike has been updated from old Stumpjumper to the 2018 Stumpjumper geometry and fit. So all the benefits experienced there carry over to this platform. Next, the platform has shifted from plus to 29er. This translates to a more planted, communicative feel in more terrain. It also opens up more options for tire brands, tread and compounds.

And finally, the weight is noticeably lighter. About 800 grams has been shaved from motor/BB area so the bike feels more nimble in tight, up and down terrain. Couple that with Fox suspension that is properly valved and supportive and it really climbs and descends with enthusiasm.

Specialized Turbo Levo descending a 2-mile limestone filled trail. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

Mtbr test rode the Specialized Turbo Levo for two days in very varied terrain in Europe and this really is a complete, unprecedented package. The motor is quiet and it comes on and off almost incognito. Upon hitting the 20mph limit, it even knows if you’re coming up to it fast or just hovering around that point. Thus it knows whether to shut down early at around 18mph or let you go to around 20mph. With the light weight, big battery, remote switch, display and app, it offers an ecosystem that is unrivaled. Go simple or go fancy, it’s all available to you. And something pretty remarkable is the family of Turbo Levos at different price points. There are 5 bikes, from $4900 to $12,000, delivering a solution to most interested consumers.

Specialized Turbo Levo ridden by Martin Soderstrom. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

Some Downsides

Nothing is perfect but we haven’t found a lot to gripe about with this bike during the three days we spent with it. One downside we’ll mention is this bike uses 1×11 SRAM with a 10-42 cassette. They did this to save weight since SARAM only allows the heavy Eagle NX 1×12 to be used on e-bikes.

Specialized’s other rationale is the motor assist should be enough to allow riders to climb most hills with a 42-tooth cog. But in use, we found ourselves in the lowest gear a lot during the test rides and having to switch to a higher boost mode.

Another downside is the expensive and lightweight models (S-Works and Expert Carbon) are only spec’d with the heavy 700Wh batteries. So much effort was spent lightening the bikes, yet these big batteries add about 750 grams of weight. They’re great for range but are overkill on 90% of the rides, especially weekday jaunts. It would be great to have a choice of batteries. And we would love a 350Wh battery option to get this bike closer to 40 lbs.

And although the new 160mm travel Specialized dropper post is much better than the outgoing one, it is still undamped and indexed/noisy. Quite usable but not at the level of a Fox Transfer, BikeYoke Revive, or some of the other top dropper posts out there. And finally, the motor area looks quite big and tall. The reason is the motor has been tilted skyward to allow a battery entry/exit point at the bottom.

Power switch and brains of the system. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

Price Points

One of the great things about this bike is there are 5 different price points. Thus many more budgets are allowed to participate. Here’s a rundown.

S-Works: $12,000
Expert: $8200
Comp Carbon: $6900
Comp Alloy: $5900
Base: $4900

Marketing manager Vernon Felton explains some of the frame nuances.

For more info on the new bike head to www.specialized.com. For an in-depth Q&A, click over to Page 2 of the Mtbr Specialized Turbo Levo first ride report.

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.

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  • Haywood says:

    My bike, which isn’t exactly a lightweight, has is 11-42, with a 32t up front, and I only use the 42 as a bailout gear, never even shift into it on 90% of my rides (almost all of my riding is in Tahoe, so the climbs are legit). I wouldn’t even consider buying a bike that has an Eagle setup. What’s the point of riding a motorbike if all the motor does is compensate for its own weight?
    Also, didn’t this used to be a mountain bike website?

  • Tom says:

    “And we would love a 350Wh battery option to get this bike closer to 40 lbs.”

    And/or a 250 Wh battery, a lower powered motor, and a bike closer to 35 pounds!

    • Francis Cebedo says:

      >> And/or a 250 Wh battery, a lower powered motor, and a bike closer to 35 pounds!

      That’s gonna happen. Modularity. If we had a 35 lber right now that is reasonably priced, many would purchase now.

      Not too much power but similar weight. It’s like having the best pedaling day all the time.

  • Cooper says:

    Ebikes are sooooo fugly! They all have that “pregnant downtube” look about them 😀

  • Ed says:

    An E-Bike is a Motorcycle NOT a Bicycle. So why are you posting motorcycles on an MTB website?

    • Rick says:

      There are key differences that make it nothing like a motorcycle. 1: No throttle 2: Top speed limted to well below any road speed limit 3: They are pedal assist, as in you stop pedalling they stop moving. I would be very pissed if my motorcycle had those “features”

    • Scotch Hennesy says:

      Ed, I’m assuming you’ve never owner or ridden dirt or street bikes if you believe E-bikes are comparative to motorcycles. Haha!! On your left!

    • Dan says:

      Have you ridden one? Ebikes ride like a mtnb, nothing like a motorcycle.

    • B says:

      Go ride an Ebike, then you’ll realise how puerile your remark was! ‘Further for Longer’ is the motto I hear, why wouldn’t you want do that? Clearly, you haven’t heard how many riders are saying they are fitter on their Ebikes as they ride more! If you don’t like the concept of an Ebike but aren’t willing to try one …then keep your irrelevant comments to yourself.

