Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo SL II review – the ultimate heavy hitting lightweight e-bike?

Has Specialized’s new S-Works Turbo Levo SL II power assisted superlight superbike been worth the long wait? Guy Kesteven went wild on the trails of Wales to find out

An electric mountain bike at the top of a ridge
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

BikePerfect Verdict

A super adjustable, enduro-confident yet agile fun-focused shredder with excellent pedaling manners, a very natural feeling range and speed boosting motor, class leading electronics and dealer support. If you can afford the S-Works, it’s very light too.

Pros

  • +

    Outstanding control but still light, agile and exciting

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    Brilliant handling with easily adjustable progressive geometry

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    Better pedaling and a quieter, more powerful motor

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    Essentially flawless flagship spec with all the latest SRAM toys

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    Excellent electronics, app and customer support

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    At 13k, it’s less pricey than the previous model

Cons

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    Bike prices are getting scary these days

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    Personally I’d prefer a 29er rear wheel for more speed and smoothness

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Specialized’s new S-Works Turbo Levo SL II has more power, more suspension travel, rad adjustable geometry and a rowdy mixed wheel build, but it’s still seriously lightweight. So what are the details behind that performance and what are the significant changes that we’ll be seeing on other Specialized bikes soon? And have they basically created a powered version of the excellent Stumpjumper Evo that we love so much, or does the move to a mayhem focused mixed, wheel format miss the mark?

Specialized S-Works Levo SL II enduro riding

It might still be called the SL, but the new bigger travel, fully rad geo adjustable Levo is ready to go 'full enduro' if you want to (Image credit: Scott Windsor)

Design and geometry

A 10mm increase in travel to 160mm front and 150mm rear matches the Stumpjumper Evo. The Levo SL II also adopts the Stumpy’s super easy to switch headset inserts and shock link flip-chip so you can switch from the default 64.25-degree head angle to 63 or 65.5 degrees. A second pair of eccentric flip-chips let you run either a 29in or 27.5in rear wheel without disturbing other geometry. Interestingly, the SL II comes with a 27.5in rear as standard, while the Evo is a 2 x 29er by default. 

The frame is Specialized’s well proven Fact 11 composite with different “Rider Engineered” layups designed to give a consistent ride character for each of the S1 to S6 sizes. There are also proportional geometry changes to the different frames and you get a bottle cage that’ll take a full size bottle and soft chain quietening/ rock shrugging armor where you need it. Despite the extra length and adjustable features the frame weight stays the same too, with the lacquered carbon version I tested saving 150g of paint weight too.

Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo SL II

The new SL frame loses the assymmetric 'Sidearm' strut and gets a more pedal positive suspension vibe too (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Other aspects have changed dramatically though. Most obviously the SL II frame loses the asymmetric ‘sidearm’ strut design of recent Specialized trail bikes, returning to a more conventional open design to allow use of a wider range of damper options (including some coil shocks). The classic FSR four bar suspension kinematic has also been modified to give more rearward wheel movement (and therefore anti-squat) and a flatter, lower leverage shock rate with less progression. Both of these changes will be appearing on other Specialized models going forward too. There are now six sizes of SL rather than four and the S4 I had a 470mm reach, compared to 455mm on the old large size.

The custom 320Wh capacity battery is unchanged and you still get a 160Wh bottle style ‘Range Extender’ supplied 'free' with the S-Works. However, the SL II gets an all new SL 1.2 motor. This uses a 2 piece honeycomb motor casing and a greater gain gearbox increasing maximum power up to 50Nm and 320W. That’s a 43 percent increase in potential poke over the previous motor while actually reducing weight and dramatically reducing noise. The motor is fully IP67 waterproof too so there’s no worries about drowning it either. The MasterMind TCU in the top tube gives up to 120 possible display functions and MicroTune power changing on the fly as well as a simple toggle switch on the left hand bar for motor mode changes. 

Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo SL II on rocky trail

Fork travel is increased to 160mm and the rear end bumps up to 150mm (Image credit: Scott Windsor)

Components and build

Apart from 10mm more travel in the top of the line Fox Factory 36 forks, increased rear travel and the addition of SRAM’s latest XX T-Type AXS Wireless Eagle Transmission and Stealth hose style Code brakes nothing much changes with the spec. That’s because while it started with a lighter Fox 34 fork based spec to really pursue the ‘SuperLight’ side of the SL moniker, consumer and dealer feedback showed even lighter Levo riders wanted a more capable build. Pretty much unanimous feedback from broad rider spectrum testing during development is also the reason why Specialized switched to a 27.5in rear wheel as the default setup too. 

Eagle Transmission gears

SRAM's new Eagle Transmission makes max power shifting easy so it's ideal for Specialized's new hard charging e-MTB (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Ride, handling and performance

And that’s the first thing to get your head around with on the new SL. While it is exactly the same impressively low weight as the previous S-Works Turbo Levo SL, the new bike feels much more hench and grounded. I didn’t get a chance on the launch days to try the slackest angle settings, but the combination of 64.25 degree default head angle, sticky T9 compound front tire and 36 Factory fork felt rock solidly surefooted on even the steepest, slipperiest off piste tracks in Dyfi forest. The more rearward axle path also lets the SL take the sting out of high speed rock slaps noticeably better. The bottom out control was very impressive when it's greed for speed meant I oversent some of Coed Y Brenin’s rocky roller coaster sections to flat too. 

