Specialized Turbo Kenevo Expert 6Fattie first ride review£5,000.00

Downhill big hitter that'll give you a helping hand back up the hill

Imagine a bike that could let you rip down the wildest, roughed up, technical descents and be pedalled back up to the top of the hill without breaking a sweat. Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, maybe, but it didn't put Specialized off from taking on such a challenge. With 180mm of travel, a burly build and some rather enduro-esque angles, Specialized's new Turbo Kenevo expands its e-MTB offering, catering for those looking for something with a bit more 'grrrrrrr' going down and enough oomph to get you back up the hill.

Okay, there's no doubt you'll still sweat a bit, but it could put an end to long days shuttling in your mate's knackered old van.

Turbo Kenevo Expert 6Fattie specifications

  • Frame: M5 aluminium with 180mm of travel
  • Fork: RockShox Lyrik RCT3 DPA with 180mm of travel
  • Shock: Öhlins TTX22M coiled
  • Drivetrain: Custom alloy crankset, SRAM GX one click shifter, GX rear and Turbo 1.3 Rx Trail-tuned 250w motor
  • Wheelset: Specialized alloy disc hubs with Roval 38mm (int) rims
  • Tyres: Specialized Butcher GRID 2Bliss Ready 27.5x2.8in tyres
  • Brakes: SRAM Code R (200mm rotors)
  • Handlebar: Specialized alloy 780mm
  • Stem: Specialized 45mm (medium bikes)
  • Weight: approx. 24kg
  • Stack: 610mm (size medium)
  • Reach: 431mm
  • Wheelbase: 1205mm
  • Head Angle: 65 degrees
  • Seat Angle: 74.8 degrees

X-Factor

For those familiar with Specialized's well-established Enduro, it's not hard to see where the Kenevo draws inspiration. And it's not just the X-Wing frame layout that's similar either.

Take a look at the Kenevo's geometry chart and you'll see it's not that far off the current Enduro, thanks to its slack 65-degree head angle (which is 0.5-degrees slacker than the 650b Enduro), 431mm reach (medium) and the relatively low (for an e-MTB with 180mm of travel) 350mm bottom bracket height.

Specialized claims that the revisions made to the motor mean an impressive 15 percent increase in power over the previous 1.2 version

As you'd expect, squeezing a motor and battery into the frame does mean there are some exceptions though. The Kenevo's chainstay measures in at 443mm which, although longer than the regular Enduro, still makes it one of the shortest out there in the e-MTB world which is impressive.

The seat tube angle is a touch slacker though, measuring in at 74.8 degrees (medium) compared to the Enduro's 76-degree equivalent.

Out back, the Kenevo uses Specialized's tried and test Horst Link suspension design to deliver a whopping 180mm of rear wheel travel, all of which is taken care of via the beautifully controlled Öhlins TTX damper.

If you're wondering about tyre clearance, this particular big hitter will fit up to a 2.8in tyre at the rear. Specialized switched all of its Turbo Levos to 2.8in rubber as well, stating that it not only helped reduce the overall height of the bike, but said that 2.8s offered more support than the 3in tyres it previously specced.

Other things to note are that the battery is accessed in the same way as on the Turbo Levo's; cable routing is internal and there's enough room for one of Specialized's SWAT bottle cages, which also hold a multi-tool.

While there's just one model of the Kenevo available, Specialized is offering it in four sizes, ranging from small to extra-large.

To shuttle or not to shuttle, that is the question

Specialized's battery and motor integration continues to be one of the best in the business. The Kenevo features the latest custom Turbo 1.3Rx Trail-tuned Brose motor, which offers an additional 15 percent power compared to the 1.2
Specialized's battery and motor integration continues to be one of the best in the business. The Kenevo features the latest custom Turbo 1.3Rx Trail-tuned Brose motor, which offers an additional 15 percent power compared to the 1.2

Of course, in order to make getting the Kenevo back up the hill without the need of a chairlift or shuttle truck, Specialized needs to supply some kind of assistance. In this case, just like the latest generation of Turbo Levos, this comes in the form of the latest Brose Turbo 1.3 Rx Trail Tuned motor.

Specialized claims that the revisions made to the motor mean an impressive 15 percent increase in power over the previous 1.2 version, along with improvements to heat management and overall efficiency.

When it comes to tackling the problem of overheating — something that can often lead to a loss in power — Specialized claims to have solved the problem by placing thermal pads inside the motor to help distribute heat more effectively, as well as adding thermal pads between the frame and motor itself to further help with heat dissipation should things start hotting up a little too much.

