If you look back through my YouTube videos, you can find a Cube Epo E-Bike review. Well, that bike died. Or better said, I destroyed the motor. On the positive side, it got replaced by this…
The Specialized Levo Turbo. In this case, in the hard-tail configuration. I praised the Cube for neatly integrating the electronics, resulting in the bike looking like a regular mountain bike at a first glance. Specialized also know their stuff and kept the entire bike very streamlined. There are a few notable differences compared to the Cube though:
#1: The battery is located in the down-tube, making it is easy to remove and charge “outside” of the bike.
#2: The motor has the same continuous power output (250 W) due to EU regulations, but is not located inside of the rear wheel, but at the center hub.
#3: The placement of these electrical components creates a low center of gravity, turning the weight of the bike in combination with the relatively wide handlebars and grippy tires into an advantage, making it feel very stable even at speed and on twisty roads.
#4: The bike doesn’t come with a bike computer screen built-in, but uses Bluetooth to transmit data to a Specialized app, available on both, iOS and Android. This is also where you can tweak settings for each driving mode (Eco, Trail, Turbo) to your preferences. ANT+ can be also used to connect with compatible sports trackers (e.g. newer Garmin cycling computers).
At 90 Nm of torque, this bike has more torque than some cars.
Now, to prove that this is not the ordinary sort of electric bike for your granny, I will complete the same 27 km route on my road bike and then on the Specialized. To get the most accurate heartrate results, I will use my Garmin Edge cycling computer with a chest strap HR sensor.
The results might surprise some people out there. The first ride with my carbon fiber road bike took me 59 minutes, meaning the average speed was 27 km/h and my average HR was 163 bpm (max HR 184 bpm). After taking a nap, the second ride with the Levo, in slightly windier conditions, resulted in the overall time dropping to 47.5 minutes and the average speed increasing by 7 km/h to 34.2 km/h, while the average HR stayed at a virtually identical 164 bpm (max HR 186 bpm).
You might be asking, how is it even possible to achieve an average speed that high. It’s a software thing. Specialized sells the same bike across many regions, but the maximum speed at which the bike still assists with pedaling is software locked, to comply with local regulations. The EU law requires this type of e-bike to cut the power to the electric motor when it reaches 25 km/h. In the US, the “speed limit” is 32 km/h. There are some countries with different rules, making it possible to sell e-bikes with maximum speeds up to 45 km/h.
And because the hardware is identical, it is possible to unlock the software to allow support from the electronics even at higher speeds, but do this only at your own risk.
To be honest, that might be the biggest issue. The legislation. Limiting a bike to 25 km/h? I have had many circumstances, where I had to significantly slow down on my road bike, so my friends riding a software locked e-bike could keep up. To make these bikes true mountain bikes, or commuting bikes for that matter, especially the EU speed limit should be at least on par with the US one… please.
Regarding the bike itself, some sort of “fast charging” would be appreciated, given a charge from 0 to 100 % now takes about 3 hours. If the battery could charge to at least 70 % while for example having lunch on a long ride, it could increase the potential even further. Speaking of that, the range in the middle “Trail” mode with cruising at around 30 km/h is roughly 70 km.
The only other minor complaint is the omission of regenerative braking, because not getting any charge back on long downhills seems like a missed opportunity.
Even ignoring that, I personally think that this is far from the best value for money electric bike. It is like a Tesla of electric bikes. With huge amounts of torque, the acceleration gets addictive. It feels like rocket boosters pushing you forward. The entire product is clearly not intended as a bike for the average person, but it is designed to make you reconsider how you think about e-bikes in general, and if you are a cycling enthusiast, this might be the electric bike for you, even if you had never thought about needing help from a motor.