1st September, 2016 | by Phil Williamson
The Specialized Turbo Levo’s combination of trail bike performance, combined with a completely integrated electric motor and smart controls, make it one of the most exciting developments of the year. It is certainly the most eagerly anticipated bike that we’ve had to test and there was a real buzz around the office when we were doing the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp review.
One of the most striking features of the Levo FSR is the seamless integration of the electric bike motor and battery into the design. This gives the bike a much lower centre of gravity when compared with other electric bikes. Specialized designed the Turbo Levo from the ground up using a custom tuned, 250w Brose motor. The 460Wh battery on the Levo Comp is very securely mounted inside the downtube and can be charged both on and off the bike. The charging port features a magnetic connection which is both secure and easy to use. It is also worth noting that the Turbo Levo is currently the only full suspension electric mountain bike that offers room for a bottle cage in the main frame, which means that, if you can ride without a Camelback, this is certainly the best electric bike for MTB riding.
Model: Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp
Discipline: Trail electric bike
Rider: MTBer who wants a boost
Highlights: Ride further, longer and faster
The electric power boost kicks in as soon as you turn the pedals which can take you a bit by surprise when you first experience it, especially on Turbo mode. You can adjust the acceleration response, for more relaxed acceleration, using the Mission Control App, but once you get used to it, the rapid acceleration offers a more exhilarating ride.
You need to adopt a slightly different, smoother pedalling technique with the Turbo Levo, applying the power evenly and trusting in the electric motor to deliver the boost you need. This is because the power is only applied when you are pedalling and drops off as soon as you stop. I only found this an issue on tight switchback climbs, where if I entered the corner too quickly and had to ease off the pedals, the bike had a tendency to stall. It only took me a couple of switchbacks to work out my technique however and I was soon able to take the corners much quicker than usual.
No matter your fitness level or technical ability the Turbo Levo will allow you to ride further, longer and faster.
As with most e-bikes you get different power modes to choose from, but unlike most of the others there is no screen on the handlebars. Instead Specialized have opted to keep things simple while also offering more scope for ride management and motor customisation.
The battery charge indicator and the power mode selector are all neatly tucked away on the downtube, actually on the electric bike battery to be more precise. That’s it on the bike itself. It's is all you need, because you can connect the bike to your smartphone, via Bluetooth, to access the more advanced functions on the Mission Control app. This means that you have all the functionality without the fragility of a handlebar mounted screen.
If you really do want a screen on the bars then the Levo can also connect to your Garmin via a ‘fake channel’ and some models (Edge 520, 820 & 1000) offer full integration for your electric mountain bike data. There is also a Bluetooth remote switch available so you can change modes on the fly.
The Mission Control App (free from the App Store and Play Store) is where you access all the advanced features of the Turbo Levo. It connects with the bike via Bluetooth. Simple sliders allow you to set the Eco, Trail and Turbo (power) modes, you can also set the maximum motor current and the acceleration response. In addition to this you can enter the distance or time that you need the battery to last for.
Ride data is also recorded so you can see how much power the bike used (System Power) at any point in the ride as well as your own leg power (Rider Input) which is interesting to compare. Speed, distance and elevation data are also recorded and can even be viewed in real time if you attach your phone to the bars. Mission control can also upload your ride to Strava - in the electric bike section so you don’t get accused of cheating.
The Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp weights 23kg, so there is no denying that it is a heavy bike. It’s not heavy by ebike standards but the extra weight of the battery and motor make it over twice as heavy as an equivalent full sus MTB. That said the weight certainly doesn’t hold it back and can actually be an advantage at times.
The reason that weight is such an issue on a normal bike is due to the affect that it has on acceleration and climbing. Both of these issues are more than compensated for by the electric motor on the Turbo Levo as the electric power boost means you can accelerate and climb quicker than you can on a normal mountain bike.
The extra weight can actually be an advantage on fast rocky descents, as the bike holds it line and carries speed much better. The weight is low and so evenly balanced that stability while cornering is also improved. It is also remarkably easy to get airborne. While the bike feels different to ride it certainly won’t hold you back when gravity takes over and you no longer need the electric boost.
The RockShox Yari fork on the Levo FSR Comp doesn’t offer the same refined damping as the RockShox Pike or Lyric but is just as stiff and never felt out of its depth. The Fox Float Performance shock feels plush and it controlled the 140mm of rear suspension travel without and issues. The SRAM GX drivetrain offered reliable, if a little clunky, shifting with way more gear range than I needed with the electric boost to help me up the climbs.
200mm rotors on the SRAM Guide brakes helped to stop the extra weight and offered just the right amount of power. The Roval Traverse wheels feature extra wide rims to support the 3” tyres and are very easy to set up tubeless, so you can run lower the lower tyre pressures that plus sized rubber benefits from, without risking pinch flats.
The most striking thing about riding such a capable ebike is that previously boring or painful trail sections become interesting technical challenges. You can climb so much faster, so opportunities open up that just weren’t there before. I found myself looking for lines on the climbs in the same way that I do on the descents. The same is true of traverses and rises that you may otherwise cruise along to conserve a bit of energy. All in all, I enjoyed more of the trail on the Levo than I would on a conventional trail bike.
While the Turbo Levo FSR is based on the Stumpjumper, the extra power and weight combine to offer a ride that is very different. You can’t throw the Levo around in the same way as a regular trail bike but it does exude a feeling of self-assured confidence at allow you to push its limits. The Levo is very stable on fast rough descents and I was actually more confident smashing through rock gardens on the Levo than I would've been be on a Stumpjumper.
No matter your fitness level or technical ability, the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp 6Fattie will allow you to ride further, longer and faster. It will also allow you to conserve your energy on the climbs so you have more left for the descents. For me this meant that I could hit the descents feeling fresher so I was able to make the most of the sections of the trail that I enjoy the most.
Of course it isn’t a free ride and as you still have to turn the pedals on the climbs while also putting in all the usual upper body movements on the descents, you will still develop your fitness. You can put in as much or as little of your own pedalling power as you like, so you can choose how much energy you want to put into the ride and how much you want to save for the next one.
The obvious benefits are for riders who are recovering from illness or injury as it will allow them to get out and ride in ways that are not possible without that electric boost. Older riders who are losing a bit of their youthful zip will also benefit greatly from an ebike like the Turbo Levo.
Of course the benefits are not restricted to those who are struggling with their fitness as the Levo FSR Comp will enable you to have more fun no matter how fit you are. Also, if you spend more time riding technical sections your skill level will naturally increase. It is this ability to ride more trails in the same amount of time or to ride further with the same amount of energy means that all riders will benefit by riding the Turbo Levo 6Fattie.