What we didn’t like
The lack of a display and/or remote mode switch is a glaring omission in our opinion. We understand the departure from the massive ‘commuter style’ display consoles on other e-bikes, but to have no display is not ideal when much control and data is needed by some. Something like the 2-inch wide Di2 display screen would be appropriate and much more discrete than the 10 LEDs on the side of the. The Smartphone app and the Garmin options are good, but at $7500-$9500, displays and remotes that the rider can choose to mount would seem appropriate.
And again, this bike is heavy at 48.5 pounds for the $7500 Expert 6Fattie. A contributing factor is Specialized’s decision to opt for an 8-pound battery with 504 watt hours of energy to get long run times. Most of the competition use 400 watt hour batteries that weigh about 6 pounds. And that weight really affects how nimble and playful the bike is during descents. Getting these bikes under 40 pounds would make them far more appealing.
Changing gears can sometimes be disturbing while pedaling since the pedal assist can boost the rider’s output, especially on the highest assist setting. So the drivetrain produces these popping and cracking noises while shifting rear cogs under a high amount of torque. This happened frequently during our test rides and it sounds like someone shifted into the spokes. But the 1×11 drivetrain came out unscathed each time. It seems like the system should be able to sense when the rider is shifting and not apply too much assist torque at these moments.
The Comp, Expert and S-Works monikers don’t really fit. The S-Works Levo is $9500 and has carbon wheels and bars, saving perhaps a pound or two over the Expert, which is $2000 less. Such weight savings may be meaningful in an Epic or Camber but in a 50-pound pedal assist bike, it’s really not worth the money. The Expert and the S-Works have a bigger battery at 504 watt-hours compared to the Comp’s 400, but that adds weight back as well.
The bike also has shorter cranks and a higher bottom , which affect the way the bike rides adversely during cornering. Also the shorter cranks, coupled with the wider Q-factor, net an awkward pedaling feel compared to traditional mountain bikes.
What we liked
The Turbo Levo has a motor and drivetrain system that is designed for mountain bikes. Thus, it has enough low end torque delivered at low speeds to help the rider get up the steepest hills. The motor is incredibly quiet as well and the rider can hardly hear it working. It is at its loudest when under very high torque loads and rpm when climbing steep walls.
The frame is stiff and quiet. Previous e-mountain bikes we’ve tried were often flexy and noisy, with batteries and wires rattling on rough downhills. This one is quiet and the bottom bracket area is plenty stiff.
The motor management software of the Levo is superb. Torque is delivered appropriately for trail riding so it doesn’t leave the rider hanging on a steep hill or require the rider to climb a steep wall at 10 mph to deliver full assist power. The power assist comes in very smoothly and is almost seamless in the pedaling experience. Power management is impressive as well, as the rider can customize the three assist settings or program the ride distance requirements and be assured the battery power will make it to the end of the ride. And unlike e-bikes of the past, this frame can host a full-sized water bottle in the front triangle like a normal bike.
This is the best and most significant e-mountain bike effort to date but we are in the infancy of the category. There are many, many issues and debates to be sorted out and like many we’re undecided about the category and its place in the wider mountain bike world.
The Turbo Levo opens up a lot of possibilities. We did two rides a day on completely legal trails and we skipped the shuttle rides to the trailhead miles away because traversing on the road was actually fun on this bike. At the end of the day, we were completely spent doing more pedaling and descending. Bottom line, it’s an interesting bike in an emerging category. We encourage riders to try it for themselves first, and then draw their own conclusions.
- Women’s Hardtail Comp 6Fattie: $4000
- Women’s FSR Comp 6Fattie: $5500
- HT Comp Fat: $5000
- HT Comp 6Fattie: $4000
- FSR Comp 6Fattie: $5500
- FSR Expert 6Fattie: $7500
- FSR S-Works 6Fattie: $9500
- Total weight: 48.5 pounds
- Battery weight: 8 pounds
- Sustained motor output: 250 watts
- Peak motor output: 530 watts
- Motor brand: Brose
- Motor torque: 90 Nm
- Battery Voltage: 36 volts
- Battery amp hours: 14
- Battery watt hours: 504
- Battery brand: Samsung
- Battery type: Lithium-ion
- Charge time: 3.5 hours (7 Hours with optional travel charger)
- Estimated minimum range: 25 miles
- Estimated max range: 55 miles
- Display type: Integrated LED on downtime with battery level and assist level
- Drive mode: Advanced pedal assist (cadence and torque sensing)
- Top speed: 20mph
For more information visit www.specialized.com.