2019 Specialized Turbo Levo e-bike first ride review

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

E-bike News
Specialized Turbo Levo Q&A
  1. The new Turbo Levo frame closely resembles the latest Stumpjumper—what makes it different?

The main differences between the Turbo Levo’s Sidearm frame and the Stumpjumper’s are the following: The Turbo Levo frame has a battery integrated into the down tube. It also mounts a motor to the bottom bracket, needs to smartly route additional cables through the frame, and it features a big cutout in the top tube to hold the Turbo Connect Unit (Specialized TCU). Besides those differences, the Turbo Levo frame resembles the Stumpjumper’s design and concept, and it shares all of its related benefits.

  1. What’s been improved on the new Specialized 2.1 motor?

First of all, we made the new Specialized 2.1 motor significantly lighter. By making the motor housing out of full-magnesium and mounting the motor directly to the frame, we were able to cut a tremendous 800 grams of weight. 400 of those grams come from eliminating the motor mount bridge, while the remaining 400 grams come from weight savings on the actual motor (the new motor weight is 3kg).

Our new 2.1 motor is also 15% smaller than the previous generation, while still being more efficient and even more powerful. It now amplifies the rider input by 410% (1.3 motor: 380%), providing up to 560 watts and 90 Nm of torque.

In short: Our new 2.1 motor is better across the board, while still featuring time-proven technologies like a belt-drive and an integrated speedometer/power meter that measures speed and pedaling effort to precisely calculate power output.

  1. How much lighter/smaller is the new 2.1 motor than the 1.3 model on previous Turbo Levo’s?

The new 2.1 motor is 400 grams lighter than its predecessor, yet it’s more powerful, efficient, and 15% more compact. The majority of the weight savings can be chalked up to the lighter, full-magnesium motor housing and the elimination of the motor mount bridge.

Specialized Turbo Levo motor. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

  1. How much weight did you cut by going to the new direct motor mount?

Since we eliminated the motor mount bridge and are directly attaching the motor to the frame, the direct motor-to-frame mounting cuts another 400 grams out of the bike.

  1. How were you able to make the new motor mount a reality?

We first designed the Turbo Levo chassis to give riders the best possible trail riding experience, then we codesigned the motor- mounting system with the manufacturer of our motors, who also helped to shape the motor specifically to the Turbo Levo’s chassis design. This ground-up approach enabled us to entirely remove the motor-to-frame adaptor that was featured on the first-generation Turbo Levo models, while still ensuring the best possible frame geometry.

  1. How much lighter is the new Turbo Levo chassis compared to its predecessor?

Shaving as much weight as possible was one of our main goals, because a lighter bike feels nimbler on the trail and also uses less battery power. This also helps to give you more range.

We shaved weight everywhere on the bike, and this included both the frame and the motor. The result is a bike that’s almost 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) lighter than the previous generation.

The new Sidearm frame delivers an unrivaled stiffness-to-weight ratio, and the frame weight on the S-Works iteration drops by an impressive 800 grams.

Even more impressive, our new Turbo Levo Alloy frame is lighter than the previous generation’s full-carbon S-Works frame.

  1. Which Turbo Levo’s get the 700Wh batteries and which get the 500Wh batteries?

S-Works and Expert Turbo Levo models come equipped with 700-watt-hour Specialized M2-700 battery, the rest of the line gets the 500Wh version (M2-500). The M2-700 battery will be available aftermarket and can be put on the other Turbo Levo models.

The battery comes in 500wh or 700wh. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

  1. Can you upgrade the first-generation Turbo Levo with the new 700Wh battery?

No. The M2-series batteries have a completely different form factor since they were purposefully built for the all-new Turbo Levo. Therefore, the battery can’t be used on the first generation Turbo Levo bikes.

