What is it?
In a nutshell, it's an Enduro with the little Levo SL motor system. In our opinion, the Enduro has the best suspension Specialized developed and although a good climber, the bike was a bear to haul up the mountains that it deserved to descend. I really enjoyed it most at Northstar but in most other areas, less travel, more motivated climbing bikes were more suitable.


As I struggled to find local terrain for it, I longed for a little motor to get it up the big hills for a full day of riding. Was it in the realm of possibility to put the Levo SL motor on the Kenevo, expand its sweet spot yet maintain the Enduro genome? The Specialized engineers got to work to solve the great geometry and real estate problem of putting a motor and battery in a big travel, lower-link suspension bike.


Travel and Geometry
Unlike the Levo with six sizes, the Kenevo SL comes S2, S3, S4, S5 sizing and will be available in carbon frames only. The Kenevo SL sports 170mm of front and rear travel and 29er wheels front and rear and the SL has 6 configurable geometries like the latest Levos and Stumpjumper Evos. The Kenevo SL in stock form S3 form has a 465mm reach. 63.9-degree head angle and 76.5 seat angle. 5 other configurations are available of course with the linkage adjustment and the headset cup head angle adjustment in one-degree increments.

Remarkably, the chainstay length is maintained from the Enduro mold to a short 446mm. The Levo motor typically increases the wheelbase by 15mm but the SL motor does not in this case. For comparison, the Gen3 Levo has a chainstay of 441mm while the Gen2 was at 455mm.

Something quite dramatic is the Kenevo SL's bb height flip chip also adjusts the chainstay length. The bike ships in 'High' mode which sets the chainstay length to 446mm. But flip it to 'Low' mode and the chainstay length shortens to 441mm. Absolutely unbelievable and we will test its performance in the near future.

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Why the SL motor

The Enduro is a bike, typically weighing around 32 lbs in S-Works trim and around 35 lbs for less expensive models. Thus, to put the Levo motor in it would mean adding about 20 lbs and getting the weight to 52-55 lbs. The chainstay would have to be increased as well, slowing the handling of the bike even more. And there's the fit issue as it doesn't even look like the bigger Levo will fit in the Kenevo chassis.

With this SL motor implementation, the S-works bike weighs in at 41.87 lbs with 400-gram pedals. This motor allows the bike to have the ultimate ride without the penalty of a 20 lb motor system on an already big bike. Also, the motor is compact enough that it doesn’t extend the chainstay and wheelbase of the bike, keeping it identical to the Enduro.

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The motor puts out 250 watts and sports a 320 watt-hour battery. It doubles the power of the typical rider and is good for about 3500-4000 feet of assisted climbing for the average fit rider. This is a godsend compared to the Enduro and might just be what the doctor ordered for many riders, increasing the sweet spot of the bike into more varied terrain. With this motor, every climb is quite a bit easier but the rider has to play a very active role in the climbs. Rider still has to shift gears ALL the time and steep climbs will still feel like climbs, requiring a bit of effort, unlike full-powered ebikes where the rider has the option to flatten even the steepest climbs. With a full-powered Levo, the rider has a lot more options with motor output.

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Is it enough power?
That will be the make-or-break question for each buyer contemplating this purchase. We think 250 watts and 35 nm of power is going to split the target market for this bike, half thinking it’s fine and the other not. If someone is looking to replace an Enduro or some other capable analog bike, this should fit the bill. Ride a lot of solo rides or ride occasionally with other ebikers, this will be just fine.

But if someone is not very fit or mostly rides with other full-powered ebike riders, this will be a harder sell. The rider will always fall behind on climbs, be short on range, and would always have to ride on Turbo mode, requiring the use of an extender battery all the time. 250 watts is a godsend but a standard Levo puts out a maximum of 570 watts and is powered by a 700wh battery. In addition, we find that on the steepest extended climbs where the rider doesn’t have a lot of momentum, the SL motor throttles down a bit and puts out about 200 watts only as the motor gets hot.

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Why not a mullet?

Ultimate speed and performance was the goal and 29ers are the best at that. Because the SL motor does not increase the chainstay length noticeably, Specialized felt that they could keep the 29er rear wheel and not compromise the speed and chunder eating ability of the Kenevo.

These are also decisions finalized 2+ years ago (is our guess) and the Mullet wheel size was far from desirable, especially for Specialized, a strong 29er advocate. They had to think long and hard before deciding to make the Gen3 Levo a mullet.

