- A lighter, stiffer, even more powerful second generation Turbo Levo platform, custom side-arm rear suspension design improves cable routing, tubeless ready rims and tires, unique hidden SWAT multi-tool under stem cap
- 29er wheel size with narrower 2.6" tires reduce friction and improve steering precision, new battery design provides higher capacity for improved range, two colorways, four frame sizes, vast network of dealers, great warranty
- Brose Drive S MAG (magnesium) is lighter, smaller, more powerful, and even more efficient than older aluminum motors but just as smooth and still very quiet, works with Mission Control smartphone app, new Shuttle mode adjusts torque at lower pedal cadence for slow steady climbs
- Improved control interface is easier to reach on the top tube and can be set to stealth mode so no LED lights shine while riding, control ring allows you to adjust assist without taking your hands off of the grips, still no locking core to protect the battery against theft, single-shift SRAM triggers protect the drivetrain but feel slower and less satisfying than multi-shift
To run the forums, host the website, and travel, I charge a universal service fee for my reviews. This review was sponsored by Specialized. My goal is to be transparent and unbiased, this video and written review are not meant to be an endorsement of Specialized products.
The second generation Specialized Turbo Levo, like the first gen, is inspired by the non-electric Specialized Stumpjumper platform. It’s a bike that performs well on cross country, trail, and light all mountain terrain. The company no longer offers a hardtail Levo, and has moved to a 29″ wheel size vs. the slightly smaller 27.5″ before The larger wheel diameter is somewhat offset by the narrower 2.6″ plus sized tires vs. 2.8″ from before. This means the tires are narrower, produce less drag and noise, and can squeeze through tighter sections of rock and roots. Specialized has always done an amazing job with frame design, and the new 2019 Levo has an asymmetric rear with right-arm section that now houses the cabling. This allowed the downtube to become narrower, reduced material, and apparently adds stiffness to the frame. My initial thinking was that cables could be run through the top tube and the rear shock supports could go symmetrical again (which is slightly narrower) but that would interfere with the seat tube and seat post insertion. The bike comes in two colors and four frame sizes, so you can find a perfect fit for your style and body. The dropper seat post makes mounting, ascending, and descending a breeze, and I like that they opted for a thicker seat tube, since the main section of frame is carbon fiber. The rear triangle is lightweight M5 aluminum alloy. One thing I’ve always noticed about Specialized is their marketing/branding naming approach. You get the M5 aluminum and “Hella Flush” headset… it reminds me that the team there has scrutinized everything, but sometimes makes it difficult to compare bike to bike. I’ve done my best to list out all of the specs in human-readable terms above and describe the bike on camera with Charlie (the owner of ElectriCity Bikes in Washington DC). Other big updates for the 2019 second generation Turbo Levo platform include a SWAT toolset that fits into the steering tube, under a swivel-top stem cap, a much more reachable Turbo Connect Unit (TCU) button pad on the top tube, awesome slap guards on the chain stay (top and bottom) as well as the right seat stay, an improved tool-free adjustable chain guide, smartphone app features like stealth mode that turn off the LED lights and shuttle mode that let you dial in motor torque at low RPM, a new S button that jumps all the way up to the highest level of assist with just one click, a much more reachable control pad with S, +, and – keys vs. a single button with circular selections, an enormous 700 watt hour battery pack, and of course, the brand new Brose Drive S Mag (magnesium) mid-motor that’s lighter, more powerful, and more efficient than previous iterations. The bike is incredible… it’s lightweight, beautiful, relatively quiet, extremely well balanced, and just a blast to ride. Consider checking with your dealer to get the correct size and color on order early because I’m guessing this bike could be on short supply come summer, especially the Expert model.
