- Bike Check -
Lars Thomsen's Specialized Turbo Levo SL
A True 'One Of A Kind' Bike
We have a freshly built Specialized Turbo Levo SL for you to check out and it's built by none other than Lars Thomsen, owner and founder of Trail Head Cyclery. It's no secret that we're fans of Specialized's Turbo Levo bikes here at the shop. They're incredibly fun to ride and we often find ourselves riding longer and riding our favorite trails even faster than before. The Turbo Levo SL has proven itself to be the perfect bike for Bay Area trails, so when Lars had the opportunity to build one from scratch, he knew he had to go all in on this build.
Story + Specs
The goal behind this bike was to take the lightweight, nimble factor of the Levo SL and give it the WRC Rally car treatment. Meaning this bike is ready for nearly anything you can throw at it. Lars is a hard charging rider and enjoys gravitating towards the faster, gnarlier trails, so he needs a bike that can keep up with his tempo and his riding style.
This bike is Lars's opportunity to ride not only some of his favorite tried-and-true components, but also showcase what he feels are some of the best components out there from some of the best brands in the industry. There are a few key components he wants to change out but for now, this is his initial dream build. It's got a pretty wild color scheme and honestly, we love it, it goes together so well!
So without further adieu, let's dive into the details of this build and ask Lars some questions about his custom creation.
Frame Specialized Turbo Levo SL (Unreleased gold color scheme)
Frame Size Large
Wheel Size 29"
Fork 2020 Fox 34 150mm (Limited edition 2021 36 Rootbeer on the way)
Shock 2020 Fox DPX2 (DHX2 to come, may try Cascade Components linkage)
Drivetrain SRAM XX1 AXS
Brakes TRP DH-R EVO brakeset (200mm/180mm rotors)
Stem Industry Nine A35 40mm
Handlebar Deity Skywire
Pedals Time Speciale 12 (swears by these)
Dropper post + Saddle Sram AXS dropper + Deity Speedtrap saddle
Wheels Chris King limited edition matte bourbon hubs laced w/ CX-Ray spokes to Enve M630 rims.
Tires Specialized Butcher + Eliminator (Cushcore Pro installed F&R)
Extras Chris King axles, Peaty’s tubeless valves, Trail Head Grip lock-on clamps
Some Q & A With the Captain
So first off, tell us about your new Levo SL. What are some highlights of the build? What are your favorite bits, and what you’re most excited to be riding?
My new Levo SL has been cooking for a while, so I’m super stoked to finally have it baked to perfection. Absolutely delicious! The frame was selected from the pre-production 2021 frame sets that will soon be available in the shop, but this one was hand delivered and it was sort of a mystery what we would find in the box… Structurally, this is exactly the same frame, motor and battery as the current 2020 SW Levo SL frame however it is fitted with the 2021 Fox Float DPX2 shock and some Kashima inspired copper flake graphics. Once I saw that color, I thought of Chris King’s latest limited color way,,, bourbon.
Thankfully I had some help from our friends in Portland who found a last set of hubs cellared away and they laced ‘em up with CX-Ray spokes to the venerable Enve M630’s. Needless to say, they are sexy and roll fast on their custom ceramic bearings. Cush Core liners are a must for me but I had to have the purple valves King collaborated with Steve Peat on, so some modification was necessary to allow them to work with the foam liners. I also wanted to try the latest rubber compounds from Specialized’s new tire factory, so a 2.6 Hillbilly up front and the faster rolling Elliminator out back, both rocking the new Grid Trail casings rounded things out. Chris King did another collaboration with The Robert Axle Project and so naturally I had to use those…
If you’re going to bolt anything to these hubs, they better be sweet right? Our friends at TRP were kind enough to send their new DH EVO brakes that are built around a 2.3mm rotor, so I found a set of titanium bolts to fasten those bad boys on and an XX1 cassette for the power! Those brakes though… more on them later, but by far the easiest installation ever and they are as sexy as the wheels! AXS shifting and dropping make for happy thumbs and let’s just admit that they go oh so nicely with my electric bike.
Keeping with the purple and Cashmoney theme, my favorite stem from Industry Nine clamps Deity’s Carbon Skywire bar and their saddle just made sense. None of my bikes run anything but TLD grips, and I had one Twenty6 barend “gas cap” left I’d been saving for a future project. Wish I had the pair, but it went missing at least a decade ago… King has a new Dropset in the works and I’m lucky enough to test out the fit with my Levos. I’ve always run CK headsets and I am very stoked they are nearly ready to offer these headsets to all Levo riders.
So yep, that about covers the build.
Have you had a chance to weigh this build in yet?
Nope. Thought about it, but never did. Feels really light though. We'll see once the build is finalized.
Any future plans for the bike? Or is it perfect the way it is?
Oh I’ve got a few plans… First off, while I’m truly impressed with the Fox Float 34 F-S 150 on here, I’ve had a root beer Fox 36 F-S 160 with a Grip2 damper on order for a few months now and someday I hope it will arrive. They also have my order for a DHX2 coil that I’m going to try out on it. I really enjoy the DVO Jade X on my Levo, and while the new Float DPX2 feels amazing on this bike I do want to see how it performs with a coil. There will eventually be an Absolute Black chainring to test out and I will compare my beloved WTB Vigilantes to the current setup, but I’m in no hurry there. These tires are hooking up really well.
After your first ride, what do you think of it?
