2019 Specialized Levo review. Light novel (sorry, not sorry)

  • Thread starter Deleted member FN2187
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Deleted member FN2187

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I have also posted this in reviews. Mods feel free to delete this if necessary.

Foreword:
Guess who's back? Back again! Yogi's back..... Sorry, I'll leave that there.
But no, really. I'm back after being lost to the world of racing enduro (dirt bikes) for the last few years. As a result the mountain bikes had really taken a back seat. Anyone who owns a dirt bike will know that everything takes 10 times longer. If you live anywhere urban, Just physically getting to and from riding areas takes half a day. Then there is the cleaning, maintenance etc..... After my most recent injury and the ubiquitous mid 30's weight gain I really needed to get back on the pushy. I still have my trail bike and my roadie, but I was dreading the thought riding purely for the fitness. Turning something fun into work is a surefire way for me to lose interest. I had a predicament, How can I ride regularly enough to earn fitness points without detracting from the fun of mountain biking. So I got the idea in my head that an e-bike was the answer. Yeah, yeah I know. You don't need to tell me. An e-bike is cheating. You can't get fit on an E bike. But before you cast your aspersions I will retort by saying, any activity is better than no activity at all.

The Decision:
And so here we are, and with the wife's blessing I was off with a fist full of dollars. But which bike? It doesn't matter which way you slice it E bikes are fucking expensive. If I'm spending that kind of cash it had better be the right bike. And given the rapid development in the area, the bike had better be bang up to date. It also has to look and ride like an analogue bike with normal geometry. The only 2 bikes that tick my boxes were the Rocky mountain powerplay and the Specialized Levo. As much as the powerplay gave me a raging bike boner, the thought of owning a boutique bike with a proprietary motor scared me off with long term serviceability. Fortunately there were no XL bikes in the country. So my decision was made easy for me and I landed on the Levo.

The Bike:
Let's not beat around the bush, although I am ultimately happy with my decision, I have a bone to pick with the product manager at Specialized. $7000 hard earned Australian Dineros is what it costs to land a base model Levo in your shed. For $7k the parts list leaves a lot to be desired, but the investment is in owning one of the lightest E bikes available as well as the most stylistically correct in my opinion. A few quick upgrades to suit your riding style and the bike is easily one of the best available. For context the spec list is as follows.
CHAINKMC X11ET, 11-speed w/ Missing Link™
CRANKSETPraxis, 2D cold-forged alloy, custom offset, 165mm
SHIFT LEVERSSRAM S700, single-click lever
CASSETTESRAM PG-1130, 11-speed, 11-42t
CHAINRINGS32T, custom steel
REAR DERAILLEURSRAM NX, 11-speed
SUSPENSION
REAR SHOCKRockShox Deluxe RT w/ custom air valve, 150mm of travel
WHEELS
FRONT HUBSpecialized, sealed cartridge bearings, 15x110mm thru-axle, 28h
REAR HUBSpecialized, sealed cartridge bearings, 12x148mm thru-axle, 28h
INNER TUBESStandard, Presta valve
SPOKESDT Swiss Industry
RIMSRoval Traverse 29, hookless alloy, 30mm inner width, tubeless ready
FRONT TIREButcher, GRID casing, GRIPTON® compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29x2.6"
REAR TIREButcher, GRID casing, GRIPTON® compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29x2.6"
COCKPIT
SADDLEBody Geometry Henge Comp, hollow Cr-Mo rails, 143mm
SEATPOSTSpecialized 2-bolt head, forged alloy, 5mm offset, micro-adjust, 34.9mm
STEMSpecialized Trail, 3D-forged alloy, 4-bolt, 6-degree rise
HANDLEBARSSpecialized Trail, 6061 alloy, 8-degree backsweep, 6-degree upsweep, 27mm rise, 780mm, 31.8mm clamp
GRIPSSpecialized Sip grip, half-waffle, S/M: regular thickness, L/XL: XL thickness
BRAKES
FRONT BRAKESRAM Level T, hydraulic disc, 4-Piston Caliper, 200mm
REAR BRAKESRAM Level T hydraulic disc, 2-Piston Caliper, 200mm
ACCESSORIES
PEDALSSpecialized Dirt
FRAMESET
SEAT BINDERSpecialized bolt-type, alloy, 38.6mm
FORKRockShox Sektor RL, 29" Boost™, 150mm of travel
FRAMESpecialized M5 Premium Aluminum, 29 Trail Geometry, integrated down tube battery, enclosed internal cable, Command Post routing, 148mm spacing, fully sealed cartridge bearings, 150mm of travel

