Specialized Levo SL vs. Levo – Which one is for you?

One, neither or both?

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The Levo SL and Levo were separated at birth and they took different paths.

The Levo and Levo SL have many similarities, with both bikes based on the Stumpjumper with 150mm of front and rear travel. Both are 29ers only with droppers and aggressive trail/all-mountain components. And both are Class 1 legal e-mtbs rated at 250 watts or below. If you’re in the market, which one is right for you? We try to break it down below in many different categories to help you decide.

Related: First Ride: Specialized Levo SL

Related: Specialized Levo SL: Everything you need to know

Appearance

Currently, very few riders want to announce to everyone on the trail that they’re on an e-bike. While acceptance is growing, it’s still evolving so being discrete and not calling attention to the bike is desired.

The Levo made strides in this area by having an internal, downtube hosted battery and not having a massive battery in the rear triangle where the water bottle usually sits. But its motor bulge by the BB area sits high with the Brose motor rotated upwards to allow easy removal of the internally mounted battery.

The Levo SL uses a much smaller battery so the downtube diameter is sleek and hardly bigger than normal bikes like the Trek Slash or Specialized Stumpjumper. Clever decals and tube shaping further mask the downtube and make it appear smaller. The motor area is smaller battery removal port so it’s as minimalist as possible.

Weight

One of the biggest differences between the two bikes is the weight. In size S-Works trim, large with tubes, weights are 38.25 lbs for the Levo SL vs 47 lbs. Where most of the weight was lost is in the motor which lost 2.4 lbs, now at 4.3 lbs. The battery lost 6.4 lbs when in the smaller, modular configuration.

This affects the bike in many ways including bike handling, portaging, putting the bike on vehicle rack or just moving the bike in the garage.

Levo SL motor and battery is much smaller and lighter but with less peak power.

Power

Torque is 35 nm for the Levo SL instead of 90nm on the Levo. Although rated wattage is nearly the same at 240w vs 250, Peak wattage is wildly different at 240w vs 560w for the Levo.

Power delivery too is unique with the Levo SL delivering little torque at very low RPMs but generating consistent torque from 50-120 rpm. The Levo, on the other hand, generates a lot of torque at very low rpm’s and then falls off above 90rpm.

This difference in power dictates a very different riding experience. The Levo owner can sometimes sit back and be taken for a ride to the top of the mountain. This can be done either in Turbo mode or Shuttle mode.

With the Levo SL, the rider is always an active participant in every climb. The rider is encouraged to spin and exert effort at all times. This creates a very rewarding trail experience for fit riders and even cross-country riders who want to cover a lot more ground. There’s rarely the feeling of the ride being too easy or ’not enough of a workout’. On the flip side, when the rider is tired or has half the battery left at end of the last climb, there’s no option to just get a powerful boot, shuttle to the end, which is quite rewarding on a Levo. Doing ‘one more lap’ is a no-brainer on the Levo but it requires more consideration on the Levo SL even when there’s plenty of battery left.

Levo SL is easy to pop off any small jump.

Handling

The greatest advantage of the Levo SL is in agile handling. The 9 lbs of weight on the more powerful Levo keeps it stable and planted but it also means it’s not as agile and not as willing to change direction. The Levo SL is an active participant in switchbacks and aerial maneuvers with its weight close to a non-assisted all-mountain bike.

In slow, tight climbs, it’s easier to change direction and lift the front of the bike. The motor assist and the well-supported suspension make the bike feel even lighter than it is. The chainstays of the Levo SL are shorter too by 15 mm now at an incredibly short 437mm. But when the climbs get steep and chunky, the 95 nm of torque of the Levo comes in very handy. Power moves and momentum make very steep and difficult climbs possible.

The Levo SL supports a range extender battery that mount on the water bottle cage.

Range and Modularity

Would you believe that the Levo SL with 360wh battery has the same range as the Levo with 500wh? We have indeed experienced it and it’s accomplished with a combination of factors:

  • bike is lighter by 9 lbs
  • the motor produces less peak power at 240 watts instead of 565
  • the motor expects the rider to contribute more at all times
  • the motor has almost no drag when the motor is off
  • the motor doesn’t put out a lot of power when in the most energy-consuming, low rpm states

The Levo has the class-leading edge of having an internally hosted 700wh battery. The Levo SL cannot match that but the trick up its sleeve is modular batteries. With an internal 360wh battery, it seamlessly integrates a 160wh battery in the water bottle cage. And the option of carrying multiple water bottle batteries on a big ride opens up possibilities. Another configuration is removing the internal battery and just running on water bottle batteries.

The Levo has a 700wh battery that’s easily field replaceable so owners have the option of carrying a second battery for 1400 wh of capacity. But the battery is long and heavy so it affect the ride quite a bit. A popular option is to stash the 2nd battery on the trail somewhere or in the car. Mid-ride, swap batteries and get ready to climb another 5-7000 feet.

The Levo can take on big mountain climbs with ease so it can be modded with more capable suspension.

Upgrade Paths

Starting from the same 150mm of all-mountain Travel, the Levo and Levo SL can both be modified to be lighter and more agile or heavier and more burly.

In our experience, the Levo is better as a burly, all-mountain bike. Put a 160mm fork and DPX2 rear shock and the bike becomes a capable descender for big mountains. Or better yet, put a coil front and rear suspension and it can become one of the most capable and comfortable bikes around with little concern for the pedaling downsides of coil suspension. With so much power on tap, getting burly, protected tires is a great option too when using it in very fast, rocky terrain.

The Levo SL, on the other hand, is better off optimized as svelte, trail machine. Put some 1400 gram wheels, trail tires optimized for the terrain and this bike can come to life. Experiment with carbon bits here and there and this bike might even see the south side of 34 lbs. And with little resistance from the motor, running out of battery during the ride may not be an issue at all.

One of the few downsides of the Levo SL is its high cost.

Cost

Everyone dwells on the $16k Founders Edition but that’s really that relevant since that is a limited edition collector’s bike. The real issue is the entry-level spec and the S-works spec. In this light, the Levo SL has increased in price significantly and that maybe its biggest downside.

Levo SL
Comp ($6,525)
Comp Carbon ($7,525)
Expert ($9,025)
S-Works ($13,525)
The Founder’s Edition ($16,525)

Levo
Comp ($4,950)
Comp Carbon ($6,950)
Expert ($8,250)
S-Works ($12,075

Resources

The 2020 Levo SL First Ride article is here.

The 2020 Levo SL Frequently Asked Questions is here.

The 1019 Levo First Look is here.


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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Comments:

  • Jeff B says:

    Francis,

    What a great comparison!

    I got my 2020 Levo Comp in November…

    I already built it up with a Cane Creek IL Coil (210 mm x 55 mm for extra 6 mm rear travel), upgraded the Lyrik to Ultimate 160 mm, running 27.5 x3.0 plus rear and 29 x3.0 plus front.

    It was the better choice for me….but I’m still drooling over the Levo SL Comp.

    • Lubor Pac says:

      Hi, also upgraded my Levo to Lyric Ultimate 160mm!

      And also wanna upgrade to 210/55mm coil shock – how big upgrade is it?

      thxx Lubor

  • Browneye says:

    I test rode both, and while the SL is very smooth, the extra punch of the Levo Comp is way mo betta. JMHO
    I bought a Trance E+2 instead, saved a couple of grand.

  • Josh Clarke says:

    What always is missing from every e-bike review is mentioning where they are actually legal to ride. At the very least this would seem to be the responsible thing to do for bike companies and shops that sell them as well as the people reviewing them. Until then I guess e-bike riders can keep “being discreet” about riding them where they aren’t supposed to be which I take to mean poaching.

