Specialized’s Turbo Levo Expert electric mountain bike is the brand’s mid-level carbon fibre full-power offering, retailing for a whopping £10,000. It’s fitted with Specialized’s Turbo Full Power System 2.2 motor, offering 90Nm of peak torque, powered by a 700Wh battery stashed in the down tube. Other manufacturers have now caught up with Specialized’s power figures, but the Turbo Levo’s geometry still shines. Offering three head-angle options and two chainstay positions, the Turbo Levo is ultra-adjustable, helping it bridge the gap between trail bikes and enduro bikes with impressive confidence. It has 150mm of rear-wheel travel and runs, unsurprisingly, on mullet wheels (27.5in rear, 29in front). All of this makes the Turbo Levo a compelling option and leading contender in our 2023 Electric Mountain Bike of the Year category.
Specialized Turbo Levo Expert frame, suspension and motor
The low-slung motor helps keep the bike’s centre of gravity down. Both the front and rear triangles are built from the same Fact 11M carbon fibre as the S-Works Turbo Levo. It has Specialized’s sidearm design (shared across many of its bikes, such as the Stumpjumper). This is a brace spanning the top and seat tubes and is claimed to add to the frame’s rigidity. Internally routed cables feature from front to back. There’s space for a 630ml water bottle beneath the rear shock. Along with in-built chain-slap protection, there’s an integrated main pivot mudguard and a chain device. It runs standard Boost 148mm rear-axle spacing and has SRAM’s Universal Derailleur Hanger.
Brose makes Specialized’s 90Nm torque motor. The FSR Horst-link suspension has 150mm of travel and has been designed to offer small-bump compliance balanced with plenty of mid-stroke support and bottom-out resistance. The Specialized electric bike motor – manufactured by Brose – has 90Nm of torque and 565w of peak power. This is powered by an on-board 700Wh battery. The brand’s in-built MasterMind Turbo Control Unit (TCU) has a full-colour customisable display with MicroTune adjustability. Assistance can be adjusted in 10 per cent increments on the fly, and there’s smartphone connectivity.
Specialized Turbo Levo Expert geometry
With great geometry and a sorted feel, the Turbo Levo feels great on the trails. Specialized’s S-Sizing features on the Turbo Levo’s six-size range, where standover heights and head tube lengths change little between sizes. Riders can size up or down depending on their riding style or needs; a smaller bike will be more playful, while a larger one will be more stable. Two headset cups supplied with the bike give the head tube angle three positions (-1 degrees, 0 degrees and +1 degrees). A two-position flip chip on the Horst pivot changes bottom bracket height by 7mm. Combined, these adjustments create six potential geometry configurations. Head tube angles span from 63.5 to 65 degrees, while bottom bracket heights range from 342mm to 352mm. In the slack and low setting, the S4 bike’s reach figure is 472m, chainstay length 447mm and wheelbase 1,268mm. This adjustability sets the Turbo Levo apart from its competition, and helps it blur the lines confidently between trail and enduro riding.
|Seat angle (degrees)||78||77||76||76||76||76|
|Head angle (degrees)||63||63.5||63.5||63.5||63.5||63.5|
|Seat tube (mm)||380||390||405||425||445||465|
|Top tube (mm)||539||571||599||632||659||691|
|Head tube (mm)||105||105||115||125||135||145|
|Fork offset (mm)||44||44||44||44||44||44|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||25||27||27||27||27||27|
|Bottom bracket height (mm)||344||342||342||342||343||343|
Specialized Turbo Levo Expert specifications
The Fox 38 Performance Elite fork shares its damper with the more expensive Factory version. The Expert Turbo Levo’s parts help justify the asking price. Fox’s 160mm-travel Performance Elite 38 fork with GRIP2 damper is matched with a Fox Float X2 Performance Elite rear shock. SRAM’s X01 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain is paired with SRAM Code RS brakes sporting a 220mm front disc and a 200mm rear. Roval’s Traverse alloy wheels are wrapped in Specialized rubber, usually a Butcher Grid Trail T9 29×2.6in front and Eliminator Grid Trail T7 27.5×2.6 at the rear. However, my test bike was upgraded with Specialized’s Hillbilly Grid Gravity T9 29×2.4in front and Butcher Grid Gravity T9 29×2.3in at the rear.
