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Test: Specialized Turbo Levo SL vs Pyga Stage


Buffet
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‘What!!?’ I hear you say. ‘You can’t compare an e-bike to a normal bike!’

 

Let me elaborate. I had the opportunity to ride a demo Specialized Turbo Levo SL Expert Carbon for a few days (the model just below the s-works, yours for R165 000) thanks to the good people at Revolution cycles. I picked up the bike and with great excitement headed off to my local Tygerberg trails for a blast. 

 

I set off and after about 20km of riding I realised that I was not having as much of a blast as I was expecting. Strange. I had read a lot of online reviews where the testers said it’s impossible not to have a goofy grin riding this bike. I didn’t have a goofy grin on. The assistance from the motor does make you climb faster but everywhere else it just didn’t feel any faster or more fun than my normal bike, a Pyga Stage set up as an allrounder light trail bike. After my usual 30km loop that I have ridden countless times my average speed turned out only about 2km/hr faster than on the Pyga. It didn’t feel like 2x You as claimed by Specialised. The eco mode gives you enough power to offset the extra weight of the bike. If you gonna ride all day in eco mode you might as well be on a normal bike. Trail mode gives you noticeable assistance and full power just a bit more, though not as big a jump as from eco to trail. You never feel like a superhero though.  

 

I thought more testing was needed. So I roped in my long time riding partner and we set off to do the Welvanpas white route with the Levo and the Stage. We are very equally matched fitness wise and my initial impressions where confirmed, on anything but the climbs you are better off on the Stage. One problem with the Levo is that the motor assistance stops at 25km/hr. With reasonable fitness on flat terrain it is easy to go faster than that. So on the Levo you are then left to pedal a 20kg bike with no assistance. Not fun. So we both felt that the 25km/hr limit is too slow. 

We also both agreed that the Pyga was faster and just more fun on the descents. It felt like something was holding the Levo back a bit on the downs which is counterintuitive. You would expect the heavier bike to be faster. The other issue is the noise from the motor, its rather loud and leave you in no doubt that you are riding something with a motor in it. The pedalling feel and sound felt a bit like an exercise bike at the gym.  The non SL version of the Levo is very quiet in comparison, almost silent. 

 

Don’t get me wrong, the Levo SL is a beautiful piece of kit, it handles well and eats up the trails with ease and comfort. The assistance is fairly modest and so you do work just as hard as on a normal bike. But since you are working just as hard you would expect to feel a lot faster on an e-bike. The performance is a bit underwhelming. During the ride, given the choice, we both would have picked the normal bike to continue with. We are both fit and we both didn’t enjoy it. So I think it depends on where you are in the fitness ladder as to whether or not you will want this bike. 

 

So who is this bike for? I would say that if you are a very fit guy, don’t bother. The modest extra speed you will get out of this bike is not worth the high cost and mechanical complication. You can buy 2x Pyga stage’s for the price of this bike… I would say that if you want an e-bike to feel like superman on the trails then get the Turbo Levo, not the SL version. 

 

If you are not very fit and have lots of cash then maybe this is for you. It will enable you to keep up with your fitter mates whilst still giving you a proper work out. It’s relatively light and so easier to handle than the heavier e-bikes. It looks awesome and handles well. If it goes flat on you, you can still ride it without killing yourself. You will be able to enjoy mountain biking as much as your fitter mates whilst sweating as much as them. 

 

I got 60kms of riding from a full charge with the range extender. There was still one bar showing on the extender, so perhaps a bit more k’s could’ve been squeezed out. Without the extender you are looking at about 40-50kms. Bike was ridden 75% of the time in trail mode, rest of the time on full power. 

 

I'm keen to hear what others that have ridden this bike think.  

 

Ok, I got my flak vest on. Shoot away.

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Well written review.

 

And confirms my experiences over the last 3 000km on another brand of ebike.

 

Disclaimer ... I bought it due to buggered knees.

