Electric bike motors explained: comparing Bosch, Shimano, Fazua, Yamaha, Specialized…

Electric bike motors explained: comparing Bosch, Shimano, Fazua, Yamaha, Specialized and ebikemotion systems

Do you know your Bosch from your Shimano Steps? Your Fazua from your Yahama?

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Published: November 1, 2022 at 12:00 pm

There’s a range of different motor systems out there from different brands, all of which will help you enjoy the benefits of riding an electric bike. While there are a few big-name electric bike motor brands that dominate the market, such as Bosch and Shimano, there are also a number of smaller emerging brands that are gaining traction and market share.

Many bike makers mix and match motors from different brands across their range. Canyon, for example, uses motors from Shimano Steps, Bosch and Fazua in its ebike line-up, depending on the demands of the bike. Each motor tends to be selected for its performance characteristics and how well it fits with the intended use of each ebike model. Read our test of the best electric mountain bike motors for an in-depth look at the most popular systems used on eMTBs. Before you do that, you may want to check out our in-depth beginner’s guide, where we answer the question, what is an electric bike?

Electric bike motor and battery placement explained

Front-hub motors

Front-hub motors tend to be the preserve of electric bikes designed for commuting, such as electric hybrids and electric folding bikes. They’re also a common feature on cheap electric bikes. Many electric bike conversion kits also use front-hub motors.

Mid-mounted motors

Mid-mounted motors sit in the area where the bottom bracket is usually found. Mid-mounted motors are found across all different types of electric bikes. They work particularly well for electric mountain bikes because the weight is central and low down

Rear-hub motors

Rear-hub motors are usually found on hybrids and some of the best electric road bikes. Rear-hub motors look very sleek and, at first glance, it’s often hard to tell the bike they’re fitted to is an electric bike.

Battery placement

Batteries are usually mounted on the down or seat tube, or integrated into the bike. Russell Burton / Our Media

Batteries, meanwhile, might be mounted on top of the down tube or along the front of the seat tube. Internal batteries housed in the down tube that are either removable or fixed in place are also a popular option, particularly on mountain bikes. Some city hybrids often have the battery mounted under the luggage rack. A removable battery has the advantage that you can take it indoors to charge it, whereas you’ll need an electrical socket close to your bike to charge it otherwise. On the other hand, a non-removable battery may look neater, is better protected and less prone to theft.

Electric bike motor power and torque explained

Electric mountain bikes typically have high-torque motors to help riders tackle steep off-road climbs. Ian Linton

Electric bike motor power output is normally measured in watts. Electric bike laws in most countries state a motor’s continuous power output has to be limited to 250 watts. The majority of motors can put out over the 250 watts maximum power allowed, providing considerably higher peak power over short time periods. A motor’s maximum torque is the more important performance figure. The peak torque a motor is able to deliver also varies more between motor systems. Denoted in Newton metres, or Nm, this measures how much turning force the motor gives out. On an electric mountain bike, you’ll find situations where it’s important to have plenty of torque on hand to help you quickly get over obstacles and up steep gradients. The best electric mountain bikes typically come with higher-spec motor systems with higher torque output, and the same is true of electric cargo bikes. Electric gravel bikes or road bikes may not require as much oomph, or a manufacturer may choose to spec a less powerful motor to provide a more natural ride feel.

Assistance levels and displays

Bosch’s Kiox head unit gives a full-colour display with multiple screens and tons of information. Warren Rossiter / Immediate media

Electric bike motor systems typically come with a separate controller so you can set the assistance level you want. There are usually between three and five assistance levels, offering an increasing amount of power, as well as the option to pedal without assistance, useful if you’re trying to get fit on your electric bike. As you’d expect, the less assistance you dial in, the longer the ebike’s battery will last. It’s a good idea to dial it up when you hit obstacles such as a hill or for stop/start riding, and drop it down again when the terrain is easier. Some systems have an option called ‘boost’ or ‘turbo’ mode. This gives you extra power above 250 watts to help with quick starts or steep climbs.

An ebike display will tell you what mode you’re in, how fast you’re going and how much battery power you have left. Ian Linton / Immediate Media

The controller usually sits on the bike’s handlebar, although some are set into the top tube. Designs vary from those that give you a screen with loads of stats, sometimes including navigation, through to a minimalist single button and LEDs to show battery and assistance levels. Most electric bike motor systems come with an app, which you can use to monitor their status and battery life. Some allow you to change settings such as the amount of assistance you get at each level, and some use your smartphone as the controller for the ebike. Many apps give you navigation, ride stats and other data too.

Mid-drive motor systems

The key electric motor brands using mid-drive motor placement are Bosch, Shimano Steps and Fazua. It’s an option chosen by other brands who produce their own motor systems, such as Giant and Specialized.

Bosch electric bike motors explained

Bosch has six different variants of its mid-drive motor unit, with some having hub gear and derailleur gear variants. Most are limited to 25kph (the legal limit for electric assistance in the UK, the EU and Australia). The Performance Line Speed motor is limited to 45kph for use in speed pedelec bikes. All offer four levels of assistance, with the maximum torque on offer ranging from 40Nm for the Active Line units up to 85Nm for the Performance Line CX. Motor weights are between 2.9kg and 3.2kg. You’re more likely to see the Performance Line CX motors on electric mountain bikes and electric gravel bikes, which demand plenty of torque. Bosch Active Line motors are more commonly seen on electric hybrid bikes. Bosch has packaged together its Performance Line CX motor, Flow app, remote control, Kiox 300 head unit and batteries with up to 725Wh capacity into what it calls its Smart System. This is designed to offer chronic tinkerers the greatest level of customisation possible.

Bosch’s PowerPack batteries are designed to be mounted on top of the bike’s down tube or under a rear rack. Bosch PowerTube batteries are housed inside the frame. There’s the option to add a second battery in some cases, to boost range. The six controller options are designed to be mounted either on the bike’s handlebars or, in the case of the System Controller, integrated into the top tube and include LED displays. Three apps enable you to use your smartphone to control and monitor the motor. You can find Bosch motors fitted to ebikes from many brands, including Cannondale, Canyon and Cube.

Bosch electric bike motor specs

Bosch Performance Line CX 2.9kg 250 watts 85Nm
Bosch Performance Line Speed 2.9kg 250 watts 85Nm
Bosch Performance Line 3.2kg 250 watts 75Nm
Bosch Cargo Line 2.9kg 250 watts 85Nm
Bosch Active Line Plus 3.2kg 250 watts 50Nm
Bosch Active Line 2.9kg 250 watts 40Nm

Shimano Steps electric bike motors explained

Shimano has targeted its Steps motor system at urban and eMTB riders, although it’s now expanding its support to e-road and e-gravel bikes too, offering integration with its Di2 electronic groupset shifters.

There are five motors available. The mountain bike-oriented E7000 and latest EP6 and EP8 models come with 60Nm or 85Nm torque and a large-capacity battery of up to 630Wh. This can be mounted either externally on the down tube or within the frame.

The EP801 motor (more commonly known as EP8) replaced Shimano’s original EP8000 motor. This matches the 85Nm torque output of Bosch’s highest-output Performance Line CX, while dropping the weight from the other MTB-oriented Steps motors.

The Q-factor (the distance between the pedals) is also narrower for better ergonomics. Maximum range has also been upped by 20 per cent.

