Ride Impressions: Specialized S-Works Levo Gen 3
Specialized is the Apple of E-bikes
–150mm rear wheel travel and 160mm up front
– Mixed wheel size (27.5″ rear, 29″ front)
– 565watts of power
– 90Nm torque
– 700 watt-hour battery
– Industry leading system integration
– Clean, intuitive user interface
– Smooth power response
– Micro tune provides 10 power levels on the fly
– Improved water sealing
– Very expensive
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When we recorded my impressions of the new Specialized Levo Gen 3, we’d just gotten off the trail and I was still really fired up from the ride and filming session we’d just wrapped. The video turned out to be such a blatant gush-fest that it made me feel pretty embarrassed when I rewatched it. But the truth of it is, it couldn’t be any more authentically aligned with my experience on this bike. I simply couldn’t contain my excitement. And when it comes right down to it, any bike that can turn my grumpy ass into a giddy ray of sunshine is a winner in my book.
I’m not saying that everyone needs an e-bike to liven up their riding, and I’m definitely not saying that everyone needs this very expensive e-bike to have the time of their life on the trail. That’s what’s so beautiful about mountain biking. You can have the best ride of your life on a borrowed bike, riding in Birkenstocks on clips because you forgot your riding shoes. But, I’ve been mountain biking for 30 years and I’m spoiled and jaded from decades of riding fancy bikes I didn’t have to buy, so it can take a lot to put a perma-grin on this frosty old chap. So what I’m saying is: damn, this bike is fun.
So much more fun than the original Specialized Levo, which came out around 2016. The progress that Specialized made in such a short amount of time, with just one version between that bike and this one is profound. The company fully committed to investing heavily in the e-bike segment several years ago, and it really shows by just how far ahead this bike is from every other e-bike out there.
From the start, Specialized’s strategy with its e-bikes has been to control as much of the user experience as possible, to keep as much of how the rider interacts with the bike under its own roof. That’s the case with every single bike company’s analog bikes, so it makes perfect sense. But e-bikes present a new and massive challenge, because an enormous amount of the experience and interaction with the bike is with the motor and the system that the rider controls the motor with. How the pedal assist system responds to the rider’s input, for instance, makes a massive difference in how the bike rides. Is the power delivery jerky or smooth? But bike companies don’t have those kinds of expertise, and most simply can’t afford to invest in it, so they outsource it.
It’s so much easier to bolt someone else’s system on your bike. You don’t need to design the packaging, the wiring, or what the display is made out of. You don’t need to worry about which torque sensors to spec or engineer the software that controls them. You don’t have to write apps, write updates, release firmware, fix bugs. But you also have no control over any of that stuff that makes such a massive difference in the way the bike performs. Which must actually be really frustrating from the perspective of a bike company trying to put out the best bikes it can and having to slap someone else’s system in them. Trek, as big as it is, does not have control over Bosch’s system. Canyon can’t tell Shimano what features it’s going to build into its motor or software. They can’t just think of an idea and implement it, like, say, adding a feature where you go from having the standard 3 power levels to 10 power levels at the touch of a button. But Specialized can do that. And they did. They call it Micro Tune, and it’s awesome.
Hardware and software working together to deliver the experience that the designers intended. That’s what makes the Levo such a special bike. The way the system responds, the features it has, all those things were dreamt up, tested, and implemented by actual mountain bike riders. Micro Tune was thought of during a ride, trying to climb something super technical and wanting to be able to fine-tune power delivery instantly from the handlebar without needing to open an app to reprogram one of three modes. Just think. Even if the e-bike engineering department at Bosch is chock-full of elite riders, they’re not on a team that’s working together to make an entire bike along with it.