 

 

I have had two young racing snakes dice me along the hills on Tygerberg trails. One even almost managed to keep up along the Hillcrest climb to the mast. Another managed a decent pace along Traverse.

 

But hardly a fair "race", as I can use more assist along the climbs to pull a gap.

 

BUT ... along the flats a strong rider on a normal bike will have more speed ...

 

Downhills ... jeep tracks ... some ebikes pick up speed nicely, others get an anchor effect past the assist limit ... mine do like downhills.

 

 

Trails and single tracks .... probably more about rider skill and goons .... let's just say I do pull over for the odd racing snake, but this is more due to the operator ....

 

 

 

So yes, ebikes provides an option for various riders ... older, health, not so fit, etc ....

 

 

Healthy strong riders ... other than a chair lift it probably wont add much value to your riding

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Thanks for this great review.

 

I wasn't in the market but I still had the wrong idea, thought you can head out and quickly cover twice the amount of fun in the same time, sort of like a clean mx bike experience.

Edited by Showtime
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Great points. There's no doubt about it...e-bikes are probably the future. The problem though is that by the time the bikes, along with the battery, are lighter how much will a bike cost then? Prices have sky rocketed the last 2 years. It will probably be cheaper to by an Electric motor bike. No pedalling or complicated drive drain required.

The remainder will be doing what we do now...pedaling a bike up hill & enjoying every minute of it. No matter how rough or tough.

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Thanks for this great review.

 

I wasn't in the market but I still had the wrong idea, thought you can head out and quickly cover twice the amount of fun in the same time, sort of like a clean mx bike experience.

It depends where you ride - the steeper it gets the faster an ebike is in comparison to a normal bike. On Helderberg I got double the speed. In Eden where it is not that steep only about 40% faster. I would imagine the flatter it is the closer the two will be.

 

In my experience the places I ride you have to be dam fit to keep an average of 20km/hr. When I used to live in Pta 25km/hr ave was easy... so this comparison has to be taken in the context it was made. I think the conclusion would be very different if the testing ground was Jonkers, Helderberg, Cascades, etc etc.

Edited by Grease_Monkey
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Well written and similar to my experience .For a fit regular rider an e bike is fun for an occasion ,but not for regular use 

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Well-written review Buffet!

 

Having now tested both a high-powered (heavy) e-bike and a "super-light" low-power e-bike for several hours each on our Cape trails, if I were to buy an e-bike, I'd get the most powerful one I could afford. The high-powered ones are where the fun is. 

 

An under-powered e-bike offers you the worst of both worlds. You get a bike that is still very heavy by real bicycle standards, but noisy, slow and doesn't offer much in the way of cheap thrills. 

 

If it's exercise you're after, you're not shopping for e-bikes anyway. For that kind of cash you're in 10kg XC bike territory and your S-works, Scalpel, Pyga Stage etc will bring you huge satisfaction, efficiency and riding pleasure without the whining noise, battery anxiety, complexity and weight. 

 

I mean, if you're going to exploit the loophole of being allowed to ride an electric motorcycle on dedicated mountain-bike trails, don't half-arse it. Having half a kilowatt or more on tap, without any effort of your own other than a token turning of the cranks, really is a lot of fun, there is no denying it. Even the most hardened anti e-biker will feel like a naughty schoolkid on the right e-bike. 

 

The one I rode for 30k in Jonkers, you could even spin the rear wheel on uphill switchbacks (not that I did this deliberately :) ) in the max setting - basically a motorbike disguised as a bicycle. If my knees conk out one day, then I'm going to get myself something badass. Not to replace my bicycle, but as an alternative to a petrol motorcycle, because you can commute at high speed without getting sweaty AND have a blast with it on our trail network (for now). 

 

Currently, for less money than Buffet's demo bike reviewed above, you could be riding something like this: https://stealthelectricbikes.com/stealth-b-52/  with 2kW of glee on tap, a top speed of 80kph (!!!) and 100km of range. Just look at it! The pedals are almost like optional accessories.

