Specialized Turbo Levo Comp Review
Cons: Readout display not standard feature, SRAM Guide brakes not powerful enough, reported motor failures
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Our Analysis and Test Results
For more than 40 years, Innovate or Die has been the motto of Specialized. And even though the company could have rested on its laurels after introducing a completely redesigned Turbo Levo Comp in 2019, it wasn't befitting of their ethos. Enter the 2020 Specialized Turbo Levo Comp, enhanced yet again with a more powerful, 90NM Brose drive motor with 560 peak watts of output and a 700Wh battery that boosts range by as much as 40 percent over the 2019 model. This combination delivers miles, more smiles, and keeps the Turbo Levo Comp on the top step as a third consecutive Editor's Choice award winner. Despite its lofty status, there are a few minor faults with the 2020 Turbo Levo Comp that should be addressed with future models, but nothing that would stop us from recommending this bike to anyone on the hunt for some electric-assist fun.
Specialized has once again managed to make a bike that is more playful and agile on the descents than the competition, yet it's plenty stable at speed or when the going gets rough. One of the best ways to describe how it handles on descents is "like a regular mountain bike", only the added 20 pounds makes the Levo handle better in certain situations. In very loose conditions, or on trails with scattered baby head-size boulders, the added weight of the Levo and its low center of gravity keep the bike stable and tracking straighter than any traditional mountain bike ever could. Add in 150mm of suspension travel front and back and 29-inch wheels with extra meaty 2.6-inch wide Butcher Grid and Eliminator BLCK DMND tires, the Levo Comp eats trail. And thanks to 165mm length cranks, the likelihood of pedal strikes with the Turbo Levo Comp has been greatly reduced.
Specialized's years of experience making electric mountain bikes shows in their clean and thoughtful integration of the motor and battery into the frame. Not only does it look good, but it also helps to get the center of gravity as low as possible, which we feel is a benefit to the Turbo Levo's handling and agility. The measured wheelbase of 1235mm strikes a solid middle ground giving this bike its stability without robbing it of nimbleness and maneuverability.
The 2020 Turbo Levo Comp has Specialized's 29 Trail geometry, borrowed from the recently redesigned 29-inch Stumpjumper models featuring modern measurements. The Levo Comp sports a 66-degree head tube and a 74.5-degree seat tube, a good balance for up and down performance given the intentions of this bike. The reach on the Turbo Levo has been extended a bit and is now 460mm on the size large, bringing it more in line with the competition. As mentioned above the wheelbase measured 1235mm, and the chainstays are a respectable, for an e-bike, 455mm. The Turbo Levo Comp also features a Flip Chip on the linkage of the rear suspension, enabling the rider to adjust both bottom bracket height and head tube angle depending on conditions and rider preference.
The 150mm of front and rear suspension is handled by a RockShox Lyrik Select RC fork and a RockShox Deluxe Select+ rear shock. Specialized has clearly done their homework to make a quality suspension design and the Turbo Levo feels nicely balanced with good support in the mid-stroke, swallowing up the big hits without bottoming out and accommodating smaller hits for a smooth ride over choppy terrain. Testers were also happy to see an improved cockpit setup with a proper 780mm wide handlebar and a 150mm travel dropper seat post with a 1x style remote lever. Touches like these improve handling and confidence on descents.
The combination of 29-inch wheels and a more efficient, more powerful motor makes the Turbo Levo Comp a joy to ride uphill. In fact, some testers have argued that the climbs are now just as much fun as the descents. The revised motor has also eliminated the annoying abrupt power cut-off that existed in the original Levo. Not only is the new Specialized 2.1 Brose motor offer much more seamless power delivery, but it is also whisper quiet. This hushed performance of the Levo is especially noticeable when climbing next to other bikes in the test powered by Shimano drivetrains. It isn't that the Shimano drivetrain is loud, it's just that the Specialized drivetrain is that much quieter.
