From what I see in Woodhill Forest, the Specialized Levo is the most popular “real” eMTB in New Zealand. When it came out three short years ago, it was groundbreaking. At the time most eMTBs were horrid; either with hub motors or earlier Bosch and Yamaha motors from fringe brands (at the time) like Haibike and Moustache. Nobody here (myself included) really ‘got’ them. While they’ve mostly all got good, the mountain biking world is still polarised – read any MTB forum where ebikes are mentioned and there will be some uninformed backlash. So boldly went Specialized, knowing they’d alienate some punters but gain a whole lot more in higher margin product. It is a strategy that seems to have paid off, and to reinforce their confidence the new 2019 models are $1000 more expensive for pretty much the same hardware, just better.
What’s better? Here’s more-or-less a list of things that matter:
- There is a display of power level and battery level on the top tube rather than the downtube making it easier to read
- The Brose-sourced 2.1 motor is lighter and seems slightly more responsive to light inputs that the old (which was already about as good as it gets)
- The motor feels much more torquey at the top end of speed, and rolls off the power nicely between 30 and 32, and rides well beyond with no resistance (yes, we’re looking at you Bosch!)
- Wheels are taller and skinnier. I liked the older configuration more but they say this is nimbler and faster
- Carbon models have a massive 700Wh battery, which can be fitted to any Levo models
Specialized say it is lower and longer than the previous model, though to me it felt more upright. To be fair there is a “flip chip” that adjusts geometry and maybe that needed flipping. They also say that they tweaked the suspension to offer more mid-stroke support. I’m not tuned enough to notice if this is true, but it felt as good as it looks.
The mostly Switzerland-based Turbo team’s goals have always been to make ebikes that feel natural to ride, and the highest praise can be given to the 2019 Levo – it is easy to forget you are riding an ebike. The handlebars are uncluttered (looking at you Scott!), it is quiet (yes Shimano, you!), and it feels light in all aspects of riding. The chainstay length remains at 455mm, or about 15-20mm less than most competing eMTBs. At no stage did they feel short – which could translate into unstable up hills on an eMTB.
The battery on the 2019 models is slightly different than before, and for the first time there is a 700Wh option that comes as standard on the carbon fibre models. They start at $12,500. I’m sure you’d be able to buy an upgrade for your $7500 base model or $9000 Comp. But 2016-2018 Levo owners are out of luck.
The new Mission Control app retains the ‘infinite tune’ features which is nice, because we all ride different terrain that has different assist requirements. It allows you to set both peak power and assist level in each of the three settings – so for example I set Eco to be 20% assist but 50% maximum and that felt natural when riding with my acoustic pals. There is a new ‘shuttle mode’ that turns the bike into a cadence sensor and gives maximum assist for minimal effort, exactly what you want when chasing the shuttle up Moerangi. Hey, if you spend the money you may as well save on shuttle passes, right? Many Levo riders are familiar with the BLevo app that gives a range of profiles and tweaks including the ability to defeat the speed limit – unfortunately at this time that latter feature is not available for the 2019 v2.1 motor. Not to worry, I never felt bad about the speed limit, it was all quite natural even on a 28km commute. I did my commute at full speed and full turbo and used less than half the 500Wh of charge.
Once again the bike uses it’s Bluetooth radio to also transmit Ant+ metrics, so Garmin Edge 520 and 820 owners (and newer) can get Cadence, Battery Level, Assist Level, Speed and Rider Power. Other Ant+ devices can get speed (and distance) and a ‘fake channel’ can be used for battery level (for example cadence can be used to display the battery level). Or you can buy an optional Specialized display.
In common with many eMTBs, the saddle was ‘just ok’. Given their intended purpose, I don’t understand why they don’t fit something more comfortable for a more upright and seated riding style.
This really is an amazing bike that I highly recommend. Buy it if you can get one in your size. Unfortunately it probably won’t suit very small riders, even in the women’s version. But do try – Specialized dealers are good about arranging demo rides. And don’t assume you can just buy one and have it today – they are in hot demand and are often presold.
Who should buy this bike?
- Mountain bikers who are finding the terrain or their riding mates a bit challenging
- Anyone planning longer epic rides – get the 700Wh battery
- You value an eMTB that doesn’t look or feel like an ebike
Who should not buy it?
- An entry level of $7500 is simply too much for you. Consider a mid-drive hardtail eMTB or something like a Smartmotion HyperSonic
- You don’t want what everyone else has. Perhaps a Wisper Wildcat Carbon?
What else should I consider?
- There are many options: Trek, Giant, Wisper, Fantic, Haibike, KTM, Moustache, Scott, Focus, Cube, …. You typically get what you pay for in a certain price band.
Thanks to Mount Eden Cycles for arranging the review bike.