The new kinematic is definitely noticeable under power as well. Whereas I typically find Specialized bikes a bit squishy around the sag point when going hard, the new layout combines with the different shock rate for a crisper, more positive feel through the pedals. The new SRAM carbon e-bike cranks feel great too, encouraging me to do several big climbs on the launch days in ‘meat mode’ rather than motorised just to see if I could keep up. That made a dramatic difference to battery consumption as I eked out nearly 40 miles of tough technical riding with 50 percent range left while others were down to single digits or had already plugged a range extender in. Even when I was powered up, I did the two days of press camp entirely in Eco mode, with just one climb in Trail for test reasons, not because I actually needed the extra grunt. That was a noticeable difference to riding a TQ motor equipped Trek EXe around the same trails the previous day, where despite similar power on paper I found myself relying on Trail mode a lot more and still overpowered the engine when stand up pedalling to muscle over crux climb sections.

While it can’t match the TQ for near silent operation, the new SL 1.2 motor is a lot quieter than the previous motor and much less obtrusive than a full power Levo or other ‘full fat’ motors. There are no weird over-run or half pedal boost traits to get used to either, just smooth power assist that’s optimised from 70 to 100 rpm but still pulls smoothly outside that range. The Eagle T-Type Transmission is even more impressive in the way it handles extra e-bike power torque than it is on a conventional bike too, so there’s no stress when you’re shifting either.

Rider on rooty trail with full face helmet on

Two days of Welsh tech riding was an ideal way to find out how much the new bike could handle (Image credit: Scott Windsor)

Add the fact that the TCU display is generally out of your eyeline and that makes it very easy to forget you’re even riding an e-bike. The handling is equally ‘un-e’ with none of the usual snowplough/runaway train terror of extra weight on steep descents and its genuinely lively and poppy on flow trails, rather than needing heaving around to avoid high siding. While the smaller back wheel was fun for flaring and twisting through the tightest trails, fitting a 29er rear wheel for the second day of riding definitely liberated extra rolling speed everywhere. The larger diameter tire/wheel also felt smoother through rocky/rooty sections too and if it was my bike that’s the format I’d stay with to maximise the lower weight, better pedalling, efficiency gains you might assume from an SL labeled bike.

Verdict

Specialized’s Stumpjumper Evo is one of my favorite ultra versatile, massively adjustable all round trail bikes and at the risk of over simplifying things the Levo SL II is basically that bike with a better set of legs. It has that exact same dynamic handling vibe and geometry adjustment advantages but with better pedalling and bigger hit response and a more engaging suspension feel overall. The really natural feeling, quiet motor gives a useful amount of extra assist and range without disturbing the excellent dynamic balance of the bike too. The fact Specialized have probably the best reputation for e-bike back up of any brand, as well as the best display, app and tuning options shouldn’t be underestimated in long term value either and while 13k is a huge amount of cash, it’s on par with the competition. Plus while it’s obviously heavier, the £7,000 Comp model shares the same chassis and looked a lot of fun to ride too.

Specialized Turbo Levo Comp SL II

The Turbo Levo Comp SL II uses the same frame, motor and battery as the S-Works but 'only' costs £7,000 (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Test Conditions

  • Trails: Old school rocky man made red and black grade trails, mountain tracks and super steep off piste descents. 
  • Surfaces: Bedrock, loose rock, boulder trails, loam, rooty evil, slippery slop
  • Weather: Sunny above, wet below

Tech specs: Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo SL II

  • Discipline: Trail/enduro
  • Price: £13,000, $ and € TBC
  • Head angle: 63-65.5 degrees
  • Frame material: FACT 11M carbon fibre
  • Fork: Fox 36 Float Factory Grip 2, 160mm travel
  • Shock: Fox Float Factory X2 RX Trail Tune 150mm travel
  • Size: S1 to S6 
  • Weight: 17.6kg without pedals
  • Wheel size: 29/27.5in
  • Motor: Specialized 1.2 SL
  • Battery: Custom Levo SL 320Wh
  • Chainset: SRAM E-carbon 32T, 170mm
  • Rear mech: SRAM XX Eagle AXS Transmission
  • Shifter: SRAM XX Eagle AXS Transmission
  • Cassette: SRAM XX Eagle 10-52T 
  • Chain: SRAM Eagle Transmission Flat Top
  • Brakes: SRAM Code Silver Stealth hydraulic disc brakes with 200mm rotors. 
  • Tires: Specialized Butcher GRID TRAIL T9 29 x 2.3in front, Specialized Eliminator GRID TRAIL T7 27.5 x 2.3in
  • Wheels: Roval Traverse SL carbon
  • Handlebar: Roval Traverse SL Carbon 35 x 780mm
  • Stem: Deity 35 x 35mm 
  • Seatpost: RockShox Reverb AXS 170mm dropper
  • Saddle: Specialized Bridge Ti
Guy Kesteven
Technical-Editor-at-Large

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