With the new Specialized SL 1.1, the American brand has worked together with MAHLE to develop its very own motor, designed to be used with light eMTBs with minimal support. Specialized have incorporated smart details into the new system and give the FAZUA Evation a run for its money.

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The new Specialized SL 1.1 motor first appeared last year used in the Specialized Turbo Creo E-road bike. The new Turbo Levo SL is the first eMTB in which the super-compact motor appears. It weighs just under 1.95 kg and is housed in a magnesium case. Read our comprehensive test to find out more about the sub-17 kg bike. With 35 Nm torque and a maximum power output of 240 W, the Specialized SL 1.1 is significantly less powerful, but also more frugal than the other motors tested. Just like the Turbo Levo 2.1 motor, which is based on the Brose Drive S Mag, Specialized furnish the SL 1.1 motor with its very own ecosystem. At its heart is the Turbo Connect Unit, which is fitted to the top tube and uses LEDs to provide information about the battery charge and assistance mode. A press of the button also lets you change the support level, meaning that you can ride the SL 1.1 without the remote or display mounted on the cockpit. However, the compact cockpit-mounted remote allows quick and easy mode selection from the bars. The TC display is wireless and displays key ride data. If you want you can display the same data on your Garmin or Wahoo. A further technical highlight is the Mission Control app, which allows you to tune all three assistance modes individually as well as navigate to destinations based on your remaining battery and current power usage.

The modular battery concept was also developed by Specialized. The SL 1.1 motor is fed by an internal 320 Wh battery, but you can fit an additional 160 Wh range extender. It weighs approximately 1 kg and is secured with an additional fastener in your bottle cage. In comparison to its fellow, the lightweight FAZUA Evation, the Specialized SL 1.1 is capable of delivering more range, due to both its larger battery capacity and reduced power consumption. In practice, it can manage approximately the same range as a standard Bosh motor with a 625 Wh battery, though that at a slower speed and with more effort from the rider.

Water or juice
The bottle cage also holds the 160 Wh range extender. It weighs roughly 1 kg and increases your battery capacity by 50%.

It should be obvious that with a maximum power of 240 W, that the SL 1.1 is the weakest motor in our test by some margin. But that’s intentional, with Specialized purposefully staying 10 W below the legally allowed limit. With its new 2.0 firmware, the FAZUA Evation is significantly more powerful and as a point of reference, the maximum support of the Levo SL is roughly equivalent to Tour mode of the new Bosch Performance CX motor or Eco mode of the Specialized Levo motor. Why so little power? The primary development goal for Specialized was to create a natural ride feel, where the motor wouldn’t be obvious. The 30-strong development team has succeeded in that task and on the trails, the Specialized motor stays pleasantly in the background. The fact that it is providing quite some support in the middle assistance level is only really noticeable due to the hum from the motor. Power delivery is so smooth that more than anything else, it feels like you suddenly have very strong legs. On steep ramps, the ride feel is much more like that of an analog bike than an ebike. The SL 1.1 requires you to select the right gear and put in effort yourself, while rewarding you with enough support to take the pain out of the steepest slopes. This also contributes to its incredibly natural ride feel.

Shifting central
The Turbo Connect Unit shows the battery charge and assistance mode selected. In addition, it communicates wirelessly with the TC display or your Garmin or Wahoo device.
Full control
The Mission Control app lets you customise all three assistance modes to your personal preference.

No other motor in the test manages to make the transition above the 25 km/h assistance limit in the strongest setting feel so smooth and seamless. That’s helped by the fact that the SL 1.1 ramps down its output earlier than the other motors, making the transition at 25 km/h that much smoother. However, that means for mixed rides with ebikes playing in the Bosch-class, you’ll need to put a lot of effort in to keep up with others on the flats.

Our conclusion

There’s absolutely no doubt that the Specialized SL 1.1 motor is exemplary when it comes to integration, connectivity and a natural ride feel. Its compact construction makes it possible to create a truly lightweight ebike, with handling that is almost identical to an analog bike. If you want to get to the top of your climbs at top speed without breaking a sweat, you’re looking in the wrong place. Thanks to its natural character, every ride becomes a workout and bikes fitted with the Specialized SL 1.1 truly have the potential to replace analog trail bikes.

Tops

  • incredibly natural ride feel
  • small and light
  • integration and connectivity of the TCU
  • customisable motor setup
  • modular battery

Flops

  • loud hum

For more information head to specialized.com

All motors in this comparison: Brose Drive S Mag | Bosch Performance Line CX | FAZUA Evation Firmware 2.0 | Yamaha PW-X2 | Shimano STEPS E8000 | TQ HPR 120S | Specialized SL 1.1


It's finally here: The E-MOUNTAINBIKE Print Edition 2020 is our third annual edition and ultimate test bible, with which we aim to help you choose the perfect eMTB. More than 250 pages of extensive buyers advice, tons of eMTB know-how as well as reviews of the 35 most exciting eMTBs and the 7 best motors. You’ll also find many helpful tips and a guide to the most exciting eMTB trends – all of this is wrapped in a high quality print format. Click here for more information or order it directly in our shop!

Words: Felix Stix Photos: E-MOUNTAINBIKE team

About the author

Felix Stix

Felix is chief of testing and undoubtedly one of the best test riders in the world. With a degree in sports engineering, excellent mountain bike skills, his love of technology and as a certified bike guide, Felix has everything it takes to make comprehensive and fair assessments of bikes. His legendary group tests are internationally known and feared, though they tend to be a bit longer due to his love of detail and technical deep dives. Every year, he reviews around 100 bikes, specialising in the subject of tires, motors and suspension, before putting on his skis come winter! His know-how is incorporated into each of our reviews, ensuring the quality of our work stays high!