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Trail and Enduro Bikes

Specialized Turbo Levo e-bike Review

You ain't gonna like this...

Is it a mountainbike? Probably. In fact it’s more mountain bike than ever before. Steven Jones finds out it’s certainly no time to be an angel.

Having weathered the first round of attacks from the electrical killjoys I decided not to retreat into a cave, put pen to paper or even employ Charlie the carrier pigeon to get this electric bike story up. In fact I went as far as far as catching an Airbus 380 back from Utah rather than commandeering a sailing boat to get us back across the Atlantic smuggling the bird on board in the process.

Off the back of a truly ridiculous amount of riding in some of the toughest and most iconic terrain on the planet, with an affable bunch of guys ranging from 23 to 67 years, and with absolutely no intentions of setting up a resistance against such bikes – comes this quick summary of the bike we rode – the Turbo Levo.

Skirting the iron red vertical cliffs and hooded by deep blue skies, we had skipped up the side of Colorado river at a fair old lick before the trail rose steeply over boulders and massive slab sections, the three-inch Purgatory tyres warmed by spring heat and hunting down grip. A super technical combination of rock steps offered up a completely new challenge, one normally taken on foot. The bike caterpillaring over the first sequence of rocks, a quick check on body position counterweights the front and gentle pressure onto the pedal gets the section nailed feet up. E bikes adds another fun dimension to the ride.

 

Chassis/Suspension. Featuring similar 135mm travel to its 6Fattie colleague the Turbo Levo comes in with classic all-action Specialized trail geometry. A slack 66.5 degree head angle houses the impressive Yari fork on this version, although the S Works features Pike. The 342mm bottom bracket holds the shorter 165mm cranks in position whilst the 459mm rear is relatively short for a bike of this type. Bigger brake rotors and a stiffer suspension tune are there due to the added weight of the bike because of the motor fitted. It’s still under 50lbs.

In terms of the motor there is no display to distract your attention on the handlebar and all the basic functions are carried out via a simple switch on the side of the battery pack. This offers up three modes – economy, trail and turbo – which hardly needs explaining but for the record trail puts out roughly 50% less power than turbo a whilst eco is 20% less again. The key here however is the bike still requires the power from your legs to be inputted so think the more power you put in the faster you go. No change there then.

The battery pack is housed discretely in the downtube and the cam style fixing means there is no rattle from this bike like others on the market. The motor is low and the housing crazy stiff for rock impacts, so strong they didn’t add a protector and the side to side bracing is insanely tough too. Close by the chainstays are also well protected with rubber style shrouds.

In terms of battery range, well that largely depends on how many watts you can deliver through those cranks and obviously the mode you ride the bike in. If however you do have range anxiety then simply programme the battery in to the length and height of climb you are embarking on and the battery sticks to the plan. Power is 250 watts nominal.

Joe Buckley. Slick Rock

Limitations. The bike has to sense torque and speed, this is something required by law and during our quick outing found it’s not 100% fool proof just yet. There were a few occasions particularly when changing gear uphill that the motor didn’t want to play. But the lag was only fleeting and his is largely overcome by getting tuned into the ways of the bike, get it right and it doesn’t happen meaning you can spin up crazy slopes.

 

Feeling. The first fifteen miles on the Levo left me breathless. This was partly down to the company I was keeping and the intensely technical terrain that would normally have led me to resorting to methods more on foot than pedal. Going at it for over an hour had a big impact on my arms due to charging hard on the descents. This is a physical aspect to riding these bikes that is often overlooked.

Using the Levo is slightly different to some electric bikes I’ve ridden previously in that the motor doesn’t interfere with your flow on descents. This is a good thing. Climbing takes a few runs to tune into the methods and ways of the system, but very simply you get your gear and spin out the climbs. It’s not effortless but the scale and steepness of the climbs as well as the level of technicality can be much steeper, longer and more advanced with this bike. Flow becomes an uphill way of the wheel as well.

The bike’s motor isn’t fully silent but then neither are the tyres as they hunt down grip, having said that, this is certainly the most quiet and rattle free electric bike I’ve ridden so far. Descending the Levo is beautifully stable and the grip offered by the 3.0 tyres is excellent although I understand there are even better compounds in the pipeleine. In terms of range or battery life the Levo is impressive and we did thousands of feet both up and down.

Francis Cebedo - Slick Rock, Moab

Verdict. It’s true that I frequently build and ride non-designated trails, so even if I was fiercely anti – e then I’m not going to bother claiming some moral territory here on this bike. Call me a dirty cheat or whatever you wish but it’s not going to change the reality that the Turbo Levo is very much a fact on the ground.

If you’re a two wheel nut then there’s many angles to this bike to enjoy, the same as most two wheelers I’ve ridden or competed on – road bikes, motor bikes (trials/motocross/enduro/road), cross country bikes, cyclo cross bikes, mountain bikes. You name it, its all great stuff.

This particular bike is all about quality time. Having done four days riding in two puts it into perspective to a degree. And whilst its true that the fittest still rise to the top with e bikes one of the great aspects of the trip was that the group was rarely separated by more than few hundred metres. Given the mixed range of ability and age it proved that e bikes can also bring riders together rather than push them apart.

And the bike? The Levo has superb angles, great poise and silence. The motor does take getting used to and caught me out on a few occasions but it was hardly worth harping on about too much. As a system its not quite perfect but its pretty close. For those who really want to get into the complex detail and setting up via Specialized’s Mission control which gets everything tuned in via your phone then there’s that to explore too but for me on this occasion the aim was simply to get a ton of riding done and tuned into the motor characteristics.

Two days puncture free on some of the most technical riding ever, avoiding smelly uplifts. Can’t be bad. I cannot actually believe how much fun riding this bike is, its going to provide lots of people an insane amount of fun, it looks like a mountainbike and rides like a mountainbike and isn’t that much more expensive than one without a motor. People who don’t want fun should stay well away from the Levo.

It’s no time to be an angel.

Turbo Levo from £4000

www.specialized.com

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