Things

Our Specialized Turbo Levo MTB Review

About 24 months ago I decided to buy Teresa an electric MTB to help her keep up on some of the bigger rides we were interested in doing, little did I know that about 12 months later, I would need an eMTB just to keep up with her!

Test rides and false starts
Initially we hired a Trek Powerfly hardtail from Torpedo 7 in Taupo for Teresa to try out. We tested it on the bottom section of the Timber Trail in the Central North Island . Immediately she felt like she could climb bigger hills and go further for longer. Her only gripe was being a hardtail meant it wasn’t as comfortable as her old bike. So we went back to Torpedo 7 and tried out a Powerfly full suspension bike and ended up getting her one of those.

The Trek Powerfly was a great bike for her for about a year but it was at the lower end in terms of components with had a fork that was letting it down and the dropper post we installed was also having some issues.

Teresa’ Trek Powerfly 5

After a few months we found that we were riding more often and attempting bigger and more interesting rides, which had me thinking about getting myself an e-bike.

Being a Specialized bike fanatic, I managed to organise a test ride on a Levo and I was sold. It made a lot of sense that we both had a common battery/charger combo, and I preferred dealing with my local bike shop over in Hastings. So we sold the Trek and we both got Specialized Turbo Levos, and we’ve never looked back.

We bought both bikes through the Hub Cycle Centre in Hastings, give them a bell if you are curious about an eMTB as they might be able to hook you up with a test ride as they did with me. I promise you will be hooked!

The Levo’s
While Teresa has a standard Levo, I opted for a “Comp” and I’ve made a few changes to suit my riding style to make the bike a little more “burly”. Because as much as I like to cruise scenic trails, I also like to bomb down rocky technical bike park trails, and I am a heavier rider and I need a bike that can handle the pounding.

Our Levo’s on the W2K Headland Loop Lookout

What Have I Changed?
First thing I wanted to get right on my bike was a comfortable cockpit, so I swapped the saddle for a Specialized Power Saddle to give me a better perch, this is a great saddle for those super technical pinch climbs where you’ve got to stay in the seat. Secondly I lengthened the stem a little and added nice wide Spank Vibrocore Bars and ODI F-1 Grips. Finally I pulled the trigger on a set of Shimano Saint SPD pedals for a solid footing.

Second thing I wanted to change was the stock tyres, not that the Specialized tyres are bad, but as I’m a heavier and more aggressive rider and I find with most “lightweight” tyres, that I have to pump them waaaay up when riding aggressively to stop the sidewall from collapsing and the tyre “burping”. So I choose Maxis Assegai with a double down casing on the rear to provide some beef, they’re heavy but man do these things stick to the trail!

Third thing I changed on the bike was to upgrade the stock 500 Watt Hour battery to the 700 Watt Hour battery as I found with Teresa being so much lighter than me that she was getting way better battery life on the same rides. The new battery on my bike means we end up with roughly the same battery levels at the end of each ride.

The final thing I’ve changed on my bike is the suspension. A bit like with the tyres, I find I have to pump things up to stop bottoming out on heavier hits and that this leads to an overly firm ride. I prefer more progressive and plush suspension that’s lively when I’m up for it. The solution was a RockShox Meg Neg upgrade on the shock which adds air volume to the stock air can and allows things a little more room to breath. And finally I swapped the fork out for a RockShox Zeb with a 160mm travel upgrade, this thing is an absolute beast and gives me soo much more confidence on the front end through rough stuff.

My bike up Te Mata Peak

Issues?
So we’ve had the bikes for a little over a year now and I’ve probably racked up somewhere around 2000kms on mine, with Teresa putting about 800kms on hers. Both bike are meticulously serviced by me and both have had all the firmware upgrades that have been offered too.

So what issues have we had with the bikes in this time?

Well, Teresa’s bike has been flawless, we haven’t had any trouble with her bike at all, unfortunately I can’t say the same for mine. About 400kms into owning my bike I experienced a motor failure which began with a really loud whining noise coming from the motor that sounded like it was labouring then pedals that I could hardly turn, thankfully I wasn’t too far from home.

When I took the bike into the bike shop, they explained that it was likely a kevlar belt slipping inside the motor case. They sent the motor back to Specialized and had a replacement in and the bike back to me as good as new within a couple of days.

This happened again at around 700kms, with the same noise and heavy pedals requiring another shop visit. After having a look around the Specialized Levo Facebook pages I could see that this was quite common but that Specialized were working on a software fix for the issue.

Then after around another 400kms, the same thing happened again. This time however I was out the back of the Eskdale Pan Pac Mountain Bike park, this time I had a good hour or so walk back to the car!

This time when the bike shop replaced the motor, they applied the new Specialized firmware and informed me that Specialized was extending the manufacturers warranty for a further 2 years. And since then, it hasn’t skipped a beat!

While the motor failures were frustrating, the back-up support and service has been second to none. And that has been my experience from both the Hub Cycle Centre and from Specialized and that’s why I’m such a big fan.

Aside from the motor issues I experienced on my bike, I have found that with the extra weight and power of an eBike that I have had to replace drivetrain components a little more often than with my old bike. A small price to pay I think.

Verdict
Since owning the bike, I’ve found I have a renewed motivation to get out and ride. Both for the frequency of rides and for the length and type of rides I have been doing. Previously I would max out on a weekly park ride at about 18kms and about 4-500mtrs elevation gain. Now, I regularly ride twice a week up to 30kms with over 1000mtrs elevation gain.

Also, I have found that many of my old riding buddies on “analogue” bikes no longer want to ride with me since I leave them for dead on big climbs. Luckily, there is a growing contingent of converts moving to eBikes that are only too keen.

My advice to riders thinking about the switch, give an eBike a try and I’m certain you will be convinced!

My bike at the start of Mint at Pan Pac Eskdale Mountain Bike Park.

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