Specialized Turbo Levo e-bike

Discovering the good and bad of this emerging category in Moab, Utah

27.5 All Mountain Trail E-bike Plus
The Levo in all matte black is stealthy.

The Levo in all matte black. Can you say stealthy… (click to enlarge). Photo by Specialized / Colin Belisle

What is it?

The Turbo Levo is Specialized’s first crack at the electric mountain bike market. The Big Red S took a look at all the eMTBs out there, identified issues and opportunities, and then created the Levo based on the existing Stumpjumper 6Fattie platform.

That means a 140mm rear travel platform with 3.0” Plus tires for max stability and traction. They chose a Brose mid-motor system and mated it with a battery integrated in the downtube. Wires and electronics were minimized to make it look like a mountain bike with minimal displays and distractions. At the heart of the system is a torque-sensing electric assist motor that adds to the rider’s effort. The harder the rider pedals, the more power the motor “assists.”

The Levo was comfortable tackling the most technical sections of the Amasa Back trail in Moab, Utah (left). We descended down some steep terrain (right).

The Levo was comfortable tackling the most technical sections of the Amasa Back trail in Moab, Utah (left). We descended lots of steep terrain (right). (click to enlarge) Photo by Specialized / Colin Belisle

Why an eBike — and why Moab?

The eBike is at the center of a brewing mountain bike storm, with riders divided by its emerging existence. Some feel it violates the purity of the sport with the introduction of electric assist and is akin to ‘cheating.’ Another big objection, especially in the U.S., is that e-bikes may harm trail access, as bicycles will become associated with motorcycles.

Climbing steeps requires skill but not as much energy.

Climbing steeps requires skill but not as much energy (click to enlarge). Photo by Specialized / Colin Belisle

The proponents of electric bikes see them as enabling tools that broaden the reach of mountain bikes to older/younger riders or those dealing with injury. They’re also seen as tools to narrow the wide gap between climbing and descending time. The key for now is to ride e-bikes only where they are allowed, which means OHV trails or trails were the land managers have permitted their use.

Specialized chose Moab for this press event because contrary to conventional wisdom, there are actually a ton of excellent OHV trails to ride. Indeed, this slickrock wonderland is both a mountain biking and 4-wheel and moto Mecca. Our Levo test rides were strictly on OHV trails, which are plentiful in Moab.

Smiling during a steep climb is common with the Levo.

Smiling during a steep climb is common with the Levo. Photo by Specialized / Colin Belisle

First ride impressions

The bike looked clean, devoid of instrument clusters and an obtrusive battery. Usually e-bikes are easily identifiable by a big battery occupying the front triangle. But on this bike instead of a bulky battery there’s a standard water bottle cage. The battery is neatly integrated into the downtube, occupying the bottom half of the tube. That power source weighs about eight pounds and can be easily removed with an Allen wrench. The battery is not structural, so its presence or absence does not affect frame stiffness.

Setting up is critical just like most high performance bikes.

Set up is critical just like most high performance bikes (click to enlarge). Photo by Specialized / Colin Belisle

The only giveaway that the Levo is an e-bike is the massive bottom bracket area. The motor is cleanly integrated here, with custom brace plates designed to hide the motor and add stiffness to the bottom bracket area, which is fairly wide so the bike can only handle a single front chainring. Q-factor is wider than a normal bike.

There is no display on the handlebar to indicate vital information to the rider. Instead, those duties are performed by three buttons and 10 LEDs. It is a clean affair but not very ergonomic. One has to reach down to the side of the downtube, reach down to hit the mode buttons, and look over to check the current mode and remaining battery life. If you want better information and control, a smartphone or Garmin with Levo compatibility is required and needs to be mounted on the bars.

Continue to page 2 for more on the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR »
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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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  • JohnnyVV says:

    What do you put in the water bottle? Motor oil? Maple syrup?

  • Farmer Ted says:

    Soooo stupid. Not to mention heavy and expensive. At least that should keep these travesties out of most people’s hands. At least you mentioned that they shouldn’t be ridden on non-motorized trails.