Power delivery from the 2.1 Brose motor feels smooth and consistent, and shifting between the modes is equally smooth. The 11-speed SRAM GX drivetrain is well paired, delivering durable performance. The steeper seat tube angle puts the rider in a comfortable seated climbing position, and the extended reach is a welcome change. Despite the 66-degree head angle, the Levo Comp never feels like it wants to wander, nor did we find ourselves prone to wheelieing out on super steep climbs. The 2.6-inch tires provide lots of grip while climbing, especially in the rear, and help this bike claw its way up just about anything. The extra heavy-duty casing of the rear BLCK DMND tire was welcome, as we've found traditional mountain bike tires - even with thicker casings - often don't hold up to more aggressive riding on a bike like the Levo Comp that weighs just over 50 pounds.
The rear shock does have a compression dampening switch for use when climbing, but like all of the other e-bikes in this test, our testers preferred to ride with it wide open on the trail. Like the previous version, Specialized has spec'd shorter 165mm Praxis cranks on the Turbo Levo to minimize the chances of rock strikes. Typically, on a trail bike, cranks this short would reduce pedaling efficiency due to a reduction of leverage, but with the pedal assistance available it goes virtually unnoticed.
The new Specialized 2.1 motor delivers 90NM of power and peak output of 560 watts. In addition to being almost silent, the new motor unit is incredibly torque-rich. In Turbo mode barely turning the pedals over, the Levo grunts its way up virtually any pitch you can garner enough traction to climb. And while in Turbo mode, the motor delivers a full extra half stroke of power after the rider stops pedaling. In addition to Turbo, the Levo also features Trail and Eco modes. The preset support settings are 25% in Eco, 50% in Trail, and 100% in Turbo. On the Turbo setting it is no problem to get rolling up to its top speed of 20mph. These support settings, as well as a host of other features, are customizable in Specialized's Mission Control App. We didn't fiddle with the settings during testing, as the preset pedal assist modes feel quite good to begin with. Additionally, there is a walk-assist mode that allows you to push the bike along at up to 3.7 mph should you find yourself in a hike-a-bike situation.
Another aspect of the new Levo motor unit's power we noticed was that regardless of rider weight, the battery life of the Levo didn't seem to be affected. With other e-bikes, we've noticed the difference in how long a battery will last when comparing 150 pound rider to a 200 pound rider; the heavier rider usually drains the battery faster. But whether it's because of the more powerful motor, the bigger capacity battery or a combination of both, the 2020 Levo didn't seem to use any more battery life accommodating a heavier rider up the same exact climb as the lighter rider.
One area of concern that's recently developed with the 2020 Levo is customer reports of motors prematurely burning out, leaving the bike inoperable. Although this is a huge inconvenience, all reports so far are that the problem is not widespread. Specialized is aware of the problem and is replacing drive motors - and in some cases entire bikes - under warranty, no questions asked. We reached out to Specialized and they told us they are aware of the problem and they've been working hard to address it moving forward. We did not experience any issues on our test bike.
In the e-bike world, "range anxiety" is a thing - that nervous feeling you get when the battery life indicator drops into the red zone. Because nobody wants to be stuck out in the woods with a 50-pound dead weight, Specialized upped the battery capacity of the 2020 Levo to a class-leading 700Wh, up from 500Wh in 2019, a reported 40 percent increase in range. This boost in battery life has taken the Levo to a level all its own in the performance department. Paired with the redesigned motor, the Levo can deliver some incredible range numbers. Using a mix of Trail and Turbo modes, a 185-pound rider was easily able to do rides of 35 miles with up to 7,000 feet of climbing.
