- One of the stealthiest electric mountain bikes around with integrated battery and motor technology from Brose, available to demo and buy from a wide network of shops
- Responsive and zippy without producing a lot of noise, you don't get shift detection here but the motor relies partially on torque sensors so it works naturally enough
- The battery pack is completely removable, reducing bike weight by nearly 7 lbs and enabling you to charge inside with ease, front wheel offers quick release and you get some neat SWAT accessories for trail maintenance and rear wheel removal
- Tires are tubeless ready, seat post dropper has internal cable routing (along with most of the wires), frame is ebike specific with custom suspension, larger battery capacity than the Comp model
$0 (0 €)$18,000 (16,920 €)
0 lbs (0 kg)220 lbs (100 kg)
0 mph (0.0 km/hr)50 mph (80.5 km/hr)
0 watt3,000 watt
0 in (0.00 cm)22 in (55.88 cm)
0 Newton meters250 Nm
This was the second time I’ve been able to test ride a Specialized Turbo Levo model and thankfully I got some help from Garret and John at Rock N’ Road Cyclery in Laguna Niguel California and Erik at Peleton Cycles in Fort Collins Colorado where I ultimately purchased one for myself. These shops have some demo models and even do rentals. In addition to the footage shown in the video review above, Garret and Erik have gone off-road and spent time in the Specialized ebike clinic so I trust their insights. My takeaways as someone who focuses purely on electric bikes were that the Levo models, which rely on the Brose mid-drive motor, are extremely quiet and responsive. I didn’t feel quite the same zip and pull when starting that some other drive systems produce (namely Bosch and Bafang) but the integration is so clean and the power was definitely there to hit and maintain the top assisted speed of 20 mph, the ride just feels more natural. And! If you do want that zippy feeling, there’s a setting for acceleration built into the app so you can get it, just note it will take the battery down quicker. This is one of the few trail or mountain ready electric bikes around that actually blends in… all the way up to the bars but gives you access to the finer settings of how the motor works.
One downside of the clean integration is that display interface and interaction points are limited or cut out all together. To activate the drive systems on the bike and switch between assist levels you use a rubberized button pad near the top of the downtube (on the left side). Ten LED lights come to life when you power on the bike indicating how full the battery is. From here, you can arrow up or down to choose from three assist levels. If you change your mind about this setting once the ride has begun however… you either have to pull over and reach down or try to press the buttons while riding one handed. A part of me misses the up/down button pad that Bosch, Impulse and other ebike makers offer which you can click easily with your thumb while holding the grip. With the Turbo, I just don’t change assist levels as much and ultimately I’m less worried about crashing and breaking a display. You also give up the LCD display panel showing speed, distance, assist level, time, temperature etc. but Specialized has delivered a sort of solution to this with their Mission Control smart phone app. One of the coolest features about this app for me is that you don’t have to be looking at the screen to use it… you can turn it on, adjust your power settings and even map your ride and tell the bike to “not run out of battery” before you get there then toss your phone in a backpack and go. It’s smart, unique in the space and I’m sure it will only get better with time. The app also features Strava integration and keeps your rides marked as “electric” so nobody gets hurt feelings about king of the mountain stats. The upside to Specialized’s “no display or buttons on the bars” approach is that the bike doesn’t look electric, has fewer distractions and less parts that could get damaged as mentioned before. You forego any sort of USB charging but again, no extra wires running around… the bike is decidedly “pure” and devoid of clutter.
