After four months on the 2019 Levo Expert, we think we have a pretty good understanding of what makes it tick, rip, and set apart from the rest.
The not-so-minor details
Specialized Turbo Levo Expert
Our pick of the current crop of e-bikes.
Refined and aesthetically pleasing.
Mission Control App.
SRAM Code R lever feel.
Still not 100% on 29" wheels for e-bikes.
This bike has become an outstanding member of the long term test fleet, a travelling companion and adventure partner like no other. And when it’s not pushing the boundaries of mountain biking in far-flung destinations, we’ve appreciated incorporating it into our regular mountain biking lifestyle. We’re enjoying the whole e-mtb thing, and from where we sit, we can watch with a keen eye to what emerges from this fascinating new world of bikes with motors and batteries.
The e-mtb segment is rapidly heating up, and Specialized has more competition than ever, though we feel that this Levo is the most refined e-bike we’ve ridden to date. They seem to be ahead of the game to a degree, and while they aren’t cheap at all, they are dialled and refined.
On-trail performance is one thing, but what also interests us is how the major brands are creating these bikes as a holistic package, incorporating the other elements that make up e-bikes.
For our in-depth discussion on the 2019 model Levo, and comparisons to the 2018 one, check out the introductory piece here:
Simply put if we had to choose one e-bike out of all the ones we’ve ridden, we keep coming back to the Levo, let’s talk about why that’s the case.
We’ve had this Turbo Levo Expert with us for around four months now, and clocked up some hard miles made up of many fun and fast trail rides on our local trails and some unforgettable epic adventures around the Victorian High Country where we rode all day long, ten days in a row.
It’s also been a useful tool for us on video shoots carting around heavy equipment and exploring new zones further afield. We’ve also discovered a new appreciation of the endless moto trails in the state forests near Flow HQ, somewhat frustrating on a regular bike, but a whole new level of fun on one of these.
Let’s look at a few highlights: the range, the app, the suspension, the construction and tidy integration of the e-bike bits.
Just when we got used to e-bikes with 500W/hr batteries, the Levo comes out with a 700 on their higher end models. That is huge, extending the range with a longer lasting battery opened more possibilities for us, we could ride to the trails from home and still get a solid ride in, and all-day missions became even more epic.
In the case of an e-bike, extended battery life is always a good thing in our minds.
Once we explored the Mission Control App we quickly understood its capabilities, predominately when it came to fine-tuning the three power modes, it’s super easy.
We powered down the ‘eco’ mode to around 10-15% which we found ideal for longer rides where you want to get maximum range and work your legs harder. In a powered down ‘eco’ mode the motor pretty much makes up for the weight of the bike, and it feels like you’re working just as hard to climb and ride tech trails for the exercise.
We like how the app gives you an accurate reading of remaining battery, and the ability to turn off the beeps and lights on the display in stealth mode.
Jumping around between the e-bikes we have on test, the Levo’s suspension feels bang-on. The Norco sight VLT and Trek Powerfly LT are also great, but there have been countless moments where we’ve forgotten we’re riding an e-bike, as it seems to do away with that lumpy and overwhelmed suspension that heavy e-bikes tend to suffer from.
When ridden hard and fast, or landing large drops, it’s very impressive and composed and pulls away from the others when the trails get rowdy.
Just like the Stumpjumper, the Levo is smartly constructed and when in the work-stand it’s a pleasure to work on. The internally routed cable guides take the pain out of changing cables and brakes, and the frame is so clean and neat.
There’s also the space for a water bottle cage, and the SWAT tool in the steer tube is gold.
Electric bits in the mix.
Now, this is where the keen eye or e-bike critic will appreciate the keen attention to detail.
While some e-bikes can feel like you’re riding with an old Nintendo Gameboy strapped to your bars, and electric bits compromise on ergonomics and aesthetics, the Levo is ultra-orderly. The slim remote mode adjuster doesn’t get in the way of dropper post placement, and buttons and indicators integrated into the frame on the top tube are completely out-of-the-way, and we love it.
The speed sensor on the rotor bolts and pickup under the axle is nearly invisible, and no excess wires are flapping about, It’s nice.
Changed a few things.
After a few months, we couldn’t help ourselves and had to change a couple of things to milk more performance out of the bike.
The first thing we did was upgrade the SRAM Code brakes to the RSC with a much nicer lever feel, and we fitted a 160mm travel RockShox Lyrik in place of the 150mm RockShox Pike. While it is a heavier fork, the stiffer chassis made a big difference to the front-end stability of the bike. Under hard braking and heavy landings, the Pike felt a little too light at times.
The increase in height and travel didn’t seem to mess up with the geo, and we could drop the cockpit height down to help keep an aggressive position.
What we want to change next.
The dropper post has always felt like it’s full of sand and seashells when it settles into position, that’s on our list to sort out, and we’re keen to experiment with 27.5” wheels.
We’re still on the fence about the wheel size thing for this bike. Not like it handles poorly with 29” wheels, but there’s no doubt that a 27.5” e-bike feels easier to throw around tip into a turn. Stay tuned for our verdict on that, urgh, the wheel size debate again…
It’s time for a little maintenance love too, there’s a slight creak in the frame down there somewhere, noticeable when the motor power comes on and off, likely to be frame hardware or engine mount thing. We’ll come back to you on that one.
Otherwise, the bike has endured a LOT of riding in all types of weather, and it’s running sweet.
If you’ve got any feedback for us on this review, would like our thoughts on a particular subject or suggestions to try other parts and setup configurations, leave a comment and we’ll be back in a few months with an update on this kick-arse e-bike.