    • CynicalOne says:

      Ya, a motorcycle with less than one horsepower and quieter than any existing internal combustion engine. Federal law calls it a bicycle , every state in America’s law says it’s a bicycle. The industry calls it a bicycle. Manufacturers say it’s a bicycle. he dictionary calls it a bicycle, riders call them bicycles. In fact the dictionary says if it has pedals it’s NOT a motorcycle.

      Not sure why your such a player hater, and I don’t care, but you are CLEARLY wrong about this.

    • kylemillsap says:

      ignorance is bliss!

  • Pat says:

    Yes, a battery that matches my average ride power consumption.
    A drive train with a steel granny, to last longer.
    How about a built in chain wear indicator?

  • Scotch Hennesy says:

    For all that believe E-bikes are motorcycles….please get out and demo an e-bike in the hills. They are far from a motorcycle. I own a Pivot 429, BMW R1200GS adventure and a 5.0 All Mountain Haibike. They all serve a purpose. If it’s not E-bikes, these haters are bitching about some other aspects in life. Born negative. Long live E-bikes and all the fun they bring to me and my Son.

  • Bob says:

    Ebikes are not motorcycles, but they are most certainly mopeds.Mountain bike associations have fought hard for trail access based on the fact that mountain bikes are not motorized equipment. Hiking and environmental extremists have always tried to lump cyclists in with the ATV and dirt bike scene to make their point about trail erosion. Ebikes can stay in Europe. We don’t need the access headaches here in the states.

    I love how all the ebike content starts to roll out (with electric assist of course…because climbing is hard) shortly after the nearly mandatory survey posted here recently. Apparently MTBR is willing to sell out their own sport in effort to grab more advertising revenue.

  • Paul says:

    Love how the technology will indeed get the ebikes down to 35 pounds. I give it 3 years max when we get down to that weight. Can you imagine 30 pounds? And watch the ebike market explode ten fold. Everyone is going to be trading in their dinosaur mountain bikes for an ebike. What’s cool about ebikes is you get to say, “On your left” as you pass those out of breath non e bikers. Hmmm. I better go talk to my broker about buying some stock in ebikes and the money I cash in I’ll grab me a high end Specialized Levo. Ebikes rule!

  • hannable says:

    just get a Zero electric REAL bike.

  • hannable says:

    Motor + Cycle = motorcycle

    I know may of you wished motor + cycle does not = motor cycle

    • kent2106 says:

      are you having a bad day? Just wait soon or later these bikes become so cheap that even you will be able to afford one…Hold on!

  • And the mad dash toward “pedal assisted suicide” as a user group continues on unabated. LOL! Now where did I leave that old Puch moped…….

  • Jim says:

    For old guys who were racing back in the 80s, an e-mtb is just the greatest thing. It brings back all of the fun and excitement. Sure, it has a motor, but it is not even close to being a motorcycle (which I also ride regularly). Don’t get hung up on the motor. Just ride.

  • Jerry Phillips says:

    Jerry, You don’t have to be a previous racer to enjoy riding an E-Bike…just ride a demo and you will be sold. I started Mt biking in the 70’s and I own several Mt. Bikes.

  • dan says:

    why so many haters on everything lol
    eMTBs are awesome, and they are putting so many people on bikes.
    they replace cars, they are better for commute even.
    and they are tons of fun.
    They don’t do more trail damage than normal bikes.
    I don’t get why so many ignorant people would like to express their opinion.
    if you enjoy riding a REAL bike, go do it. not sure why you would prevent other people from enjoying riding their bikes.
    And calling them “motorcycles’ is just trolling. They are nothing like motorcycles LOL.

  • Tom Ward says:

    Started riding dirt trails with Huffy single speed and coaster brakes back in the 50’s. I have loved all the bicycle advances like multi speed, shocks, disk brakes. Now I love my Haibike. I am closing in on 2000 miles of single track in Tahoe and the Santa Cruz Mts. this year.That is 1000 miles up and 1000 down. That’s not bad for a old fart. Giving the Haibike to my wife and getting a Levo Expert.

  • Larry says:

    Not an E-bike but an Equalizer Bike. You are a 72 year old with some back issues. Your grandson a 15 year old ripping MTB rider who wants you to ride some technical trail in Tahoe.
    With the Equalizer you are able to ride with him at his pace and still keep up. Yes if you throw it into full Turbo you could kick his butt up the hill, but that is not the point its enjoying being with him doing what you both love.
    I have researched all the BS comments and there is nothing about an ebike that comes close to a dirt bike, causes trail damage, etc. The only problem with any bike is how the rider uses it. Courtesy, safety and etiquette.

  • Ken says:

    Is it OK to top off battery charge, after short rides? Or what is the minimum charge before charging battery?
    Do the new batteries have history if top off regularly?

    2019 Turbo Levo Comp 500 Watt battery or 700 W

    • Francis Cebedo says:

      >>Is it OK to top off battery charge, after short rides? Or what is the minimum charge before charging battery?

      Absolutely. Just like the iphone, it can be topped off regularly. There is no memory at all resulting in capacity loss.

      700wh for sure. In theory, 500wh battery can climb about 3000 feet by itself (with rider but not helping). A 700wh can do 4500 ft climb. So with the rider helping, much bigger rides are possible and battery anxiety is mostly eliminated (fear of running out of charge).

  • kylemillsap says:

    Ridiculous! This bike does not move, unless it is pedaled.

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