For several years e-bikes have been gaining traction in the world of mountain biking and I have finally gotten to test a few. Why not try out one of the best out there? The Specialized Turbo Levo seems to be at every trail head and leads the charge up the mountain.
My wife and I both tested the Specialized Turbo Levo Expert ($11,000). This formidable bike comes in seven different build levels between $5,800 and $15,000. All of these builds have the same motor and frame design but they do differ in frame material and component spec. Moreover, the more expensive models also have a battery rated at 700 wh vs a battery rated at 500wh to extend the ride.
This e-bike test was a lot of fun! The effort required in the top end setting was minimal and made the riding seem more like a dirt bike than a mountain bike. I may not have gotten the exercise that I crave from normal riding, but I was able to put down triple the mileage and explore trails I normally don’t get to ride because of time constraints. The Turbo Levo was a quick, nimble machine that handled close to that of an enduro bike and made quick work of rocky, steep climbs.
Review In A Nutshell
- Natural feeling motor engagement
- Wide range of sizes
- Adjustable frame geometry
- SWAT tool compartment
- Seven build levels and seven price points
- Limited by battery range
Buy at https://www.specialized.com
Electric Assist is Pure Fun
When first testing out this capable steed I immediately envisioned myself as an older gentleman using the pedal assist to keep me young and continue exploring in nature. I could see myself finding the same joy that I now find from the slow grind up the mountain side above all else, that is what e-bikes really represent; the ability for those that are less capable to still get out and enjoy some recreation in the woods.
Climbing on the Turbo Levo is straight up easy. Our testing grounds had a crazy-steep pitch up a double track to the top of our chosen DH trail. I was able to shift the gearing down, shift my weight forward and easily grind right up to the top.
I didn’t notice any major battery drain, even with my body weight and there were no mechanical issues to speak of. The Turbo Levo is a mountain goat. Climbing up a less steep grade felt like I was dirt biking. All of the little rock features were fun little climb challenges that made me really enjoy this new type of riding. Punchy technical climbing became some of my favorite parts of the rides aboard this machine.
The Specialized Turbo System 2.2 motor engages smoothly and there was never any feeling of drag on the motor both pedaling or coasting. The motor hums right along when adding a bit of torque. Overall, it’s a pretty quiet system and the minimal noise was not a distraction to me at all.
The three assist levels–eco, trail, and turbo can be modified, but the base settings were adequate for my needs. I realized that the middle pedal assist was the most like normal trail riding, but I chose to ride most of the time in turbo. It was just too much fun. With my body weight and constant use of turbo mode, I could nearly run through the battery in about 2.5 hours of ride time. That was close to about 2000 feet of climbing.
There are 120 different display configurations one can choose to beam from their top tube. I liked the default settings of assist level, speed and remaining battery percentage. Although the display is integrated into the top tube of the bike, there is a control with a plus and minus button mounted to the left side of the handlebar.
If you’re a data nut, then this bike has all of the bells and whistles ready to track your every move. If I had more time with the bike, I would have delved into this feature more. There is basically a built-in power meter among the odometer and other features.
700wh to 750wh batteries seem to be the standard for most mountain e-bikes. Big backcountry rides are possible on the Turbo Levo, but you definitely need to know the ability of the system. If you’re pushing much past 30 miles you will probably need a second battery to make the loop back to your vehicle.
Weight Could be a Challenge
If you’re reading this review on my page then you probably are not as concerned with the weight of a bike as someone who is smaller and struggles with the weight of their equipment. Specialized does manufacture the Turbo Levo SL, a similar model with a smaller battery. The idea is that it weighs closer to the neighborhood of a regular mountain bike and could be pedaled once the battery dies.
Like a fat bike, the Turbo Levo does carry more weight than a standard mountain bike. This can affect handling and maybe make technical riding through rocks and roots a little more challenging. Frankly, I find a little extra weight adds stability in the air and allows one to charge directly over technical sections with a reckless abandon…..at least that’s how I tried to ride it.
However, making an adjustment in one’s own riding style to a heavier bike is not always easy. Finding comfort in a mindset and matching it to a bike’s characteristics and ride quality isn’t intuitive. Taking a moment to send off of something always helps me with new bikes before a ride. Even just trying to wheelie helps me get a feel for weight and handling.
The Turbo Levo has Adjustable Geo and A Mullet Wheel Setup
Mullet wheel setups have been a part of the dirt bike scene and mountain biking for some time, but always on the fringes of mountain biking. Current trends have steered more companies to try a “reverse-mullet” (larger front wheel and smaller rear wheel) design offering benefits of both wheel sizes. In conjunction with the mullet design, Specialized has included adjustable geometry just like the the Stumpjumper EVO with the ability to choose between six distinct settings.
The Stumpjumper EVO has been dominating bike reviews for the past few years and we are now just seeing others like the new Trek Fuel EX with adjustable geo options too. Seatstays can be adjusted to raise and lower the bottom bracket. One can also slacken the fork out. Not only does this change travel settings, but ride characteristics can be tailored to one’s own riding style, terrain, and preference.
I rode most of my demo rides in the neutral position and it felt the most comfortable both up and down to me. This was the first bike I have ever ridden with a mullet setup and I can’t say that I noticed it. I suppose that is a good thing because it handled everything I could throw at it and remained composed and steady. There is not very much difference between a 27.5 wheel and a 29. Just enough to reap the benefits.