Shimano says the new EP6 motor provides the output of the EP8 in a more affordable package. It’s slightly heavier though. Both the EP6 and EP8 motors offer features such as automatic shifting when paired with an electronic groupset, and a system to allow shifting without needing to pedal.

Meanwhile, the E6100 motor is aimed at hybrid ebikes. Weighing 2.8kg, it gives 60Nm torque and can offer automatic gear shifting when paired to a Di2 groupset. Like the MTB units, it can be powered by batteries with between 418Wh and 630Wh capacity. Thse can be mounted on a pannier rack, or on external or internal frame mounting.

The EP8 Cargo, EP6 Cargo and E6100 Cargo are – as the name suggests – designed for use on cargo bikes. These give higher torque from lower speeds compared to the standard units.

Shimano offers connectivity with third-party batteries for higher capacity heading up to 1,000Wh or more for electric cargo bike use.

Finally, the E5000 motor, with lower torque, is designed for use on electric hybrid bikes.

Shimano Steps motors specs

Shimano Steps EP8 (EP801) 2.7kg 250 watts 85Nm
Shimano Steps EP6 (EP600) 3.0kg 250 watts 85Nm
Shimano Steps E7000 2.8kg 250 watts 60Nm
Shimano Steps E6100 2.8kg 250 watts 60Nm
Shimano Steps E5000 2.4kg 250 watts 40Nm

Fazua electric bike motors explained

Fazua’s lightweight motor is most commonly found on electric road and hybrid bikes. Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Fazua currently offers a range of three motors. The German brand’s kit is used on a number of top-drawer ebikes, from the likes of Pinarello, Look and Trek.

Their low weight, internal placement and small profile make them a popular choice for electric road bikes. The Fazua system’s progressive assistance is often cited as replicating the sensation of riding a non-assisted road bike. They can also be found on some hybrids and electric mountain bikes.

The motor sits at the bottom end of the down tube, with the battery housed further up the tube. Both are removable as a single unit in the original Evation and Ride 50, so you can potentially ride your ebike like a non-assisted bike too.

The motor supplies power via a proprietary bottom bracket that provides two-sided torque and cadence measurement.

Fazua offers both bar-mounted and top-tube integrated controllers. There’s also a Boost button that lets the unit hit 450 watts while it’s held down.

Fazua’s latest motor is the Ride 60. This offers 60Nm torque from a motor weighing 1.96kg paired with a 432Wh battery weighing 2.3kg.

Unlike the Evation and Ride 50, the bottom bracket and motor unit are a single piece, so there’s no option to remove the motor.

The Fazua Ride 50 has 58Nm torque and the motor weighs 1.8kg. It’s powered by a 252Wh battery weighing 1.4kg. There are two versions, the Trail and Street, which are tuned differently for the different needs in these two environments.

Finally, there’s the original Fazua Evation motor and battery with 55Nm torque and weighing 4.6kg for the motor, battery and drive pack. We’re likely to see this replaced over time by Fazua’s newer units, because these have the same form factor but offer improved output characteristics.

Fazua specs

Ride 60 2.0kg 450 watts 60Nm 430Wh 2.3kg
Ride 50 Trail/Street 1.8kg (plus 1.2kg for the bottom bracket) 350 watts 58Nm 252Wh 1.4kg
Evation 1.9kg (plus 1.3kg for the bottom bracket) 450 watts 55Nm 252Wh 1.4kg

Yamaha electric bike motors explained

Yamaha makes five different motor systems, with Giant and Haibike being the major users of its motors (though Giant rebrands the motors as its own).

Torque output ranges from 85Nm for its PW-X3 motor, which is geared towards eMTBs, through to 50Nm for the PWseries CE.

There’s also the 45kph PW-X2, which offers 500 watts maximum power.

Yamaha’s electric bike motors are paired with a range of batteries with between 400Wh and 600Wh capacity. These can be mounted internally or externally.

There are three controller options with bar-mounted displays, two of which have a separate bar-mounted remote. This can be sited closer to the handlebar grips for ease of use when riding.

Yamaha electric bike motor specs

Yamaha PW-X3 2.8kg 250 watts 85Nm
Yamaha PW-X2 45 3.1kg 500 watts 80Nm
Yamaha PWseries TE 3.4kg 250 watts 60Nm
Yamaha PWseries CE 3kg 250 watts 50Nm
PWseries S2 2.9kg 250 watts 75Nm

Specialized electric bike motors explained

Specialized’s own-brand Turbo SL 1.1 motor is considerably lighter than most other designs. Oli Woodman / Immediate Media

Specialized uses its own-brand motors in its ebikes. The motors are manufactured by German brand, Brose. They come in two flavours.

The more powerful range of motors is used in Specialized ‘4x You’ ebikes.

The lighter-weight, less powerful motor is used in its Turbo SL ebikes, which Specialized calls 2x You to reflect the lower level of assistance on offer.

The lighter-weight SL 1,2 motor has a torque output of 35Nm and is powered by a 320Wh battery.

Specializes says the latest-generation, heavier-duty 2.2 motor is 15 per cent smaller and 11 per cent lighter than its predecessor. It can put out 565W peak power (250W continuously rated) and 90Nm peak torque. Specialized also uses the slightly less powerful 2.0 motor in some of its ebikes, including the Turbo Tero urban/mountain bike, which has 70Nm peak torque.

The more powerful models are paired with batteries between 500Wh and 710Wh. Quoted ranges are around 130km for hybrid and road bikes, and around five hours ride time for eMTBs. According to Specialized, the range of its e-road bikes can be extended up to 195km or more with its Range Extender, which sits in the bottle cage.

Specialized has its own displays too, along with Bluetooth and ANT connectivity for fine-tuning via the brand’s Mission Control smartphone app.

Specialized Turbo specs

Specialized Turbo 1.1 2.0kg 240W 35Nm 320Wh (internal), 160Wh (Range Extender) 1.8kg (internal), 1kg (range extender)
Specialized Turbo 2.0/2.2 3.4kg 565W 70/85Nm 500. 710Wh 2.5-3.6kg

TQ electric bike motors explained

TQ is a new entrant in the electric bike motor game. Its background is in robotics and aerospace.

The motor system debuted on the Trek Fuel EXe trail mountain bike. This was followed by the Domane SLR and AL road bikes. It’s also used by BMC on the Fourstroke AMP LT.

The TQ HPR50 motor uses a one-step direct drive speed reduction system rather than the more usual multi-stage gears or belts. TQ says this makes its motor lighter and quieter, and less prone to wear.

TQ quotes a motor weight of 1,850g, with a narrow 135mm bottom bracket width. Peak power is 300W and peak torque 50Nm. It’s powered by a 360Wh battery weighing 1,950g for a total system weight of 3.9kg.

TQ has a control panel integrated into the top tube and you choose between the three assistance levels via small buttons mounted on the handlebars. As usual, there’s a smartphone app, or you can use Trek’s own Trek Central app to control its ebikes.

Rear-hub motor systems

Positioning a motor in the rear hub works well on road and hybrid ebikes, where there’s not as much need to shift your weight around compared to riding an eMTB.

Because much of the rider’s weight sits over the rear wheel, there’s plenty of traction. Since the motor’s power isn’t going through the drivetrain, there’s also no extra wear and no need to beef it up to deal with the motor’s torque.