  1. How do you remove the battery on the new Turbo Levo?

During the development of the bike and the Technology System, it was important to us that the battery of the Turbo Levo remained readily accessible, so riders could have the option to easily remove it. On the new Turbo Levo, the battery slides in and out of the down tube at the motor area. And due to the length of the battery, it’s recommended to put the bike either on its side, upside-down, or in a bike repair stand to remove the battery.

  1. What’s the range difference between the 700- and 500-watt batteries?

The 700Wh battery provides 40% more range, but ultimately, the range depends many factors, such as mode selection, riding profile, rider input, rider weight, etc.

  1. How can you get the most range out of each battery charge?

There are several options to get more range out of your bike, one being that you adjust the settings of your assist modes (the support & peak power). You can do this under “Tune” in our Mission Control App. Another option is to generally ride in a lower assist mode. Also, you can use the Smart Control feature of the Mission Control App to determine how long or far you want to go? The app then ensures that you’re getting the right amount of assistance to bring you there with the given battery charge.

The range can also be increased by changing the way of riding: Being in a small gear when starting from zero and riding in a cadence range of 80 RPM or above will also drastically improve the range.

The motor is now directly mounted to the frame with no heavy carrier. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

  1. You say the new batteries offer 40% more range than the previous battery, but what does that amount to in actual kilometers/miles?

As mentioned earlier, the actual range in km/miles depends on a wide range of variables and can’t be answered with a single estimate of kilometers or miles. But we also understand why people ask that question—they usually want to know, “How am I going to make sure that I don’t actually run out of battery power and motor support in the middle of my ride?” That’s an excellent question, to which we have an excellent answer: The all-new Turbo Levo is equipped with our Smart Control feature, which eliminates the risk of you ever running out of power in the middle of a ride.

With Smart Control, you can set a duration or distance you’d like to ride and your Turbo Levo will automatically regulate the power output for you through a smart algorithm that’s seamlessly operating at all times. Simply relax, enjoy your trails, and don’t worry about remaining battery capacity. You won’t run out.

  1. You list the available runtime on the battery as being between 1 and 5 hours. That’s an exceptionally broad range, so what’s the story there?

There’s no single answer to this particular question, as the total hours of pedaling assistance that you’ll get out a single battery charge will naturally vary based on the steepness of your terrain and the amount of “assist,” or motor support that you choose to use.

For instance, let’s say that you’re using the maximum amount of pedal-assist on the steepest possible trail—that kind of motor support will draw more heavily on the battery’s cells than a medium amount of pedal assistance on rolling terrain and that, in turn, will give you more hours of riding from a single charge.

The good news is that the new Turbo Levo is equipped with our Smart Control feature, which eliminates the risk of you ever running out of power in the middle of a ride.

With Smart Control, you can set a duration or distance you’d like to ride and your Turbo Levo will automatically regulate the power output for you through a smart algorithm that’s seamlessly operating at all times. Simply relax, enjoy your trails, and don’t worry about remaining battery capacity. You won’t run out.

Specialized Turbo Levo app is quite powerful with Smart Control range feature to get you home. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

  1. How do you charge the battery?

You can charge the battery either on or off of the bike. If you want to charge the battery on the bike, there’s a charge port at the bottom bracket area of the frame where you simply plug-in the charger cable. The battery is easily removable, though, so you can take it with you and charge it off the bike from wherever you want.

  1. Can you also charge the battery when it’s removed from the bike?

Yes. The new M2-series battery is completely integrated into the frame, and it’s easily removed should you want to swap batteries or charge the battery off of the bike.

  1. Can you swap batteries out on the trail?

The new M2-series battery is completely integrated into the frame, but it’s easily removable if you want to swap batteries. So, yep—it’s possible. That said, this battery doesn’t exactly fit in the palm of your hand, so you’re going to need a pretty large hydration pack to tote a spare around with you.

When people usually ask this question, they’re asking because they’re concerned about running out of battery power during a ride. We understand, and that’s why the new Turbo Levo is equipped with our Smart Control feature that eliminates the risk of you ever running out of power in the middle of a ride.