Even more impressive was when we took the Levo on some hot laps of an incredibly steep trail in Downieville, California ascending 2,200 vertical feet in under three miles. We put the Levo up against the Commencal Meta Power 29 Team and its Shimano powertrain with a 504Wh battery and the result wasn't even close. With both bikes in their highest mode assist setting the entire time (Turbo for Levo and Boost for Commencal), the Commencal ran out of battery after 1.5 laps, or approximately 9 miles and 3,300 vertical feet. The Levo eclipsed the Commencal, delivering three full laps, or nearly 18 miles and 6,600 vertical feet - all in Turbo mode up a trail too steep to ride on a traditional mountain bike. This result was also confirmed on our standardized range test hill where we were able to ride the Levo 29.6 miles and 6,140 vertical feet. Yes, it is a larger battery, but the Levo also uses its power more efficiently than the competition to boot.
The Specialized Mission Control App has lots of features, one of which allows you to control your power output levels depending on the distance you intend to ride to ensure you don't run out of battery on a ride. The app also allows you to monitor your power usage, customize your output settings, record rides, and more. For those looking eke out the most juice possible from the 700Wh battery, dialing in the Mission Control App is a worthwhile endeavor.
For riders looking to do 50+ mile days over big terrain, carrying a second battery is mandatory. Although the Levo can go further than any other bike in the test, you'll still need to carry a second battery for any ride over 40 miles. The Levo battery can be quickly and easily removed with only one hex bolt, however, the battery is long enough that it doesn't fit into most packs. While not a big deal for some, those who are looking to go big enough to carry an extra battery should consider finding a pack that can handle the 25-inch battery length.
While Specialized improved their e-bike controls in the 2019 model year, especially the location of the LED display, it still loses a little ground to the competition in this metric. Of course, the controls work just fine and function as intended, but the lack of a digital display screen, like those found on some of the other models in this review, is a clear drawback to their system. There is a Turbo Connect Display available for $90 that plugs in, but with a retail price approaching $6,000, it would be nice if the Levo Comp had the display included standard.
The revised location of the Specialized LED battery charge and power output display on the top of the top tube, as opposed to the side of the downtube, is a huge step in the right direction and makes it much easier to view. The simple, functional design interface directly in front of the rider takes a cue from the iPhone; one button can control power mode selection as well as on and off control while viewing current power mode and battery life. An illuminated ring in three sections displays what mode the rider is in (Eco, Trail or Turbo) while 10 bars indicate battery life after a full charge.
New for 2020 are two additional modes that can be accessed in the Specialized Mission Control App, Stealth and Shuttle. Shuttle mode is designed for big uplift days at the bike park, boosting the motor's peak power to 100 percent. Stealth mode is more of a novelty than anything, turning off the readout lights on the top tube, but we're really not sure why you'd want to do that in the first place.
The low profile handlebar-mounted control unit is attached by the left grip and has buttons to shift up or down through the pedal assist settings, plus a button for the walk-assist. These controls are intuitive and simple to use, while the size and shape of this handlebar control still allows for a 1x style dropper post remote lever - a huge plus in our book. The Giant Trance E+ and Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay both have similar controls, though both tried to integrate lights into them as a display system.
The 2020 Turbo Levo has an identical charging port to the previous version. This charging port's location at the bottom of the down tube on the non-drive side of the frame leaves the charging port cover susceptible to impact, moisture, mud, and debris while riding. Like the old version, if we didn't have the cover perfectly closed all kinds of things would make their way in there. Even with it closed properly, it seems to get quite dirty around the charging port regardless. The cord itself uses the same Rosenberger style magnetic head which seems to work relatively well, though it can be easily knocked off the charging port if you aren't careful. The Bulls E-Stream EVO AM 4 uses this same style of plug and charging port, but theirs is a little less user-friendly due to the way the port is recessed into the frame.
Specialized bikes are known for coming at a premium price, and the Turbo Levo Comp lives up to that reputation. This is one of the most expensive models in our test, and the build is less impressive than some of its lower-priced competitors. While nothing about its build is especially noteworthy, it comes together well on the trail with a performance that earns it our Editor's Choice Award.