The Q-factor of some mid-mounted motors can be quite wide (although motor makers have worked to reduce it to normal bike measures), so drivetrain alignment and rider fit can be an issue too. Placing the motor inside the hub gets around this issue because they work with standard cranksets.

Mahle ebikemotion motors explained

The Mahle ebikemotion system has a rear-hub motor, powered by an internal battery in the down tube.

Mahle now has two ebikemotion rear-hub motors – the original X35 and the newer, more compact X20.

The original X35 motor has 40Nm power output, while the new X20 ups that to 55Nm. Both systems have batteries of around 250Wh, while the X20 also has a 350Wh option.

The total system weight for the X20 is claimed to be 3.2kg. The X35 comes in at a claimed weight of 3.5kg. This low weight sees it specced on some of the lightest ebikes on the market.

Its compact size makes for a bike profile that’s not that different from a regular pedal-powered bike. There’s the option to add a bottle cage battery to double the range.

There are quite a few bike brands using the Mahle ebikemotion rear-hub motor in their road bikes, including Orbea, Wilier, Colnago and Ribble. It’s also used on hybrids such as the Cannondale Quick Neo, Lapierre E-Sensium and Wilier Urta Hybrid mountain bike.

The iWoc controller options from the brand include a low-profile button mounted on the top tube, as well as bar-mounted units. There’s BLE and ANT connectivity and an app that enables you to tune the motor, and has an option to control output based on your heart rate.

Mahle ebikemotion specs

Mahle ebikemotion X20 1.4kg 250W 55Nm 250Wh/350Wh 1.8kg
Mahle ebikemotion X35 1.5kg 250 watts 40Nm 250Wh 2.0kg
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Paul Norman

Paul has been writing about bike tech and reviewing all things cycling for almost a decade. He had a five-year stint at Cycling Weekly and has also written for titles including CyclingNews, Cyclist and BikePerfect, as well as being a regular contributor to BikeRadar. Tech-wise, he’s covered everything from rim width to the latest cycling computers. He reviewed some of the first electric bikes for Cycling Weekly and has covered their development into the sophisticated machines they are today, on the way becoming an expert on all things electric. Paul was into gravel before it was even invented, riding a cyclocross bike across the South Downs and along muddy paths through the Chilterns. He dabbled in cross-country mountain biking too. He’s most proud of having covered the length of the South Downs Way on a crosser and fulfilling his long-time ambition to climb Monte Grappa on a road bike

Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL review

Could the Kenevo SL be the electric mountain bike we’ve all been waiting for?

GBP £12,500.00 RRP | USD $15,000.00 | EUR €14,500.00 | AUD $24,200.00 Skip to view deals

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Published: January 30, 2022 at 9:00 am

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Our review

The Kenevo SL might be very, very expensive, but it manages to bridge the gap between regular bike and full-blown e-MTB brilliantly. Seatpost insertion depth is an issue, but otherwise, this could well be the bike we’ve all been waiting for

Pros: Superb handling – more regular bike than e-MTB; motor is smooth and Mission Control app adds adjustability; great, adjustable geometry; balanced, very capable suspension

electric, bike, motors, explained, comparing, bosch

Cons: The cost is seriously prohibitive (even the cheapest Comp model is £7k); not enough seatpost insertion depth and can’t get post low enough in the frame

The 2022 Kenevo SL from US brand Specialized offers riders the same big-travel capability as its highly successful Enduro model, but with some added assistance to make getting back up to the top of the hill that bit easier.

Up until now, creating a lighter-weight electric mountain bike that still retains the handling characteristics of a regular, non-assisted bike has, for the most part, been a dream rather than a reality. Specialized’s Levo SL is one of the few that seems to have achieved this hard-to-reach balance, thanks to its lower overall weight and smaller-capacity battery.

But try to name a lightweight e-MTB with loads of travel and you’d have been hard pressed to think of one. That is, until the Kenevo SL was unveiled.

22 Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL frame and suspension details

Taking inspiration from the Enduro, the Kenevo SL looks almost identical in many ways. The biggest difference here, though, is that Specialized has managed to discreetly squirrel away a motor and battery within the belly of the Kenevo SL, but more on that later. The Kenevo SL frame is built from the brand’s FACT 11m carbon, just like the Enduro, and uses the same four-bar linkage with two additional links driving the rear shock, though understandably, the layout differs a little in order to make room for the motor and battery. There’s 170mm of rear-wheel travel on tap and while, again, just like the Enduro, the rear shock pierces the seat tube, the Kenevo SL doesn’t use a trunnion-mounted unit. Specialized has added some decent under-belly protection to help shield the motor and frame from rock strikes. There’s more protection along the chainstay, too, but this is heavily shaped – something Specialized helped to pioneer – to help reduce noise and chainslap when the going gets rough.

The heavily contoured chainstay protector helps to keep the chainslap and noise at bay. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

Cable routing is internal, though saying that, as the S-Works model uses SRAM’s Eagle AXS gearing and a RockShox Reverb AXS post, this particular model only has brake hoses to deal with. The neat little rear fender should help to keep some mud and grime off the rear shock, too.

22 Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL motor and battery

At the heart of the Kenevo SL sits the Turbo SL 1.1 motor, which delivers 35Nm of torque (less than half the torque of a regular e-MTB) and 240 watts, and is designed to double your efforts in the maximum Turbo mode. Specialized has paired the lightweight motor with a 320Wh battery, which is integrated into the Kenevo SL’s down tube. If you’re concerned about battery life, Specialized offers an additional 160Wh range extender that can fit neatly into the bike’s bottle cage and extend total ride time to a claimed seven hours.

A small bar-mounted remote allows you to toggle through the three modes on offer (Eco, Trail and Turbo), as well as ‘Microtune’ the modes in 10 per cent increments. There’s also a Walk mode should the trail become unridable. Situated on the top tube is the neatly integrated, customisable MasterMind TCU display, which provides on-the-fly info, including speed, battery life, time, distance, etc. It’s easy to read and adjust, though only really when climbing or stationary.

It’s easy to customise the integrated top-tube display, which is really useful. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

Of course, we can’t mention a Specialized e-bike without a nod to the brand’s impressive Mission Control app. Pairing your bike to the app is easy and, by doing so, you’re able to tune motor modes and monitor motor health and updates, along with logging ride data. The app is intuitive to use and gives some great customisation options.

22 Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL geometry

Just like a number of other bikes in its range, the Kenevo SL uses Specialized’s S size range, which steps away from the more traditional method of matching rider to seat-tube height, and instead focuses more on the reach of the bike and your riding style. Thanks to shorter seat tubes and longer-travel dropper posts, this is now possible. That means at 172cm (5ft 8in), while I like to ride the S3 frame size, I could fit on a more agile S2 or a longer, more stable S4 at a push. Sadly, this wasn’t exactly the case with the Kenevo SL, simply because I couldn’t get the seatpost to sit far enough in the frame. That meant with the 150mm-travel post at full extension, the saddle sat roughly 5mm too high for me to be comfortable, which isn’t ideal. But even when you do settle on a frame size, the angles aren’t exactly set in stone. That’s because the Kenevo SL has masses of geometry adjustment that comes courtesy of angled headset cups and flip chips located in the Horst pivot (chainstay pivot).

