Does Specialized’s latest Turbo Levo SL II Carbon set a whole new benchmark for trail bikes?

A woman riding the Turbo Levo SL Comp Carbon in woods
(Image credit: Specialized)

Yes, the statement above is going to tweak the e-haters out there, but even if you plan to stick to pedaling with just your own power – and I’m definitely in that group, it’s impossible to ignore that e-MTBs are becoming a huge part of mountain biking. The bikes being taken out at demo days and hired from trail centers are almost exclusively power assisted now too so the huge growth in motorized mountain biking looks set to continue. 

In other words, if a bike is one of the best e-MTBs available, for an increasing number of riders it’s also the best trail bikes available.

Specialized Turbo Levo SL

The existing Turbo Levo SL was still competitive, but the SL II is a significant step up in power, adjustability and performance (Image credit: Specialized)

Back in the game

That means there was a lot of pressure on Specialized to get back in front of the game with their Turbo Levo SL II Carbon introduction. To be fair, the first gen bike was still competitive in terms of it’s excellent rider/motor interfaces, spec and suspension but geometry and motor expectations have changed significantly in the three years since it launched.

No surprise then that the Turbo Levo SL II Carbon bikes are longer and slacker as standard. However, the real geometry win is that they’ve borrowed the super simple yet effective switchable headset cups and shock chip angle adjusters from the Stumpjumper range. So while the Turbo Levo SL II Carbon has a 64.25-degree head angle as standard, you can take it as slack as 63 degrees or tighten it up to 66. The new SL 1.2 motor also boosts power by 43 percent to a TQ/Fazua competitive 50Nm with a 320 watt peak. It also uses a new honeycomb casing and reprofiled gears to minimize noise and give IP67 waterproofing. Travel also goes up 10mm at either end with a 160mm fork and 150mm of rear wheel travel on all but the smallest size which is 150/144mm. Impressively, all these changes have been done without increasing weight so the new S-Works Turbo Levo SL II Carbon weighs in at 17.6kg without pedals just like the previous one.

Specialized S-Works Levo SL II

It still looks very 'Specialized' but there's a whole lot of new in the Turbo Levo SL II Carbon (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Ahead of the game

Given that their top tube embedded MasterMind TCU, MicroTune controller and Mission Control app were already ahead of the game, that alone would probably been enough to bring Specialized back on par with bikes like Trek’s benchmark setting Fuel EXe. Specialized clearly didn’t just want to bring themselves level though, they wanted to try and put the competition in the rear view mirror, future proofing the Levo SL II in the process.

As a result, the Turbo Levo SL II Carbon loses the asymmetric ‘Sidearm’ mainframe reinforcing strut and returns to the classic open frame FSR format they’ve been using since the mid 1990s which creates space to fit a wider range of shocks. 

The bike itself fits a wider range of riders too, with the four previous S, M, L, XL sizes replaced with S1 to S6 options with short seat tubes for easy upsizing if you want more reach. All frames get a ‘Rider Tuned’ lay up of the FACT 11M carbon composite to give a proportionate ride feel, although chainstay lengths are equal rather than proportionately sized.

Things have changed significantly in terms of suspension as well, with the long running FSR kinematic adjusted to add more anti squat and give a flatter, lower leverage shock rate with less progression. That’s really obvious in the ride too, with a firmer feel both on the trail through turns and through the pedals under power. More rearward wheel movement also makes the bike faster on rocky, rooty sections, although you will be more aware of them through your feet.   

After extensive testing across all sizes and trail types with a broad range of riders, Specialized have decided to run a 27.5in rear, mixed wheel setup on all sizes. That improves agility and pop at the back end, but slows rolling speed and feels rougher through the rocks. Add a sticky T9 compound Butcher tire up front and that really underlines the play rather than performance priority of the SL II and creates a clear distinction between lighter, shorter travel bikes like Scott’s Lumen or the Rotwild RX275 which are also 2kg lighter. If you do want more roll and smoothness from your new Levo SL Carbon you can flip the chain stay-chip and fit a 29er rear wheel without disturbing the rest of the geometry.

Specialized Turbo Levo Comp SL II

The Comp is the most affordable Turbo Levo SL II Carbon but it's got all the new power, geometry and adjustability gains for boosting your power assisted playtime (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Specialized’s Turbo Levo SL II Carbon models and pricing

The Turbo Levo SL II is available now in the UK in two spec levels, S-Works and Comp (see our Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo SL II review for more on that model). These will be joined with a RockShox Flight Attendant equipped S-Works LTD spec and a Pro model shortly though. With prices starting at $9,000 / £7,000 and increasing to nearly double that they don’t come cheap, but then what does these days?

S-Works Turbo Levo SL Carbon bike

The S-Works Turbo Levo SL Carbon model (Image credit: Specialized)

S-Works Turbo Levo SL Carbon LTD

  • Suspension: RockShox Lyrik Flight Attendant fork and Super Deluxe Flight Attendant shock
  • Groupset: SRAM XX Eagle Transmission
  • Wheels: Roval Traverse SL Carbon
  • Highlights: Fully automated suspension the latest wireless gears, superlight carbon wheels, linkage and bars
  • Price: $15,000 / £13,500

S-Works Turbo Levo SL Carbon

  • Suspension: Fox Factory 36 fork and Float X rear shock
  • Groupset: SRAM XX Eagle Transmission
  • Wheels: Roval Traverse SL Carbon
  • Highlights: Top Fox suspension, the latest wireless gears, superlight carbon wheels, linkage and bars
  • Price: $14,000 / £13,000

Turbo Levo SL Pro Carbon

  • Suspension: Fox Factory 36 fork and Float X rear shock
  • Groupset: SRAM X0 Eagle Transmission
  • Wheels: Roval Traverse Carbon
  • Highlights: Top Fox suspension, the latest wireless gears, carbon wheels and bars
  • Price: $13,500 / £10,250

Turbo Levo SL Comp Carbon

  • Suspension: Fox 36 Rhythm fork and Float X Performance shock
  • Groupset: SRAM GX
  • Wheels: Alloy
  • Highlights: Cost effective suspension and gears with same frame, motor and battery as top bikes
  • Price: $9,000 / £7,000
Guy Kesteven

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect's since we launched in 2019. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Forbidden Druid V2, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg