2022 SPECIALIZED S-WORKS TURBO LEVO

Does too much money get enough bike?

By Alex Boyce

THE BIKE

The carbon frame is equipped with Specialized’s updated 2.2, 250-watt motor (Europe version), and the motor has updates, including new drive belts and improved software.

Compared to the previous version, there have been large improvements with geometry emphasizing more rider comfort with the use of S-sizing, which intended to let the rider choose their size based on rider size or riding style. 

We tried the S4 version and all different geometry combinations, and we preferred the most aggressive and lowest setting, which reflected our riding preferences and trails. We found making the changes took about 10 minutes for each change and were easy to do with the tool provided on the bike and the extra headset cup.

THE PARTS

Like a growing number of new bikes, the Levo runs with a mixed-wheel combo (29 inches in the front, 27.5 inches in the rear) and is a compromise setup. We have to say, we prefer 27.5-inch wheel bikes. They are more fun for us, but this setup is close to what we would call “ideal” when it comes to wheel-size feeling. 

As expected at this price range—from Fox to SRAM—expect nothing less than the most top-end components. 

THE MOTOR 

The motor system is the smoothest motor we have tried on the market. This is critically due to the extensive software upgrade and an upgraded (internal) belt drive. We felt that the motor was ready for any moment when we started pedaling and, crucially, it felt very controlled. Notably, in Eco mode, the bike didn’t feel like it was heavy or had a mechanical dragging brake on. It rolled smooth and fast, leaving us to just provide more energy with our legs.

The new Mastermind display was easy to use and set up. We selected what we looked at via the app where the detailed motor-response tuning can be carried out as well. We also appreciated the micro-adjustment that was possible by just holding the power selector button for 2 seconds and then making micro-adjustments in 10-percent increments. We found there is a perfect setting for every trail condition and every rider. The display is great, as each page can hold multiple pieces of information, meaning the rider doesn’t have to cycle through each page to find what they want.

The battery can be summarized as having enough range that we, in most cases apart from a very long test day, were tired before the battery was empty. 

Removing and charging the battery is effortless, although attention does need to be taken to the connector cover, as it can be easily damaged if not closed properly and carefully every time. We snapped ours after a few times, which was slightly disappointing, and after we contacted Specialized, they said they are already making an update to this issue. The battery takes around three hours to recharge completely. 

WHO IT’S MADE FOR

The S-Works Turbo Levo model is the top of the line in Specialized’s world. It’s suited for the top-level rider who can appreciate a truly great riding experience with all its subtleties and who thinks nothing of spending a really silly amount of money for a bicycle.

THE RIDE

Simply, few other trail bikes on the market we have tried ride like this bike. It is smoother than anything else out there currently, but we noted if you are using the bike for more than just rolling around in a relaxed manner, it must be set up for each trail situation properly and individually for the best performance. 

“It’s suited for the top-level rider who can appreciate a truly great riding experience with all its subtleties and whose wallet won’t implode from the price tag.”

We discovered that our wooded trail settings for suspension and tire pressure were wrong for drier, fast all-mountain/enduro trails. This is because the bike feels so stiff and precise, notably due to the carbon wheels, plus the carbon frame.

When the settings are right, the Gen 3 motor feels almost perfect. As you push on the pedals, the motor responds immediately with a very smooth, immediate reaction. The 90 N/m of torque is appreciated and is well-controlled, even at high cadences there is good support.

The suspension setup process required adjusting compression and rebound damping a few clicks on the shock and fork for each trail. We also used a slightly higher rear tire pressure, as the carbon rear wheel needed a tire with more support. Compared to alloy rims, with lower rear pressure, the tire would deflect and deform when pushing the bike into a corner hard. Thanks to the shorter rear end and smaller wheel, the Levo is quick to change direction compared to the previous 29-inch version. 

The SRAM AXS electronic shifting is fast, but you need to learn to use it, as there is no cable connection that allows you to “feel” the gear position, and once it starts shifting, it can’t stop until it has completed the movement. Don’t forget to charge the batteries every week or so, depending on how much you ride. We forgot once and had to swap out the batteries to move the seatpost.

“We do have to admit to growing weary of the growing number of bikes priced above $10,000 that seem to more reflect a quest for brand prestige versus actual off-road worthiness.”

To put the Turbo Levo in a category, we’d say it’s more of an all-rounder e-bike than an exclusive gravity machine. In all the trail conditions we rode, with perfect settings, which requires good rider knowledge, the handling was precise and light. However, this precision can also mean that rider mistakes are also amplified, and any rider nervousness is transmitted to the bike’s ride. 

The Turbo felt best on flowing, soft-to-firm loam trails with jumps, berms and rapid changes in trail direction. However, on aggressive, rough, fast, dry trails, we found the bike was a bit too precise, which will reward the experienced rider. For the more gravity-oriented rider, the Specialized Turbo Kenevo might suit you better.

THE VERDICT

This bike is listed for what’s simply a silly price and, in fact, is up to $2000 overpriced based on what we perceive the wider market to be worth. Whether viewed as a status symbol for some or a specific trail tool for a qualified rider, the Levo can deliver for both. 

We do have to admit to growing weary of the growing number of bikes priced above $10,000 that seem to more reflect a quest for brand prestige versus actual off-road worthiness. The Levo is a great bike, but no, not $15,000 great compared to what you can get for half the price elsewhere.

With this newest iteration of the Levo, Specialized has created one of the most technically advanced, highly integrated and smoothest-performing e-bikes we’ve ridden. Despite the small negatives we found, which on a $15,000 bike shouldn’t be there, nothing we have tested before has the same level of silent ride, immediate response and tuneability as the Levo Gen 3. It might be hard to justify for many, but this is one of the best bikes on the market, as well it better be.

SPECS

2022 SPECIALIZED S-WORKS TURBO LEVO

Price: $15,000

Weight: 49 lb.

Frame: Full-carbon Fact 11

Fork: Fox Float 38 Factory Kashima

Rear shock: Fox Float X2 Kashima

Motor: Specialized 2.2 motor (Brose-based) 250W 90 N/m 

Battery: Specialized M3-700 700 Wh

Controls: Specialized Master Mind TCU

Charge time: 3-4 hours

Top speed: 20 mph

Range: 15-25 miles

Rear derailleur: SRAM Eagle 12-speed XX1 AXS 

Chain: SRAM XX1 Eagle

Brakes: Magura MT7 4 piston 200mm discs

Saddle: Bridge, 155/143mm, Hollow Ti-rails

Dropper post: 170mm Rockshox Reverb AXS

Rims: Traverse Carbon 29”/27.5” 

Tires: Butcher/Eliminator Trail Casing

Color choice: Metallic White Silver/Chrome/Dream Silver

Sizes: S2, S3, S4, S5, S6

www.specialized.com