Along with different angled headset cups, you can alter flip chips located in the chainstay pivot to adjust the geometry. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

The head angle can be changed from a slack 64.5 degrees to a super-slack 62.5 degrees in one-degree increments, while flipping the chip in the Horst pivot will alter bottom-bracket height by around 6mm, reach and chainstay length by 5mm. With my S3-sized test bike using the middle headset cup and set to the low position, it had a reach of 460mm, a bottom-bracket height of 348mm, a head angle of 63.3 degrees and an effective seat angle of just over 76 degrees. Making the changes to the geometry is straightforward enough (you’ll want to do it at home in the workshop and not at the trail head, though) and Specialized offers a dedicated page that’ll give you the geometry of your frame once you input which headset or flip chip position you’re looking to change to. In all, there are six different combinations to try out.

Geometry (middle headset position/low bottom bracket setting)

Seat angle (degrees) 76 76 76 76
Head angle (degrees) 63.5 63.5 63.5 63.5
Chainstay (mm) 447 447 447 447
Seat tube (mm) 400 420 440 465
Top tube (mm) 589 616 643 671
Head tube (mm) 105 115 125 135
Fork offset (mm) 46 46 46 46
Fork TRAIL (mm) 136 136 136 136
Bottom bracket drop (mm) 25 25 25 25
Bottom bracket height (mm) 350 350 350 350
Wheelbase (mm) 1,228 1,258 1,287 1,316
Standover (mm) 779 779 792 802
Stack (mm) 618 626 635 644
Reach (mm) 435 460 485 510

22 Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL specifications

Unsurprisingly, as the S-Works Kenevo SL costs as much as a deposit for a small house, it comes with some of the fanciest kit on the market bolted to it. SRAM’s wireless XX1 Eagle AXS drivetrain (with a Praxis Carbon M30 crankset) and the brand’s new Rocker Paddle, fitted to the right-hand controller, take care of the gearing. To keep cabling to a minimum, there’s a RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post there for good measure too. The S3 on test here sports a post with 150mm of drop but, unfortunately for me, it wouldn’t sit far enough into the frame to allow me to ride with the post at full extension (around 5mm more and I’d have been fine). The limited insertion depth certainly works against Specialized S frame sizing. on that later, though.

Specialized has added a small upper chainguide to help keep the chain in check when things get rowdy. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

Specialized provides its Butcher tyres, both of which are 2.3in wide and made from the brand’s GRIPTON rubber, though the compound differs from front to back. Up front, there’s the grippier T9 compound, while at the rear the Kenevo SL features the faster-rolling T7 rubber. Roval, Specialized’s sister company, provides the carbon Traverse SL bars, which come at 800mm as standard, though I cut these down to a more manageable 750mm. Roval also provides the Traverse SL wheelset. In recent years, Specialized has been speccing Deity stems and grips, and it’s no different here with the S-Works Kenevo SL. While the chunky stem certainly looks the part, at 50mm in length, I’d argue it could be shorter, especially on the shorter frame sizes. The Knuckleduster grips are easy to get along with, though. Stopping power comes courtesy of SRAM’s top-tier Code RSC brakes, which Specialized has paired with a massive 220mm rotor up front and a 200mm rotor at the rear. It’s great to see long-travel trail or enduro bikes come with big rotors, especially any that happen to have a motor and battery. Just as you’d expect for this kind of cash, the Fox suspension featured here comes complete with gold Kashima-coated stanchions and loads of external adjustment. The 38 Factory fork features the impressive GRIP2 damper, which offers high- and low-speed compression and rebound adjustment.

This neatly integrated fender helps to keep crud off the rear shock. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

It’s a similar story for the X2 Factory shock at the rear, but this also features a two-position low-speed compression lever to help firm the back end of the bike up when you’re climbing. Thanks to the integrated battery, there’s no SWAT internal down tube storage on the Kenevo SL, but Specialized has still included the SWAT Conceal tool, which sits inside the fork steerer tube and comes in handy more than you might think. All in, the S3 S-Works Kenevo SL seen here weighs 19.05kg (without pedals). My old size S3 Enduro Comp, which was tested back in 2020, weighed 15.86kg (also without pedals).

22 Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL ride impressions

I’ve been riding the S-Works Kenevo SL in a variety of locations and on a lot of different types of trails. These have included everything from steep, root-riddled natural tech tracks, through to faster, mellower tracks littered with berms and jumps of various sizes.

2022 Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL setup

Setting the bike up took a little bit of trial and error, with both the suspension settings and the geometry positions. In the end, I settled on using the middle headset cup/position with the low bottom-bracket setting. When it came to dialling in the suspension, once I was comfortable with spring pressures (102psi in the fork and 162psi in the shock), I found myself winding a little more low-speed compression damping onto the shock in order to keep the bike balanced. I ran both compression adjusters on the Fox 38 fork fully open, along with the high-speed rebound damping, too, and just one click (from full open) of low-speed rebound damping. At the rear, I set up the bike with close 32 per cent sag. While I kept the high-speed compression and rebound damping fully open, I settled on 14 clicks (from closed) of low-speed rebound damping and 11 clicks of low-speed compression on the X2 shock.

The AXS controller to shift gears is quick and easy to use, though you need to be careful with how it’s positioned on the bar to avoid it hitting your hand. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

The other thing of note was moving both AXS controllers away from the grips and a little further inboard on the bar. If they were too close, I found the knuckles of my thumbs getting rubbed by them, but too far away and the stretch to use them was just a little too much.

2022 Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL climbing performance

As I’ve mentioned previously, the amount I was able to insert the seatpost meant that I was unable to ride with it fully extended, which was quite frustrating. Yes, the RockShox Reverb AXS does make small adjustments to the post height really quick and easy, but it’s something that shouldn’t really need to be a consideration. I think switching to a lower stack post (such as the OneUp dropper) would negate this problem easily enough, though it’s not something I’d be eager to do after dropping £12,500 on a new bike. It’d also add a cable and could, by some, be considered a downgrade from the Reverb AXS dropper.

Annoyingly, the fancy RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post wouldn’t go far enough into the frame to comfortably ride with it fully extended. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

That issue aside, the rest of the geometry and fit figures really suited my 172cm (5ft 8in) height. I felt almost perfectly placed between the wheels from the get-go, which left me feeling comfortable and confident whether I was seated or stood up out of the saddle. On the climbs, the long front centre, lengthy back end (in the low setting) and reasonably steep effective seat angle help to create a really composed climber, and even when things got particularly steep, I never struggled with the front wheel lifting. At no point did I feel the need to flick the low-speed compression lever on the shock, because the back end remains pretty calm while seated and spinning a gear.

Less power, just as much fun

When it comes to the assistance on offer, I’d say that it’s subtle rather than neck-wrenching, and delivered in a very smooth, predictable way. As you’d expect, there’s some noise from the motor, which is what really gives the Kenevo SL away when you’re pedalling along the trails, despite its looks. I’d say the noise is on a par with most other e-MTBs I’ve tried lately (including the Nukeproof Megawatt and Whyte E-180). I got accustomed to it pretty quickly and soon was able to ignore it. In the Turbo mode, it’ll pretty much double your power, and feels similar but not identitcal to riding a full-blown e-MTB in Trail mode.

The bar-mounted controller is easy to reach and allows you to toggle through the motor’s three modes really easily. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

That means while you’ll be able to tackle more severe climbs than you might on your regular bike and not be breathing as hard at the summit, the Kenevo SL lacks the grunt to keep up with full-on e-MTBs, both in terms of outright pace and with the types of technical climbs that might be possible. But for me, that doesn’t detract from the appeal here, as this is a slightly different ride experience when compared to a full-fat e-MTB. That’s mainly down to how the Kenevo SL handles and the lower weight, meaning it never feels like an unwieldy monster when pointed uphill or when riding back down.

