First Look: 2018 Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Carbon 6Fattie – Bike Magazine Australia

When Specialized first debuted their Turbo family of electric-assist bikes several years ago, they were some of the best performing e-bikes on the market. Specialized has been quick to update and develop new models, with 2016 seeing them be one of the first major companies to expand into the e-MTB market with the Turbo Levo 6Fattie.

The Levo is offered in both FSR full suspension and hardtail models. The original Turbo Levo FSR is a capable bike that rode well, but Specialized felt there was still room for improvement and there was only an aluminium offering. In the time since last year’s debut of the Levo, the team at Specialized has been in the lab working on improving on an already solid bike by adding carbon frames to the mix and updating the electric system and motor to provide better power, heat management and smoother engagement. 

Dan Sapp 

New Carbon Frame

Dominik Geyer is head of the Turbo brand and a human encyclopedia regarding the development of the carbon Levo and how Specialized’s e-bikes work. Geyer said the hardest part about manufacturing the carbon frame was achieving the same geometry and build as the current aluminium model to allow for complete parts interchangeability between the aluminium and carbon bikes. With the placement of the battery in the down tube, this was an engineering challenge. In the end, they successfully achieved the same geometry and frame shape while increasing stiffness by 20% and saving 650g of weight in the full carbon S-Works model. (Expert and Comp carbon have an aluminium rear end.) 

Motor and Software Updates

The motor in the new Levo is similar to the current one. Specialized claims a 15% increase in power, along with better heat management than the current motor. In the carbon bike, the motor bolts into a specially-engineered motor mount that fits into the sub-frame assembly of the shell, while the alloy models retain the same mounting from the previous year. 

Dan Sapp 

Geyer said that the development of the software that manages the motor was as much of a project as the new motor itself. The software is refined to make power transfer smoother than before, which is important since the motor directly responds to pedal inputs. This helps to even out any uneven pedalling, which is often noticeably amplified with an electric-assist bike. The new software is compatible with all current Levo bikes, which is nice to see in an era of seemingly planned obsolescence. 

Other updates include a new walk-assist mode, handy when it gets too steep to pedal (it’s still a bike after all), and a major overhaul of Specialized’s Mission Control smartphone app. The new feature in the app, called Infinitune, allows users to adjust the assist level as well as the maximum motor current that the bike will put out. For example, as Geyer explained, with 100% assist the motor current is 530 watts. If the motor current is limited to 50% then the bike will put out no more than 265 watts, no matter how hard you pedal. 

Our American sister title Bicycling ask: Do e-bikes still give you a workout?

This was done to not only give greater control over range optimisation (changes to output will affect how long the battery lasts over the course of a ride) but also to allow users to control how hard of a workout they get. To ensure riders can make it the full length of a planed route, Specialized also includes a “smart control” feature in the app that allows users to enter their route, how far, or how long (in hours) they want to ride, and what percentage of battery life they want left at the end— the motor will self-adjust the output to cater to that ride. This should help cut down on the anxiety of ending up far from home lacking the appropriate battery reserves to make it back.

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