Specialized is trying to make the electric mountain bike skeptics into converts.
On Thursday the California-based company released the slimmed-down Turbo Kenevo SL, an all-new eMTB that shaves 12lbs off the full-power Kenevo and packs a much gentler pedal-assisted punch. But aside from the name, the parallels between the two bikes stop there. In fact, the collective mountain bike clan may recognize the new Turbo Kenevo SL as a close sibling of one of Specialized’s most sought-after trail-slaying machines — the Enduro.
The Enduro, one of Specialized’s most shred-worthy mountain bikes just got the Super Light treatment, making big mountains, big hits and big days all the more accessible while still carefully preserving the “MTB” in eMTB.
The Turbo Kenevo SL has been built for the modern trend of aggressive trail and enduro riding; for the mountain biker who might be e-bike curious, but who’s unwilling to compromise performance for a heavy motor and battery.
“We’re targeting kind of the core acoustic trail riders who maybe are kind of interested in e-bikes but are not wanting to sacrifice the handling, because of the weight of a full-power e-bike,” Joe Buckley, product manager for full suspension mountain bikes at Specialized, said on a media call announcing the new bike
Specialized released two spec levels of the new Kenevo SL: The $15,000 S-Works and the $11,000 Expert. You can also pick up just the S-Works frame for $8,500.
If you opt for the ultra-lux S-Works, your $15,000 gets you a FOX Float 38 Factory fork and FOX X2 Factory shock, plus a SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS groupset and Reverb AXS dropper post. You also get the carbon Traverse SL wheelset.
Drop down to the Expert, and you get the FOX 38 Performance Elite fork and FOX FLOAT X Performance shock. The groupset is SRAM X01 and the wheels are the alloy version of the traverse.
Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL: Motor and electrical bits
At 40.6lbs in its lightest form (the S-Works S4 size with no range extender), the Kenevo SL is about 9lbs heavier than the traditional Enduro and 12lbs lighter than the full-power Kenevo. Wrapped in the bottom bracket is Specialized’s proprietary Turbo SL 1.1 motor capable of up to 240W of power and 35Nm of torque, which is quite a bit tamer than up to 560W and 90Nm of torque on offer from the full-power Kenevo.
With the new bike came some new electric goodies. The Kenevo SL is sporting the same upgraded Mastermind Turbo Control Unit we saw debuted this March on the redesigned Turbo Levo, but with some really cool additional features. Namely, you can now do wireless over-the-air updates of the bike’s software via the Mission Control app, a feature that’s been in the works for quite a while now. There’s also a “live consumption” metric that displays your real-time miles per watt-hour.
“It’s basically saying you have a fuel tank … and we show you the electricity you consume and that will teach you how to change modes to have a better range,” said Marco Sonderegger, a senior product manager at Specialized.
The Mastermind TCU also allows you to make on the fly adjustments of peak power and support levels, will display the power you’re putting into the bike and will even track your heart rate and elevation.
It’s an e-enduro bike modeled after… the Enduro
While this new bike bears the Kenevo name, it’s an Enduro at its core. Development of the Kenevo SL piggybacked on to the ground-up redesign of the Enduro, Buckley said. Engineers made some small tweaks to the geometry and suspension kinematics, but one of the biggest challenges was simply making the motor fit into the already crowded frame.
“The operation was just to see how we could package this motor and downtube battery into the (Enduro), which was no small feat,” Buckley said. “It was a huge game of tetris to get it all in there and work together.”
That game of Tetris paid off. Not only is the Kenevo SL a stealthy eMTB, Specialized says the added weight of the motor and battery actually helps with the bike’s ride feel. The Enduro already has a low center of gravity thanks to its remarkably low shock and linkage placement, and the added heft of a motor and battery low on the frame amplifies that effect. That’s a claim that’ll surely be tested on the trail, but there’s no denying a low center of gravity positively affects handling.
Like the Turbo Levo released in March, the Kenevo SL has tunable geometry. Riders can choose from six combinations of headtube angle and bottom bracket height depending on the terrain. This is done through an adjustable headset that can be set at 62.5, 63.5 or 64.5 degrees and a flip chip in the rear triangle that moves the bottom bracket up or down by 6mm. But set up in the neutral position, Buckley said the Kenevo’s geometry is “dead on” with the Enduro’s, aside from a slightly higher bottom bracket.
The Kenevo SL also got the same six-bar suspension linkage pioneered on the Demo downhill bike and adopted for the Enduro. That linkage has a rearward axle path in the first third of the travel, which helps soften the “hangup” sensation on some bumps. The axle path reverts to a forward motion in the final two thirds of the stroke.
At a glance: The new Turbo Kenevo SL
What is the bike?
It’s an Enduro, but with an SL motor. They made some slight geometry tweaks and raised the bottom bracket a bit, but at its core it’s an Enduro. It’s got 170mm of travel front and rear, adjustable geometry, the pioneering SL motor and battery plus a redesigned “brain” in the Mastermind Turbo Control Unit.
Who’s the Turbo Kenevo SL for?
The e-bike convert. Mountain bikers who like to pedal, and aren’t necessarily attracted to the more powerful and heavier eMTBs. This person wants a bike that’s flickable, still gets their heart rate up and isn’t obnoxiously identifiable as an e-bike. They may not describe themselves as an e-biker, but by golly they’re never going to say no to a good time.
Where did it come from?
They built this in-step with the modern Enduro released late summer 2019. As that bike took shape, so did this one.
Why did they make it (and why did they go with the SL motor)?
They started hearing feedback from shops and riders in the wild that people were beefing up their Turbo Levos with coil shocks and 38mm forks, trying to milk all the control out of the bike they possibly could.
“That verified or validated our hunch that some riders wanted more than the Levo SL had to offer in capability,” Buckley said.
As for power, Specialized purposefully kept the motor at a more conservative wattage. It was a balance between power, range and not adding so much weight that the handling was compromised. They didn’t build this bike for riders who are “turbo drunk,” Buckley said. “(It was) more about getting a natural ride feel and not necessarily taking away the workout, but giving them a little bit of a break so they can accomplish different things like getting a ride done faster or going further than they normally would.”