  • Jay says:

    Great, now morons with money will ruin the trails the same way atv/moto riders do. And the simplest response from land owners – ban everything on wheels. Moto f..rs will slip through as they can’t be easily caught (no plate requirements is ridiculous omission of the law).
    If one can’t go fast on his/her own (will happen at some point anyway) just enjoy it slow. No reason to rush if there’s no fun in this.

  • Natalia says:

    I just hope that people don’t see my Stumpjumper 6Fattie and think it’s an ebike. I muscle that fat pig up the hills on my own, and if I can’t hack it, then I get off and push. I might toss a stick into their spokes if some ebike schmuck passes me while I’m having an uphill hike-a-bike.

  • Liam says:

    Wow, I thought this was a site for mountain bikes, I didn’t know it’d switched over to a site for motorized off-road vehicles designed for chubby disabled people. Well, MTBR is now just like the corrupt IMBA: take the money and run, I suppose.

  • Mark says:

    Why do we have to accommodate the whole population in every outdoor activity? These are motorcycles. The don’t belong on mountain bike trails. -No more than building an escalator to the bottom of the Grand Canyon for people who unable to hike the trail. We cannot accommodate everyone’s needs or the experience will be ruined for all.

  • GuyOnMTB says:

    These electric-cycles, not pedal bicycle, not to be used on trails that restrict motorized vehicles.

    And since they are not mountain bikes, and are E-cycles, MOUNTAIN BIKE REVIEW[MTBr] NEEDS TO STOP ADVERTISING THEM!

  • UseYourBody says:

    Trail-Access-Destroying OBSCENITY.
    Get out of this game Specialized and MTBR.com or lose your support base

  • Dan says:

    Haters will always hate. Embrace the new technology and enjoy it.
    It is all the haters that will end up without any support. This is the future…

  • tb says:

    Wow, lot’s of hate for the e-bike. I ride with someone who has a homebuilt e-bike conversion based on a DH bike. He’s 65 years young and rides a lot. In his words, this bike allows him to ride more, often doubling his normal 8-10 mile rides to 20 or more miles a day. It is still a workout, trust me, you are still pedaling and actually get more of an upper body workout since the bike is heavier and the rides are longer.

    This type of bike is fine with me. It will not destroy a trail like a motorcycle, it doesn’t have roost power.

    Do you really think the couch potatoes are running out to buy these bikes? Come on.

  • W says:

    I don’t understand the whole trying to make it stealth thing. Is it to encourage people to try and take them on non motorized trails? I think there should be something that emits a loud beep every x seconds when the e-bike is going over a certain speed uphill. That is what I worry about the most, that trails that I know people would only be slowly rolling 5MPH or so, now has a jacka$$ on an e-bike going 20MPH. I’m 100% alright with them riding with the rest of the motorheads, and places like Moab are probably a great place for this, but if some idiot hits me, my family or my friends, I’m going to pull that battery out and taze’m.

  • Shamed says:

    I would be ashamed to ride one of these. Let’s dumb it down again for everyone.

    “The proponents of electric bikes see them as enabling tools that broaden the reach of mountain bikes to older/younger riders or those dealing with injury.”

    Yeah, let’s make things easier for younger riders, oh and you’re injured? You need special help! Good way to set the standard for young kids. Thanks!

    I’m sure the last thing that most people who are injured or disabled want is for a company to assume that they need special assistance. And a $4K mountain bike because the medical bills are really cheap.

  • craigsj says:

    Not a comment here about the bike or the review, just pointless ranting.

    Funny how people can accept motorcycles yet are outranged by electric bikes. These are much safer and easier on the environment than gas engines are. Can’t say I’d want one for a mere 250 watts and the article is wrong to say that’s the legal limit.

  • somacose says:

    Well done mtbr on a constructive appraisel of the Levo e-bike, just a shame there is so much hate from imbeciles who posted above but i figure those that hate have never tried one as the lack of knowledge about their power delivery is quite obvious.

