TESTED: Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp Carbon 6Fattie
PRICE: R98 000
GET IT NOW: specialized.com
Specialized has never been a brand to sit around waiting to see how things play out. In designing its 140mm-travel Turbo Levo e-mountain bike, the company really went for it, delivering a bike that looks and feels similar to a traditional trail bike.
Prior to the Levo, the e-mountain bikes I’d ridden made it seem as though components, geometry, and suspension design took a back seat to the electric-assist motor. On the Turbo Levo, everything from its long, low, trail-focused geometry to its stellar FSR suspension is what you’d expect of a modern trail bike.
Generous 2.8-inch-wide tyres support the extra weight and power of an e-mountain bike, adding traction and rim protection when plowing through rocks. A clean, downtube–integrated 460Wh battery maintains close-to-normal looks, and a smartphone app allows for custom tuning output. A Smart Control feature within the app lets the system automatically distribute power output based on ride length.
The first Turbo Levo, launched in 2016 and the first to really test the SA market, was good enough to migrate forward with a few small tweaks. It had effective suspension, superb handling at speed, and electric-assist that came on smoothly, quietly, and predictably, even in Turbo mode.
Still, for 2018 Specialized gave the platform a serious refresh, including carbon frames on some models, a more powerful motor, a longer-travel fork, and updated software. Not only is the full-carbon frame 650 grams lighter (500 grams on the Comp Carbon we tested, with a carbon front triangle and aluminium stays) than last year’s aluminium frame, it’s 40 per cent stiffer in the rear and 20 per cent more rigid overall (claimed).
The new Turbo 1.3 motor has 15 per cent more power, due to new magnets and new electronics. Power output drops off less over the course of a ride, too. A new walk mode provides a little boost when you’re pushing the bike, and a new handlebar-mounted remote, for toggling the three pedal-assist modes and walk function, adds a second control centre.
On the trail, the Levo isn’t radically different from the original – and that’s a good thing. There are still no surprises as the assist kicks in or out – the highest mode, Turbo, roughly doubles your power output until you hit 36km/h, where it gently tapers off. Most of the motor improvements relate to heat management and battery life, so you won’t really notice them on the trail.
What you can feel is a steady boost that lets you climb impossibly steep pitches with ease, so you can quickly spin to the top of your favourite descent. Testers estimated getting twice the mileage for the same effort on a traditional trail bike. And you actually do get a workout – the Levo is good at getting you to pedal hard, because that’s when it gives back.