Grinding my AXS

My only comment regarding the spec and how the bike performs uphill is to do with the wireless AXS gearing. On the one hand, as a fan and early adopter of AXS, I can really appreciate the feel of the shifter and the precise nature of the gear changes.

As you’d expect on a bike at this price, no expense is spared, so it’s no surprise to see that Specialized has bolted on SRAM’s wireless XX1 Eagle AXS gearing and Reverb AXS dropper post. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

But under power, without the ability to really feel that change happening as you depress the shifter paddle on a cable-operated setup, I found myself wincing from time to time as I changed rapidly from one gear to the next. Don’t get me wrong, that can happen on other e-MTBs and with cable operated transmissions, but it definitely took me some time to re-calibrate and get my shifts finessed enough to avoid any hefty crunches.

Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL descending performance

Even with those extra few kilos, there’s no getting away from just how similar the Kenevo SL feels to the Enduro. Okay, there’s more weight to throw around, but there’s enough of a difference between it and a full-blown e-MTB that its handling feels more akin to its non-powered counterpart. And, just like the Enduro, the Kenevo SL feels like a big, burly bike that’s really ready to rumble. But this is no runaway train that’s hard to keep control of when fatigue kicks in. Far from it.

Agile but stable

Even with the extra weight that comes courtesy of the motor and battery, we were instantly impressed by just how agile and easy to manipulate the SL felt. Yes, it’s got some extra weight over a non-assisted bike, but that weight is nice and low in the frame and really helps to keep the bike stuck to the trail through the turns.

Specialized has designed this bike to essentially double your input in the Turbo mode. There’s 35Nm of torque on offer and a battery capacity of 320Wh, both of which are almost close to half of what you’d expect from a full-blown e-MTB. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

At the end of my battery-draining test ride, where I managed a reasonable 38km with 1,600m of climbing in the Kenevo SL’s Trail mode, I didn’t end up feeling like a passenger on the bike, holding on for dear life as I attempted to navigate the trail – a feeling I’ve certainly experienced on full-blown e-MTBs when fatigue has kicked in. Instead, I felt fresher and eager for more (which is, of course, totally possible if you swap your water bottle for the range extender battery that’s also available).

Sussed-out suspension

In terms of suspension performance, once I’d found both my preferred geometry and fork and shock settings, the Kenevo SL felt really well-balanced (I initially felt I was over the back of the bike too much with the bike in the higher bottom bracket/shorter chainstay length and struggled to weight the front wheel through flat turns). Making the change to the lower/longer setting really helped to remedy this. The low centre of mass (and extra mass compared to the Enduro), coupled with the supple action delivered by the Fox fork and shock, makes the Keveno SL incredibly confident through the corners.

Taking care of the 170mm of rear-wheel travel is the Fox Factory X2 shock. Like the fork up front, there are four different damping adjustments to dial in. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

There were times when I managed to miss lines and make turns tighter than I’d have liked, expecting to wash out entirely when I hit the corner or simply exit with next to no speed. But that well-positioned weight and impressively sensitive suspension certainly helped me get away with more than I first thought possible, which really helps boost flow, especially on trails that I was riding blind. A shorter stem on the S3-size frame would be a welcome addition, though. Specialized supplied its Enduro with the same stem originally, and switching to a 40mm unit made me feel more comfortable on the bike. Through repeated hits and on rougher tracks, the Kenevo SL manages to retain an impressive level of composure. The 38 fork’s supple stroke and well-supported mid-stroke is well-matched to the X2 rear shock. That’s not to say both dampers are perfect, though, as at 68kg with riding kit on, I found myself running both the rebound and compression damping on the fork almost fully open.

Fox’s Factory 38 fork offers four different external damping adjustments to help you fine-tune the feel. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

Other testers on our team who are heavier than me find this less of an issue, but for me, it does limit external-tuning potential. Fortunately, I was able to get both the fork and shock behaving just as I’d like (I like to have just enough rebound damping to keep things feeling controlled but still running nice and fast), though lighter riders may really struggle.

Little line adjustments

When the bumps do come thick and fast, the Kenevo SL feels nicely controlled and totally planted. But, unlike regular e-MTBs, the weight saving on offer thanks to the smaller motor and battery means that when you do want to adjust your line or pick up the front end of the bike to clear an obstacle, it doesn’t take as much effort as muscle. That’s a real plus for me, and what helps to make the Keveno SL stand out above its competitors. Like the motor, the bike isn’t as stealthy as some, and I noticed a rattle when things got really rowdy that I struggled to properly pin down. It’s by no means something that detracts from its performance, but taking time to properly soundproof the bike is worthwhile if you like a quiet bike. You will struggle to keep up if all your mates ride full-fat e-MTBs, but if that isn’t an issue for you and you prefer that more connected feel to the trail and the nimble nature of a non-assisted bike, then the Kenevo SL is a ridiculously impressive machine. It’s a different experience to a full-powered, heavier e-MTB – it’s more subtle when it comes to the levels of assistance on offer, which might not win everyone over, but if you were ever on the fence about electric bikes, this could easily be the one to win you over. Especially when pointed downhill. Exceed the motor’s speed limit and the Kenevo SL doesn’t feel like a drag to ride. It retains the manoeuvrability of a regular bike (though requires a little more effort to make those moves happen) and feels more than happy tackling mellower trails where full-powered e-MTBs can feel dull and hard work. In Trail mode, I managed to eke out 38km of riding with 1,600m of climbing. (without the range extender plugged in). Riding the Kenevo SL is still a decent workout, but just like any other e-MTB, it allows you to ride more of the best bits, which is really important if your time is limited. The ride experience is closer to that of a non-assisted enduro bike, which, more than anything, is what won me over.

Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL bottom line

The S-Works Kenevo SL is a seriously expensive bit of kit (Specialized now offers a cheaper Comp model for £7,000, which, although still very expensive, will appeal to more folk) and to a degree, somewhat of a different proposition to a regular e-MTB. In terms of ride experience, it’s more of a halfway-house between a regular enduro bike and a full-powered e-MTB, which should definitely appeal to purists who have been reluctant to try e-MTBs up until now.

There’s no denying it, the Kenevo SL really does ride a lot like a regular enduro bike. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

What does that mean on the trail? Well, if you’re riding with a group of mates who are all aboard regular e-MTBs, you’ll need to work seriously hard to keep up (and chances are the Kenevo SL’s battery will die before anyone else’s if it’s a long ride).

If that’s not an issue for you (or you’re really keen on working that bit harder to keep you with your e-MTB mates), though, you’ll be rewarded with top-class handling characteristics, well-composed and balanced suspension, brilliant (adjustable) geometry and a subtle but very welcome helping hand on the climbs back up to the top of the hill.

The stretched-out, slack geometry and supple suspension really make riding steep trails more confident. Steve Behr / Immediate Media

If that sounds appealing, then go to a shop and check the bike sizing out. While the geometry is impressive, the seat post insertion depth could throw a spanner in the works for some.