Motor or not, this bike shreds. I’ve done some steep and deep, some flowy stuff, some rocky and loose stuff, wet, dry, this bike doesn’t care. It just flies. Yep, it’s really fast! It’s much more playful than I expected it to be given my affinity for the midsized wheels. These two-nines are definitely faster, but the bike can be jibbed and it loves a good nose wheelie into a turn! Climbing is incredible of course. While not as powerful as my big Levo, on the singletrack I never really notice. The frame and wheels are so stiff and responsive that I can choose whatever line I want and hold it without fuss. I love those off camber lines usually found high on the inside of a turn and this bike just loves those lines… In the air I feel confident with a bit of ballast and balance to this bike. Landing is just like a full sized Stumpy only more solid, but it’s not a DH rig. Cush Core helps negate the terrain and I’m never worried… Yep, this is a killer riding bike!
Oh, I wanted to give a special shout out to the folks at TRP. This new brake is just incredible. I was a huge fan of their Quadiem G-Spec brakes that became the Quadiem DH brake. Those are great brakes. These feel even better! The shorter levers feel just perfect in the finger and the pressure is somewhere between the Shimano XTR and SRAM Codes. I have Code RSC’s on my big Levo and I’ve had back to back rides. The Code is a fantastic brake by all means. Loads of power, quiet, easy to modulate and the adjustments are endless to get them dialed to your desires. These TRP’s just feel more powerful and the firmer lever pressure isn’t too much, rather it provides more feedback in the modulation. Long descents in steep chutes never baked these 203/180 rotors and I’m positive that is partially due to the 2.3mm thickness. (Most rotors are 2.0mm) I’m anxious to get these DH EVO brakes on my big Levo next, but that will run 223/203 rotors… Flying on my Levo SL is even more confidence inspiring when I know I have such incredible braking at my fingertips!
How would you compare the Levo SL to the standard Levo? I heard you say that you've clocked over 1000 miles aboard your normal Levo?
So I’ve got around 1200 miles on my Levo and after logging 90 miles or so on the Levo SL I’d say the two bikes are really different. The sheer torque of the big Levo can’t be denied and it will carry you up the hill if you want it to. My Levo SL is not so generous. I’m required to put in more effort to climb at similar speeds however it is easy to choose just how much effort I want to put in. This bike has an Eagle drivetrain on it vs. the 11 speed on the big boy, so I can spin a higher cadence and get the bandwidth I need for the SL motor. You see, the SL motor just doesn’t pull massive torque and you really need to spin a high cadence to get the most from the motor. The advantage is in how much lighter it is and the motor drag is nearly gone. Yeah, that is something huge. There seems to be a lot of range anxiety around the Levo SL that is unjustified. I’ve done some fat rides on my Levo SL and have yet to even put the range extender on it. For the record, my first ride was a wet one and normally I would be lamenting how slow my tires would feel while climbing. I rode 13.09 miles in 1:33, lapped 2345’ , kept an average speed of 8.42mph, and burned 299wh. The battery has 320wh. I was in Turbo the entire ride enjoying an average support level of 159.77%. Then I did a huge ride on my big Levo. This time I rode 30.1 miles in 2:40, logged 4540’, kept an average speed of 10.27mph and burned 679wh. The battery holds 700wh. I wasn’t in Turbo the entire time at all. My average support level was 173.47%.
Final take away from comparing these two bikes? The big Levo gobbles up miles and vertical even with the bulk weight. Being a beast, it moves with longer sine waves like a DH bike and feels planted. Meanwhile, the Levo SL is nimble and quick to jib. It feels more like you, only faster. On the steep jeep road climbs you aren’t going to fly as fast, but in the single track it feels just as quick up and quicker down. I can only go so fast up twisted trails and the Levo SL is fast. On an open road I miss being able to hit hyperspace with my big Levo Turbo. Climbing more technical trails I appreciate the lightness and smooth power delivery of the Levo SL. On the topic of range, I honestly think the Levo SL has more range than my big Levo if I run the range extender battery. It may not be quite as fast, but it’s faster than you and will go the distance!
For riders interested in either a Levo or Levo SL, which would you recommend and for what kind of rides?
So if you are considering one of these, I recommend getting it. Oh, which one? Well that really depends on what you want out of it. If you’re a soloist and like to feel more of the pressure under your feet the SL will deliver in a natural way. Plus it is just so much lighter. Flipping a u-turn on the trail, getting over a fence or just loading it into the truck is just easier. It doesn’t even look like an eBike and in stealth mode few will even notice it is. If you want big power and you’re not afraid to have a heavy bike with the added strength to tell it what to do, then the big Levo will deliver the goods. Also worth noting, contrary to what I would think, the big Levo is actually quieter than the SL. When I’m really jamming in Turbo at a high cadence the SL sounds like a high end vehicle and some really like it. Others will wish it was quieter.
Any parting words with how rad this bike is?
I’m pretty floored with just how dialed this Levo SL is made. I think I said once that the Levo SL is the biggest thing to happen in the cycling world since the mountain bike, and it’s true. I dropped the motor on mine to install the battery (they don’t fly together). Well, when you look under the hood so to speak, the finish work is just damn impressive. No ugly fibre in there, it is clean as a whistle and the form factor is just as impressive within as it is without. Details like isolating the rear suspension with the side arm design to the cleanest internal routing I’ve ever worked with. I know, I’m running AXS and just plugged those holes, but the brake line I literally just pushed up from the caliper and it popped out at the front with no issues at all. Brilliant. Quality comes with a price and while there are dozens of bikes out there, nothing is as refined as the Levo SL. Add in the free Mission Control App that allows me to customize the power levels, track the miles, elevation, wattage, battery and motor health, store multiple tunes, map all my rides like Strava but not Strava and so much more, well it’s hard to imagine how Specialized will improve this steed.
When I look at my bike, I want to ride it hard and take chances...
We hope you've enjoyed this bike check and that it serves as inspiration to what can be done with the Levo SL platform. Feel free to stop by the shop to check out the bike for yourself or to talk all things Turbo Levo and Turbo Levo SL! Cheers!