    I guess your access laws need a total reworking in the USA, across here in Scotland we have a right to roam/access the entire countryside as we see fit using the tried and tested self regulating maxim of “Don’t be or ride like a dick”, and yeah…I own a Scott E-Genius 710 plus as posted in the ebike forum thread but over here in the land of the sane we don’t appear the have the level of hatred as expressed by that lovely sounding “Charles Ogle” up there who posted “How do I resist the desire to kick someone in the teeth if I see them on the trail riding one of these pices of shit.”.

    I’d love for you try and carry out such an idle threat – i look forward to reading about you after you have been prosecuted and jailed for assault – perhaps your cell mate will make a “bitch” out of your puckered white ass.

  • derby says:

    There is nothing to be alarmed about, as long as such an e-mo-ped is restricted to access where other motorcycles are allowed. It is clearly unethical to ride an e-mo-ped where other motorcycles are often not allowed, such as many public or private bicycle and hiker only accessible single-track and fire-roads, and motorcycles are never allowed on side walks or bike-paths. There is clearly potentially deadly danger mixing heavy and faster moving motorcycles with usually much slower moving hikers and bicyclists and equestrians.

    I have demoed a few e-bikes, and these mo-peds are a fun way to ride a light weight motorcycle and get a little exercise too.

    OHV’s require state registration, which should apply to these e-mo-ped OHV’s also. The state registration supports off road motor vehicle road and trail maintenance for the added wear and tear of motor vehicles that is far beyond erosion caused by hikers and bicyclists. And to be fair, e-mo-peds, if other other gas powered mo-peds are required required, should have a motorcycle license plate and riders have motorcycle license if used on public roads.

  • swill says:

    These bikes are going to ridden on MTB trails. Rather than engage in a detailed discussion about what is an electric motorcycle and what is a mountain bike, it will be much easier to ban all wheeled vehicles. Decades of hard fought trail access will be lost so that bike companies can temporarily cash in and a few lazy people can enjoy a brief period of shredding trails without breaking a sweat. I am fine with an exception for the disabled, but being lazy or a few years older is not a disability.

    • Tas Yeti says:

      @Swill. Alternatively, all those overweight people in authority we have been wrangling with to improve trail access, might actually be able to get out there and enjoy what we love – with one of these machines?
      Due to their weight, they will never be great on technical or steep trails, which is what I, and most MTB’s ride.
      Anything that get people off their bum and enlightens them to the joys of bike riding (of any form) must outweigh any small negatives (mostly mythical).
      Perhaps a new stream of riders will start out with E-mtb’s, and move to chain and gears as they develop their passion for the sport?
      Well done Big S, you have been brave to take the risk with this R&D.

    • Jeff Hosley says:

      You’ll sing a different tune in a few years. Trust me on that.

  • Senior Singletrack says:

    You’re a brave man Francis or maybe you revel in the controversy. My wife and I are older riders and hope to keep riding well into our golden years. My choice of terrain is mostly black and double black type riding. My wife is more intermediate. That said she had no problems last fall riding The Whole Enchilada. I am 60 and don’t expect I’ll need any assistance before I’m 70 but she isn’t as strong a climber. Bikes like this will find a way into our lives. We live in a different country so and have lower population pressure on our trails. Land access is different here. Scotland sounds awesome! Examine why you ride. Is it to have fun or is it to prove you are tougher or better than other riders. I’m sure the racers and elite and hard core riders will never need any help but many riders just enjoy being out for a ride. These bikes will help.

  • Flatbiller says:

    I now know how Galileo must have felt…

    Lot of pontiffs on this thread.

    I think, like the 2nd amendment debate, the real issue is the fear of emasculation. Top guys on Strava fear for their Top 10 livelihoods, lest it be overtaken by undercover e-bike KOM Killers.

    Chill out dudes, and go drink your overly hoppy IPA with the cute, witty, lame names. (Although I am impartial to the latest beer of the week that looks like a big bottle of Sriracha.)

  • Patrick Day says:

    Interesting article, thanks for posting. And Moab was a great choice as it’s a truly multi use area. I recently was riding a local trail and had a guy on an ebike blow by me on a climb. When he got to the top he politely let me go first as he said the bike steered like a pig on the descents because of the weight. Since I love downhilling that killed it for me. Unless they get the weight down to where these handle like mtb’s they will be limited in popularity. Plus for the cost I can get a KTM and do no pedaling.

