On one hand the MTB community can embrace new technology that helps to make us faster and enjoy the ride more. The dropper post for instance, nobody remembers fondly the endless routine of putting the post up or down throughout the course of a typical ride? That said we can take on the appearance of a bunch of luddites as soon as new technology makes an appearance. Whether it be a wheelsize debate or label for a riding style that we have been doing all along as a riding community we unite in the widespread bashing of something new.
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The latest to fall victim to the internet witch hunt is the E-MTB. Pedal assist bikes have been around for some time now but usually the preserve of the elderly or infirm it has not been something that we have needed to consider as being part of what we do. However with the leaps in technology and research and development from all the key brands that is soon to change. One of the brands leading the charge is Specialized with the Levo range of bikes.
The full suspension bikes are based around the Stumpjumper platform and at first glance do not look like a typical E-MTB. This is partly down to Specialized choosing to go a different route than the usual Bosch set up favouring a custom battery and motor that seamlessly blends in with the bikes natural aesthetics. A point to note is that the battery used in the Levo can also be found in Tesla cars. Certainly a cool fact to boast about at the trailhead.
Recently we got the opportunity to ride the new Levo FSR bikes at the Forest of Dean. A popular trail centre which has a number of purpose built DH tracks and Gravity Enduro stages to push the limit of any bike this proved to be the perfect testing ground for the Levo.
First off we got to learn a bit more about the bikes and the approach Specialized had taken for developing their first E-MTB. With a custom tuned battery and motor the key difference to other similar bikes is the way in which the power is delivered. Huge surges in power are now absent with a more linear power curve suited to the varying trail demands of a mountain bike. What this means in practice is the bike should feel more natural when on the gas rather than the on/off feel associated with most E-Bikes.
Range is the next hot topic which is less easy to clearly define. How long the battery will last depends on how much effort you put in, the style of riding, the size of the rider and the power setting employed. With the mission control app you can tailor the battery to suit your specific needs and riding meaning that you don’t get left stranded with a flat bike. The mission control app also negates the need for a big bar mounted display, a big win in my book as a fan of clean uncluttered bars.
Out on the trails the bike instantly feels like……a bike! With my normal ride being a Stumpjumper FSR the bike instantly feels familiar with the slight whir from the motor being the only real clue to a casual observer that this is no normal bike.
Standing on the pedals and powering out of the saddle does not get the most out of the bike as it assumes the level of torque being provided negates the need for electrical assistance. Smooth even pedal strokes get the most out of the bike and propel you along with ease. The first advantage is traction, without the need to stand out of the saddle and stomp on the pedals loose rocky climbs can be dealt with in ease.
The first ride involved a big group with a mix of abilities. Whilst a great leveller, fast riders will still be faster but slow riders will be able to take part in the same ride at a pace not too dissimilar.
Heading down and the extra weight becomes apparent but not necessarily in a bad way. The plus sized tyres and extra weight mean that the bike grips and feels planted like a downhill bike. Getting airborne requires you to recalibrate your inputs to handle the change in weight distribution but after a few runs you get the hang of it.
Sections of downhill that last a couple of minutes and take a good twenty minutes of effort to get back to the top are handled with ease. This is the key point for me, the E-MTB allowed you to do more of the fun stuff and enjoy the bits that are usually hard work. The experience is similar to a regular bike but an E-MTB allows you to enhance elements of the experience without sacrificing anything to get there. Whilst it will no doubt cause some waves in the MTB industry I am confident that E-MTB is here to stay and I would encourage anyone to try one out. This much fun will win over the biggest cynic that I am sure of.
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Specialized Levo at Rutland Cycling Whitwell
Whitwell Leisure Park,
Bull Brigg Lane,
01780 460 705
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