Specialized Turbo Electric Bikes It’s You, Only Faster

Specialized designs e-Bikes that are “You, Only Faster.” And they do it with a fully integrated Specialized e-Bike Technology System. Specialized e-Bikes are incredibly smooth and powerful, have near-silent motors, premium Li-Ion batteries, and superior connectivity solutions.

Seamless Assistance

Specialized motors are incredibly smooth, powerful, and quiet. They amplify your input and disengage when you’re over top speed, or in “off” mode, to create a ride that’s free of unnatural resistance. The Mission Control App also lets you fully customize motor characteristics to your personal preferences.

Ride Anywhere

With best-in-class range, all Specialized batteries feature intuitive charging solutions and an advanced Battery Management System (BMS) that ensures optimal performance for a longer battery lifetime and maximum range.

Custom Connectivity

Turbo electric bikes connect your bike via ANT and/or Bluetooth to the Specialized Mission Control App, Turbo Connect Display (TCD), or your other favorite third-party displays, devices, or apps. Get help managing your battery’s range, record rides, adjust motor output—it’s up to you to decide how you want to ride.

Road Gravel Super Light E-bikes

Specialized Turbo Creo SL

Flatten your climbs and laugh in the face of headwinds with the Turbo Creo SL. This mighty cocktail of light weight, power, range, and connectivity will turn you into a monster in the saddle. Nothing else on the road comes close. This is the future of performance road. Turbo Creo SL—It’s You, Only Faster.


with optional Range Extender

Specialized Turbo Creo SL EVO

Then Turbo Creo SL doesn’t stop being the benchmark in e-road performance just because the pavement ends. The Turbo Creo SL EVO, and its gravel-ready builds, will take you off the beaten track farther and faster than you ever imagined possible. Flatten any mountain—dirt, gravel, or tarmac.


with optional Range Extender


Specialized Turbo Como

Como is a laid-back, comfortable e-Bike with the power of a confident ride. Como lets you go with the flow by giving you a full-power, confidence-inspiring, utterly delightful experience on a bike that feels effortless to ride.


Specialized Turbo Vado

Vado is the vehicle for everything from daily commutes to fast workouts to longer-than-planned adventures—an electric bike for life. The smoothest-riding e-Bike experience yet, Vado is designed to boldly take on the ever-changing landscape you’ll encounter as a daily rider, carry whatever you need it to, and keep you riding more often.


Specialized Turbo Tero

Tero is an electric mountain bike equipped for everyday rides. A mountain bike that you can commute on. A commuter you can take touring. A touring bike that you can haul freight with. Whatever you need it to be, for wherever you want to go. A true do-it-all superhero, Tero combines adaptable utility with World Champion mountain bike DNA and category-leading electric pedal assist.

Rider Amplification: 4x You Range Up To: 6 hours Assist To: 20 mph Weight: 50 lbs


Specialized Turbo Como SL

The Como Super Light is a low-maintenance joy machine, equipped with everything you need for spontaneous fun. Carry it down stairs, zip across town, pack it full of groceries, it’s ready to take flight. It also just so happens to double your power when you pedal—with super-smooth assistance that makes you feel like the superhero you are.


with optional Range Extender

Specialized Turbo Vado SL

Pedal then go—over hills and past traffic. You can cruise to 28 mph for up to 80 miles. And being 40% lighter than the average e-bike, it’s built to go with you. Up the stairs, down the hall—just about anywhere your life takes you.


with optional Range Extender


Specialized Turbo Levo

The all-new Levo delivers the unbelievable power to ride more trails through an unequaled combination of ride quality, usable power, and ride anywhere range. It’s the distillation, application, and amplification of Specialized’s 40-year obsession with creating the world’s best riding mountain bikes. Since its introduction, Levo has set the bar every other e-MTB aims for, and the new Levo raises that bar again.


Specialized Turbo Kenevo

The Turbo Kenevo is, hands down, the most capable e-mountain bike to hit the dirt. You’re looking at 180 millimeters of supple suspension configured around a bomber chassis and components. Kenevo takes you up the longest climbs—no shuttle or spare lung required—and delivers a stellar rip on the way back down.



Specialized Turbo Levo SL

The Turbo Levo SL is the lightest e-MTB in its class thanks to its svelte-yet-stiff chassis, superlight motor, and cutting-edge power supply. End result? A veritable mountain biking unicorn that’s light and nimble, loves to get airborne, maneuvers through technical terrain with ease…and gives you the power to ride more trails.


Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL

Power up to trail riding’s next level and rip the biggest trails like never before. The Kenevo Super Light is a featherweight e-MTB that redefines big mountain performance with a one-of-a-kind combination of light weight, responsiveness, and capability. Ultra-responsive handling and big mountain capability amplified by the benefits of Specialized’s 240-watt Turbo Super Light system enables you to flow up, over, and through the biggest trails in ways that were previously impossible.


The New Specialized Levo SL V2 Is a Great Trail Bike—with a Motor

The Takeaway: The new, second-generation, Specialized Levo SL is superb. Though a bit heavier than the V1, it is a better-built bike with a more powerful motor. It features class-leading handling and rear suspension performance and is one of the best-executed e-bike systems available.

  • SL 1.2 motor is more powerful: 50Nm of torque, 320 watts of peak power
  • Up to 45 percent quieter than the previous generation’s motor
  • Mixed wheel platform from the factory, but able to fit a 29-inch rear wheel
  • Beefier build than V1 Levo SL: Now with larger diameter 160mm forks, piggyback shocks, more powerful brakes, and tougher tires
  • Priced from 8,000 (Comp Carbon) to 15,000 (S-Works LTD)

Price: 14,000 (S-Works, tested)Weight: 38.9 lb. (S3)

Specialized typically has one of the most aggressive model redesign timelines in the bicycle industry. I usually assume about two to three years between model refreshes, especially if it is a halo product.

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The first generation of the brand’s lightweight e-mountain bike, the Levo SL, was arguably a bike that helped popularize the e-light segment. While full-power e-mountain bikes remain the most popular, the e-light category is growing and occupied by exciting bikes like the Trek Fuel EXe, Pivot Shuttle SL, Orbea Rise, Scott Lumen, and BMC Fourstroke AMP LT.

Considering its significance, Specialized took an unusually long time (for Specialized) to refresh the Levo SL, which debuted in early February 2020. But for Star Wars Day 2023, Specialized finally debuts the second generation Levo SL.

What’s New

No minor refresh, the Levo SL V2 is an all-new bike, and one hews a bit closer to a full-power Specialized Levo than the Levo SL V1.

That’s obvious with a check of the V2’s build. While the V1 had a Fox 34 fork, an inline shock, and SRAM G2 brakes, the V2 has a Fox 36 (with 160mm travel, 10mm more travel than the V1) a reservoir shock, and SRAM Code brakes. The V2 also gets mixed wheel sizes from the factory (V1 was 29/29), and a stronger rear tire with a gravity casing. Most of these updates do add weight, so the V2 SL is a bit heavier: In my preferred S3 size, the V2 weighed 38.9lb on my scale up from the V1’s sub-37-pound weight (size medium, on my scale). But the V1 SL was arguably underbuilt in its quest to realize its low weight.

Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo SL

The SL 1.2 motor looks identical to the V1’s SL 1.1 motor from the outside, but it is all new inside. It’s quieter—the V1 was known for its prominent whine—with Specialized claiming a, “perceived noise reduction of 34 to 45 percent,” thanks, in part, to baffles inside the housing. It’s also significantly more powerful: Torque jumps from 35Nm to 50Nm, with peak power jumping from 240 watts to 320 watts.