New neodymium magnets and a new electronic unit cap the hardware updates off. When it comes software, Specialized says the latest updates — something all current Levo owners can benefit from — work in unison with the new hardware to improve power delivery, efficiency and overall range.

Something I found particularly interesting with the Kenevo was the use of the double freewheel design. This allows the motor to totally disengage when you reach the bike's speed limit. Okay, you're still pedalling a heavy bike, but one without the energy sapping friction that's common in a variety of systems.

It's worth noting that the battery is pretty special too. The M1-504 battery is ANT+/Bluetooth compatible, allowing you to sync the bike to any number of devices, including Garmins, to give you just about every ounce of data possible.

While the Kenevo doesn't offer a head up display unit like many e-MTBs, the LED light on the side of the down tube indicates charge and which of the three modes you're in
While the Kenevo doesn't offer a head up display unit like many e-MTBs, the LED light on the side of the down tube indicates charge and which of the three modes you're in

As we've seen on the Turbo Levo, the Kenevo's shorter, more trail-focussed machine, the Kenevo's battery also get the same integrated LED display too, which gives the rider an indication of both battery life and which of the three modes they're currently in.

Specialized's Mission Control app also gets updated and allows for even more power-mode tuning potential than before. Its new 'Infinite Tune' feature allows you to tweak the assist lever and maximum motor current separately for each of the Kenevo's three power modes.

The app also features 'Active Smart Control', allowing you to program your distance or desired ride time and determine you battery level when you've reached the end of your ride in order to prevent you running out of juice before you actually make it home.

Toggling through the three power modes (eco, trail and turbo) is now a lot easier too thanks to Specialized's new bar mounted 'Trail' remote. Thanks to its compact design, the remote easily integrates with the other handlebar controls and sits close enough to the grip that it's a doddle to reach and operate.

It also features a walk assist button, which is handy when trying to drag the Kenevo up anything that isn't quite rideable.

Specialized Turbo Kenevo Expert 6Fattie specs

A RockShox Lyrik fork paired with an Öhlins TTX Coil shock takes care of bump eating duties
A RockShox Lyrik fork paired with an Öhlins TTX Coil shock takes care of bump eating duties

Specialized has done a great job in speccing the Kenevo with a component list that properly complements the frame's intentions. Burly 2.8in own brand Butcher tyres in the tougher, GRID casing wrap around wide, 38mm (internal) Roval rims in a bid to deliver a nicely shaped tyre that's reasonably well-supported and offers consistent grip throughout.

Though we've already mentioned the Öhlins TTX rear shock, the RockShox Lyrik RCT3 also deserves its fair share of praise. The smooth, nicely controlled and well-supported stroke is a doddle to tune and we're big fans of how it handles the trail when it gets really rough.

If you're wondering why the saddle looks to be tipped back so far, don't worry, it is intentional. Specialized has included its latest dropper post, the Command WU, aboard the Kenevo.

When the post is fully extended, the saddle remains in the position you've set it to for comfortable pedalling, though drop it through its 115mm of travel and thanks to the 14 degrees of saddle tilt, Specialized claims you're effectively getting a 150mm dropper that offers a more comfortable and effective seated position.

The Kenevo features Specialized's new Command Post WU, which tilts the rear of the saddle downwards as the post drops
The Kenevo features Specialized's new Command Post WU, which tilts the rear of the saddle downwards as the post drops

Other interesting points to note from the spec include the gearing, and more specifically, the single click SRAM GX shifter. While this isn't common on the standard GX transmission, the single click technology is something Specialized requested from SRAM's e-bike specific EX1 drivetrain. That is the only element of EX1 to be found on the bike though, as the rest of the gearing is taken care of using the regular GX 11-speed transmission.

To help ensure you can continue to pedal the Kenevo up rough, rocky climbs, Specialized has used shorter, 165mm cranks to provide adequate clearance and avoid any momentum shattering crank strikes.

SRAM's new Code R brakes do a sterling job of bringing the 24kg (52.9lb) to a stop and worked without fault throughout my short test period.

Initial ride impressions

My time aboard the Kenevo was extremely limited and certainly not enough for me to really get the complete measure of the bike, especially considering that I was riding totally unfamiliar trails.

I was able to get an initial impression of it though and, thanks to the nature of the trails at Mountain Creek Bike Park, New Jersey, get an idea of just what the Kenevo is capable of.

