Are you looking for a capable, lightweight eMTB to be able to blast the downhills? Then the new Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL 2021 with its 170 mm travel and Specialized 1.1 motor could be the right machine for you. We tested the 18.7 kg, Light eMTB and can tell you how it rides on the trail.

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Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL | Specialized SL 1.1/320 Wh | 170/170 mm (f/r)
18.7 kg in size S4 | € 13,999 | Manufacturer’s website

At first glance, it quickly becomes apparent who the new Specialized bike’s mentor was. The slim and lightweight Kenevo SL might have the Turbo Kenevo as its namesake, but looks more similar to the capable, analogue Specialized Enduro! If you’ve been looking for a Specialized bike that lets you take on really hard downhill trails, you previously had the pick of the analogue Enduro or the Turbo Kenevo and Turbo Levo eMTBs, both equipped with the powerful Brose Drive S Mag motor. As a Light eMTB with low levels of assistance, the Kenevo SL closes the gap between the most capable bikes in Specialized’s lineup and relies on the same motor concept found in its little brother, the Turbo Levo SL.

The new Specialized Kenevo SL has the Kenevo as its namesake, but its spiritual kin are the Enduro and Levo SL!

The goal of the innovative motor concept: on the downhills, the bike is supposed to offer similar handling to an analogue bike, on the uphills you can enjoy the advantages of an eMTB. For Specialized, the optimal compromise is found in the combination of the Specialized 1.1 motor, capable of doubling your input, paired with a lightweight 320 Wh battery. As such, the weight difference to the analogue Enduro is smaller than that to the Kenevo, while the visual similarities are immediately apparent. The design language of the carbon frame, geometry and suspension leave no question as to which example the Kenevo SL follows. The suspension design is also based on the kinematics of the Enduro, designed to allow Specialized to tune the suspension to suit the 29″ wheels and 170 mm travel precisely.

The motor system, MasterMind display and software of the Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL 2021

The 1.95 kg, compact Specialized 1.1 motor which produces 35 Nm torque is sleekly integrated and, together with the fixed 320 Wh battery in the slim down tube, plays its part towards the low 18.7 kg weight. Thanks to the frugal motor, a bigger battery isn’t necessary to achieve an acceptable range. On the contrary, the Kenevo is perfectly capable of similar ranges to all-round eMTBs with 600 Wh batteries. You will however have to put in noticeably more effort yourself. For anyone who wants to have more fuel on tap, the 160 Wh Range-Extender, held in the bottle cage, is the right tool. It adds an additional 1.2 kg and expands your battery capacity by 50%. The speed sensor is cleverly integrated, completely hidden inside the frame on the inside of the dropouts and reads the magnet affixed to the disc rotor through the carbon frame.

The Kenevo SL is equipped with the compact Specialized 1.1 motor which produces 240 W nominal power and 35 Nm torque.
The matching 320 Wh battery is permanently integrated into the down tube.
An additional 160 Wh Range-Extender expands your battery capacity by 50%, weighing 1.2 kg.
The linchpin of the ecosystem is the MasterMind fitted on the top tube. Its display provides you with all the data you need.
You can adjust the assistance modes to suit your preference via the Mission Control app.
The display can also be configured to suit your preferences.
A new feature of the Specialized 1.1 system is Micro Tune mode. This lets you adjust the assistance modes in 10% steps without your smartphone. All you need to control it is the bar remote.

The linchpin of the Specialized ecosystem is the MasterMind display integrated into the top tube, which provides you with all the data you need. The Mission Control app lets you tune Eco, Trail and Turbo modes to suit your preferences with the peak output and support factor adjustable. The app also lets you configure the size and number of data fields on the display. A new feature of the system is Micro Tune, with the Kenevo SL being Specialized’s first Light eMTB to offer this functionality. It lets you adjust the assistance of the motor in 10% steps on the trail without a smartphone. If you want, you can also have motor support controlled via your heart rate. Any future features or updates will be made available via over the air updates.

The spec and details Specialized S-Works Kenevo SL 2021

The € 13,999 Specialized S-Works Kenevo SL comes with a premium and descent-focussed spec that is dedicated to trail performance. Up front, a FOX 38 Factory GRIP2 handles 170 mm travel while a FOX Factory X2 shock controls the 170 mm travel at the rear. However, the Kenevo SL loses marks for the poor accessibility of the high-speed rebound dial on the shock. Due to the suspension design, fine-tuning the shock requires a bit of fiddling. The wireless SRAM Eagle AXS drivetrain and the 170mm RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post ensure a tidy and neat cockpit. Unfortunately, the adjustability of the Matchmaker clamps to which the AXS rocker paddle shifters are affixed wasn’t sufficient for some of our testers. Depending on the cockpit, settings and your hand size, classic bar clamps might be better.