With Smart Control, you can set a duration or distance you’d like to ride and your Turbo Levo will automatically regulate the power output for you through a smart algorithm that’s seamlessly operating at all times. Simply relax, enjoy your trails, and don’t worry about remaining battery capacity. You won’t run out.

Motor is rotated up quite a bit to allow the battery to exit through a bottom port. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

 

  1. Isn’t the Specialized 2.1 motor the same thing as the new Brose S Mag that other brands are also planning to use? How is it different?

Yes and no. While we developed the new 2.1 motor hardware together with Brose, we develop the motor software on our own, which is what actually shapes how the motor behaves on the trail. We spent years figuring out how a motor should feel in an actual trail setting, and the result is that the 2.1 motor has a uniquely smooth and natural ride quality to it. There are no awkward lags or surges in power.

Think of it this way: The motor is like the legs of an e-mountain bike, but how those legs work is a function of your brain. We’ve built a better, smarter brain. On top of that, we also allow riders to fully customize their motor and its behavior through our unique tuning opportunities (Infinite Tune) in the Mission Control App.

  1. Can I retrofit the new motor or battery to an earlier Turbo Levo model?

The new motor and battery are specifically designed to work together and fit precisely into the new Sidearm frame and down tube of the new-generation Turbo Levo. Consequently, they are incompatible with previous Turbo Levo generations.

  1. On the first-generation Turbo Levo, the battery was the “brain” of the bike. What’s the brain of the all-new Turbo Levo?

The Specialized Turbo Connect Unit (TCU) is the brain of the all-new Turbo Levo. The TCU is always in view, right there at the center of your top tube. The TCU gives you an overview on your battery level (each LED represents 10% of your battery charge), shows you the motor-assist level you’re pedaling with, allows you to change modes, and it also turns your bike on or off.

The TCU also connects your Turbo Levo to our Mission Control App via Bluetooth® or ANT+ and links you to any third-party ANT+ device. And finally, the TCU can also connect you to our new Turbo Connect (TCD) handlebar display, providing you with all of your ride and bike data at a glance from your handlebars.

Specialized Turbo Connect Display is handy. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

  1. What’s so great about the Specialized Mission Control App?

Our Mission Control App provides riders with full control over their Turbo Levo. It allows you to fully customize the motor settings to the personal needs & preferences, diagnose the bike and extract a report, record/save/analyze rides, upload rides to third-party platforms, and even get control over your range via our Smart Control feature.

  1. Which operating systems does the Mission Control App support?

Our updated Mission Control App is still supporting iOS and Android operating systems.

You simply have to go to either the Google Play or Apple App Store, search for Specialized Mission Control, download the app, and register yourself. Once you’ve done that, you’re set to get more out of your Turbo Levo.

  1. What kind of improvements have been made to the Mission Control App?

We developed our Mission Control App completely from scratch, and it now comes with a bunch of exciting improvements. First and foremost, we designed a completely new user interface for the app, which is more intuitive to navigate through. We’ve also added new features into the app, like the “Stealth Mode” that allows you to turn off the LED lights on the TCU (if preferred), or the “Shuttle Mode” that lets you access maximum power output with less pedaling force (if desired). And last but not least, we made the app more stable and reliable.

  1. What’s so great about the “Shuttle Mode” feature and how does it work?

One of the key new features of our Mission Control App is the new Shuttle Mode. This feature gives you maximum power output with less required pedaling force. It’s perfect for those days when you’re looking for a fast shuttle to the top of the mountain.

The higher the setting for Shuttle Mode is, the easier it is to get full motor power in your selected mode. The settings for the Shuttle Mode can be adjusted within the Mission Control App, and the default setting is zero.

Arm hosts the dropper cable and other. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

  1. How does Infinite Tune work?

Our Infinite Tune feature allows you to adjust motor peak power separately from the motor support, and vice versa. This gives you the opportunity to fully customize the three modes to your personal preferences since they can now determine all variables-per-mode individually. We also allow you to basically adjust those settings on-the-fly: Infinite Tune is embedded in the “Tune” section of our Mission Control App and can be easily adjusted via sliders.