This is a really big part of the equation, which is why I haven’t even talked about how the Levo team dialed in the kinematics so you never really need to lock it out, how they nailed the geometry and made it super adjustable, or how they chose a dedicated mixed wheel size setup to create a more naturally balanced and quicker handling bike. All that stuff is there. Hence my perma-grin. But I didn’t spend time writing about all that here because I think the integration part of the e-bike equation is a big deal. It’s the difference between Apple and Android and the ecosystem that is possible when you control more pieces of the puzzle. Whether you’re an Apple super fan like me or not, there’s no denying that they changed the game with that original iPhone. Specialized has done the same with the new Levo. You know, on like, a much smaller bike nerd sort of scale. And like Apple products, you’ll pay a premium for all that extra design and programming time, all the work it took to make the Levo as seamlessly executed as it is, so buttoned up and balanced. But also like Apple products, I don’t suspect the small number of people who will be able to afford this bike or the $13,000 Pro version will have any buyer’s remorse. I cannot afford to spend this much money on a bike—I can’t afford to spend this much on a car for Christ’s sake—but if I could, I’d buy it in a second because the feeling I get when riding it is worth more.
Specialized Levo Gen 3 Geometry:
Q&A From Specialized:
CAN YOU CHANGE THE REAR WHEEL TO 29”
No, the Levo is designed around the 27.5” rear wheel. That’s a good thing, because the smaller wheel is key in shortening Levo’s chainstays, which in turn delivers a much more nimble ride.
HOW MUCH SUSPENSION TRAVEL DOES LEVO HAVE?
Levo has 150mm of rear suspension travel and 160mm of front travel (150mm up front on the smallest, S1 size); just right for a wide range of off road conditions.
HOW MUCH POWER DOES LEVO HAVE?
Levo’s new Turbo Full Power motor delivers up to 565 watts of power and 90 Nm of peak torque. These are impressive power and torque values, but what’s really important is the way that all this power and torque is delivered. The integrated functionality of Levo’s Turbo Full Power Motor and the software that controls it results in an extremely smooth and natural quadrupling of your power. The ride experience feels like a natural extension of your own power, only that you are much, much stronger, and fully in control.
WHAT ARE THE UPDATES TO THE MOTOR USED IN THE NEW LEVO?
The Turbo Full Power System 2.2 motor features a more robust belt for long-term reliable power delivery and a new firmware that further optimizes efficiency and power output across the ride and provides an even smoother, more natural ride feeling. This 2.2 motor is being used on all new Levos.
WHAT MAKES THE ELECTRONICS OF THE MOTOR WATER RESISTANT?
A new door or “hatch” boosts weather resistance. In addition, the plug has double seals to keep moisture out for added reliability in wet conditions.
WHAT IS THE WATT HOUR (WH) CAPACITY OF LEVO’S BATTERY?
All carbon Levo models have the category leading Turbo 700 Wh capacity battery for all day riding.
HOW DOES MASTERMIND MEASURE ELEVATION?
Altitude and elevation gain is measured through a built-in pressure sensor; air pressure changes require calibration before riding via remote/display for accurate data.
DO YOU HAVE AN APP I CAN USE TO GET MORE OUT OF THE LEVO?
Yes, all Specialized Turbo e-bikes connect to your phone via our Mission Control App. Using Mission Control empowers you to get the most out of your bike. Mission Control gives you the ability to customize motor characteristics, control range, tune modes, monitor your heart rate, run system diagnosis, assist with on-trail rider care support, record rides and see real-time ride data, and more. Pretty mind blowing right?
WHAT IS “S-SIZING”, AND WHY IS IT GOOD?
Pioneered on our award winning Enduro and Stumpjumper families of trail bikes, S-Sizing is appreciated by riders and media all over the world because it’s a way of sizing bikes based on what matters: rider size and style, not inseam (like traditional sizing). Six sizes, all with similar headtube lengths and standover, allow you to choose the size that best suits your individual style. Smaller S-Size numbers are going to be nimble, thanks to their shorter reach and front-center measurement, while bigger S-Sizes deliver more stability and a roomier ride. On top of that, the six sizes offer wider overall range, now fitting both shorter short and taller tall riders than past Levo models.