Have you seen this Turbo Levo video?


Local time
2:12 PM
Jul 23, 2020

Only the first three minutes of the 15 1/2 minute video are climbing. As an owner of a bottom of the barrel front-hub hardtail, that's the part of the video I'm most interested in. The rest is just him hauling serious ass on level or downhill dirt roads at 30-50 mph. 50 mph no thanks, climbing, yes, I'm interested.

I must be horrible at Googling or something because I've spent a while looking for e-mountain bike climbing videos and the vast majority are pathetic. As in they are on pavement, which doesn't count!, or there is some race on dirt in a straight line, or they compare mid-drives to a hub drive and then don't even bother to mention which bike is which, and then show only the backs of the bikes about 50 feet away from the camera. FYI the hub drive bike kept up fine in that one on gentle rolling hills. But still a tad frustrating.

This video is different. This gives me (and others thinking to buy a mid-drive) a good look at how a high-end mid-drive climbs the real stuff. And I count fire roads as the real stuff for climbing. What did I learn?

The Levo does climb better than my front drive bike, but not by much. There were some loose/embedded rocks and some ruts/channels that this guy had to navigate, he did it about the same or slightly better than I would have. In the three minutes of climbing video, I'm pretty sure I would have gotten up with no issues, maybe as fast, maybe a couple mph slower, but within the ballpark. That's encouraging for a hub drive owner.

The times I get into trouble and have to get off the bike is when it's really steep, like 12%+ and too much loose stuff, or when the channels/ruts get big, like more than 8 inches wide and/or deep, that it's hard to roll over them going uphill. This video didn't have conditions like that, so he made it up, and I could have as well on that hill. He looked like he was pedaling a lot faster than I do, maybe my uphill cadence is 40-60. He would have walked away from me on the Levo uphill, but not ran away. He also sometimes had the front tire slip on some small obstacle and had to correct with handlebars. Very similar experiences on my uphill climbs, just like on a normal bike. The difference is that an e-bike can save you with continuing forward e-watt progress.

Overall I'd say that if you compare three types of motorized bikes: a dirt bike, a mid-drive mountain bike, and a hub mountain bike, my guess is that the mid-drive climbs at least 70-80% closer to a hub-drive than it does to a dirt bike. I originally thought maybe it would climb 50% normal bike / 50% dirt bike, but it looks more like 80% bike / 20% dirt bike. Which means, sorry if this appears to be biased, but the Levo is a bicycle. It's not a dirtbike, it does not climb like a dirt bike, it does not have the traction of a dirtbike. If you don't believe that, look at the video of him struggling over relatively small obstacles uphill. Dirtbikes climb that stuff in their sleep.
If I'm not mistaken the Levo's use Brose motors which are not as powerful as the Bosch and Shimano motors. The main selling point of Brose motors is that they are whisper quiet. Honestly, I could not even hear the motor operating during my demo ride.

On the other hand, I couldn't tell if they were working either. They just don't offer as much as assist as the other brands. The guy in the video sounds like he is about to pass out. He even labels it a "hard" climb and he sure makes it sound like it!

Try out models with Shimano and Bosch. You will notice a significant difference.
At 60 RPM the 90Nm torque of the Specialized/Brose motor would produce 565 watts, just more than the informally-claimed power peak of 560 watts. Keeping the power within reasonable limits means that the motor controller is reducing torque at or below that cadence, which makes sense because the high current used to generate high torque heats the motor (I-quared R loss)

My Yamaha-Powered e-bike produces 70 Nm torque with the power peak of 500 watts at 70 rpm. I have no doubt that the Levo will climb much better than my bike, and even in my current gimped-out condition I made it up a quarter-mile of chunky 8-15 percent continuous grade.

For tech climbing I doubt that the e-Bike is better at all; almost any rider with training can likely produce 600 to 800 watts in short bursts and that heavy e-Bike won’t exactly follow the rider up and over a rock step; it’s a little tough to unweight the rear wheel with an extra 12 pounds down there.
The Shimano and Bosch motors are significantly more powerful, especially at higher cadence. The key is to keep your cadence up on climbs with lower gears to deliver more power.

Shimano and Bosch ebike motor comparison.jpg
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That chart seems about right for my Yamaha PW-SE in the Haibike SDURO but the Yamaha Product manager told me that bike brands customize the controller. 400 extra watts at 80 rpm is plenty; especially for a motor that’s sold as 250 watts.

I seriously doubt that the Brose curve applies to a US-model Turbo Levo. 90 nM of torque should get the Levo to it’s supposed 560 watt power peak at a lower cadence than the Bosch, but the tradeoff might be less power at the higher cadences.

The challenge with e-bikes will be to prevent that horsepower race and cataclysm direly predicted by the Luddites. Possibly it won’t happen if we all prefer smaller and lighter motors, but Specialized seems to be going in the wrong direction. What happens when Bosch comes out with the CX Super-Plus-Max with Nitro mode? Turbo mode is already pretty crazy; it’s like riding a runaway horse.
People like going fast, I know I do. There will certainly be a segment of the market that will be focused on lighter weight and just enough power, But like XC bikes are in mtb, it will be the minority. Power will sell, the big guys are pushing more torque with each version and bigger batteries to supply them. It'll be interesting to see how 750w emtbs sell in the US, like this, which uses the same 120nm motor as the Haibike Flyon, due here in the fall of 2019. 3,000 ft of climing in 30 minutes, it's impressive.


FF to 4:00 to see him pass a guy on a mtb for a speed comparison.

A test ride could easily confirm this. Find a very steep hill and gradually increase cadence from 60 to 80 rpm. If the perceived assistance doesn’t decrease over this range, the bike probably puts out the class 1 limit of 750 watts. If the bike is power-limited at 560 watts, torque will drop to just under 70 nm over this speed range.

I don’t see many mountain bike riders spinning up hills at high cadence, so this probably doesn’t matter too much except to riders who buy the bike to go fast. I’m guessing that Specialized chose a 560 watt peak limit to match the Bosch CX in order to avoid a power war with Bosch-powered bikes like Trek and Haibike SDURO; maybe there’s an agreement between manufacturers to not compete on peak power.
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There isn't a defined peak power limit in the regulations, it's either unstated, nominal, or presumed to be nominal.