Specialized have just launched a new eMTB that is going to send reverberations through the bike industry – the Turbo Levo SL. They’ve created a bike that has the handling and feel of their Stumpjumper but added their own proprietary motor and battery to it – the end result is a 150mm travel, 17kg electric bike that looks and rides just like a normal trail bike!
Surely not I hear you say, its an eMTB so it’s still going to be heavy with clumsy handling? But no I can assure you (i’ve ridden it) that yes while this is a motor assisted MTB it’s on trail performance is on par with any other 150mm trail bike out there.
So how have Specialized achieved this? Well back in 2015 when they launched the Turbo Levo, the brains trust at Specialized decided that electric bikes were the future of our sport but also recognised the limitations of the heavy cumbersome nature of their initial offerings. So they set up an engineering department in Switzerland to begin designing their own E-system, that was lighter and more efficient than anything that was on offer from exisiting motor suppliers. 4.5 years later the end result of that idea is the Turbo SL.
Still not convinced well lets break it down a bit more. The engineers in Switzerland realised that one of the major factors that detracted from eMTB handling was weight, so they set about designing a new motor and battery system from the ground up. They factored in that most riders don’t require the ridiculously powerful turbo mode that the Levo offers so aimed to lower the power output of the motor to get its weight down. The paradox here is that the lighter the bike becomes the less power it needs, so small gains had big rewards. With less power, efficiency became paramount so they moved to gear driven motor (not belt like the Brose motor on the Levo) which spins a lot faster giving the motor a higher more natural feeling riding cadence (120-130rpm), they also switched all the battery components to 48 volt. All of this boosted the efficiency and dramatically reduced size and weight, the final product the Specialized SL1.1 motor comes in at 1.9kg and outputs 240w (35nm) of power, which when coupled with the Specialized SL1 320w battery gives 1hr 45mins of riding in the highest mode and up to 5 hrs in the Eco mode.
The smaller motor and battery has allowed a re-design of the frame, with a sleeker looking bottom bracket area and fully integrated battery for a slimmer downtube. However the front end of the Turbo SL retains the same Geo as the 2020 Turbo Levo but where the huge gains are achieved are in the chain stay length which have been shortened to 437mm (same as Stumpy 29er) from 455mm on the Levo. This 18mm reduction is the other key factor in transforming the SL’s handling.
The final pieces to the puzzle with new SL platform are the range-extender – A water bottle sized battery that fits perfectly into the bottle cage on the SL which adds 50% capacity to the main battery and increases ride range beyond the current Levo. And the re-vamped Mission Control App – the new software for the Levo SL.
The new phone app, is very slick and lets you tune the power output of the motor in the three riding modes to suit your style or local trails, it also lets you determine how you use your battery and range extender, e.g. you can choose to drain the range extender first (then hide it in the bushes and keep riding) or you can use both batteries at the same time. Plus it has all the standard ride recording and diagnosing tools that it’s always had.
The end product a beautiful looking steed that looks much more like a Stumpjumper than a Levo, in fact at times it’s hard to tell this bike is an eMTB. I was going to quote the usual cliche about Specialized raising the bar again but with the Levo SL they haven’t, they’ve created a new bar and a new category of e-mountain bike one that blurs the line between trail bikes and eMTBs.
This bike is a game-changer and is going to have a lot of brands and motor manufacturers scrambling but the scariest thing is its a glimpse into the future as to where all bikes are heading.
And yes we were lucky enough to be in South Africa two weeks ago riding the SL, but we’ll run all our first ride impressions in a separate post as there’s a whole lot of info in this post already. Watch this space…
It’s in shops in NZ now and is available in three models –
The S-Works – $20 300
The Expert – $14 300
The Comp – $10 500