Posted by Editor on 10/12/19
Earlier in the summer, we were invited to attend the 2020 Specialized product launch. Chad Grochowina has been filing a series of reports, as various products are introduced to the market. This is the final one; the electronic enduro mountain bike, the Turbo Kenevo.
It's been two years since the release of the first Turbo Kenevo; Specialized's enduro-inspired eMTB. Many boundaries were broken with that first edition, and with the new 2020 Turbo Kenevo, Specialized is sticking to their guns that the Kenevo is the most capable eMTB ever made.
The first goal of the design of the new bike was to make it faster. This was achieved by changing the axle path of the rear wheel. The Kenevo now shares a similar wheel path to the Enduro, which helps it plow through nasty terrain with minimal wheel hangup.
The second goal was to make it more confidence-inspiring, and this was achieved by modernizing the geometry. Also, like the Enduro, the Kenevo received a longer front-center/lower bottom bracket/slacker headtube treatment, all of which helps to keep a more centered position between the wheels.
The third goal was to increase its usable range on every battery charge. This was achieved with their updated, more efficient and powerful motor, as well as a larger 700 watt-hour battery (on the Expert model).
2020 Specialized Turbo Kenevo
A rock Shox Super Deluxe Coil and some nicely hidden brake and shift lines
Battery charge port
The Specialized 2.1 Motor and TCU
The TCU (Turbo Connect Unit) is the brains behind the Kenevo. At a quick glace, you have your battery life indicator and the power setting your currently in. It's also the ANT+ and Bluetooth™ connect for the Mission Control App
Suspension travel remains 180mm front and rear, and the parts spec is more gravity oriented. For example, my test bike, the Kenevo Expert, had a Rock Shox Boxxer dual-crown fork! Wheel size carries over at 27.5" with the ability to run up to a high volume 2.8" tire - designated '6Fattie' by Specialized. The frame is made from M5 aluminum with a new asymmetrical side-arm design similar to the Stumpjumper.
Through the redesign of the frame, Specialized was able to stiffen it up while, at the same time, removing 1kg of weight. Because Specialized designs everything from the ground up, they were able to focus first on suspension kinematics and fine-tuning geometry and then figuring out how to integrate their motor into the design. This is the opposite of most manufacturers, who typically have designed their chassis to work around the confines of an aftermarket power plant (eg. Shimano Steps, Bosch).
There are two models of Turbo Kenevo, the Expert and the Comp. Both share identical frames, motors, and software. The Expert model has a higher-end parts kit and suspension package, as well as a 700Watt hour battery over the 500Watt hour battery on the Comp. Despite the frames losing 1kg in weight, overall bike weight remains the same at 24.58kgs for the Expert and 23.63kgs for the Comp. This is due in part to both models being spec'd with more gravity oriented parts over the previous Kenevo.
Similar to the Turbo Levo, the Kenevo uses the magnesium-bodied Specialized 2.1 motor. The 2.1 motor is 15% smaller, 11% lighter, and more powerful than its predecessor, the Specialized 1.3. At peak assist, the 2.1 motor amplifies rider input by 410% with up to 560 watts of pedal assist. In real-world speak, I was pedaling the Kenevo in turbo mode up black diamond jump trails without sweating or breathing hard.
Battery capacity has been increased by 40% on the Expert model and by 8% on the Comp. What I found to be really impressive is how smooth of a transition the motor had when providing the assist. The engagement was hardly noticeable and felt very natural. I was told that it's very sophisticated software that controls that transition.
The Kenevo is controlled through their Mission Control App via ANT+ or Bluetooth. The app allows you to customize motor settings, ride preferences, as well as monitor power use. Because there are many variables at play when it comes to battery burn time, one handy feature of the app is the Smart Control function. It allows you to set the duration or distance you'd like to ride, and the bike automatically regulates the amount of power used to ensure you'll never be left stranded with a dead battery.
On the Trail
I had the opportunity to ride the Turbo Kenevo Expert for a day at Northstar Resort in Lake Tahoe. This was my first proper ride on an eMTB and it was a really fun, positive experience.
In the rock gardens, the Kenevo was like a monster truck
Our day started at the base of the mountain where we spent some time getting used to the settings on the bike, messing with suspension, and tire pressure. From there we headed up the hill, climbing a mix of fire road as well as some steep and techy trails. As the trail got steeper a simple press on the trail remote button added some assistance. It was just a matter of keeping the front wheel planted on the ground and the pedals turning over; the bike seemed to do the rest.
Once at the top we had the opportunity to session trails that we had gotten familiar with the previous day when riding the new Specialized Enduro [see Review - 2020 Specialized Enduro]. As fun as it was to climb up berms and over rocks, the Kenevo really shone going down. I quickly realized to tone down the assist on the technical parts, as there was a tendency for the bike surge at slow speeds if the power was too high for the speed.
Over the rocks, roots and off the drops the Kenevo was composed; and with the battery and motor situated low in the frame, the bike felt planted and easy to lean over in the corners. In the rock gardens, the Kenevo was like a monster truck. I was able to carry so much momentum that it just smashed through everything I pointed it at. This was a bit unnerving at first, since it was easy to get a bit sideways when rocketing down the loose and dusty trails. It also took me a couple of laps to get used to the extra weight of the bike.
Both the Expert and Comp come standard with 2.6" Specialized Butcher DH tires and SRAM Code brakes. This combination proved great, as there was loads of braking power, good modulation, and the Butcher tires had decent braking traction, even in the loose and dusty terrain.
Pricing for the Kenevo Expert is $9999 CDN and the Kenveo Comp is $7399 CDN. I don't see the utility of a 54lb, 180mm gravity oriented bike here in southern Ontario, but if I lived in the mountains or if I shuttled trails all the time, the Kenevo makes more sense.
If you're a trail builder needing to access backcountry trails quickly and efficiently, a bike like this also makes sense. And after spending a week watching two Kenevo-equipped photographers humping around their large camera bags and taking pictures, all the while leap-frogging a bunch of journalists, the Kenevo makes sense.
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