Although the Turbo Levo foregoes SWAT storage, a small tool is stashed within the bike’s steerer tube. Specialized finishing kit features heavily, including the Trail handlebar, Alloy Trail stem and Bridge saddle. Bucking the trend are Deity’s Knuckleduster grips, however. Stashed in the steerer tube is Specialized’s SWAT tool. X-Fusion’s 175mm-travel Manic dropper post is fitted, this model clamping its cable at the post rather than the lever. This S4 test bike without pedals weighed 23.46kg.
Specialized Turbo Levo Expert ride impressions
At times, we wished it had a longer-travel 170mm fork. I tested the Turbo Levo in Scotland’s Tweed Valley, the UK’s home of international enduro racing and the 2023 XC World Championships. Trails ranged from enduro-specific runs used for races through to hidden backcountry singletracks, all ridden in a host of weather conditions during the long and gruelling test period.
Fox’s Performance Elite Float X2 shock is well suited to the Turbo Levo’s suspension kinematics. Using Specialized’s online setup guide, I initially inflated the fork to 91psi and rear shock to 212psi, giving me 22.5 per cent and 29.1 per cent sag respectively. I left the three stock volume-reducer spacers in the fork and zero stock spacers in the shock. This felt too soft on the initial shake-down runs, and I gradually increased pressures until I found a balance between comfort and grip, support and bottom resistance. I finished with 108psi in the fork and 225psi in the rear shock. Except the fork’s low-speed compression adjuster, which I increased to +2/16 clicks from fully open, I set all other external compression and rebound adjustments on the fork and shock to fully open. I set the bike to its lowest bottom bracket position and installed the -1 degree headset cup. Having experience with the Turbo Levo, I know this is my preferred geometry setting.
Specialized Turbo Levo Expert climbing performance
Uphill, it feels well balanced. Being picky, the seat tube angle could be steeper. The Turbo Levo’s climbing position is comfortable and balanced. Its fairly steep seat tube angle places your hips more over the bottom bracket compared to bikes with slacker angles. This improves pedalling efficiency and comfort, where your feet don’t feel as if they’re too far in front of you. As gradients steepened and my weight was biased to the rear of the bike, which in turn compressed the shock, the slightly harder setup I chose to run helped maintain its geometry and seat angle by reducing excess shock compression. Excessive weight shifts aren’t needed to keep the front wheel from lifting or the rear from spinning, with control being very easy to master.
A cable-operated SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain offers great performance. Smoothness and grip are abundant. The rear end moves in and out of its travel well, insulating you from rough, square-edged, high-frequency bumps. Traction is maintained as the rear wheel tracks the contours of the trail’s surface. The seat tube angle, chainstay length (447mm) and wheelbase (1,268mm) combine with the effective top tube (632mm) to create a balanced ride. Rider weight is distributed evenly between the seat and bars, reducing fatigue and discomfort on long stints in the saddle. Arguably, the Turbo Levo has a trail-riding bias to its riding position, with a slightly more stretched-out feel compared to a true winch and plummet, gravity-focused electric mountain bike. This is no bad thing given the breadth of its performance potential – from enduro descender to all-day trail bike – instilled by its massively adjustable geometry. This means it needs to cater to a broad range of riders.
Motor performance and battery life
The MasterMind TCU screen is built into the top tube, and opens up MicroTune power adjustments, where the bike’s assistance can be changed in 10 per cent increments. Specialized’s more advanced MasterMind TCU colour LCD display is easy to read and, thanks to its location, discreet, unlike Bosch’s gaudy Kiox 300. Its battery percentage readout is neat, and its data screens can be customised in Specialized’s smartphone app. Best of all is MicroTune. Assistance levels can be adjusted in 10 per cent increments on-the-fly using the handlebar remote, tailoring the motor’s assistance levels. Battery life from the 700Wh unit is good. If assistance levels are kept below 30 per cent, it’s possible to exceed 2,000m of ascent on a single charge. Keep it in Turbo mode and that drops to between 1,300m and 1,500m. The Brose motor feels just as natural as Shimano’s EP8; the harder you pedal, the more the assistance tapers off. This is at odds with how Bosch’s Performance Line CX works, where increased rider inputs result in more assistance. This makes feeding in power on slippery, steep and technical ascents more manageable, where wheelspin is easier to mitigate against. It can leave you wanting a little more oomph at times, and it’s unlikely you’ll win a fire-road drag race against a friend with a Bosch-powered bike.
