Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL – Review
Launched earlier this year, the new Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL has to be one of the coolest e-bikes we’ve seen yet. The latest in their range of Turbo SL (Super Light) e-bikes, the Kenevo SL is the next evolution of the lightweight e-bike, the next logical step from the Levo SL and a jump up in terms of travel, geometry and capability.
The Kenevo SL builds on the SL platform launched for 2020. Using an SL 1.1 lightweight 240 watt motor, an SL1-320 320 watt-hour battery and a FACT 11m full carbon frame, this all adds up to a claimed weight of just 18.8kg or 41.4lbs. Combining the best of the SL motor system and the Enduro frame and kinematics, Specialized arrived here – at an e-bike that’s powerful enough to get you to the top of the mountain with ease, and lightweight and capable enough to send the gnarliest most technical
SL Motor System
As I mentioned earlier, the Kenevo SL uses the SL 1.1 motor system. Developed in-house by Specialized, the SL 1.1 motor weighs under 2kg and produces 240w of power, with maximum assist of 100% – doubling the rider’s input. Using a 320 watt-hour battery and an option to use an additional 160Wh range extender battery, the Kenevo SL still has more than enough range to get you further out there, faster and longer than a non-electric bike.
The Kenevo’s SL motor system puts out roughly half the power of Specialized’s 2.2 motor system found in the Kenevo SL’s bigger-engined brother the Levo. This might not be for everyone, but the beauty of this is that e-bikes are diversifying, meaning there’s more choice for everyone. The main benefit of the lower-powered motor means lower weight – the Kenevo SL saves around 9lbs in weight on the Levo, making it much more nimble on trail and feeling a lot more like a non-electric bike. Those that value handling over speed will like the like the Kenevo for these reasons.
Specialized developed the SL 1.1 motor in-house in collaboration with Mahle. This means that Specialized have been able to tune the motor to their exact specs, and also to made the battery and motor footprint as tidy as they possibly can. This results in an e-bike that just looks well… like a bike.
Frame & details
The Kenevo SL frame is currently only available in Specialized’s Fact 11m carbon. This combined with the SL 1.1 motor system makes for a really clean looking bike – you could be forgiven for mistaking the Kenevo SL for an Enduro even. The Kenevo SL runs the same FSR suspension system as the enduro, with 170mm of travel front and rear, again the same as the Enduro. The Enduro is a super plush bike and it’s no surprise that the Kenevo feels pretty much the same. It sits well into its travel and feels soft off the top but has a real bottomless feeling to it – perfect for charging into the steep and deep.
A little more on that frame – the big open front triangle houses enough room for a bottle cage that case house either a bottle or Specialized’s optional range extender battery. Neat tube-in-tube cable routing enters the bike at the head tube and keeps the cables neatly tucked away and easy to replace. Nestled in the top tube is Specialized’s new MasterMind display, replacing the original TCU, MasterMind has an LCD display that gives riders more information at a glance and allows for more adjustment on the fly including incremental power adjust in 10% steps in between the regular Eco, Trail and Boost modes.
Borrowing some technology from the Stumpjumper Evo, the Kenevo shares the same geometry adjustments, giving riders three different head angle settings by changing out/reversing the headset cups, and two BB height settings found in a flip chip in the chainstays. This means you can tune the geometry on your Kenevo SL from a relatively nimble machine with a 64.5º head angle to a flat-out speed monster with a 62.5º head angle.
Chainstays are relatively long for a stable ride adjustable between 442 and 447mm and a bb height from 348mm to 358mm. In a size s4 the Kenevo SL has a roomy reach measurement adjustable between 485-489mm and seat angle changes from 75.8º to 76.7º – relatively steep for a comfortable climbing position no matter the geometry.
Handily Specialized have a geometry finder tool for the Kenevo SL, so you can get your ride fully dialed in without any confusion.
Riding The Kenevo SL
Specs and technical details aside the way the Kenevo SL rides is really the important part, since it really rides quite differently to most other ebikes. Starting with the climb, the SL motor system is what really enabled Specialized to make this bike what it is. Building on the Levo SL, the Kenevo SL is the next bike in the SL (Super Light) mountain bike lineup. Since the motor is roughly half the power of the full power Levo or Kenevo, this isn’t the kind of ebike where you’ll be charging up forest roads at 32 kilometres per hour.
Instead, the Kenevo SL is more of a scalpel where the regular Kenevo is a butcher’s knife. Built for finessing up technical climbs with a little more ease and a lot less time than a bike without a motor, the Kenevo SL is for the rider that appreciates a slightly more manoeuvrable bike for carefully dissecting the trail rather than smashing through it. Quite often on full-power ebikes the max power mode is too much for technical climbing. It’s easy to find yourself blowing through corners and riding faster than the trail allows. The beauty of the Kenevo SL is that you’ll rarely find yourself riding too fast for the climb trail, and you’ll probably be riding at roughly the same speed as you would on that full-power bike tuned down.
You could say that the overall feeling of technical climbing on the Levo SL is like having your best day ever. Rather than feeling like you hopped on a dirt bike, it’s more like you simply ate right the day before, are feeling fitter than you’ve ever felt and are just at the top of your game, or rather the top of your favourite athlete’s game.
On the way back down is where the power trade-off comes into play. With the smaller motor and battery there comes less weight, and this puts the Kenevo SL more into the heavy enduro bike category coming in around 41lbs, around 5-10lbs heavier than some fully loaded enduro bikes we’ve seen here. Critically this is about 10lbs less than a full-power bike, and that’s where the real distinction lies.
Let’s also talk about weight distribution a little here. Since the battery and motor are smaller in footprint this means there’s a lot more room to play with pivot placement, which has enabled Specialized to essentially electrify their flagship single crown bike the Enduro. With a lot less motor and battery in the way, that low shock and pivot placement is able to be squeezed into the frame, creating one amazing riding ebike. Not only this, but the center of gravity can be much lower since everything is much lower on the bike.
All of these things make a bike that descends amazingly – with 170mm of enduro-inspired travel and a bike that’s easy to manoeuvre thanks to its low weight and low center of gravity you can have your cake and eat it too. The Kenevo SL is both plush and responsive. It’ll eat big bumps if you want it to, but you can also skip and dance over them and throw the bike around like it didn’t have a motor in there. The Kenevo SL then is not quite a straightforward ebike, it’s an ebike for the person that wants to ride the gnarliest trails and push the limits of their technical riding both uphill and down, while getting in as many laps as they can, but most importantly they want it to feel more like a ‘normal’ bike. Is this the new ‘normal’? Probably not, but we really like it.
Spec and Pricing
The Turbo Kenevo SL currently has three different spec levels – Comp, Expert and S-Works priced at $10,999, $13,499 and $18,999 respectively. Every model has the same Fact 11m carbon frame, and comes with a Sram Eagle 12 speed drivetrain and the jump in price represents a respective jump in componentry. At the comp level comes a GX Eagle groupset and Sram Code R Brakes with Fox 36/Float X performance suspension and alloy wheelset. The jump up to Expert level gets you a Fox 38 fork and Float X2 Performance Elite, Sram XO1 drivetrain, upgraded Code RS brakes and a better quality alloy wheelset with DT Swiss rear hub. Going S-Works gets you the full Factory Fox 38 and Float X2 suspension, Sram XX1 Axs groupset with Axs Reverb, Code RSC brakes and carbon everything including cranks, handlebars and Roval Traverse SL wheelset.