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We are now trying the Kenevo SL with a 27.5 rear tire for a mullet configuration and are very happy with the results so far.

Do we agree with this decision? Unfortunately, we prefer a mullet now, especially in long-travel bikes. Having ridden both wheel sizes back to back on many ebikes, the mullet is more nimble and agile. Especially when the travel gets big, the versatility of the bike for tighter terrain is optimized. The smaller 27.5 rear wheel allows for more tire options too from 2.4 to 2.8, to tailor the ride. The motor still adds about 10 lbs of weight and that slows down the handling on long wheelbase bikes. The Levo SL seems fine full 29er form since it has less travel and it has a shorter reach and a steeper head angle.

Fortunately, the Kenevo SL can be converted into a Mullet. Because it has 6 geometry settings available, the rider can try a mullet wheel and still maintain or find a head angle and seat angle that are optimal. Of course, the chainstay length does not change but the rear tire clearance can be improved and the rear tire traction and characteristics can be changed.

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How does it ride?

Descending rough terrain is where this bike towers above most bikes. It is stable, calm, and eats up bumps and holes with confidence. The rear suspension does not get hung up on stutter bumps and holes so the bike doesn't lose as much speed bombing down rough terrain.

Changing direction is best when treated as a deliberate affair. The rider needs to weight shift from rear to front and swing that tail around on the tightest turn. It's like a missile going downhill so it's best guided deliberately as it tracks straight and eats up terrain.

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The rearward axle path of the suspension allows the Kenevo SL to descend very rough terrain without getting hung up.

There's no hiding the long 1258mm wheelbase S3 so it's not ideal for the tightest trails. The adjustable head angle comes in handy though as we steepened the head angle from 63.9 to 64.7 to suit our local terrain.

The motor is a beautiful thing, providing welcome assist in most situations. We can climb 500-1000 feet with the motor off too and it feels like an 'efficient' 40-lb bike. The motor is a bit noisy though under heavy climbing load and it does sound louder than our Levo SL. Compared to a Levo at the same climbing speeds, the Kenevo SL motor is definitely a bit louder.

The suspension is as supple as can be, just like the Enduro. But it is supportive, allowing for efficient pedaling and agile handling.

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The steeper the better is the mantra of the Kenevo SL


Kenevo SL vs Gen3 Levo

Currently, the biggest competition for the Kenevo SL is the Santa Cruz Bullit and the Gen3 Levo. Although heavier bikes, we believe many buyers will be faced with the decision to choose which bike will fit their needs best.

For a comparison between the Gen3 Levo and Kenevo SL:
150/160mm vs 170/170mm travel
570 watts vs 240 watts peak
700wh vs 320wh
49 lbs vs. 42 lbs or 44.5 lbs with extender
Mullet vs pure 29
1225 wheelbase vs. 1258

One might say they're very different beasts but we believe they're two of the best emtbs available today and the buyer will have to choose which weapon will fit the $10+k bill best.

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Available configurations
The Kenevo SL will be available in a $15k S-Works trim and an $11k Carbon Expert trim. We are happy that there is $11k version during launch unlike the Gen3 Levo with a $13 lowest trim version.
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The S-Works is very pricey at $15k but at least the buyer does not have to upgrade much in the excellent stock trim. We feel that the 160wh Extender battery is a requirement though for longer rides or keeping up with faster riders. Thus the buyer has to shell out another $450 for the Extender Battery.



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If it was our money, the Carbon Expert would be our choice. For $11k though, we wish the dropper post was a little better than the XFusion dropper included.

Bottom Line:
This is the top emtb dog right now for gobbling up very technical terrain with little compromise. What they pulled off is a minor miracle and rides even better than the Enduro with its better suspension, tires, and adjustable geometry.

Very tight trails may be an issue as it is a lot of bike for most trails. And the lack of power and range makes it less ideal for heavier riders and those who want to keep up with their buddies on emtb.

But if you have the terrain for it and want the ultimate descending emtb available today, the Kenevo SL is here to answer the call of the gnarly mountains.

Pricing:
S-Works - $15,000
Carbon Expert - $11,000
Frame Only - $8500
Extender battery - $450

Links:
Check ebike options at Competitive Cyclist - eBikes | Competitive Cyclist
Check Specialized products at Competitive - Specialized