2023 Specialized Levo SL Post-Ride Review

This past month, I had the opportunity to join retailers from around the U.S. at the Specialized Experience Center in Santa Cruz, California. We were there for a sneak peek and, more importantly, a ride on the all-new 2023 Specialized Levo SL2.  

Specialized and Turbo History

Before we jump into the newest Turbo Electric offering from Specialized, let’s take a quick look back at what got us here. Since founding Specialized in 1974, Mike Sinyard has remained feverous about delivering the best cycling products to riders. Recognizing the importance of electric bicycles, in 2017 Specialized stepped up and made a substantial commitment and investment by opening the Turbo (electric bike) Innovation Center in Cham, Switzerland.  

Specialized Turbo Innovation Center | Cham, Switzerland

Fast-forward to 2020 and the first generation Specialized Levo SL electric mountain bike—truly a game changer. The Levo SL felt more like a traditional analog (analog or acoustic is the current industry jargon to identify a bike as non-electric) bike than any e-mountain bike that came before it. Lighter, more nimble, and more advanced than any e-mountain bike available.  

Along with other Turbo models already on the market like the Turbo Levo, Turbo Creo, Turbo Vado SL, Turbo Vado, and Turbo Como, the Levo SL was additional evidence that the Turbo Innovation Center was a worthwhile investment. 

First Generation | Specialized Levo SL 

Since its much-lauded introduction three years ago, the Specialized Levo SL has received ongoing updates; however, another company had the Levo and its SL 1.1 motor in their sights. A manufacturer out of Germany by the name of TQ introduced a new, lightweight harmonic bicycle motor that offered more power and quieter operation than the SL 1.1. Models utilizing the TQ motor, like the BMC Fourstroke AMP and Roadmachine AMP X are now available.  

Specialized Levo SL Gen 2 — The First Looks

Alright, let’s get down to business—Levo SL2 business. Walking into the Experience Center, I looked to my left and saw a long lineup of shiny new Levos. At first glance, the Levo SL2 revealed a noticeable update: a mixed-wheel (mullet) setup. In my opinion, this makes a lot of sense for most e-mountain bike applications. If you’re not familiar with the word “mullet” being used for bicycles, it’s simple. A larger 29” wheel up front, a smaller 27.5” wheel in the rear. This allows for a shorter, tighter rear end, which, depending on the application and the goal of the designer, can lend to a tighter-handling, more responsive bike. As it was explained, this new bike was developed to match the handling of the highly regarded Specialized Stumpjumper Evo.  

If you’re the type that likes to tinker with your setup, the Levo SL2 offers adjustability up front with three available setups (63, 64.25, and 65.5 degrees) for the head tube angle, allowing you to dial the handling to your preference. The bike also employs a flip chip at the rear, allowing the rider to swap in a 29” wheel for the stock 27.5”.  

On the trails above UC-Santa Cruz

The Levo SL2’s new motor is the main reason we’re here, so let’s talk about it. The new SL 1.2 motor offers substantially more power than its predecessor, with a 33% jump in watts and 43% more torque. That is a significant jump considering the SL 1.2 motor is said to be more efficient with no added weight, and much quieter than the SL 1.1.  

Another important consideration regarding the new SL 1.2 motor: it’s built on years of lessons Specialized has learned refining its predecessor. 

The new SL2 comes with a 320Wh integrated battery and a claimed range of up to five hours in eco mode. An optional 160Wh range extender is available and will add 50% more capacity. Please keep in mind that range can be tricky and varies greatly depending on who is riding the bike, how, and where.   

New motor, new geometry, new frame, new suspension, new wheelsets…new, new, new.  

The bike is packed with many advancements, so instead of walking through every detail, let’s focus on what really matters: how this thing does on the trail and whether you want one.

Ready to Roll | Outside the Specialized Experience Center in Santa Cruz

Specialized Levo SL 2 — The Ride Review

Along with assorted folks from Specialized and a large group of retailers, we began our ride, leaving directly from the Experience Center. We rolled through a crosswalk, hopping onto a paved commuter trail and then up and away on a gravel path that eventually connected us to the trails above and around the University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC).

Like all Turbo MTB models, there are four pedal assist settings available on the Levo SL2: Off, Eco, Trail, and Turbo. These are controlled via a remote positioned next to the front brake lever on the handlebar. Although not required, nor something I felt compelled to play around with on this day, riders have the ability to fine-tune each assist level by utilizing the bike’s MasterMind TCU or Specialized Mission Control app.

Turbo Levo Cockpit and Mission Control

As we ascended, I kept the SL2 in the lowest pedal assist setting, Eco mode. What really stood out is what didn’t: the motor. The SL 1.2 is so smooth and so quiet that I questioned whether it was even powered up. It wasn’t until I switched the motor off that I realized even in Eco mode how much assistance the motor had been providing and how whisper-quiet the thing is.

As the group collected at the top of the first climb, it reminded me that some of the magic included in e-biking is its ability to be a great equalizer. We had a large group of riders with different fitness and skill levels. We started with a long climb. No one was holding back. No one was getting crushed. Everyone was still together. Everyone was having a great time!

After the entire group collected, we dropped into the first descent of the day: a relatively steep and technical section of trail that quickly reminded me I was coming out of snowboard season and hadn’t been on a mountain bike since last October. I needed to knock the rust off in a hurry.

Luckily for me and, I’d suspect, others on the ride, the Levo SL2 quickly proved how dialed in it is. Earlier in the day, Specialized product managers began referring to the SL2 as “the Ultimate Trail Bike.” This is a very bold statement and one that is easy to doubt. This doubt quickly faded.

On the trail above UCSC

Throughout the day, we rode a variety of trails, and regardless of the trouble I thought I was getting myself into, the bike and its 150 mm of dialed-in front and rear suspension ate up everything. Never once failing to stay on track, climbing, descending, ripping through tight switchbacks, steep drops… you name it. The Levo SL2 handled everything we threw at it with relative ease.

Of course, having pedal assist was a big factor in the day being so enjoyable. Was this cheating? Absolutely not! My average heart rate was 125bpm and I burned 2,113 calories. I’d say the ride was an effective workout and we all had an absolute blast.

We started the ride with a full 480Wh of battery between the primary battery and range extender. Climbing 3,379 ft. while averaging just under 9 mph and covering 23.8 miles (most of which were singletrack), I still had about 30% of battery power (144Wh) when the ride was over. Impressive considering my 200-pound frame really pushed the bike—climbing an average of 142’ per mile is solid.

I only had one complaint during the ride, which is easily resolved. The assist remote lever was too close to my hand on the left grip. I do have large mitts, but this caused me to accidentally change assist modes multiple times during the ride, which isn’t critical but a definite nuisance. Just be sure you pay attention when you set up the bike and you’ll be fine.

The Specialized Levo SL2

At the end of the day, I can say without hesitation…this is an amazing bike! I normally ride an analog Stumpjumper, which I really love; however, I’ve never had this much fun on it. The Levo SL2 is exactly what the Levo SL was when it launched: a game changer.  

More at ERIK’S

Want to learn more about the Levo SL? Check out our Levo SL2 launch page. Ready to see the specs or snag one of the Levos? Check out the models and buy the Levo SL from shopERIKS.com.

You can also check out our Electric Bike Buying Guide or our general Bike Buying Guide to review the other kinds of bikes we sell, or view our complete list of Buying Guides. Still have questions on the 2023 Specialized Levo SL? Reach out and our expert staff will help you find the perfect bike.

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