Specialized Turbo Levo electric mountain bike review

The Specialized Turbo Levo Bends the Rules of Biking: Review

Filed under: Biking  MTB 

With a new frame, longer-lasting battery, and pedal-assist technology, the new electric mountain bike from Specialized helps you go farther.

It took me roughly five revolutions to figure out I was riding something different. The motor, barely audible, matched my cadence immediately, helping me climb the steep dirt hill out of the parking lot.

Person riding the Specialized Turbo Levo electric mountain bike

Akin to stepping on an escalator for the first time, I intuitively knew something was different. Downhill, the Turbo Levo looks, sounds, and feels like a mountain bike. But once you start climbing, you realize it’s a totally new breed.

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I spent a weekend riding the Specialized Turbo Levo on wet trails around Seattle, opening my eyes to the potential adventures the Levo opens up. Each battery lasted between 30 and 40 miles, giving me ample power to explore new trails and places.

Riding the Levo takes a second to get used to, with just three variable power settings. Otherwise, it works like a standard mountain bike, making it easy for anyone to hop on a ride.

In short: Get ready for a lot of fun. The Levo performs comparably to a high-end mountain bike. The team at Specialized modeled it after the Stumpjumper, adjusting the geometry for the added weight of the battery and motor.

Weighing in at 44 pounds — 8 pounds less than the previous year’s model — it’s not light to lift over a tailgate. But I barely noticed the difference while riding it. Redesigned from the bottom up, the Levo has a new chassis, motor, and battery. Combined, these features make it a ton of fun to ride.

Specialized Pedal Assist: Access Equalizer

Specialized Turbo Levo electric mountain bike

Last month, I rode a 3-hour loop along rolling cross-country trails with a group of mixed fitness and variable skills. The route had only a few technical sections. Almost anyone comfortable on a road bike would have been able to ride this trail. Less-fit riders would just take longer to complete it.

With the Levo, this wasn’t the case. The pedal assist is smooth and intuitive to use, enabling new or slower riders to keep up with a more experienced crowd.

Person riding the Specialized Turbo Levo electric mountain bike

I definitely consider myself average. Starting on the lowest tier of pedal assist and progressively ramping up the power, I took the uphills and downhills with more speed, letting the suspension travel farther and the wheels bite into the wet dirt as I rode around corners. On the flats, I used the pedal assist to catch up to my faster companions. At the same time, two other friends used it to remain close behind us. This kept the group from stopping much and allowed us to ride farther, together.

By the end of the ride, I was pushing the bike to my limit — admittedly probably not the bike’s limit — and returned to the parking lot, amazed at the potential a motor could add. I had half of the battery to spare. Had I had managed the usage better, we could have seen even more terrain.

I respect and understand why many outdoor enthusiasts give e-bikes a bad wrap. But this ride opened my eyes to the upside of a motor. It allows users access to new places and keeps groups together.

Specialized Turbo Levo: A Big Step Forward in 2019

I appreciate that from a first glance, I couldn’t tell the Levo was an electric bike. The battery is integrated into the frame almost seamlessly and can be charged on or off the bike. This small battery can amplify the power you pedal by over 400 percent.

The user experience of this system made some big steps forward this year as well. The pedal assist feels natural; there is almost no jerk or lag time between your foot pushing a pedal down and the bike increasing your power.

Person popping a wheelie on the Specialized Turbo Levo electric mountain bike

Specialized engineers also updated the suspension, which is quite smooth. The initial travel is supple for small bumps, and the midstroke support adds 150 mm of full travel for bigger jumps. What’s more, Specialized designed the suspension to aid on big climbs, transferring more weight to the back wheel. Overall, a new frame design, longer reach, and slacker geometry offer better handling in technical terrain.

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Perhaps the biggest improvement is increased battery life — 40 percent more, according to Specialized. I tested an earlier version of the Levo and was underwhelmed by the length of its battery, worrying it might run out in the middle of a ride. This time around, I noticed a notably longer battery life.

We rode close to 20 miles, and I still had a lot of juice left. The battery charge is easy to view on the handlebar display.

The Turbo Levo Downside: Prepare to Break the Bank

My biggest complaint about the Turbo Levo is the price. Models range from $5,000 all the way up to $12,000. While this price point isn’t unheard of in the electric bike world, it does mean that most consumers will never get a chance to ride one, which is a shame. I was fortunate to get to test the bike for a few days but otherwise would struggle to put together that kind of cash.

Two people riding Specialized Turbo Levo electric mountain bikes

Also worth noting is the weight. While this is easily forgotten when on the trail, it’s certainly a concern when lugging the Levo onto a bike rack or up a set of stairs. Although this probably isn’t a dealbreaker for many people, the Levo certainly weighs more than a traditional mountain bike.

Conclusion: An eMTB Worth the Big Investment

The Turbo Levo is a big step forward in the electric bike world. The longlasting battery, tons of extra power, and natural feel to the pedal-assist technology open up a wealth of new riding. And it makes the sport more accessible to more riders.

Cruising through flowy switchbacks and banked turns, I found myself dreaming of new places to ride and adventures that only the Turbo Levo would allow. For those looking to get into far-flung bike adventures or those looking to get started in an otherwise intimidating sport, this is the bike for you. That is, provided you have the spare cash to splurge on it.

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