The Specialized S-Works Kenevo SL comes with a FOX 38 Factory with the GRIP2 damper and 170 mm travel.
At the rear, a FOX X2 Factory shock controls 170 mm travel. The high-speed rebound dial is hard to reach.
Thanks to the wireless SRAM AXS components, the cockpit is super clean!
The SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS 12-speed drivetrain…
… comes with the slick rainbow cassette…
… and the Rocker Paddle. However, the adjustability of the Matchmaker clamps wasn’t sufficient for some of our testers. Our tip: use classic bar clamps instead.
The RockShox Reverb AXS dropper convinces with excellent functionality but can’t be inserted fully into the frame, limiting freedom of movement unnecessarily!
SRAM CODE RSC brakes are amongst the best available and…
… are combined with a 220 mm rotor at the front and a 200 mm rotor at the rear. Top marks!
Typical Specialized: The Kenevo SL comes with a SWAT multi-tool in the steerer tube.
The 29 x 2.3″ GRID Trail casing tires are under-dimensioned given the capability of the Kenevo SL. A more robust casing like Specialized’s GRID Gravity…
… wouldn’t just make lower air pressures possible but would also protect the expensive Roval Traverse SL carbon wheelset.

Unfortunately, the 170 mm RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post can’t be inserted completely into the size S4 frame. While we love the tidy cockpit, operation and functionality of the AXS dropper, it’s not sensible for the size S4. Riders who fall right in the middle of the recommended sizing may still find the saddle too high when fully extended. A better choice would be a dropper post with adjustable travel and minimal length, like the OneUp V2. Braking is handled by the easily modulated, powerful and reliable SRAM CODE RSC brakes with a large 220 mm rotor up front and 200 mm item at the rear. It doesn’t get better! Typical for Specialized, the wheels and tires are in-house items. However, we felt the 29 x 2.3″ Specialized Butcher tires in the GRID Trail casing on our test bike were a little under-specced. A more robust model wouldn’t just better protect the expensive Roval Traverse SL carbon wheelset from impacts but would also let you ride with lower pressures. We recommend upgrading to less puncture-prone and sturdier tires, like Specialized’s GRID Gravity models. A fender at the rear protects the shock from mud and the massive chainstay protector ensures peace and quiet downhill. Of course, the Kenevo SL also comes with a SWAT multi-tool in the steerer tube.

The Kenevo SL comes with a massive chainstay protector…
… and fender at the rear.

Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL

€ 13,999

Specifications

Motor Specialized SL 1.1 35 Nm
Battery Specialized SL1-320 320 Wh
Display Specialized MasterMind
Fork FOX 38 Factory GRIP2 170 mm
Rear Shock FOX X2 Factory 170 mm
Seatpost RockShox Reverb AXS 125-170 mm
Brakes SRAM CODE RSC 220/200 mm
Drivetrain SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS 1x12
Stem DEITY Copperhead 35 mm
Handlebar Roval Traverse SL Carbon 800 mm
Wheelset Roval Traverse SL 29 29"
Tires Specialized Butcher GRID Trail 2.3"

Technical Data

Size S2, S3, S4, S5
Weight 18.7 kg
Perm. total weight 128 kg
Max. payload (rider/equipment) 109 kg
Trailer approval No
Kickstand mount No


Other models of the Specialized Kenevo SL 2021

Alongside the S-Works model, the will be two further Kenevo SL builds. The € 9,499 Kenevo SL Expert is, like the S-Works model, available to purchase immediately. Another model will follow, though no further information is available yet. Alternatively, you can also purchase an S-Work frameset for € 6,999 including the motor, battery system and FOX Factory X2 shock.

The spec of the Expert doesn’t include any wireless AXS components and can’t keep up with the S-Works model in terms of bling. Nonetheless, it’s just as well-tuned for trail performance, with the FOX Performance Elite suspension making a particularly positive impression. There are also no compromises in terms of braking either. The fitted SRAM CODE RS brakes come with a 220 mm rotor at the front and 200 mm at the rear making, them an excellent choice. The X-Fusion Manic Dropper has 125 mm drop in size S2, 150 mm for sizes S3 and S4, and 170 mm for S5. That means the S4 has less travel than the top-end model. The tires might be the same as the flagship bike but thanks to the aluminium wheelset, the combination isn’t as critical. The rims won’t be damaged as easily by impacts and you’ll likely just come away with a dent. Here, it will be sufficient for lighter riders to swap only the rear tire to a sturdier model.

Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL Expert | Specialized SL 1.1/320 Wh | 170/170 mm (f/r) | € 9,499 | Manufacturer’s website

Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL Expert

€ 9,499

Specifications

Motor Specialized SL 1.1 35 Nm
Battery Specialized SL1-320 320 Wh
Display Specialized MasterMind
Fork FOX 38 Performance GRIP2 170 mm
Rear Shock FOX X2 performance 170 mm
Seatpost X-Fusion Manic 125-170 mm
Brakes SRAM CODE RSC 220/200 mm
Drivetrain SRAM X01 Eagle 1x12
Stem Specialized Trail 35 mm
Handlebar Specialized Trail 780 mm
Wheelset Roval Traverse 29 29"
Tires Specialized Butcher/Eliminator GRID Trail 2.3"

Technical Data

Size S2, S3, S4, S5
Max. payload (rider/equipment) 109 kg
Trailer approval No
Kickstand mount No


The highly adjustable geometry of the Specialized Kenevo SL 2021 and S-sizing

The Specialized Kenevo SL comes in sizes S2–S5. The S-sizing system designed around short seat tubes is intended to allow riders to select their bike based not on the length of the seat tube but on their preferred riding style and desired handling. As such, Specialized claim this lets you choose between a more agile or more stable bike. We think this approach is great but it doesn’t work out completely for the S-Works Kenevo SL. The problem is the limited insertion depth of the seat post for size S4, leaving part of the dropper post peeking out of the frame. Riders who would like an S4 may reach the limits of adjustability in combination with the Reverb AXS dropper. As such, the idea of being able to choose between multiple frame sizes isn’t a given for everyone.

The S-sizing system is supposed to allow riders to choose their frame size based on their riding size rather than the length of the seat tube. In theory, that’s great!
However, the limited insertion depth of the dropper makes the short seat tube length moot. The RockShox Reverb AXS can’t be inserted completely in the size S4 seat tube! A different dropper post with a smaller insertion depth or adjustable travel like the OneUp V2 would have been a better choice here.
The geometry can be adjusted with special cups for the headset…
…and with a flip-chip at the dropouts.

Like the current Levo, the new Kenevo SL has numerous options to adjust the geometry to fit your personal preferences. That’s made possible by a flip-chip in the dropouts and cups for the headset to adjust the head angle. That lets you tune the bike to suit your riding and terrain. The flip-chip changes the chainstay length by 5 mm and the bottom bracket height by 6 mm. The Kenevo SL is delivered in the middle head angle setting and the low position for the flip-chip. Admittedly, all these adjustments can be overwhelming to begin with. We mainly rode the bike in the high position (short setup) with the middle head angle setting of 63.5° – this is what we’d recommend you to begin with and results in a very balanced ride. This option is also detailed in the table below.

Size S1 S2 S3 S4
Seat tube 400 mm 420 mm 440 mm 465 mm
Top tube 584 mm 615 mm 641 mm 666 mm
Head tube 105 mm 115 mm 125 mm 135 mm
Head angle 63.9° 63.9° 63.9° 63.9°
Seat angle 76.5° 76.5° 76.5° 76.5°
Chainstays 442 mm 442 mm 442 mm 442 mm
BB height 356 mm 356 mm 356 mm 356 mm
Wheelbase 1221 mm 1254 mm 1282 mm 1309 mm
Reach 437 mm 465 mm 489 mm 512 mm
Stack 614 mm 623 mm 632 mm 641 mm

Bottom bracket in the high setting, the headset cup set to the middle position

Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL 2021 in review – This is how it rides on the flats and uphill

The sensitive suspension of the Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL filters out uneven ground and impacts on tours. However, for longer rides, the position is too aggressively stretched. Instead, the bike prefers to move quickly and directly uphill to get to the trails. What really counts for this bike is descending. Riding together with all-round eMTBs is only fun if your friends stick to the lowest assistance mode. Even on moderate inclines, the 35 Nm Specialized 1.1 motor demands a hefty amount of rider input to be able to keep of with bikes in the Bosch-league. The Specialized 1.1 motor is simply too weak for rides with more powerful motors. As such, on the uphills, you’ll usually be riding relaxed on forest roads and flow trails. Steeps ramps can be mastered but the lack of motor power requires lots of rider input even with maximum support. The Kenevo SL isn’t designed for the really technical uphills that you’d tackle aboard an all-round eMTB.