For 2020, the Levo has been upgraded in the suspension department to a Lyric Select RC fork and a RockShox Deluxe Select+ rear shock. The cockpit features a proper 780mm width handlebar with Specialized lock-on grips for precise steering. The Levo Comp came equipped with an internally routed 150mm X-Fusion Manic dropper seat post with a 1x style remote lever. The X-Fusion dropper worked smoothly and trouble-free during testing. Specialized also makes some of the most comfortable saddles on the market, and the Turbo Levo comes with a 155mm wide Bridge S2 saddle.
Specialized spec'd a set of SRAM Guide RE 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes with 200mm rotors front and rear on the Turbo Levo Comp. Although adequate, the brakes were definitely underpowered compared to models like the Commencal featuring SRAM Code RSC four-piston brakes. A brake upgrade would be welcome on the Levo Comp. The drivetrain consists of an 11-speed SRAM GX rear derailleur and SRAM S700 shifters paired with a 165mm Praxis crankset with a 32-tooth chainring and a SRAM 11-42 cassette. This drivetrain setup provided an adequate range, especially considering the pedal assistance offered by the drive unit.
The Turbo Levo Comp rolls on 29" Roval Traverse wheels with a 30mm internal rim width. A 2.6" wide Specialized Butcher front and Eliminator rear tire with the Grid and BLCK DMND casings are mounted on the front and rear of the bike. Due to the integration of the battery and motor into their frame design, the Specialized is one of the few e-bike models on the market that can fit a bottle cage inside the front triangle on the down tube, a side-pull Specialized bottle cage with a SWAT tool attached is also included.
The price of the Turbo Levo Comp has gone up a little since last year, and now it retails for $5,950. This is one of the most expensive models in our test, but because we feel it is the best overall electric mountain bike, we still believe that it represents a good value. If a versatile and well-rounded performance with a good design and sleekest style are high on your list, then the Turbo Levo has got you covered.
We've said it before, but we'll say it again. If you're looking for an e-bike that handles like a regular trail bike, look no further than the 2020 Turbo Levo Comp. Much like its predecessor, the new version impressed our testers with its trail manners and impressive versatility. While many heavyweight e-bikes feel very one-dimensional, the Turbo Levo offers a more well-rounded performance with a lighter feel and handling at low speeds and in tight terrain, yet it manages to maintain stability at speed. Specialized's new 2.1 motor is lighter than ever, and the bike weighs even less as a result, plus it's cleanly integrated along with the battery into the design of the frame. The Turbo Levo remains the least e-bike looking model on the market with one of the quietest motors out there. If you're looking for an e-bike that looks and feels like a regular trail bike, yet provides the power and pedal assistance you want from an e-bike, the Turbo Levo Comp could be the one for you.
Other Versions and Accessories
Specialized makes several versions of their popular Turbo Levo e-MTBs ranging in retail price from $12,050 for the fully decked out S-Works model down the $4,950 base model.
-The S-Works Turbo Levo ($12,050) comes with all the bells and whistles including a carbon frame, carbon wheels, Fox Factory suspension, a SRAM XO1 drivetrain, and a 700Wh battery.
-The Turbo Levo Expert ($8,250) comes with a carbon frame, RockShox Pike fork and Deluxe RT3 rear shock, SRAM X1 drivetrain, Code brakes, and a 700Wh battery.
-The Turbo Levo Comp Carbon ($6,950) is the carbon fiber framed version of the model we tested. The primary differences are the carbon frame and Fox suspension front and rear.
-The Women's Turbo Levo Comp ($5,950) has an identical build to the model we tested but comes with slightly different geometry and in a different colorway.
-The base model Turbo Levo ($4,950) has an alloy frame, and the notable downgrades compared to the model we tested include an NX drivetrain, RockShox Sector RL fork, and SRAM Level T brakes.It is also worth noting that the new batteries for the Turbo Levo models are the same size regardless of storage capacity. That means you can swap a 500Wh battery with a 700Wh battery, and vice versa, depending on your needs. The larger the battery storage, the heavier the battery, so this may be of interest to some users.
— Kurt Gensheimer, Joshua Hutchens, Chris McNamara