Driving the bike is a compact mid-motor from Brose with redesigned casing that uses less material. It’s also using a lighter weight material; magnesium verses aluminum alloy. My guess is that the internals are similar to the Drive S ALU but the weight dropped from 7.5lbs to 6.39lbs. You still get a very narrow Q Factor, optimal spindle placement (to reduce chain stay length for snappier turns and a shorter overall frame length), and excellent ground clearance. This motor is compact and the casing is color matched to the rest of the frame with carbon fiber and plastic surrounds. There’s a sturdy plastic skid plate below, in case you do take a rock or log strike with the suspension fully compressed on a drop. Note that the crank arms are 165mm vs. 170mm to reduce pedal strikes. I love that Specialized included some decent plastic pedals for test rides, because I tend to not get clip-in shoes for riding ebikes and find it annoying when you have to spend more money for them. I’d still consider swapping the stock pedals for some sturdier alloy or magnesium pedals with adjustable pins over time, but again, these aren’t too bad to start. So, the motor unit is small, but it really packs a punch. You get 250 to 560 watts of power output with up to 90 newton meters of torque! That’s extremely high for a mid-drive unit. Power is delivered based on your rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal pressure. These signals can be adjusted in the optional smartphone app called Mission Control. The new Shuttle mode is all about torque, allowing you to raise it in lower cadence situations, sacrificing battery efficiency for more help if you prefer to pedal slow and reduce cardio while climbing. I personally love this feature because my knees are sensitive and I don’t always want to pedal fast. If, however, you do want to spin, the Brose motors all support 120+ pedal RPM. This means it won’t drop out on you while downshifting on approach to a big hill. Moreso than many other competing products, the Brose motor really hangs in there at high pedal speeds. The Drive S Mag is light, more powerful, and amazingly… more efficient than its predecessors, but it’s still quiet and smooth because it contains a Gates Carbon belt drive that transitions from gears to spindle output. This reduces vibration and provides an organic feeling to the pedal experience that I can vouch for. The older Drive S was my favorite between Bosch, Shimano, and Yamaha for this reason, and Brose is expanding its support and presence in North America. There’s no pedal drag if you do choose to pedal unassisted (no reduction gearing) and the motor is decoupled from pedal strokes beyond the maximum supported speed of 32km/h (20mph). It’s a outstanding drive system, but I do feel that the charging port positioning, on the left side of the motor bulge, requires additional bending over and is in the travel path of the left crank arm… which could get snagged or bumped out of position. At least it’s magnetic, so it won’t break, and the cover seems very durable.
Powering the bike is a high capacity 700 watt hour lithium-ion battery pack. The cells are high-density 21700 cells arranged in a 36 volt 19 amp hour configuration. That’s a lot of energy to spend on range or steep climbs, and the bike spends it efficiently if you shift gears thoughtfully. The pack itself is a long cylindrical tube that slides up into the downtube from the bottom bracket area, securing with a 12mm bolt and standard hex key head. I removed the pack for photos and weighed it with my hand scale at roughly 8.4lbs. Unfortunately, the pack is not backwards compatible with first generation Turbo Levo or current generation Turbo Kenevo electric bikes. My guess is that we will eventually see the first generation batteries phased out in favor of this new design, and that means you may be able to get a deal on last generation Levo. Again, this pack does not incorporate a button pad and light ring like the older one. You either have to lift the bike or flip it upside down to remove the battery, since it doesn’t click up into the downtube like most other frame-integrated designs from Bosch, Shimano, and BMZ (as we see with BULLS products). One of the really neat parts of the Brose drive system is that they leave it open for custom battery integration and displays. Specialized has capitalized on this opportunity, and they’re big enough to make it work and provide a sense of support ongoing, but it’s not nearly as universal or cross-compatible as the Bosch PowerPack. This battery is priced around $1,200 all on its own… so be careful when removing not to drop, and keep it charged at least 50% if you know you won’t be riding. Extreme heat and cold can degrade and limit the performance of lithium-ion packs, so keep that in mind. Charging is pretty efficient because the bike comes with a faster 4 amp charger, and the compact size and ~1.9lb weight makes it easy to stow in a backpack. I believe that Specialized also sells a compact 2 amp travel charger that’s slower but smaller and lighter at 1.3lbs.