What on earth were Specialized thinking speccing a 150mm Sektor and SRAM Level T brakes, albeit a 4 piston on the front, on a 21kg bike. Moreover, why does a $7000 bike NOT come specced with a dropper post. Needless to say the first 2 purchases on my shopping list were a 160mm Rockshox Yari and an X fusion Manic dropper post. Anyone who knows me will know that I am on the lumberjack end of the human spectrum, so I replaced the contact points like saddle, bars, stem, grips and pedals. Personal preference rather than necessity. I have also replaced the tyres with Schwalbe Eddy current E bike specific tyres. The super stiff sidewalls really help keep everything under control. Otherwise, the Specialized branded components and Roval wheels are all excellent quality. The wheels are not the stiffest and are confusingly only 28 spoke units but strong enough to get the job done. I can understand Specialized building the bike to a budget and a weight limit, but I would take the weight penalty if it means durability. As they say Light, strong and cheap, you can only pick 2.

The motor/climbing:
Now for the fun stuff.
Life changing, mind blowing etc etc.... Now all of the hyperbole is out of the way, here's my honest opinion. No matter your preconceived notions and all prejudices aside, an e-bike is simply a mountain bike amplified..... Sorry. But really the Levo feels and rides just like any normal mountain bike, albeit with a weight penalty off the bike. The motor has 3 modes. Eco, trail and turbo, all of which have customisable assistance levels through the Specialized mission control app. I have left these at the factory set 30, 60 and 100% assistance levels. 90% of my time on the bike has been left in Eco mode. Eco really is all anyone NEEDS to have a good time on the bike. It gives a glimpse into what a professional cyclist must feel when ascending at Pace. One term I heard that encapsulates that feeling is 'Uphill flow'. It feels very natural and doesn't give so much assistance as to make you feel like the bike is doing all the work. Trail mode is a useful tool to help clear technical sections you would otherwise not be able to clear under your normal abilities. It really is a hoot to smash a climb that has been out of reach on an analogue bike. Both trail and turbo modes can be too much on normal single track. Having to brake uphill into corners is not necessary. I have used turbo mode exclusively for self shuttling fire roads. It gets pretty hairy on the trail as the front wheel tends to lift and float as the climbs get more technical.

Chassis/Descending:
Now Specialized has done something pretty special here. They've been able to package everything in a way that doesn't adversely affect the handling. The geometry is up to date, it is long, low and slack. But being Specialized the numbers are a little more conservative than some more boutique brands. This is no bad thing as the bike feels like any other 150mm trail bike pointed down hill. Actually because the majority of the weight is down low in the middle of the bike it stays far more stable through rocks, braking bumps and chunder. Since upgrading the forks and tyres I have never felt the bike to be outgunned on any trail. However, due to the added weight I have had to set the bike up a bit differently. I am running 25% sag in the fork and 30% sag in the rear. My tyres are set up tubeless with 28psi in the front and 32psi in the rear.

Battery/Charging/Maintenance
The battery life will always depend on several factors like rider weight, tyres, terrain and temperatures. The 500 watt hour battery life on the trail has been good in my experience. For context I am 6'3", heavier than I'm willing to admit, riding an XL frame with heavier than stock parts and tyres, mostly riding Canberra's excellent trail networks. So immediately I'm at a disadvantage when it comes to battery conservation. That being said I've not ever run the battery below 20%. Most of my rides are between 20km and 30km's long with 500m-700m of climbing. As I said, I am mostly running the motor in Eco mode and I do notice a sharp increase in battery consumption in turbo mode. Charging is a done with what looks like an old laptop charging brick and a proprietary magnetic connector plugged into the interface between the battery and motor. The cable is plenty long enough as the battery is not the easiest to remove and charge remotely. So far I have not had to do any maintenance to the battery or motor. The battery can be slid out of the down tube by unscrewing one big Allen bolt. The motor is sealed in its own waterproof housing inside a hard plastic protective cover that bolts into the frame with the motor. I've not pulled it out yet, but it looks to be a simple job with 2 long bolts through the lower portion of the frame.

Conclusion:
There is a lot of stigma surrounding cheater bikes that I think can be wiped away simply by swinging a leg over one. I have my own reasons for hopping on the bandwagon and I hope more people who simply just want to ride more get to enjoy one like I have. To put it plainly, I now ride way more than I ever have. And that is no bad thing.
 
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rextheute

Likes Dirt
Yup !
Totally Agree - ride one and then tell me you ‘ dont Like it ‘
They are Awesome , and I love mine - hands down one of the best things I have ever bought . And I’ve bought some fun things !

