Specialized launch all-new Levo SL 2.0

As the original pioneers of the ‘SL’ category in e-MTB, it’s little wonder that Specialized are right at the top of the game and with the announcement of the all-new Levo SL 2.0 they’re aiming to set the bar even higher.

This new bike has been completely re-designed from the ground up, boasting a huge list of performance gains over the previous Levo SL (which in its own right was still a kick ass bike we believe) on paper the SL 2.0 sure does sound impressive, but how does it actually ride?

Specialized secretly shipped us a test bike two months ago and our man Blake has been spending a ton of time riding it on a wide variety of different trails.  On the eve of the bike finally being launched to the public we caught up with Blake for a chat about how the SL 2.0 rides and for some firsthand insight around some of the new bike’s key features. 

[R]: Perhaps the biggest talking point with this new bike is the impressive numbers that the new motor now puts out. It is said to boast 33% more power and 43% more torque than the original SL. Is the power gain noticeable whilst you’re riding and what difference does this make to how the bike rides and its capabilities?

The gains within Specialized’s new SL motor are huge! It is truly mind boggling how much power they are getting out of such a light and compact drive unit. As always it retains the smooth and quiet power, transferred via a belt drive within the casing of the motor which I love, but the added grunt really does bridge the gap between the SL and full power motors on the market these days. 

[R]: One criticism the original SL1.1 motor is that it was a bit on the noisy side whilst you’re pedalling, how much of an improvement is the new motor in terms of noise and smoothness? 

The new SL motor is whisper quiet, this is I believe in part to the motor itself being more refined after it’s redevelopment and also having an integrated honeycombed structure internally that helps to keep the noise down, as well as the reduced cavity in the downtube that the battery sits in. The fit of the new SL battery is very snug within its housing, leaving no excess space for the noise of the motor to resonate through, equally a quiet ride for sure.

[R]: What size battery does the new bike come with? 

Blake: All models of the new Levo SL 2.0 come with a 320Wh internally housed battery. If you want to go and add more ‘range’ to the bike you can fit an range extender battery to the water bottle mount and that will add 160Wh, or in other words 50% more battery range. 

[R]: The SL 2’s frame geo has been based off of the ultra popular Stumpy Evo which of course means it now includes tons of geo custom adjustment right out of the box. That being the case, how dramatic is the amount you can adjust the new SL and what’s it like to live with? 

I have been a huge fan of the way Specialized went about their geometry adjustment since first experiencing it on the Stumpy EVO that we had in for review a few years ago. Not only are you supplied with the interchangeable headset cups from factory, but the fit and finish of the cups and the eccentric axles in the linkage near the rear axle are fantastic, easy to interchange and they really do make considerable changes to the ride characteristics of the bikes. Unlike some geo adjustments out there that will alter head tube angle by half a degree or something alike, the new Levo SL 2 has an difference of 2.5 degrees between its slackest and steepest option! This makes it possible to tailor your bike perfectly to you and the trails you’re riding. 

[R]: Another significant difference between the new bike and the old SL is that this version now comes stock as a mullet – although you can run a 29 if you spin the flip chip in the rear. What does the mullet rear wheel ‘bring to the table’ in terms of performance and trail personality?

That is right, and I’ve noticed the trend of e-MTB’s coming out of the box with a mullet setup from factory in recent times. I myself am a massive fan of the mixed wheel setup being a shorter guy, however it just makes sense for e-MTB’s as the chainstays are generally a bit longer than acoustic bikes given the need to locate the motor so low down in the bike and needing clearance around it. Not that it’s a worry with the SL bikes, but the smaller rear wheel also offsets some of the of the weight on heavier bikes and how that can make a bike feel slower or harder to change direction quickly. 

[R]: The new SL is still one of the absolute lightest e-MTB’s on the planet – how does it’s low weight translate to ride ‘feel’ out on the trails? 

The new Levo SL is genuinely blurring the lines between assisted and non assisted MTB’s. There are a lot of characteristics of e-MTB’s that people still “love to hate”, but they are just not an issue anymore with this bike. It feels light, nibble and playful, yet due to the low centre of gravity even a shorter bike still feels solid at high speeds.

[R]: Another nice update for the SL 2.0 is the Mastermind TCU which displays quite a bit more info than the display on the original SL. What’s your thoughts and feelings on the new display? 

Whilst not new to Specialized, but an update for the SL, the Mastermind TCU is for me at least, the best e-MTB display. Located in the toptube just behind your headset it keeps the handlebars free of any unwanted clutter. The colour display itself shows you the info you need but doesn’t have an excessive number of different options to scroll through. Sleek and simple was the aim of the game and Specialized nailed it. 

[R]: Okay let’s talk about the new bike actually ‘rides’… Starting with how it descends and jumps? 

Being a 160mm/150mm bike the Levo SL is a jack of all trades, having said that it does love to be pushed. I have felt super comfortable on the roughest of trails as evident in our videos so far. With a good suspension platform and quality Fox shocks fitted it eats up the trails. As for jumping, I love sessioning our local jump lines on this thing! With relaxed geometry and the lighter weight of the bike it feels super consistent weather riding a steep lip or going for the longer gaps. 

[R]: What about how it goes cornering? 

This weapon rips the turns, once again fitted with the smaller rear wheel it will change direction on a dime. You are able to roost corners and break traction intentionally without the bike stepping out completely on you in an unwanted manner though. I have been a massive fan of the overall geometry of this bike, a super reliable feeling ride that you can push in any situation. 

[R]: With so much power and so little weight surely it goes pretty well ‘uphill’ we are guessing? 

‘SL’ by name, super light by nature, being no heavier that a lot of non-assisted enduro bikes out there these days, it is no wonder the new Levo SL hauls on the way back up the hill. As I’ve mentioned before you do have to ride the SL e-MTB’s more like a regular bike compared to the full power options out there to get the most out of the assistance (i.e. – choosing your gear ahead of the pinch, line choice etc). This is only one piece of the pie though, with a fantastic seated position the bike is super comfortable to climb and is super responsive under the pedals. 

[R]: To summarise, does the sum of all of the updates equate to an overall much better bike/performance package with the SL2 compared to the original SL?

I don’t want this to come across like I’m knocking the original version, because at the end of the day it was really the first of its kind, but the Gen 2 Levo SL is definitely light years ahead of its predecessor in every way! Specialized have really pulled out all the stops on this one, from the updated motor and battery, new ride characteristics, to shedding even more weight off of the bike! The new version definitely deserves the top spot! [R]