Specialized Turbo Levo Expert descending performance
Adaptable and smooth, the Levo SL is incredible on almost all types of terrain. I’ve previously exclaimed at the Turbo Levo’s magical ride, This Fox 38 and Float X2 equipped Expert model retains all the wonder of the £14,250 S-Works bike at significantly less cost. A large portion of that performance appears to come from the front and rear dampers, each providing the right amount of support and suppleness for the Levo frame’s hard-charging potential, but only up to a certain point. The rear shock stands up well to plenty of punishment, especially at higher spring pressures, but the fork’s 160mm of travel puts a limit on how hard you can push. In super-rough, steep or gnarly terrain, the fork’s travel can get used up too quickly, imposing a glass ceiling on performance. A longer 170mm-travel fork should match the performance of the frame without upsetting its balanced geometry, but Specialized doesn’t recommend fitting a fork with more than 150mm travel for S1 bikes and 160mm for S2 to S6 bikes.
Its capabilities outshine its 150mm rear-suspension travel figure. This criticism is a back-handed compliment; its frame is so capable, helping you ride sections of trail so hard that it pushes well beyond the traditional scope of a trail bike. Like the S-Works model, this Expert version of Turbo Levo punches well above its weight. It has an unmistakably neutral and balanced riding position, which makes you feel at one with the bike. Its calm ride means bumps don’t destabilise the frame, and no excessive weight shifts are required to keep it riding smooth and level. Choppy, successive hits are absorbed with ease, the frame and suspension insulating you from the biggest, harshest impacts. Grip is impressive and increases predictably when you push against its supportive suspension in turns or through undulations.
It absolutely hooks turns. The mullet wheels don’t upset its balance. Although rear-wheel traction can be broken forcibly with overt weight shifts, drifting down the trail isn’t the Turbo Levo’s default style. Its low-slung motor and diminutive bottom bracket height (338mm measured in -1 degree headset, low bottom bracket setting) make it vastly enjoyable to hustle in and out of turns. Leaning into corners is addictive and it responds well to rider weight shifts. Once it’s set on its turn radius it sticks there, delivering the same predictably pleasing feeling time after time. It also has a muted feel, with little fatigue caused by harshness from bumps reverberating through the bars or cranks.
How does the Specialized Turbo Levo Expert compare to the Trek Rail 9.8 XT Gen 3?
The Rail has a good shape, but its performance is hindered by spec choices. Sharing front- and rear-wheel travel, the Turbo Levo and Trek’s Rail Gen 3 are obvious competitors. Both also have adjustable geometry, but the Turbo Levo’s adjustments go well beyond the Trek’s single flip chip. This makes the Specialized more adaptable and customisable than the Rail, potentially suiting way more riders. However, the Trek’s geometry is pretty sorted – whether that’s for hardcore enduro riding, or long days in the saddle – and you’re going to be pushed to notice any major differences, even in back-to-back testing. It’s the smoothness of the Turbo Levo that really sets it apart from the Rail. The Rail feels harsh and raw compared to the Specialized. This is most likely a combination of the tyres’ plastic-like compound, their thin sidewalls requiring higher pressures to prevent punctures, and the stiff 35mm carbon fibre bars. It’s possible to access higher speeds, have more control and be more comfortable on the Turbo Levo, edging its performance well ahead of the Trek. Comparing Brose and Bosch motors, the Bosch feels more powerful and its assistance builds with rider input. Some may prefer the more natural assistance of the Brose, however.
Specialized Turbo Levo Expert bottom line
Balanced geometry makes it seriously easy to ride. The Turbo Levo’s balanced and damped feel, exceptionally capable suspension and highly adjustable geometry make it suitable for a wide range of riders. From all-day backcountry epics through to shuttle laps on your local downhill tracks, the Turbo Levo has enough in the tank to put a smile on your face. This model is expensive and is fitted with quite a few Specialized rather than branded components. Arguably, value for money if you’re looking at its spec in isolation isn’t great. Out on the trail, you won’t notice a reduction in performance caused by those parts, however. The impressive, almost unstoppable capability highlights some spec issues – such as the fork’s 160mm of travel, or the stock GRID Trail casing tyres – but they hardly detract from what is still one of the best-riding electric mountain bikes on the market.