  • kelticmtbr says:

    so i just got to pedal one of these around the parking lot of my local shop and after wiping the silly grin off my face realized i had this same feeling back when i first rode a full suspension bike , like i got a peak behind the curtain and saw the future . as a guy who has been a mountain biker since it beginning iv’e heard all this crap before( don’t add suspension.gearing ,disc brakes ,big wheels etc) truth is it will either make biking better , become a niche , or end up in the trash can . lose the attitude ,go ride and have fun . this sport is constantly changing (growing)!

  • Thor Eggertsson says:

    I just got one of these FSR comp turbo levo and am happy with my new mtb. I recently had necrosis in the femur witch was treated with oxygen hyperbaric chamber therapy, the result is diminished capacity to ride hard. Will get pain in my joint. The new bike allows me to continue riding mtb witch was difficult after my illness. I sold my stumpjumper with much regret to finance this beast of a bike. It is fun and helps a lot on the uphill but when pointing it downward you soon exceed the max speed for the motor to assist. Then it is a regular mtb on the slope so to speak. Brilliant bike that works for me at least.

  • Rob says:

    I tried a demo for a day and it was a blast, so I bought one. It’s a different experience and allows me to go more places that I could not on my regular MTN bike. Riding 3-4 days a week at an older age recovery is slower. On an eMTN bike, I can ride more and longer. Will it replace my regular MTN bike. No way! The Levo is an addition. Another way to enjoy the outdoors, mix it up a bit and have fun. I ride responsible and in areas allowed.

    Great bike Specialized! Technology and progress…love it!

  • Craig Erion says:

    My wife and I each just got one and we’ve never been happier together on the trails. Together at the bottom of the climbs and together at the top! BTW, we’ve been mountain biking together for 15 years.

  • Steve says:

    I just finished my annual trip to Moab with my buds. 10 days in Moab, Fruita and Grand Junction.
    In the first couple days I had pretty hard crash on upper Capt. Ahab.. I would need to sit out at least a day or two of riding because of an injured hip on the crash .. I probably could still ride but I would hold up my group of riders if I came along .. So I rested for a day, and dropped by Moab cycle. To my delight they had just finished assembling a couple of Levo’s for rent .. I tested one in the parking lot to see what it would feel like.. It felt good and did not seem to irritate my hip . So I rented one for a couple of days.
    Since the Levo is not allowed on some of the more traditional Mtb trails .. I headed over to sovereign and the jeep trail up to Gold rim . I have to tell you is one the most amazing experiences I have had effortlessly climb for more than four hours of riding. I kept the machine on Econo mode for all my rides and still had to pedal aggressively to make it up some of the climbs . At the end of the four hours I did feel like I had a pretty extensive workout and my substantially younger friends were also spent trying to chase me down on the climbs .. Overall it was a very positive experience and changed my mind completely on this category of bike. So for those of you that hate these bikes. Take a few moments and think about a situation where they may be useful for an individual. I don’t think I’m going to run out and buy one tomorrow. But it’s certainly nice to know that I have the option.
    I commend you Specialized on making a true pedal assist bike that’s that will make mountain biking fun for everyone ..

  • Timmy says:

    My wife and I rode for years. Then she was in an accident and became permanently partially disabled. For the last five years I have ridden alone, or with friends – but not with her. Now she can ride with me again! She is not damaging the trail. In fact, she is not impacting anyone’s ride or enjoyment of our very crowded trails.
    – Why should you angry opinionated folks be able to tell us what we can or cannot do – when our actions have zero impact on you, or your ability to also ride as you choose?
    I think you all need to take a look inward and ask yourselves: why am I so angry? Why is my masculinity so fragile so as to make me wail so loudly about what other people are riding? I’m not sure you realize how pathetic you appear.

  • Timmy says:

    If you saw my wife coming down the sidewalk in a wheelchair, are you going to howl that she should be “man enough” to ambulate with a walker, or not at all? Or, that sidewalks are for walkers only and her wheelchair has a motor so she should be in traffic with the cars?

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