SWAT Bike Storage System
SWAT is Specialized storage system that they have built into their bikes for a few years now. Other companies are now copying the design as it is super handy. You can stuff your jacket in the frame for the climbs and be warm on the descents!
Well, even the Specialized e-bikes get the SWAT treatment. A multi-tool in the headtube is ready for use and also houses a quick link and chain tool.
Several Variations and Components
Specialized uses their economies of scale marvelously. I can’t think of many other bike brands that offer a variety of builds that run the gamut from sensible, affordable builds to top-end component specs. Specialized has setup their own sizing S1 -S6, and I fit on an S4 (close to a large mtb frame). It fit perfectly and was never uncomfortable or painful in any way. It still felt nimble but grounded.
I tested the Turbo Levo Comp version. Specialized has done a remarkable job in building this e-bike. My biggest aversion to the Turbo Levo is the pricing. It’s not a cheap bike. Yes, you are getting better components at a lower price, but the overall market has gotten a little out of hand. My local bike shop has this very bike priced at $9,000. That’s a big pill to swallow.
The version of the Turbo Levo I tested was built with Roval wheels, SRAM Code brakes, a SRAM Eagle drivetrain, a FOX FLOAT 38 160mm fork, a FOX FLOAT 150mm shock, and an X-Fusion Manic dropper. The remainder of the parts are nearly all house branded. This is a great thing, because Specialized has been developing tires and other quality parts for 40 years now. The suspension parts are not factory, but they get the job done without complaint.The suspension was plenty plush and simple to setup. It supported the 4-bar suspension design well and there was never any pedal bob or harsh bottom outs. I put the bike through it’s paces by hitting some decent drops and a jump line on a local trail called Pick Your Poison.
Moreover, I will openly admit that I don’t really like SRAM parts. I do use them, but I prefer the shifting of a Shimano derailleur. The Code brakes worked flawlessly and I never had any issues with them. I have the Level TL’s on my fat bike and may need an upgrade.
The Run-Out: A Do-it-all E-bike Built for Fun
Specialized has been around the block a time or two. They know how to build a bike, even an e-bike, and do it well.
The Turbo Levo is one of the best-selling e-mountain bikes out there and for good reason. The sheer joy that you will experience is worth the price. If you’re a mountain biker looking to get into the e-bike world then the Turbo Levo is your answer.
With everything there are pros and cons and the Turbo Levo is no exception. Yes, it costs a lot. It is an e-bike. Yes, it can fly up and down the hills. Yes, the parts spec is on point. Compared to the competition not many can keep up. Consider the Specialized Turbo Levo as your future e-bike.
Frame FACT 11m full carbon, 29″ front wheel, 27.5″ rear wheel, full internal cable routing, 148mm spacing, fully sealed cartridge bearings, 150mm of travel, geo adjust head tube, geo adjust horst pivot
Fork FOX FLOAT 36 RHYTHM 29, GRIP damper, 44mm offset, 2-position sweep adjust, 15x110mm, 1.5″ tapered steerer, 160mm travel
Rear Shock S1: Fox Float DPS Performance, 3- position adjustment, 52.5x210mm, Rx Trail Tune, S2-S6: FOX FLOAT X Performance, LSR, 2-position lever, 55x210mm
Rims Specialized 29, hookless alloy, 30mm inner width, tubeless ready
Hubs Front: Alloy, sealed cartridge bearings, 15x110mm thru-axle, 28h
Rear: Alloy, sealed cartridge bearings, 148mmx12mm thru-axle, 28h
Spokes DT Swiss Industry
Tires Front: Butcher, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON® T9 compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29×2.6″
Rear: Eliminator, GRID TRAIL casing, GRIPTON® T7 compound, 2Bliss Ready, 27.5×2.6″
Crankset Praxis forged M30, custom offset, 160mm
Chainrings SRAM X-Sync Eagle, 104 BCD, 32T, steel
Shifters SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
Rear Derailleur SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
Cassette/Freewheel SRAM XG-1275, 12-speed, 10-52t
Chain SRAM NX Eagle, 12-speed
Brakes Front: SRAM Code RS, 4-piston caliper, hydraulic disc, S1-S3: 200mm, S4-S6: 220mm
Rear: SRAM Code RS, 4-piston caliper, hydraulic disc, 200mm
Handlebars Specialized, 6061 alloy, 6-degree upsweep, 8-degree backsweep, 30mm rise, 780mm width
Tape/Grips Specialized Trail Grips
Stem Alloy Trail Stem, 35mm bar bore
Seatpost X-Fusion Manic, infinite adjustable, two-bolt head, bottom mount cable routing, remote SLR LE lever, 34.9, S1: 100mm, S2: 125mm, S3: 150mm, S4/S5: 175mm, S6: 190mm
Saddle Bridge Comp, Hollow Cr-mo rails, 155/143mm
Accessories & Extras Custom Specialized wiring harness, SWAT CC steerer tube integrated tool with chain tool and link
Motor Specialized Turbo Full Power System 2.2 Motor
Battery Specialized M3-700, Integrated battery, 700Wh
Controller/Display Specialized MasterMind TCU, percentage of remaining charge, 120 possible display configurations, MicroTune assist adjustment, over-the-air updates, ANT+/Bluetooth®, w/Handlebar remote
Charger Custom charger, 42V4A w/ Rosenberger plug