Specialized’s New Superlight E-MTB Will Drive Performance and Debate

If you’ve kept an eye, perhaps a wary one, on the e-mtb’s rise in popularity in recent years, you’ve likely assumed there would come a day when motors and batteries became so small, it’d be difficult to tell an e-bike from a traditional one.

The new Specialized Turbo Levo SL has pushed the bike world awfully close to that day.

At only 38.25 pounds (for the pricey S-Works model, more on that in a moment) with a barely noticeable belly hiding the motor, the Turbo Levo SL is only a few pounds heavier than a burly alloy downhill bike. With a new smaller, lighter 240-watt motor, it also provides less pedal assist power than its bigger, heavier predecessor, the Turbo Levo, uh, not SL, which runs a 565-watt powerplant. The svelte model also has a smaller and lighter battery, a 320wh version compared to a 700wh in its heavier sibling.

That smaller motor means a motorized assist that’s rated at twice your pedaling power; the larger motor in the older Turbo Levo pushes you along at four times your human-powered input. The smaller battery means, of course, half the range. Range estimates for e-bikes are fairly useless as there are so many variables, but Specialized claims 5 hours of battery life on eco mode. Your mileage, et cetera.

Interestingly, a range-extending external battery is available and it slides right into a holder that resembles a water bottle cage. Or perhaps is an actual water bottle cage. At any rate, it adds an additional 160wh to the internal battery and weighs an additional two pounds—not significantly more than a big, full water bottle.

Sure, the downtube is a bit beefy and it looks like it has a beer belly, but we’re clearly not far from an e-mtb with no visible motor.

As for nuts and bolts specs, the 29er comes with and is apparently designed for 2.3″ tires. There are 150mm of travel front and rear. Geometry is relatively slack with a 65.5-degree head tube angle (adjustable with a flip chip) and a 74.5-degree seat tube angle. Reach on a size large is 455mm. The chainstays are shorter than the larger Turbo Levo at 437mm compared to 455mm. From pictures, the bike looks a great deal like the Stumpjumper.

Costs are kinda all over the place, depending on build and spec, but they start out stratospheric and end up somewhere near the orbit of Jupiter. The base model, alloy, weight unknown, comes in at $6,525. The S-Works version that weighs 38.25 pounds, will cost the buyer $13,525, but it comes with one range extender, so—bargain! If you’d like to be one of 250 exclusive members of the $16,525 club you can pick up the Founder’s Edition with AXS and custom saddle, among other goodies. Not surprisingly, the S-Works logo on that Rolls Royce version is stamped in gold leaf.

Forgive the marketing hype fog effects but there’s the little motor tucked away.

So, specs and price out of the way, what does it mean that this bike has far less power, but is still powered? It counts as a level-one e-bike, with pedal assist topping out at 20mph, but it will take twice as much effort to get to that point versus its more powerful stablemates. This seems like a bike that really just rounds the sharp edges off serious climbs, or makes mindless fireroad trudges whip by just a little bit faster. It’s easy to imagine a novice rider on one of these being outpaced on a stiff climb by a badass on a xc bike. Maybe. The smaller motor too makes it appear as though it’s a traditional mountain bike, not that appearance matters, except that it may be difficult for land managers, rangers, what have you to tell this is an e-bike if riders try to take one on trails that don’t allow powered bikes.

Will those who oppose e-bikes on trails be as adamantly against bikes with lesser power numbers? Impossible to say, but we’re certainly curious. The day is coming, sooner, it now appears, than later, when it’ll be impossible to tell which bikes are powered and which aren’t. This bike just turboed us a bit closer.

We haven’t ridden one yet, but we hope to and can then report back with whether this is a hoot, an existential mtb crisis, or something in between.

Photos courtesy Specialized.



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