Shootout: Specialized Stumpjumper vs Specialized Levo

What exactly is the difference in time, effort and speed between a Trail and an e-Trail bike?

If you have not ridden in Jonkershoek recently then you need to make a plan to get there for a ride, or better yet, a bike vacation. The trails are simply incredible and they are also perfect for bike testing.


TEST PROCESS

Okay okay so it’s not exactly a fair contest and perhaps it’s more a comparison ride than a shootout. Nevertheless, many riders are puzzling over just how an E-Bike ride compares to an average trail bike ride so I put together this shootout day to gather some data for you.

I headed out to Jonkershoek in Stellenbosch for back to back runs on the Red Phoenix trail. In terms of the devices for the data gathering, I used Strava (iPhone) and a Polar HRM. First off, I did a slow inspection run down the trail on the Stumpjumper, just to check out the trail. Then, I did a timed climb up and recorded the data. Then a fast timed run down the trail and recorded all that data.

Then I got the Specialized Levo out and did the same climb route and recorded the data. Lastly, I did the same descent, and, you guessed right, recorded all that data. After uploading the eBike ride to Strava as a normal bike ride, I noted the time on the ‘RED PHOENIX 1,2,3’ segment before reloading the ride as an E-Bike ride. This allowed me to use the exact same segment for both descents yielding stable data. All the rides are on Strava so you can have a look there if you are interested.



ABOUT THE TEST BIKES

Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper

This is an ideal do-it-all trail bike for South Africa and with a second set of tyres can easily double up as a fun ride for the shorter 3-day stage-races with your mates. The ride is ultra-playful, quick on steering and light on the trail.

Released in 2019 this iteration of the Stumpjumper is a 140 rear with a 150 fork. The signature feature is the asymmetrical design / single side-arm wrapping around the shock which improves lateral stiffness creating a more positive (less vague) connection between rider and bike.
This model Stumpjumper has the super-capable FOX Float 36 Factory with FIT4 damper and 3-position adjustment. Although the offset is at 51mm which many might scoff at, it works well with the mildly mannered geometry.
A Fox DPX2 handles the gnar and the Stumpjumper has a flip-chip in the lower shock mount which alters BB height by 6mm and head-angle by 0.5degrees.
Frame storage solutions are just sic. Nuff said. TIP: don’t ever store a ripe banana in there – it turns into a mushy mess after two hours on the trail and you will be hosing it out for days.
The Roval Traverse SL 24 spoke front wheels deliver a good compromise of rolling speed and lateral flex which I found improves cornering and minimizes deflections in rock gardens.
A quiet bike is a rad bike and this ribbed chainstay protector sure turns the volume down on any chain ‘slap and rattle’.
It’s not new or exclusive to Specialized but tucking the multitool into the steerer with easy access is very convenient for on-trail bolt checks and seat post slamming.

Specialized Levo

Take the ultra-playful Specialized Stumpjumper, give it a bigger downtube to house a battery and a motor, then bump up the travel by 10mm and hey presto – you have yourself a Specialized Levo. Well, it wasn’t nearly as easy as that – but the end result is a bike that is very close in geometry to the Stumpjumper. This particular Levo has some aftermarket items like carbon wheels from cSixx, Maxxis DH casing rubber and a 160mm Rockshox Lyrik fork. The ride dynamic is best described as balanced and planted with a shot of witblits when you need it.

THE GLEN, Cape Town - during a photoshoot for Myles Kelsey of BikeNetwork.  Photo by Gary Perkin
With a 500wh battery, the magnesium-bodied Specialized 2.1 motor amplifies rider input by up to 410%. Power deliver is smooth as is the decoupling of the motor. The Levo’s ride quality will sway almost all of the purists into relooking at the eCategory.
THE GLEN, Cape Town - during a photoshoot for Myles Kelsey of BikeNetwork.  Photo by Gary Perkin
This Levo tips the scales around 22kg.
cSixx 9 Series wheels, Maxxis DH casing rubber and a 160mm Lyrik come in handy when things get chunky.

// Note: As good as Gary Perkin is, it’s impossible for him to be on two continents at the same time so the action images seen here are not from the RED PHOENIX trail. //



THE CLIMB

It’s quite a brutal climb from the bottom of Jonkershoek to the top of the Red Phoenix trail. The distance is 3.95km with an elevation gain of 355m on gravel roads. On each lap up I did stop a couple of times to stretch the back out and take in the view.

 STUMPJUMPERLEVO
Moving Time32min18sec21min23sec
Maximum Speed21.6kph27.7kph
Support n/a25%
Peak Powern/a30%
Average Speed7.4kph11kph
Average Heart Rate88%91%
Max Heart Rate102%99%
Time in HR Zone 526min14sec19min25sec
Time in HR Zone 45min01sec2min11sec
Time in HR Zone 33min10sec2min14sec

Interpretation of the data: The Levo wins the climb! No prizes for guessing that one right! And naturally, if I had used the Mission Control App to provide more support that climbing time would easily be halved on the Levo. But this is how I ride the eBike most of the time, with minimal support, so this is the setting I elected to use for the shootout data since it shows how much work can be done on an eBike. The 91% average heart rate for the climb on the eBike is the key indicator in this data, that’s working – by anyone’s standards or fitness level.



THE DESCENT

The Red Phoenix descent is a flow line with singletrack from top to bottom. It measures 2.2km, has a 287m drop and is an average gradient of -12.7%. Here is the data:

 STUMPJUMPERLEVO
Timed Descent (Strava)4min10sec4min08sec
Maximum Speed43.2kph42.8kph
Supportn/a90%
Peak Powern/a95%
Average Speed28.3kph28.3kph
Average Heart Rate90%98%
Max Heart Rate105%124%
Time in HR Zone 54min19sec3min44sec
Time in HR Zone 40min44sec1min33sec
Time in HR Zone 31min10sec0min23sec

The Levo wins! But only by 2 seconds. That was really interesting – even after having spent a year on the Levo, this really surprised me as I thought it would be much quicker. Now there are a couple things worth mentioning here. On the Levo the work rate or rider effort was way higher than on the Stumpjumper as is reflected in the heart rate data, this despite my perceived effort being pretty much the same. Both runs were about 85% of absolute maximum speed but the eBike just makes you work harder on the descent.

If the test trail had more tight turns with flat exits into long straights the winning margin on the Levo would be larger. I was genuinely surprised that the Levo was only 2 seconds faster.

Shootout day POV, descending the Red Phoenix on the Levo:



THE TAKEOUT

The numbers show that E-Bikes can give you a proper workout when climbing with reduced assistance. Also, the Levo is not necessarily a whole lot faster than the Stumpjumper when descending, but it is far more taxing on the rider physically. The ride dynamic between the two bikes is very different – world’s apart really – but both are a lot of fun!

Learn more about the Specialized Stumpjumper and Specialized Levo

Cheers!


IMAGES: Gary Perkin



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