The Kenevo SL isn’t designed for really steep uphill challenges. It is happiest providing support when pedalling on forest roads.
Chief tester and uphill king Felix ran out of steam after multiple steep and chopped up slopes, which weren’t a problem with bikes in the Bosch-league. The only thing you can do is push.

Uphill is a means to an end with the Kenevo SL! What really counts is riding downhills at full pelt!

Helmet Fox Dropframe Pro | Jersey DHARCO TROPICAL DH
Pants DHARCO GRAVITY | Shoes Specialized 2FO DH Clip

Full steam ahead! The Specialized Kenevo SL 2021 downhill

After the first few metres of trail, it quickly becomes clear that you’ll have a lot of fun – as long as the trail is steep, demanding or fast. Even in the high setting, the 63.5° head angle leaves you super integrated between the wheels and master of any situation. Grip is easily generated by both wheels and the long frame provides lots of freedom of movement. However, that excludes the saddle, which was too high for our test riders measuring between 1.80 and 1.86 m tall.

Chief tester Felix enjoying the Kenevo SL while he blasts through corners at speed.

Thanks to its low weight, the Kenevo SL has the typical feeling of a Light eMTB with light-footed handling similar to an analogue bike. In corners, it also scores with excellent balance. Due to the long frame, you still have to work hard to get the front wheel into the air, pull a manual or master tight switchbacks, despite its low weight. The Kenevo SL has a need for speed! If the trails are easy and slow or the rider is inactive, this Light eMTB ends up bored and lacks agility. As speeds increase and the trails become more demanding, the Kenevo SL is fully in its element. It wants you to get off the brakes and step on the gas! That makes it easy to catch air and pop off edges. Agility on the Kenevo SL is a direct result of the combination of the plush yet defined suspension, low weight and lots of speed.

Despite the low weight, some effort is required to get the bike onto its rear wheel. That’s primarily due to the long frame.

The puncture-prone GRID Trail tires end up overwhelmed with the preferred riding style of the Kenevo SL. You should fit an alternative with a sturdier casing like Specialized’s GRID Gravity models. When things get steep and technical, the Kenevo SL conveys a secure-feeling ride that encourages you to master new challenges, makes you want to keep on riding and is blissfully quiet.

Tuning-tips:tires with a more stable casing like Specialized’s GRID Gravity models | dropper post with more drop for reduced stack height like the OneUp V2 dropper

Specialized Enduro, Kenevo SL, Levo SL or Levo? Which bike fits you best?

We might not have had the opportunity to test all bikes in direct comparison, but based on numerous hours on the Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo, the Levo SL and the experiences of our sister magazine ENDURO with the Specialized Enduro, we can still draw some conclusions. If you’ve got here and are thinking the Kenevo SL might be too much bike for you with too much of a need for speed, you should take a closer look at the Levo SL. It’s based on the same motor concept and combines the advantages of an eMTB on the uphills with the handling of an analogue bike. However, it’s noticeably more playful than the Kenevo SL, making it the better choice for tours and easier, flowing trails.

On the other hand, the new Levo 2022 combines great performance at high speed and in technical terrain with good climbing characteristics and plenty of motor power. If you’re not just riding technical terrain downhill but are looking for uphill challenges too, you’ll find an interesting bike in the Levo which pays attention to the details and stands out with high finishing quality and user experience that is state of the art. How the Enduro compares to the Kenevo SL when it comes to shuttle runs and lift-supported bike park action remains to be seen in a direct comparison between the two. Stay tuned!

Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL conclusion

With the Turbo Kenevo SL, the Specialized team have expanded their portfolio with a capable Light eMTB that can shred the hardest trails. If you like riding steep and demanding tracks at high speeds, you’ll find an exceptional bike with an innovative concept and excellent finishing quality. However, it’s not made for easy or flat trails. The ecosystem comprising the motor and MasterMind display makes a lot of individualisation possible and the user experience is pioneering.

Tops

  • downhill performance on steep, demanding and fast trails
  • completely quiet downhill
  • display and assistance modes can be individualised extensively
  • modular battery concept

Flops

  • limited insertion depth of the seat post
  • bored on easy trails
  • technical uphills

You can find out more about at specialized.com


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Words: Jonas Müssig Photos: Jonas Müssig

About the author

Jonas Müssig

Actually, it really should be Dr. Müssig. After all, Jonas completed his doctorate in chemistry shortly before he started working with us. However, his true passion ultimately prevailed over science. Of course, that doesn't mean chemistry no longer plays a role. Jonas’ scientific background and his long-standing passion for (e)biking are a perfect match. On the hunt for the optimal ride life balance, Jonas can be found on the trails in the summer and with his backpack in Asia or his camper in southern Europe in winter.