The motor and battery are completely built into the frame which looks great and they don’t rattle which is nice for a serious off-road ebike like the Levo FSR Expert. One potential complaint about the battery however, is that the thru-axle mounting point that is used to secure it to the frame doesn’t offer a keyed lock… so anyone with a hex wrench could steal your $800 battery if you left the bike unattended. Probably not much of an issue if you keep the bike close and use a u-lock through the frame, hopefully people will play nice or you’ll be keeping an eye on this $7,500 product. The Levo series was was one of the first lines of electric bikes to reach the US market that used the Brose motor and this motivated me to buy one. Unfortunately for my budget, the Comp version of the bike wasn’t available (sold out) so I got the Expert and ended up very happy about the upgrades. The rear suspension is custom tuned to the added weight and you get 11 gears vs. 10 as well as larger battery capacity! That means longer rides and less need for bringing along the charger. The included charger is compact, light weight and pretty fast, putting out 4 Amps vs. 2 or 3 on many others I see and test. I love that they chose to use the magnetic EnergyBus charging standard and feel that the charging port is easy to access (both on the bike near the bottom bracket and on the battery pack itself). The port is covered by a magnetic rubber plug thing so it stays clean and dry while riding. Note that the charging port on the bike is near the left crank arm so if you’re plugged in charging, you could snag the wire or even collide with the plug as the cranks rotate… but the plug will just pop out and nothing should get bent or broken because of the interface design. In addition to a removable battery you also get thru-axles on the front and rear wheels for improved stiffness and they have quick release up front. It’s nice to be able to bring the weight of your bike down when working on it and remove large components (like the wheels) when you need to stuff it in your trunk. Given the 50 lb curb weight of the bike, it’s worth using a hitch mounted platform rack if you can (especially if you’ve got multiple bikes going along).I also own a Specialized Stumpjumper which this bike was modeled after and I prefer the suspension on the Turbo Expert but of course miss the easy-to-lift weight of the non-electric model. I ride each bike a lot still but always end up going further on the Turbo. It comes down to who I’m riding with most of the time, my Girlfriend has a regular mountain bike and we train together as she’s preparing for a triathlon.
One thing I’ve been concerned about with the Brose motor system is chain, sprocket and derailleur wear because there’s no shift sensing mechanism. If you pedal hard and shift, gears mash (and that’s true on non-electric bikes as well) but when your pedal power is multiplied, even doubled, this damage can be more pronounced. Because the Brose motor listens for both cadence and torque to operate and cuts out extremely quickly when you stop pedaling, I found that easing off a bit and delaying during shifts worked very well. I also don’t have to shift as frequently when riding the Turbo Levo models because I can power through short climbs in higher gears and keep the speed going with motor assist. After an entire year of use at this point, I can say that the motor is holding up well and is still quiet and strong. I am careful with my stuff, haven’t crashed hard and have been careful with my shifting so the chain, sprockets and derailleur are all still original and doing great. One thing that really impressed me about the Turbo line is that they come in several sizes. Given their popularity, you may have to jump up or down in trim level to get the perfect fit but once you’re there, the bikes are awesome. I also love that you get a seat post dropper because it becomes even more useful when riding nonstop up and then down trails. The larger tires offset some of the heavier weight and smooth the ride. This is an electric bike that will take you further and ease the pain in your knees like the rest but won’t stick out so much visually or audibly.
A few little delighters I wanted to share include optional stickers (so you can keep the look calm if you want) and the SWAT tool and extra chain link in the stem cap! Surprisingly, there are a lot of e-mountain bikes on the market that forego bottle cages but the Turbo Levo models all have one. I tend to ride with a hydration pack but there are so many potential uses for bosses such as a folding lock, mini-pump or the SWAT bottle storage box where you can put accessories and maintenance tools beyond the little tool that’s included. I purchased an extra tube and mounted it to my saddle rails but ended up going tubeless on both tires to reduce the weight of the bike and lower the minimum PSI. My tires have gone flat a few times since purchase because my bike isn’t hanging and the weight just pushes down and slowly deflates the tires… check them frequently as you would a road bike, especially if you go tubeless. As a 650b “fatty” tire set here, you get 27.5″ x 3″ and they work well on soft terrain, you get more surface area and decreased deflection in rocky terrain. Sure, you loose a bit of efficiency with tires like this but you get such incredible range from the Brose mid-drive system that it doesn’t matter to me. Again, weight of the motor and battery are both low and center, right where you want them. Specialized has a great commercial with some professional riders using the bikes and the consistent feedback is that you just go further and have more fun… you can flow up the hill as well as down. I’m an admitted weekend warrior and my knees get sensitive so having assist means I can keep up with friends, ride to unique destinations and most importantly, blend in. Yes, I do wish the App would let you turn the control panel LEDs off, that’s the one area that stands out, but otherwise the bike is stealthy and super fun. One more quick shout out to John who is a mountain bike trail builder and maintainer volunteer in Southern California. He said that he’s used the Turbo Levo to help him carry more gear and get more done recently which I think it awesome. John, thanks for your contributions!