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Although it is more powerful, Specialized claims the 1.2 motor is 10 percent more efficient than the 1.1. So even though there’s no change to the battery spec—320Wh in-frame battery with an optional 160Wh range extender (the V1 and V2 SLs use the same range extenders)—the claimed range is about the same.

Specialized claims that, using just the in-frame battery, the average run time (for USA models with 20mph/32kph max assist speed) is about 210 minutes (3.5 hours) in Eco mode or around 60 minutes in Turbo mode. Adding the range extender adds more run time: Maximum claimed range with range extender (for U.S. models with 20mph/32kph max assist speed) is about 378 minutes in Eco mode, 162 minutes in Trail mode, and 121 minutes in Turbo mode.

One note on range and modes: From the factory, Specialized sets the SL’s Turbo mode to 80 percent peak power, and that setting is the basis for their Turbo mode range claims. Changing the Turbo mode’s peak power to 100 percent will reduce the range.

Those run times are short, but a smaller battery is one of the tradeoffs necessary to make a lighter e-bike. But Specialized defends its choice by pointing to the data they’ve collected from its e-bikes in the field via its Mission Control app.

A Specialized representative told me that data suggests the new SL’s range from the in-frame battery is adequate for 75 percent of rides the riders are undertaking on their Levos. Batteries are heavy and expensive, so adding more range increases the weight and cost of the bike. Specialized’s 16oWh range extender, for example, weighs almost four pounds (1.8 kg) and costs 450.

A representative from the e-bike team explained Specialized’s rationale this way, “Why penalize all the riders out there with an unnecessarily big battery out of the gate? You’re penalizing them from a cost perspective, as well as weight and handling. We serve the majority with the internal battery and then we offer the range extender for the other 30 percent that want to for longer rides. You let them choose; you enable them to optimize their ride experience.”

The V2 Levo SL also gets an overhaul of its suspension. Though they’re relying on the brand’s familiar and trusty Horst-Link four-bar, it gets a more rearward axle path—a philosophy they debuted with the 2020 Enduro—to help it flow through square-edged hits more efficiently. This detail is especially important: Specialized equips the Levo SL with a 27.5-inch rear wheel, which doesn’t roll as efficiently over bumps as a larger 29er wheel.

Beyond wheel path, the Levo SL is the first model with what they describe as a “new kinematic philosophy” that will likely find its way into future models and updates. This is how they describe it: “A flatted leverage curve along with a more rearward defined axle path ensure peppy pedaling and climbing behavior, and a lower overall leverage ratio equates to improved small-bump and mid-stroke sensitivity while still providing plenty of progression to smash big hits with intent.”


The Levo SL arrives in six sizes and now employs the company’s S-sizing scheme (instead of the V1 Levo SL’s t-shirt sizing).

Like the V1 Levo SL, the V2 Levo SL’s geometry borrows heavily from an existing Specialized Trail bike. For V2, Specialized dips into the Stumpjumper Evo’s geometry bin. And that means not just the numbers, but also the SJ Evo’s extensive geometry adjustments.

Specialized sent me an Excel spreadsheet with 12 different tables for the different configurations. I’m not posting those here—you can find them on the Levo SL’s product page—but I’ve posted the “stock” geometry settings, and will discuss a few highlights.

The Levo SL gets a 27.5-inch rear wheel with a 29-inch front wheel from the factory. That smaller rear wheel is one reason for the Levo SL’s impressively short, for an e-bike, 432mm chainstays. Specialized representatives stated that while developing the new Levo SL they experimented with both 29/29 and mixed setups and ultimately decided to ship the bike with mixed because it offered, “The most fun feel.”

However, Specialized did make the SL able to accommodate a 29-inch rear wheel if the rider prefers. This requires switching a chip in the chainstays and results in 442mm length stays. But that is the only change: Nothing else changes when swapping wheel size.

The head angle from the factory is 64.6 degrees with the headtube cups in the middle (nominal) position. Swapping to the slack cup results in a 63.8-degree head angle, while the steep cup results in a 65.2- degree head angle. The seat angle is 75.8 degrees from the factory.

The third geometry adjustment is a bottom bracket height adjuster in the clevis. In the factory set low position (with mixed wheels), the BB center sits 348mm from the ground, while in the high position, it sits at 353mm. However, the BB height adjuster also affects head and seat angles: Switching to the high setting increases head and seat angle by 0.4 degrees.

I’m surprised that Specialized does not adjust the chainstay length per frame size. This seems like an uncommon miss for a company that’s usually so on top of trends. Specialized does size-adjust the actual seat angle, so the effective seat angle is 75.8 degrees at an average saddle height for each frame size. On the S3 size I ride, the effective seat angle measures 75.8° at a 735mm saddle height, while on a larger S4 frame size, 75.8° is realized at a 780mm saddle height.

And while I’m personally relieved that the seat angle hovers around 76 degrees (even so, I moved the saddle back on its rails), I can already hear the chorus of screams proclaiming it is too slack. And it may be if every bit of your climbing is consistently very steep. But in my opinion, a seat angle like 76-degree is better than an even steeper seat angle for a wider variety of pitches and pedaling on flatter terrain.

Models and Prices

At launch, riders in the U.S. have three purchasing options.

At the high end are two S-Works options: the S-Works Levo SL LTD (15,000) and the S-Works Levo SL (14,000) that I tested. Both come with the range extender included.

The distinguishing factor between the S-Works models is the suspension. The LTD gets Rockshox Flight Attendant suspension, while the standard S-Works model runs Fox Factory bits.

The cough “cheap” option is the Levo SL Comp Carbon which sells for 8,000. Another way to spend 8,000 is to buy the S-Works Levo SL Frameset and handle the rest of the parts yourself.

The crazy thing is that the 8,000 frame is almost identical to the frame used to build the 8,000 complete bike. The S-Works frame has a fancy carbon shock extender while the Comp Carbon has an aluminum shock extender: that’s the only frame difference. The rest of the “FACT 11m carbon” frame, as well as the motor, battery, and display, are identical.

At some point in the future, a Levo SL Expert will arrive, though that model’s price is not yet set.

Familiar Specialized Horst Link suspension with a new kinematic philosophy results in a beautiful ride.

Ride Impressions

Specialized makes very good mountain bikes. Specialized makes very good e-bikes. And Specialized makes very good e-mountain bikes. Say what you will about the company’s marketing or public persona: When it comes to the equipment, Specialized rarely misses.

electric, bike, motors, explained, comparing, bosch

The V1 Levo SL wasn’t a miss, but e-MTB light was a nascent segment when it debuted. And the parameters of what riders wanted from a bike in the category—motor assist, range, and acceptable bike weight—were still largely unknown. Specialized shot their shot, opting for lower power and a lighter bike. But as other e-MTB lights arrived and began to firm up the boundaries of the category, the V1 SL started to look like a scalpel in a dagger fight.

Levo SL V2 is a much better bike than the V1 and more in line with competitors’ bikes. Yes, it gained some weight, but it’s better for it. One example: switching from the V1’s 150mm Fox 34 to the far sturdier Fox 36 on the V2. The 36 improves the ride experience exponentially and is more appropriate for a 150mm trail bike, especially one that weighs 40 pounds.

