You know that guy or girl who always arrives a little late, but the party doesn’t get started without them? That’s the Specialized Turbo Levo. When the Turbo Levo was introduced in 2016, most of the major manufacturers already had eMTBs on offer, but since arriving it has been the one bike rocking the dance floor. How did that happen?

March 2012:

Be a superhero – the Specialized Turbo

Specialized presented its first ebike in 2012: the Turbo. However, this wasn’t an eMTB, but an urban ebike. Smart, stylish, fast and ahead of its time! It was a swan in a pond full of ugly ducklings. Even then, the focus was on integration. At a time when the scene was dominated by rectangular, external batteries and ungainly bolted-on motors, the Turbo impressed with its attention to detail and, above all, outstanding riding characteristics.

In 2012, Specialized’s first Turbo set new standards in integration and aesthetics

July 2015:

A sensation – Specialized presents the Turbo Levo

On July 5 2015, the mountain bike world was brought to a halt. It was the day Specialized presented the first Turbo Levo, the day when the heads of bike engineers around the world really started whirring into action. Specialized had raised the bar for all bike manufacturers and raised it very high.

In 2015 the first Specialized Turbo-Levo redefined what an eMTB could be, with excellent integration, handling and connectivity
One of the highlights was the removable battery
Specialized completely dispensed with a display. You could change the assistance levels and check the battery status via LEDs and buttons on the down tube.

The integration of the battery, the specially developed app and the very natural riding feel were particularly impressive at the time. And controversially, there was no display or remote on the handlebars. But it wasn’t all good: It took several months until the Mission Control App was actually available, and even the motor had a few hiccups, as our extensive review in November 2015 showed.

Beginning of 2016:

Every geek’s dream comes true with Bluetooth connectivity

Shortly after the launch of the Levo, forums were buzzing with instructions on how to remove the pedal-assist speed-limit on the Turbo Levo without any additional hardware, using only your smartphone. Of course, besides being illegal, doing so invalidates your warranty, yet you’ll be able to find countless riders talking about how they made their bike faster as a result. A development that we can’t condone and which also bears considerable risks for everyone using the trails, as you can read here.

July 2016:

More choice for more customers

The Specialized Turbo Levo hit like a bomb and within a very short time-frame, the full-suspension model was sold out. However, many customers and retailers wanted something a little less aggressive. Wide plus-tires and long-travel put them off. What was missing was a bike for easier trails and forest roads, a bike for the eMTB masses.

With the Specialized Turbo Levo ST, the American brand presented a bike for those who were put off by too much travel and wide tyres.

This led to the birth of the Specialized Turbo Levo ST, which had the same front triangle as its big brother, but a modified linkage offering only 120 mm of travel, though adding space for 29″ wheels. The geometry was changed too: with a shorter wheelbase, steeper head angle and slightly longer reach, the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR ST Comp 29 promised to be a slimmed down and less burly alternative compared to its “fatter” brother.

The Levo ST was much more agile and direct

Our conclusion on the bike after an exclusive review:

“The question of which model is actually better can’t be answered in one fell swoop. The Levo FSR ST Comp 29 is a super viable alternative from Specialized and it has left us convinced with its shorter travel, 29″ tires and revised geometry which render it agile and direct. We reckon it’ll suit hands-on riders who like to get a bit rowdy on the trails. And then there’s the former Levo FSR 6Fattie, which arguably offers more stability on descents and more grip on climbs, therefore making it the ultimate choice for both newbies and riders who constantly head to technical terrain.”

Besides the Turbo-Levo ST, Specialized presented two women’s models (an ST and a 6Fattie) in June 2016. However, only the contact points were adapted to women’s specific needs with the same frame as the men’s model. Finally, the portfolio was rounded off with a more affordable 6Fattie model.

July 2017:

Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Carbon – refined, lighter, more beautiful, more expensive

Specialized presented a brand new bike last year in July. “Levo goes Carbon” was the opening sentence of our review, but the carbon frame was only one of many highlights of the new bike. The Turbo Levo Carbon was also the first bike to feature the new Turbo 1.3 motor and the new minimalist remote control.

The next chapter in Levo history: the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR S-Works Carbon.

Thanks to its carbon construction, the frame of the Levo was about 650 g lighter too. In our big spring group test of the best eMTBs of the new season, the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR S-Works Carbon came out on top, securing itself the “Best eMTB 2018” title.

Outstanding handling paired with technical finesse and great looks: the Turbo Levo FSR S-Works Carbon is the best eMTB of 2018.

July 2017:

Knowledge is power – the new Specialized Turbo 1.3 motor

Since the release of the first Turbo Levo in 2015, Specialized has collected data from over 3 million kilometres of riding using the Mission Control App. This information helps the American brand recognize how their customers ride, where they ride, if and where problems occur and what they need to pay particular attention to on the electronic drive. This information played a decisive role in the development of the new Turbo 1.3 motor. Although Specialized, like some other manufacturers, uses Brose motors, a dedicated team of software developers takes care of the motor’s control unit. Introduced in July 2017, the Turbo 1.3 motor, based on the Brose Drive S, was significantly more powerful, had better heat management , whilst offering better modulation and more range, and could be adapted even further to your own preferences. A software update made many of the advantages available to existing Levo customers too.

Although unchanged outwardly, the new Brose Drive-S motor performed much better

Another major update that customers were eagerly awaiting was the minimalist remote, which came as standard on the new generation, and finally featured a walk assist function.

The new remote control let you select the support level on the handlebar, increasing comfort and safety.

July 2017:

The Turbo Levo gets a big brother – the Kenevo

Having expanded its portfolio downwards in travel with the Levo ST in 2016, in 2017 it was time to go the other way and produce a bike for those wanting more downhill performance. The result: the Turbo Kenevo. Since its introduction, the bike has only been available in one version. Downhill-focused geometry, a full 180 mm of travel, a coil shock and plenty of reliable components make it a genuine bike-park weapon, without the need for a lift or shuttle.

A full 180 mm of travel and downhill-focused geometry predestines the Kenevo for the roughest terrain

For its introduction, we tested the bike extensively in the USA as well as the Bavarian Alps. We didn’t stop there: in the middle of the year, we tried to find out what kind of rider the Levo is best suited for, and who would be better off riding a Kenevo. You can read all about it here.

Levo or Kenevo? In our duel, we did a head to head test of the bikes.

September 2018:

The next great revolution is just around the corner

The Specialized Turbo Levo had brought about a real revolution in 2015 and over the last few years, it’s undergone ongoing optimisation. However, the growing competitive pressure in this segment made it clear that the Levo development team had some ground to make up in order to continue positioning itself at the top of high-performance eMTBing. “Innovate or die” is Specialized’s motto, and so it is not surprising that once again their latest evolution is causing its competitors sleepless nights. Why? You can find out in our review.

The next chapter in the history of the Levo

This article is from E-MOUNTAINBIKE issue #015

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Words: Photos: Christoph Bayer, Valentin Rühl, Robin Schmitt, Specialized