Ps , great review of a Levo - and all the valid reasons they are so popular . Next year will be mind blowing - and prob hurt my pocket , the tech is about to get real . They are still fantastic ‘ Bikes ‘ tho .
 

Kerplunk

Likes Bikes and Dirt
Yup !
Totally Agree - ride one and then tell me you ‘ dont Like it ‘
Rode a trek powerfly in the alps for half a day. I did not like it. Good uphill, absolutely fking awful everywhere else. Too heavy, noisy, and clumbersome. The battery ran flat after 35km and I felt like just leaving it on the side of the road and walking home.
I don’t want to turn this into a tiresome ebike argument, but you said ride one and tell me you don’t like it. Third ride on a emtb and I don’t rate them one bit, on the tarmac as a commuter I see the benefit.
 

wavike

Likes Dirt
I am surprised at the 28 spoke hubs on a 20kg bike with likely a large gent at the helm (XL frame).
Seems like splesh are just using the standard wheels and farkme NX on a $7k bike, even if it's an eBike, hope the entry level sram brakes have got better. never had a problem with juicys or elixirs but current ones have been crap. Luckily I'm 65kg or they would have gone.
 

Dales Cannon

Odious Geriatric
Staff member
I know spoke count is just one factor when it comes to wheel flex but that does seem wrong to me. Like anything the price point will determine the general spec and in this case all the electrical stuff isnt cheap so something has to give. Like comparing a $7,000 Giant to a $7,000 Yeti etc. You drop running gear spec to pay for the frame and technology. Ish. And cracks. Cannot forget the cracks.
 
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Deleted member FN2187

Guest
Rode a trek powerfly in the alps for half a day. I did not like it. Good uphill, absolutely fking awful everywhere else. Too heavy, noisy, and clumbersome. The battery ran flat after 35km and I felt like just leaving it on the side of the road and walking home.
I don’t want to turn this into a tiresome ebike argument, but you said ride one and tell me you don’t like it. Third ride on a emtb and I don’t rate them one bit, on the tarmac as a commuter I see the benefit.
I too have ridden the powerfly and I hated it also. The geometry is wack and the Bosch motor is loud. It is also a porker. It's a shame that it is now your point of reference for all E bikes as I think you'll be surprised by the difference between it and the spesh. They really aren't even comparable.

But my point about changing opinions after riding one isn't so much about convincing you to buy one, but to change your perspective to see that they are just a normal bike with a bit of pedal assistance. It's not a motorbike like everyone assumes. If you can see a benefit to the assistance that can outweigh the weight penalty like I have, they make complete sense.
 

Kerplunk

Likes Bikes and Dirt
I too have ridden the powerfly and I hated it also. The geometry is wack and the Bosch motor is loud. It is also a porker. It's a shame that it is now your point of reference for all E bikes as I think you'll be surprised by the difference between it and the spesh. They really aren't even comparable.

But my point about changing opinions after riding one isn't so much about convincing you to buy one, but to change your perspective to see that they are just a normal bike with a bit of pedal assistance. It's not a motorbike like everyone assumes. If you can see a benefit to the assistance that can outweigh the weight penalty like I have, they make complete sense.
Fair call about the powerfly, it was a shit bike and I’m glad that it isn’t the case with all of them.
 
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Scott101

Likes Dirt
I too have ridden the powerfly and I hated it also. The geometry is wack and the Bosch motor is loud. It is also a porker. It's a shame that it is now your point of reference for all E bikes as I think you'll be surprised by the difference between it and the spesh. They really aren't even comparable.

But my point about changing opinions after riding one isn't so much about convincing you to buy one, but to change your perspective to see that they are just a normal bike with a bit of pedal assistance. It's not a motorbike like everyone assumes. If you can see a benefit to the assistance that can outweigh the weight penalty like I have, they make complete sense.
I too agree that the powerfly is rubbish, having ridden 30plus kms on demo, focus jam, Trek powerfly, giant trance e, kenevo Comp and expert the winner for me by far is the Kenevo Expert. Try it and get back to us !
 

dan76n

Likes Bikes
I think they are a great idea to get people on the mountain or keep them riding.
How does it impact the social aspect of riding? Climbing with a bunch of mates that don’t have an e-bike.
And one last thing, what sort of time can you do climbing to the top of Stromlo and how many climbs could you push out in a ride?
 

Scotty T

Likes Bikes and Dirt
Thanks for the tip on the Powerfly, will make sure that's not the one I ride to have a go at off roading on e-bikes.
 
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