As a result of the sturdier fork and all the other changes, the Levo SL V2 is the kind of bike you’d expect to get from Specialized: Superb.

I’ll start with my favorite thing about this bike: The handling. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a bike that made me shout, “Wow!” a few turns into a descent, but that’s what happened on this bike. I can’t say exactly why this Levo SL handles so well: There’s nothing in the numbers that jumps out, a reminder that a head angle or any other number(s) on a geometry table says very little about how a bike handles on the trail.

Whatever the reasons, the Levo SL is one of the best-handling mountain bikes I’ve ever ridden. When I dropped it into a corner, I felt like it was pivoting around a stake in the ground connected to my hip bone: The front end carved through the corner while I felt the rear tire clawing the soil as it arced a tighter line. It took me a bit to reorient my lines through corners, as I could take them faster on the Levo SL than any bike in recent memory.

Essentially, the Levo SL handles like it has a short wheelbase: In a good way. The bike feels light on its tires, changes direction easily, and responds intuitively. For long portions of descents aboard the Levo SL, I forgot I was riding an e-bike because it feels so lively and tossable.

The rear center is short—432mm with the stock 27.5-inch rear wheel—and the resulting 1,206mm wheelbase (in the from-the-factory geometry setting) is on the lower end of the scale for a bike with the Levo SL’s travel. I vibed with the bike’s stock geometry setting on my home terrain. The SL is short enough and the handling reactive enough that riders who live in regions with super-fast descents will want to set up this bike to its slackest position (and perhaps fit it with a 29er rear wheel), especially if said descents are rough and rowdy.

My second favorite thing about the Levo SL is the rear suspension. Specialized stated that the Levo SL employs a new rear suspension tune philosophy. And I think it’s a step forward. This bike’s rear end felt much smoother and more sensitive than the Stumpjumper EVO I rode last year. Plush is not a word I use to describe suspension much anymore, but that’s the word that came to mind when riding the Levo SL. There’s excellent rear wheel traction for climbs, especially in corners: I think the early suppleness of the rear travel plays a role in its superb cornering manners.

And it’s plush without the downsides: Somehow, the suspension is supportive too. The Levo holds well in high-g corners, and it doesn’t overtravel and get upset when pumping through rollers or slamming g-outs. At the end of its travel, Levo SL has a smooth ramp and is not aggressively progressive. It was adequate for the terrain I hit on my test rides thus far. But due to snowmelt, I haven’t yet hit my rowdiest trails on this bike. Based on how often I’ve used full travel so far (quite often), I need to reduce the shock’s air volume a bit—aggressive riders and those who frequent rowdier terrain will probably want to do the same.

And, oh yeah, the motor—I often forget the Levo SL is an e-bike. The most notable improvement to the SL’s motor is the noise. Though nowhere near as quiet as the TQ HPR50 in the Trek Fuel EXe (and others), the new SL motor is much quieter than the previous generation. The 1.2 motor’s noise is in line with, and maybe slightly quieter than, Shimano’s EP8.

There’s no question that the Levo SL’s motor has less kick than that of a full-power e-bike. A similar-weight friend glided away from me on a climb aboard his EP8-equipped Santa Cruz Heckler, but I could at least keep him in sight, something that wasn’t possible with the V1s lower-powered motor.

But while it’s not as powerful as a full-power e-bike, the V2’s support—the torque and watts—feel in line with other motors I’ve sampled in this category (TQ and Fazua’s Ride 60) and bring the Levo SL into the fight.

The motor’s tune is very good, which I expect from Specialized. The power rolls on and off smoothly and naturally, and its nuances quickly become intuitive. So intuitive that, as I said before, I’d forget that I was riding an e-bike if it wasn’t for the motor’s whine breaking through the wind noise now and again.

Like the full-power Levo, the appeal here is not so much the motor’s power or delivery—which both are very good, but not notably better than the competition—but that Specialized has such a clean and well-executed system. The system’s remote is tidy, the in-frame Master Mind TCU display is easy to read, and the whole system is customizable, tunable, and easily updated through the Specialized Mission control app. And if you want more data, the bike uses the ANT LEV protocol and easily pairs with many GPS cycling computers.

Given my limited time on the bike—about two weeks ahead of this launch—coupled with closures due to a bigger-than-usual snow year, I haven’t had an opportunity to do a real range test on the Levo SL. Based on battery consumptions I saw on my, shorter, rides so far, Specialized’s claims—3.5 hours in Eco mode, 1.5 hours in Trail, and one hour in Turbo from in-frame battery only—seem about right.

However, Specialized runs one of the smallest in-frame batteries in this class at 320Wh. Trek’s EXe has a 360Wh battery, Pivot has a 430Wh battery in its Pivot SL, and Orbea offers a 360Wh or 540Wh battery in the Rise. However, battery size is one thing and motor efficiency is another. If Specialized has a particularly efficient motor range should be competitive and the smaller (lighter) battery won’t matter.

On a positive note, a smaller batter means shorter charge times. I haven’t timed a full charge yet—I will when I do my range tests—but I’d throw the battery on the charger when I got home from an hour or so ride and, on several occasions, I remember being surprised by how quickly the display showed the battery back to 100%.

As for components, SRAM’s Transmission is extra-great on an e-bike. Its smooth and seamless shifting is even more beneficial, and I was happy to have Code brakes with 200mm SRAM HS2 rotors front and rear. However, I am somewhat wary of the superlight Roval Traverse SL wheels. Nothing happened to my wheels so far, but experience hints that a 1,250-ish gram wheelset on a 40-pound e-bike with 150/160mm travel might be asking for trouble.

The Specialized Levo SL is a superb trail bike that happens to be an e-bike. It’s also up against some stiff competition, particularly the Trek Fuel EXe—my favorite mountain bike (e-assisted or muscle-assisted) of 2022. A head-to-head is in the works—I hope to add a third head in the form of the Pivot Shuttle SL—between these incredibly wonderful and compelling e-bikes. So far, I like the Levo SL’s handling and rear suspension slightly more than the Trek’s, but I like the Trek’s motor a bit more than the Specialized. But, damn, they’re both great bikes.

It took Specialized a little longer than usual to overhaul the Levo SL. I have it on good authority it was somewhat close to launching it about a year ago, but it was pulled back because the crew behind it felt they needed more time to get it right. It seems well worth it because it is a very dialed machine, abounding with highlights. The handling, the rear suspension, and the motor system are all extremely refined and perform brilliantly. The first generation Levo SL helped create the e-light category, and the second generation sets the bar.

of 2023’s Best Mountain Bikes

electric, bike, motors, explained, comparing, bosch

A gear editor for his entire career, Matt’s journey to becoming a leading cycling tech journalist started in 1995, and he’s been at it ever since; likely riding more cycling equipment than anyone on the planet along the way. Previous to his time with Bicycling, Matt worked in bike shops as a service manager, mechanic, and sales person. Based in Durango, Colorado, he enjoys riding and testing any and all kinds of bikes, so you’re just as likely to see him on a road bike dressed in Lycra at a Tuesday night worlds ride as you are to find him dressed in a full face helmet and pads riding a bike park on an enduro bike. He doesn’t race often, but he’s game for anything; having entered road races, criteriums, trials competitions, dual slalom, downhill races, enduros, stage races, short track, time trials, and gran fondos. Next up on his to-do list: a multi day bikepacking trip, and an e-bike race.

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