Review: The New Specialized Levo | An easy-going delight or proper shred-sled

Specialized gives its big-selling Levo the longer, lower, slacker treatment but is it just a facelift?

| WORDS: Myles Kelsey + IMAGES: Gary Perkin + VIDEO: Thomas Sandell |

Back in September 2018 at the global media launch of the second-generation Levo I was highly impressed with the bike and equally enchanted with the calm coastal vibes of beautiful Croatia.

While I do miss travel, with exotic destinations for bike launches off the cards under the current situation, testing new bikes on my home trails has offered invaluable bike-to-bike comparative insights. For this test, I rode this third-generation Levo in the Tokai MTB trail center, on the lower slopes of Table Mountain, Lions Head and the Missing Link Trails. These trails offer a variety of terrain from epic flowy singletrack, fast jeep track, shuttle-style climbing to shreddy descents with a healthy dose of hucks and drops thrown. Let’s get into it.

Review of the new Specialized Levo
The new Specialized Levo is similar in appearance to the outgoing model. Yes it is still a 150mm rear, 160mm fork do-it-all trail assist bike with a 700Wh battery, 565 watt powered and 90Nm torque system – but pretty much everything else has been tweaked or changed. This is no facelift.

RIDE IMPRESSIONS


BUILD KIT

The range-topping S-Works edition I tested has an impeccable build kit I’d describe as plush and posh. Take it from me, you are not going to be irritated by dropping big dollars (and they are BIG) on a new bike and immediately needing to swap out the bars, stem or tyres. The off the shelf spec is faultless. At this stage I’m going to mention that at the launch date, 23rd March, there will only be six S-Works bikes available in South Africa – that’s all. Specialized have reassured that more are on the water and scheduled for in-store availability around late April.

Review of the new Specialized Levo
The cockpit has wide 780mm carbon bars, Deity grips, Deity stem and a clean look.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
S-Works Levo has the new, more ergonomic, SRAM AXS paddle.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
Stopping power is courtesy of the Magura MT7 4-piston brakes with 200mm rotors.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The bike has a 160mm Fox 38 with Grip2 damper and Kashima coated stanchions. You’ve got a lot of adjustability inside this fork including air volume, air pressure, high and low-speed rebound with high and low-speed compression. Nope, you can’t run a 170mm fork as it will impact any warranty claims.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The 210 x 55m Fox X2 with slick Kashima coating has a firm to open compression switch (shown), 10 clicks of low-speed compression adjustment, 13 clicks of low-speed rebound and what feels like 7 clicks of high-speed rebound. I ran 210psi, no volume spacers, low-speed rebound at 13 clicks from closed, high speed rebound at 3 clicks from closed, 3 clicks back from fully firm on the low-speed compression.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
It’s an entirely new linkage with revised kinematics that offers more support at the end of stroke than the new Stumpjumper Evo. In other words, together with the revised / custom shock tune – the rear of this bike is a lot less linear.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
Its a sturdy looking linkage and shock yoke.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The motor housing is new and whilst the motor itself is the same as the Generation two model, it’s an entirely new belt. The new belt is said to be more robust and it is available (or at least will be soon) for Generation two Levo owners.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The charge port has a new hatch for added waterproofing. Vincent from Specialized says the bike is safe for stream-crossings.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
Rear rotor compatibility is from 180mm to 220mm.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The bling just keeps on coming with the SRAM Eagle AXS Lunar cassette (52-10t) in oil-slick finish with matching chain.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The attention to detail throughout the bike is impressive. A wrap on the drivetrain side chainstay reduces chain clang-clang to almost zero. The Levo is very quiet on the trail.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
34t chain ring with 160mm Praxis carbon cranks.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
Roval Traverse SL carbon wheels.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
Clearance for a 750ml water bottle.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The Fox mudguard wraps into the stanchions very neatly and has a slight flare to reduce clogging on sloppy days.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The Levo has new shoes; Butcher Grid Trail in T9 compound upfront and an Eliminator Grid Trail in T7 compound on the rear.
FRAME| 150mm, Fact Carbon 11m frame, Internal cable routing, Adjustable head-angle, Adjustable BB, Adjustable CS
BATTERY| Specialized 700Wh
CONTROLLER| New MasterMind TCU 
MOTOR| Specialized, 565 watt power, 90 Nm torque, 32km/h assist
FORK| 160mm travel Fox 38 Factory, Grip2 Damper, Kashima Coating
SHOCK| Fox Factory Float XT, 210 x 55mm, Kashima coating
BARS| Specialized Carbon riser bar, 780mm, 35mm clamp
STEM| Deity Components 35mm clamp, 50mm length, zero rise
SEAT| Specialized Bridge
SEATPOST| 170mm SRAM AXS Reverb wireless electronic
WHEELS| Roval Traverse SL carbon
TYRES| New Specialized Butcher 29×2.6 Grid Trail T9 front, Eliminator 27.5×2.6 T7 rear
CASSETTE| SRAM Lunar 11-52t 12 speed
MECH| SRAM Eagle AXS wireless electronic
SHIFTER| New SRAM AXS paddle 
CRANKS| Praxis Crabon 165mm with 34t 
CHAIN| SRAM Eagle I2-speed rainbow / oil slick finish
BRAKES| Magura MT7 Trail hydro, 203mm Spider rotors
WEIGHT| 22.2kg as tested, no pedals

GEOMETRY

The head angle is adjustable in 3 increments from as low as 63° to a middle setting of 64° or 64.5° to a more general all-terrain angle of 65.5°. The Horst-link mounted flip-chip adds or subtracts BB height and chainstay length and in total the bike has 6 different geometry settings to chose from. I talk more about this in the video, including advice on getting the right setting for the trails you ride. This is an entirely new frame with geometry specifically designed to optimize the ride dynamic around a 29″ front and 27.5″ rear wheel.