When you’re ready to power the Turbo Levo Expert up, make sure the battery is charged up, seated, and screwed in securely, then press the rubberized power button at the lower section of the Turbo Connect Unit (TCU). This unit is mounted on top of the top tube, and includes the necessary circuitry to pair with Bluetooth Mission Control smartphone app. Optionally, I’m told that users can also buy and install the Turbo Connect Display which is a little grayscale LCD with feedback about current speed, trip distance, battery percentage and more. I’ve spent some time with this display on the Turbo Como and Vado urban models, and it works well. Everything critical is summed on the TCU with 13 blue LED lights. There’s a stack of ten that represent 10% steps in battery charge level and a circle of three that represent assist levels 1-3 (the third being Turbo). So, the lower portion of the TCD has the power button, then you get the ten bars, and in the center of the assist level readout is another button that cycles through assist levels, but interestingly… it only goes 1-3 and won’t let you cycle to zero. In order to completely turn off assist while still keeping the TCU on, you have to use the button pad near the left grip. This button pad has an S at the top (which jumps you to assist level 3 immediately) and a + and – button that navigate up and down. Now, why would you want to navigate to assist level zero and still leave the TCU on? Why not just ride the bike without any power! I’m guessing that aftermarket lights could be wired in, or you could run the Mission Control app to interact with the bike and still keep assist at zero to conserve battery life. Anyway, those are the little quirks I noticed. The TCU is much easier to reach than the older downtube-side mounted control ring, and this one can be turned to stealth mode where the lights go out. That’s nice if you are riding in the evening or on a trail where people aren’t friendly to electric bikes. The Turbo Levo is truly one of the most stealthy electric bikes I’ve ever seen. It’s intuitive to use, the control systems are placed in such a way that they shouldn’t get damaged easily in the event of a crash, and they adapt to you vs. forcing you into workarounds like black electrical tape to cover the LED lights (which was apparently done by Gen 1 owners who didn’t want to stand out).
There’s always a lot to say about high-end electric bikes, so much thought has gone into the design, and so many aspects have been custom made vs. off the shelf. That’s absolutely true of the Levo lineup, and Specialized products in general. It’s neat to see ebike specific suspension and drivetrains (derailleur) that can withstand the forces of electric drive with added weight. The brakes on this bike are another highlight for me, because they offer 200mm rotors (larger for leverage and cooling) with tool-free adjustable levers. It’s the kind of component I’d expect to see at this price range, but it’s still worth celebrating. You want larger rotors when you’ve got such large wheels. The brake lines, like the shifter line, and electrical line, have been internally routed. Balancing out the SRAM trigger shifters on the right side of the handlebar is a shifter-like dropper post lever on the left. I much prefer this lever design to the above-bar levers on many competing products. As always, I welcome your feedback, corrections, clarifications, and deeper observations in the comments below and the Specialized forums. This is a space meant to be ad limited and open so you can share your bike, provide your own experience with Specialized customer support and dealers, and post your custom setup. Have fun out there, and ride safe!
- The second generation Levo frame design is lighter and stiffer than the first because they were able to route cables through the side-arm suspension design vs. the downtube, apparently they chose not to route through the top tube because that would interfere with the seat post
- No compromises here, I love that the frame has provisions for a bottle cage on the downtube and the stem has a pop-up multi-tool that’s easier to access than below the bottle cage like before
- All Levo models are now 29ers, the effective diameter of the wheel is very similar to the 650b 2.8″ plus sized tires but the 29″ x 2.6″ is more efficient and nimble, the lower attack angle allowed me to climb a set of stairs
- Significantly improved slap guard design protects the paint and alloy tubing on the top and bottom of the chain stay as well as the lower edge of the right seat stay
- Ebike specific RockShox suspension fork, SRAM X1 drivetrain with single-shift, and frame geometry are dialed in for the increased weight and mechanical forces of the electric drive systems… linear suspension performance with DebonAir, reduced mashing and drivetrain wear, and improved climbing performance are the result
- The Brose Drive S MAG is 15% lighter than the S ALU, more powerful, and yet also more efficient… it’s very quiet and smooth thanks to the Gates Carbon belt drive system inside, and it offers a narrow Q Factor and shorter chain stay length than some of the competitors
- Plastic chain guide reduces drops, along with the narrow-wide chainring, and is tool-free so you can perform maintenance easier than generation 1 which required a tool
- The SRAM X1 derailleur is lighter than Eagle, rated for E-MTB use, and includes a roller clutch that locks in for easier drivetrain maintenance (the little circular button with a lock icon on it, extend the derailleur and then press it in)
- Extra thick 34.9mm seat post fits into a wider, stronger seat tube and allows for longer travel dropper, it just felt sturdy and reliable on the Expert’s carbon frame
- Incredibly stealthy design… even more than the first generation Levo, the motor and battery are truly integrated into the frame which improves the aesthetic and sort of hides the fact that they offer assist, the LED control console can be switched to dark mode so you don’t have these lights shining when the bike is on
- Motor activation is very smooth and fluid (both powering up and cutting out), it’s much less noticeable than on some of the other mid-drive ebikes I’ve tested, there’s a new Shuttle mode that allows you to dial up torque at low cadence which is useful for climbing long fire roads with slower pedal RPM… but this will drain the battery a bit faster
- Tight tolerance on the battery pack alignment and locking system, you don’t hear it rattling around at higher speeds off-road, a sturdy 12mm bolt holds it in securely from the base, and it can be charged on or off the bike!