    • Myke says:

      I feel like the industry is one lawsuit away from reform on the matter! In OC CA parks are not marked for trail usages, although policies are clearly stated on the OC Parks website. Liability is high!

  • syborg says:

    What always is missing from every e-bike review is mentioning why I need one? As a physically fit rider why would I want an e-bike? Aside from being able to poach trails that I could otherwise ride legitimately, why do I want one? I get it for older folks who are lacking strength or someone with some other physical handicap.

    • Jon Severson says:

      Ride a Levo SL sometime and you’ll see. Also, a lot of racers are using ebikes to train on these days….both XC and enduro pros even. Why? It allows you to ride more aerobic than anaerobic. And in the case of the Levo line, you can sync a HRM to it and set the motor to kick in before you blow past your limit for a give HR zone.

      Talking to some industry pals and experts in training I was surprised to learn how popular this is.

      • myke says:

        Most racers are looking at power not HR when training. LI rides can be done on the road or gravel without a problem or even a trainer with targeted power and HR zones. Also with the endless gear range available these days I highly doubt there is that many enduro or XC guys riding e-bikes for training with all the other available options.

        • Josh Patterson says:

          Myke,

          I can’t speak to cross-country racers using e-bikes for training, but they have become a training tool for some EWS racers working on skill drills. Imagine being able to session a segment of trail 4-5 times in the same about of time you would normally only be able to do 2-3 laps while allowing you to remain fresher and more focused for the descent.

        • Jon Severson says:

          Myke,

          I couldn’t either until an ex pro buddy who’s all I’m on ebikes now gave me the low down. I then talked with a friend who is an ex European domestique and pro mountain biker. He expanded upon that. I also then reached out to the owner of CTS here in town and sure enough…they are training people with such and he knows of pros who he doesn’t train who use ebikes.

          Btw-last I heard there aren’t any Powermeters that interface with the Levo/Levo SL though bringing that up to the owner of SRM next time we chat. Because CTS hinted to such as well.

  • Warren says:

    After buying a 2021 Specialized Turbo Levo I’m not sure where all the angst is coming from about class 1 ebikes on the trail. They don’t pollute, they don’t have anywhere close to enough power to damage trails and mine is about as quiet as a cat. I’d say a class 1 bike has no more of a footprint than a regular mountain bike of which I have two modern ones I still ride.

    • jan says:

      Usually it’s the people who ride those bikes rather than the bikes themselves who damage trails. I don’t want to generalize but in my parts, it’s mostly older guys 60+ with too much time and money on their hand who now gain access to downhill segments due to the motor pushing them uphills. Sure, there are proficient riders on e-mtb but where I’m from, those are in the minority.

  • Joey says:

    Where can we legally ride these bikes for handicap people?

  • Philip says:

    I had the pleasure of riding the Levo SL Expert at Mount St.-Anne back in 2019 at the MTB World Championships. I am a 60 year old experienced rider / racer from the Midwest who is not in my former shape due to a lingering injury. I can ride moderate terrain , but hills just aggravate the injury. This bike not only got me up the biggest hills , but let me enjoy riding single track and going down long rocky descents at speed. With out the e-Bike assist I would not have been able to do these trails at all. The bike brought out the kid in me again. That makes it worth the @ $9000 price in my book. There are plenty of other MT Bikes in that price range that are not an e-Bike. As for where to ride this ? I can’t ride this on most of the trails in my area , so I will most likely just get a Specialized Creo SL EVO and use multiple wheels sets ( 700 c Gravel / 650 b / 700c road wheels ) and use them as needed. The smoothness of the power application was seamless . Specialized has it dialed with the Brose motor. I rode up and down the trails for an hour an a half and only used 2-3 bars of the 10 available since I was giving plenty of input even though i was getting just the right amount of assist even in the lowest mode. I can’t say enough good things about how well this bike rode and how much fun I had .

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