My ride started with a climb to the top of the mountain which zig-zagged the ski piste and was punctuated with a number of short, sharp efforts.

At 5ft 8in, I felt properly comfortable aboard my medium test bike when seated. While it's not the longest in the top tube, it's certainly got enough breathing room and still offers a decently angled seat tube for efficient pedalling.

It became clear just how sensitive the motor was to changes in cadence as the pitch of climbs began to change or when I needed to change tempo when meandering through some of the slower uphill turns.

The Turbo 1.3 certainly favours a higher cadence, which means you need to pre-empt gear changes to ensure you stay on top of things and make the most out of the assistance on offer.

Power delivery is incredibly smooth though and I had no issues holding a wheelie, even in turbo mode which doesn't deliver the same, more aggressive surges in power as some of its competitors. But if you do need to alter the power mode, changing it is easy thanks to the new and easy to reach remote.

The new Trail remote integrates with handlebar controls easily and is a doddle to use. It also features a walk assist button
The new Trail remote integrates with handlebar controls easily and is a doddle to use. It also features a walk assist button

Of course, climbing is just half of the story here and quite honestly, not the most important half.

I started by warming up on one of the mellower trails down the mountain, which has a number of drops and jumps early on to get you nicely warmed up before things steepen and the speeds increase. It was here that the well-balanced nature of the bike really stood out.

The geometry is certainly one of the more sorted of the e-bikes I've ridden and, despite the weight, the Kenevo also feels like one of the more lively too.

Lofting the front wheel into the air is relatively easy to do, as is slinging it from turn to turn or hopping obstacles. It's nice and quiet too, which I'm a big fan of. Get it in the air and things feel nicely stable and confident as well.

As speeds pick up and you quickly exceed the motor's limit, it's nice to be able to pedal without any of that energy draining friction from the motor thanks to the double freewheel design. Okay, the bike still feels heavy, but topping up your speed when you need to or grabbing a few extra pedal strokes to clear the next jump doesn't feel like a chore like it can on other e-MTBs.

Even when clattering into really rough sections of trail or landing some of the bigger jumps that Mountain Creek has to offer, the Kenevo's suspension dealt with everything extremely well.

Öhlins' TTX coil damper is one of the finest in the business and delivers a smooth, incredibly controlled stroke
Öhlins' TTX coil damper is one of the finest in the business and delivers a smooth, incredibly controlled stroke

The Öhlins TTX shock felt composed throughout, supported me when it needed to and handled the really heavy hits without fuss. It was a similar story up front too.

This of course is helped somewhat by the big 2.8in tyres, which do an admirable job of soaking up a lot of the smaller trail chatter as well as helping to contribute to the bike's more lively feel.

When picking my way down some of the more natural, rock strewn trails, I really appreciated the forgiving, traction rich nature of the big tyres, but loading the bike hard through the high-speed bermed turns, there were occasions when things felt a touch squirmy and vague at times. Still, I think switching to Specialized's 2.6in Butchers would help remedy this and drop the bike even lower.

Massive, 2.8in Butcher tyres with the tough GRID casing help to keep you stuck to the trail though still suffer from some squirm when pushed hard through well-supported turns
Massive, 2.8in Butcher tyres with the tough GRID casing help to keep you stuck to the trail though still suffer from some squirm when pushed hard through well-supported turns

Due to the nature of the riding at Mountain Creek, there weren't any times that I really sat down once the WU post was dropped, so I can't really comment on the effectiveness of the new post. Once I get the bike in the office and ride a wider variety of trails it'll certainly be interesting to see how things feel.

Overall, the new Kenevo certainly seems incredibly capable. Its suspension and hard hitting spec work well together, and the nicely proportioned geometry makes it one of the most fun and well-balanced e-MTBs I've ridden. I'll keep you posted on how I get on with it once it makes it into the office though.

Early verdict

The Kenevo certainly seems like it could well be a neat solution to those gravity junkies looking to get more time going down while having an easier time getting back up the hill.

The solid spec, great suspension and competitive geometry mean it should be right up there with the best of them.

Rob Weaver

Technical Editor-in-Chief, UK
Rob started riding mountain bikes seriously in 1993 racing cross-country, though he quickly moved to downhill where he competed all over the world. He now spends most of his time riding trail bikes up and down hills. Occasionally he'll jump into an enduro race.
  • Age: 34
  • Height: 172cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Natural trails where the loam fills my shoes on each and every turn
  • Beer of Choice: Guinness

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