 

 

 

stealth-electric-bike-b-52-hot-spot-phot

Edited by greatescape
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Well-written review Buffet!

 

Having now tested both a high-powered (heavy) e-bike and a "super-light" low-power e-bike for several hours each on our Cape trails, if I were to buy an e-bike, I'd get the most powerful one I could afford. The high-powered ones are where the fun is. 

 

An under-powered e-bike offers you the worst of both worlds. You get a bike that is still very heavy by real bicycle standards, but noisy, slow and doesn't offer much in the way of cheap thrills. 

 

If it's exercise you're after, you're not shopping for e-bikes anyway. For that kind of cash you're in 10kg XC bike territory and your S-works, Scalpel, Pyga Stage etc will bring you huge satisfaction, efficiency and riding pleasure without the whining noise, battery anxiety, complexity and weight. 

 

I mean, if you're going to exploit the loophole of being allowed to ride an electric motorcycle on dedicated mountain-bike trails, don't half-arse it. Having half a kilowatt or more on tap, without any effort of your own other than a token turning of the cranks, really is a lot of fun, there is no denying it. Even the most hardened anti e-biker will feel like a naughty schoolkid on the right e-bike. 

 

The one I rode for 30k in Jonkers, you could even spin the rear wheel on uphill switchbacks (not that I did this deliberately :) ) in the max setting - basically a motorbike disguised as a bicycle. If my knees conk out one day, then I'm going to get myself something badass. Not to replace my bicycle, but as an alternative to a petrol motorcycle, because you can commute at high speed without getting sweaty AND have a blast with it on our trail network (for now). 

 

Currently, for less money than Buffet's demo bike reviewed above, you could be riding something like this: https://stealthelectricbikes.com/stealth-b-52/  with 2kW of glee on tap, a top speed of 80kph (!!!) and 100km of range. Just look at it! The pedals are almost like optional accessories.

 

 

 

stealth-electric-bike-b-52-hot-spot-phot

 

HOWEVER ...... for those doing homework on this topic, please note -

 

"ebike" are already written into our traffic rules, and SANS standards (another thread about this on the hub)  The TWO things to note :

 

- MAX assist power of 250 W  (the buttons on the handle bar just determine how much of that you get for the amount of power you put in, and how "harsh" it kicks in ... YES, on full boost that sudden 250W do spin up the rear wheel when coming out of super slow switchbacks .... not that the battery last long in this setting)

 

- Max assist speed .... SA followed the European model of a maximum assist speed of 25km/h.  Jip, very easy to override .. .and fully stored in the bike's memory, and warranty void.

 

 

Make no mistake, even limited to 250W and an assist speed limit of 25km/h it "levels out" the steepest hills .... for the rest, you are still going to be cycling.

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Why would a strong, fit person want an e-bike anyway?

Because they are fun. Alot of fun.

 

I would never replace my normal bike with an e bike, but I would something like a Kenevo with a Boxxer fork - basically a downhill bike I can pedal to the top of a hill and just do repeated runs of Helderberg after work. As fun as that place is, sometimes I just don't feel like climbing 500m vertical ascent for a 10mins descent when I only have an hour to kill.

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Because they are fun. Alot of fun.

 

I would never replace my normal bike with an e bike, but I would something like a Kenevo with a Boxxer fork - basically a downhill bike I can pedal to the top of a hill and just do repeated runs of Helderberg after work. As fun as that place is, sometimes I just don't feel like climbing 500m vertical ascent for a 10mins descent when I only have an hour to kill.

 

Okay, that could work for me as well... and also because I'm not fit & strong ^_^

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Why would a strong, fit person want an e-bike anyway?

They are a ton of fun. I ride mine in crazy winds when all the "e-bikes are cheating" crowd are tucked up at home in bed.
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They are a ton of fun. I ride mine in crazy winds when all the "e-bikes are cheating" crowd are tucked up at home in bed.

That and the rain are the best times to ride!!

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