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e-Bikes

2018 Specialized Turbo Levo

Updates on one of our favourite ebikes

Tim Wild gassed-up the SUV and headed to New Jersey for the 2018 Specialized Turbo Levo Carbon launch and a full day of smashing laps on the rocks and features of Mountain Creek’s bike park. Details of the bike and first ride impressions are below. Check it, yo!

I think we know by now that ebikes aren’t a fad and that they are here to stay. If you were around in the mid 90’s you’ll probably remember the days when manufacturers pretty much reinvented their suspension bikes every year as they tried the next new thing to make the best bike.  It’s reassuring to see evolution rather than revolution year-on-year when it comes to ebikes.  And why not?  The bikes we’ve ridden have by and large been great, and big players like Specialized, Trek and Cube have great suspension and geometries to work from.

The 2018 Carbon Levo is a great example of this evolution.  An already good bike has been made better with a few tweaks.  I’ll spare you the full marketing spin and stick to the headlines; this new model has a lighter frame, better motor performance and a more customizable control App.

Let’s start with the frame.  Ok, I know that there are carbon skeptics out there especially when it is talked about in relation to stiffness, but the move to carbon has reduced the weight of the front triangle by 500g.  That’s not a small amount, and a carbon rear end drops a further 150g off the S-Works frame.  There is a general acceptance that ebikes are heavy, but if you didn’t want to drop half a kilogram from any bike I think you’re nuts.

The batteries, battery harnesses and speed sensors are the same on the new and old models, so you could interchange should you end up with both bikes.

The motor has 15% more power than the current motor and there have been modifications to improve ‘thermal balance’ and prevent it from overheating and ultimately reducing power.  This work on reducing overheating makes the motor more efficient so you should get better mileage from your battery.  We’ve had small reservations about the motor in the past‏, but we’ve found the Specialized to have the most reliable motor on long term tests, so it’ll be interesting to see how this version performs over time.

This year the tyres have dropped from 3.0 to 2.8 to improve grip in mud.  We didn’t ride it through any real mud so it’s hard to judge the improvements here.  The logic is sound, but having had 2.8 tyres just break loose without warning and send me drifting sideways towards a tree on another bike in the past I may not be convinced, but in the rock and hard pack they worked well.

As the drop in tyre size has lowered the front end a fraction the new models come with a 150mm fork.  The S-Works and Expert models have Ohlins front and rear, and the others have Rock Shox models.

The bike has no handlebar display, but it has a really, really neat level adjust which is something I like.  Big displays get broken in crashes, batteries run out in the display units, and as it’s all linked the display can be another point of motor failure.  This doesn’t mean you can’t fine tune the ride, the app is being updated (if you have a Levo, the new app is available to use right now) to give even more adjustability.  I won’t try and explain it here but in short, you can control how quickly the bike gets to its maximum speed in even more ways than before.  The other point of note is that you can choose how to talk to your bike with Smart Watch compatibility an alternative to your phone.

So, what does all this add up to?  First impressions are of a great bike with a lot of potential.

The motor is smooth and easy to get on with; some motors react very quickly to small pedal movements and in situations such as a tight corner that needs a quarter pedal stroke they can quickly run away from you. Not so with the Specialized, it’s always well delivered and predictable power.

The lighter frame is noticeable, and while we know that ebikes have a weightless sweet spot when they are moving, this bike was easy to control through rock sections and jump lines with the weight low and central.

The mark of a great ebike is that it simply lets you forget you are on an ebike and concentrate on the trail ahead.  After a short XC loop and a couple of climbs I just forgot about the bike and made the most of the mountain, riding like I’d ride any other bike. The 150mm fork and big tyres alongside the well-balanced weight from the motor and battery make for a confident and stable ride. I tried pretty hard and didn’t get it out of its depth, often surprised at what it bailed me out of.

Grip, good angles and good suspension make it a bike that is, fast, fun and can take a beating.  It’s well suited to UK trail riding and one that we are looking forward to getting our hands on for a full test.  Stay tuned.

Prices From £3500

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