- 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 battery is rated at IP67 against water and dirt
- 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 and it rides more like a bicycle in this sense but it also feels less powerful sometimes (at least to me)
- Tight tolerance on the battery pack alignment and locking system, you don’t hear it rattling around at higher speeds off-road, the sturdy thru-axle pin holds it in securely, can be charged on or off the bike
- The frame looks beautiful in part because the cables and wires are all internally routed but maintenance is still relatively easy because the wires can be accessed directly in the downtube once the battery is removed
- Available in two distinct frame colors (matte black and gloss green) as well as four sizes to accommodate different body types
- The Gx derailleur utilizes a stiffer spring to reduce slap, this is important given the 11 sprockets (wider range of chain lengths during operation)
- Built around the four bar Horst Link suspension arm to reduce bobbing when pedaling, the frame is made with light weight but sturdy mountain bike specific M5 Aluminum
- The Mission Control App works with iOS and Android, it offers turn by turn GPS, trip planning (to arrive with a set power level remaining) and has Strava integration for the electric bike section of the app, the app also monitors battery health and provides traditional ride stats
- The bike is extremely well balanced, we weighed it using a hook that connected just above the motor and it stayed straight, note that the wider tires help to distribute some of the extra weight of this bike given that it’s ~50 lbs (depending on size) and may be ridden over soft terrain
- Extremely responsive motor, since it measures cadence and torque I noticed that the chainring wasn’t spinning after I stopped pedaling and this is very important given that there are no brake lever inhibitors and you may be riding the Levo off-road in some precarious conditions with hazards like cliffs, trees and large rocks
- Proprietary M5 Aluminum alloy is sturdy and light, sloped top tube lowers standover height which makes the bike easier to hold given the extra weight
- Unique “6Fattie” 650b wheelset with 3″ diameter tires offers increased traction, reduced deflection (flex in the fork) and improved rolling momentum, floatation and gap spanning
- Fully enclosed cable routing, everything from shift wires, brake cables, electrical and the seat post dropper wires are hidden and protected from snags
- Autosag feature on the Fox Float rear suspension makes setup easy… pump it up with air then sit on the bike and let the pressure equalize using Autosag
- While many electric bikes forgo bottle cage bosses (and nearly every full suspension ebike) this one offers them! Specialized managed to work in bottle cage bosses right where you’d expect them on the downtube and they toss in a right mount Zee Cage
- The motor and battery fit really well and have a high ingress rating so not only are they quiet (not rattling) but you’ve got some water protection… most of the cabling is drawn through the battery area so you can get to it easier if there are adjustments needed but it’s still protected, not exposed to the sun etc.
- The brake levers have adjustable reach and it’s tool-free so you can dial things in on the trail as you need more control or switch from gloves to bare hands
- While the battery does lock in securely with the unique thru-axle pin, it does not rely on a locking core and key so in that sense it could be stolen more easily
- Limited display options without the app, you get 10 LED’s that show your power level and assist level (1-3) as you click up or down, to change levels you have to take your hand off the bar and reach down which isn’t as convenient as an independent button pad up on the bars but does reduce bar clutter and keeps the bike stealth while reducing potential for damage during crashes or tips
- Considering how minimal the integrated LED console is and how cool the advanced Mission Control App is, I think a USB charging port that feeds off of the main battery port would be a cool addition to help maintain your phone battery, this could be mounted near the head tube or top side of the downtube out of the way for pedaling but close enough for a short power cable to reach
- There’s no shift sensing built into the software or hardware (shift cables) as I’ve found on Bosch and Impulse drive systems, this could lead to more chain, sprocket and derailleur wear unless you’re conscious about how you ride (ease off when shifting gears)
- I wish the LED lights on the control pad could be turned off, they stand out a bit and I’ve thought about covering them with duct tape or something so I could blend in more, they should put this feature in the App someday…
- Official Site: https://www.specialized.com/us/en/bikes/turbo-levo-fsr-expert-6fattie/113964
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/5rNCQHy8U8YTQRGe9