- Available in two distinct frame colors (matte black with green and grey with red) as well as four sizes to accommodate different body types
- Built with high-end lightweight materials like carbon fiber and M5 aluminum alloy, at roughly 48lbs you’re getting a lot of power and range thanks to the Brose Drive S Magnesium motor and 700 watt hour lithium-ion battery
- The Mission Control App works with iOS and Android, it offers GPS, trip planning (to arrive with a set power level remaining), troubleshooting diagnostics, and the Shuttle tuning option
- The bike is extremely well balanced, we weighed it using a hook connected to the nose of the saddle and it stayed fairly straight
- Extremely responsive motor, since it measures rear wheel speed, cadence, and torque I noticed that the chainring wasn’t spinning as long after I stopped pedaling and this is very important for technical terrain… on the flip side, the motor can support up to 120 rpm pedal speeds, so you don’t lose out when dumping gears for a big climb
- Very low top-tube makes the bike easier to mount and less dangerous if you have to hop forward and put your feet down, this is especially nice given the higher weight of Levo vs. a traditional unpowered Stumpjumper platform
- Boost hub spacing with 15mm front axle and 12mm rear axle provide a sturdy bracing angle for the spokes and stiffer, stronger performance overall, only the front wheel has quick release but the included SWAT tool makes rear wheel trail maintenance easy
- The brake levers have tool-free adjustable reach so you can dial things in on the trail as you need more control or switch from bare hands to gloves
- Vast network of dealers makes it easier to see, touch, and get fitted on the bike, excellent two year comprehensive warranty with lifetime frame and wheelset… Specialized seems committed to the ebike space as one of the first big players to introduce a bike way back in 2012
- Large oversteer bumper protector piece on the downtube near the steering tube, helps protect the tubing from oversteer (especially in the event of a fall) so the crown of the fork doesn’t wreck the frame
- I like how the magnet for the rear wheel speed sensor is connected using a little plastic arm off of the disc brake rotor mount vs. a spoke-mount because those get bumped out of place much easier
- The bike frame was designed to accommodate 27.5″ wheel size if you prefer that to the 29″ and there’s a flip switch on the rear swing arm that changes the geometry to fit correctly
- While the battery does lock in securely with the unique thru-axle pin, it does not rely on a locking core and key like all of the other city Turbo models, so in that sense it could be stolen more easily
- Limited display options without the app, you get 10 LED’s that show your battery charge level and three more LED’s that show your assist, older versions of the bike didn’t have a remote button pad, so you had to take your hand off of the grip to change assist… but the new Levo does have a S, +, – pad that is easy to click while riding
- Considering how minimal the integrated LED console is, how much juice the battery contains, and how cool the advanced Mission Control App is, I think a USB charging port that feeds off of the button pad or battery pack somewhere would be cool to help maintain your phone battery
- There’s no shift sensing built into the Brose motor controller and this can lead to increased chain and sprocket wear if you don’t back off a bit on your pedaling while shifting… I believe it’s the reason that Specialized opted for single-shift triggers from SRAM vs. the multi-shift Shimano levers
- In order to remove the batter pack, you have to either lift the frame or flip it over, this takes more time and energy to do and could be inconvenient if you store the pack separately from the bike (worth doing to avoid extreme heat or cold)
- The charge port on the bike frame is very low, so you have to bend way over, and it’s positioned in the path of the left crank arm which could snag and pop the plug out
- No provisions for a kickstand, this is a minor gripe considering the use case of this full-suspension electric bike (off-road where you don’t want rattling or extra weight), but it would be nice to have the option to add your own for easier storage or city use
- Official Site: https://www.specialized.com/us/en