Review of the new Specialized Levo
The head angle is adjustable by swapping out the neutral headset cup for an angled one. It takes around 10 minutes to do and I wouldn’t recommend doing it on the trail. I chose to ride the bike in the slack setting.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The BB height is adjustable via a Horst-link flip-chip which can be set in a high or low position which changes the height by 7mm. In the process, the chainstay also grows or shortens by 6mm. I ran the BB in the high position.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The standover is pretty low and according to Specialized they’ve designed clearance on some of the models for riders who want to run a coil shock.

The S4 frame size I used, in the slack head angle setting and high BB height gives the following key geometry figures:

REACH | 477
HEAD ANGLE | 64°
CHAIN STAY | 441
BB HEIGHT | 349
BB DROP | 28
WHEELBASE | 1 262
SEAT TUBE LENGTH | 425
STANDOVER | 784

Visit Specialized to see all the possible geometry iterations.


THE SYSTEM

Specialized is now referring to the brain of the bike as the Mastermind TCU (Turbo Control Unit). This is essentially the hardware and software that controls how the motor, battery, bike and you interact – and it is a whole lot smarter and easier to use. The functions include elevation tracking, heart rate pairing, a ‘live consumption’ which teaches you how to pedal more efficiently, a personalized display with a total of 30 data values, percentage of remaining charge, on the fly adjustment of support level settings – so you don’t need to stop and open the app — and a rider power value display so you can see how much power you are putting into the bike.

Review of the new Specialized Levo
The display is not on the handlebars – its a smaller screen inside the top tube of the bike.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
Just make it fast! Yes you can, but there is a wide range of data available and settings to play with to improve your ride, your workout and quell range anxiety.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
Of all the new functions, I really like the remaining battery power indicator which is shown as a percentage. It’s a small but useful function when pondering that extra lap late in the ride.

THE RIDE

Review of the new Specialized Levo
The Levo gobbles up kilometers of singletrack with ease and the assist is delightfully quiet.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The size S4 test bike I rode has a 1 262mm wheelbase and 477mm reach (in the high and slackest setting) and at 1.74m it felt spot on.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The new Levo has shorter seat tubes which help rider weight distribution. In corners, I found it easy to shift my body weight to the outside pedal without getting hung up on the saddle.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The top-of-the-line suspension is a special thing to experience. The Factory fork and shock from Fox offers a wide range of settings that come in handy when fine-tuning the ride feel of an eMTB.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
If you’ve seen our YouTube channel you’ll know that riding a mixed wheelsize bike is not new to me and I like it – immensely. If you’ve never ridden a 29″ front and 27.5″ rear wheeled bike then I bet you are in for a pleasant surprise. It’s a little different at first but you’ll adjust very quickly and if you like to play on the trails the agility it offers will appeal to you.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
Slamming in and out of turns feels a lot easier with the shorter chainstays and lower axle height of the mullet. It’s just easier to crank the bike over.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
I find the smaller rear wheel is also easier to wheelie and manual – probably due to a lower center of gravity – its marginal, but real.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
Of course, a bike with this kind of geometry is ready to shred. Add the opulent build kit into the equation and this S-Works Levo is as composed as President Ramaphosa on speech day. The weight of the bike adds stability in the air but the light wheelset keeps the feel rather poppy.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The Sender – I love this jump – it’s a regular on my local loop – probably over 12m to a flat landing. I used this jump and a couple other harsh drops to feel out that revised kinematic and the improvements to the bottom-out resistance. Despite riding with zero volume spacers in the shock (adding volume spacers changes the size of the air chamber and makes the bike more supportive when deep in the travel – like on a big landing) I only managed to use full travel a couple times during testing. The takeout: the rear of this Levo is a lot more progressive than the previous model and it’s incredible just how much these revised kinematics positively impact the ride quality. It’s a completely different bike.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
Away from the sendy stuff and on regular trails its evident the system has a lot of power to offer – a quick stomp on the pedals and its easy enough to get up and over obstacles.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
On the range: Specialized’s chief whip of MTB Product Development, Joe Buckley, says the mullet setup has little to no influence on the range of the bike. Based on my test rides, I completely agree with that.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
At speed and into technical trails I found the bike as composed and easy to ride as anything I have been on – but the geometry makes it significantly safer than any other eMTB platform from Specialized. I’m not saying their previous bikes were sketchy – not at all – what I am saying is this bike is simply so much better.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
I figure a good enough reason to release a new generation bike is when new technology is available and when it vastly improves the ride feel and reliability of the system. To that point, Levo fans will breathe a sigh of relief that the new bike has an entirely new belt (inside the motor) which is wider, stronger and in fact made from a new material. What’s more – the new belt can be fitted to the Generation two motors.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
The new Levo has a slightly different rear wheel axle path – it moves slightly backward before arcing up and then forward – which makes it more supple in the first part of travel. Through this janky rock garden, I’m not going to pinpoint exactly what was making the bike so smooth and easy to ride – but the axle path has an influence here.
Review of the new Specialized Levo
Simply put the new Levo is more sophisticated, more versatile and a vast improvement over its popular predecessor.

specialized.com



WANT TO SPONSOR THESE TRAILS?

Thank you to Tokai MTB for building great trails. If anybody wants to donate to the trail building efforts or even sponsor a trail reach out to them here



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