We recommend that riders start with the following settings and then adjust their settings based on their individual needs and preferences:

Turbo: 100% (Support) / 100% (Peak Power)

Trail: 35% / 100%

Eco: 35% / 35%.

 

  1. Is the Specialized Turbo Connect Display (TCD) also retrofittable to older Turbo bikes?

Yes. The Specialized TCD handlebar display is retrofittable to all existing Turbo bikes in the field and will be available aftermarket.

  1. How can I synch my Specialized TCD to my Turbo Levo?

That’s super easy and intuitive. You simply turn on the bike, keep the left button pressed for five seconds, and then go through a short pairing process. When the display is connected to a bike, it always automatically reconnects to your bike until it is proactively paired with a different bike.

  1. Your website says the bike will come with 29×2.6” tires. Can I also fit 27.5+ wheel/tire combos on the new Turbo Levo?

We’ve built the Turbo Levo around 29-inch wheels, since this delivers the best combination of speed, precision, and flotation over obstacles. But if you want, 27.5-inch wheels with 2.8-inch-wide tires will fit without adversely affecting the bike’s geometry.

  1. What is the maximum 27.5+ tire size that will fit on the new Turbo Levo?

We recommend a maximum 27.5+ tire size of 27.5 x 2.8”, but theoretically, the bike is capable to even fit 3.0” tires.

Specialized Turbo Levo with Martin Soderstrom playing in the air. Photo by Harookz / @Harookz

  1. Why did you choose to only offer this with 29er wheels when, in the past, you offered “6Fattie” versions of the Turbo Levo?

The Turbo Levo plays nice with 27.5+ wheels and tires, but after years of test-riding various tire and wheel combinations on or second- generation Turbo Levo mules, we simply preferred the ride quality (the speed, precision, and floatation) created by the 29×2.6” wheel/tire combination. Simple as that, really.

  1. Which rear shocks can I run on the Turbo Levo?

The Turbo Levo comes equipped with metric-sized FOX shocks, so any 52.5×210 metric shock will fit the new Turbo Levo. Naturally, sticking with the same eye-to-eye length is critical to performance and safety but, as is the case anytime you decide to try on a new shock, you’ll also want to match the same basic rebound and compression damping tune listed on the shock body of your original shock.

  1. What is the maximum speed that you can reach on the Turbo Levo?

Different nations have different laws in place regulating the use of e-mountain bikes on trails. Many nations require that the electric motors on e-mountain bikes effectively “shut off” once you’ve reached a maximum speed limit. That maximum speed varies from country to country. In Europe, for instance, the maximum speed is 25 kilometers-per-hour, and in the United States, motors are required to stop assisting your pedaling effort once you’ve reached a speed of 20 miles-per-hour.

As with any bike, your top speed is ultimately limited by how fast and hard you can pedal under your own steam. Naturally, we strongly encourage all riders to ride responsibly and to be courteous to, and cognizant of, other trail users. Share the trails. The beauty about our motor is that it completely decouples above top-speed, so you don’t have to work against the motor but are still able to ride the Turbo Levo like a normal (just a bit heavier) bike.

  1. Why are you not using 12-speed drivetrains on the new Turbo Levo?

We decided to continue with 11-speed drivetrains for a couple of reasons. When you factor in the added support (levels) of the motor, they already provide an ample gear ratio for the steepest climbs out there. Additionally, SRAM only allows the NX 12-speed cassette to be spec’d on e-bikes, and this would have forced us to only use the NX cassette across the entire Turbo Levo range. This also would have passed on a massive weight penalty, on the S-works model for instance, that we aren’t prepared to take on. For context, we’re talking about an additional 350 grams or so. And last, but not least, this added weight would be at a location on the bike where you’d definitely feel it, so the pros of 12-speed didn’t outweigh the cons.

 


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.

  • 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).

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