First Thoughts and Review of the Specialized Turbo Levo Ebike

Hello everyone!  I have some exciting information and photos to share with you on the new Specialized Turbo Levo mountain bike.  One of our guys got to fly out to Moab this past weekend for some press release testing and rides and gave me the low down on many of the specs and what to expect from this new kind of bike.  V__24E7

First off, the Levo gets much of the DNA that exists in the Specialized Stumpjumper.  The bottom bracket is a bit higher though as well as shorter crank arms and chainstays to avoid striking rocks.  It has the shortest chainstays in its class.  It comes stock as a 6fattie wheel setup and can also be converted to a 29er.  The 29er, however, only gains a slight 6 watt gain over the 6fattie.  My thoughts would be that the bike will be most stable with the larger tire.  It also has a low center of gravity to help keep it stable. The rear shock has been specifically tuned to for the additional weight of the bike.

The Levo comes in three configurations.  The SWORKS weighs in at 42lbs and will cost about $10,000, the Expert level weighs in at 44lV__5B4Abs and will cost about $6-7,000, and the Comp level weighs in at 47lbs and costs about $3,500.  The SWORKS and Expert level Levos are equipped with a 504 Wh battery and the Comp comes with a 400 Wh battery.  Both are Lithium ion batteries that use the same cells that exist in the Tesla.  A Tesla has 8000 cells, where a Levo has 40 cells and the Turbo S has 60.  So, that’s a pleasant feature because cheaper cells usually do not react well from vibration (much less from jumps and drops).  The battery weighs 9lbs.

The motor is integrated into the bottom of the downtube and has a 250 watt nominal power with a peak of 530 watts and a torque of 90Nm.  It is definitely the smoothest on the market and extremely quiet with a Gates belt drive.  In order for the motor to engage and apply power, torque must be sensed on the pedals and the rear wheel must have rotation.  The power meter to sense the torque in hidden inside behind the rear rotor.  This is great because if there is no movement, but you are pressing on the pedals, the bike won’t engage and lurch forward.  it will only apply the power once you are moving and pedaling.  This makes a lot of sense because you don’t really need the motor part when going down hill for the most part.V__71EC

Both the motor and the battery are Bluetooth and ANT+ compliant, which removes the need for an LCD screen.  Diagnosis, battery level, and other features of the state of the bike are communicated to either your phone (via the Mission Control app) or through the Garmin Edge 1000 or 520.  The harness for the battery is magnetic and (once the bike is off) can be easily removed and charged on or off the bike.  The motor is also removable and can be diagnosed through the app.

As far as the ride quality, it is top-notch.  A 3-5 hour ride is easily feasible for a single charge, which is mostly due to the mid motor setup versus the hub motor.  The field test rides done in Moab were almost 50 miles together with about 5,000 feet of climbing.  The turbo mode is almost too much power and can cause skidding, but is fantastic to be able to ride to the trails and back.  Most of the effective riding was best done at the Eco mode with a little Trail (more robust) mode here and there.

Climbing is exceptionally great (it was able to clear two foot ledges with ease uphill).  The bike audibly tells you to change gears if the motor is working too hard.  A higher pitched whine from the motor occurs if you are in too low of a gear and a deeper low rumble if you are in too high of a gear.  Like most full-suspension mountain bikes, it is best to be seated while climbing .  Because of the extra power, 3 mile ascents are much easier to handle without issue than with a standard mountain bike.  For descending, it handles great and the extra weight keeps you close to the ground.V__8F0FV__1281

So, additionally, Specialized has gotten together with Strava to create a new ebike category on segments, which will have their own KOMs and leaderboards compared to regular mountain bikes.  In summary, I think this is going to be an awesome bike to let people have a great mountain bike ride even if they are not exceptionally experienced.  It is spec’d really well and I have followed social media of people testing them in Europe for a while, so I would expect that most of the bugs have already been worked out.  More to come when we get one in the shop to build.  I’ll post a good article of the build and closeups of all of the features it has to offer.

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Installing and Troubleshooting the Turbo S Wiring Harness

It’s been a little time since I had a good update of info and experience with working on the Specialized Turbo S (in this case, the first gen version) and have had notable experiences that deserve to be logged and written about.  So, here goes.

In my last post, I was working with a Turbo S that had error code LEDs for the 1st, third, and fourth on the battery and would subsequently turn off after about five seconds of turning it on.  I have been working constantly with Specialized on this one and the valuable experience I have gained will be explained below.  In the end of my discussions with the Turbo experts at Specialized, it was determined that the wiring harness was malfunctioning and needed to be replaced.  It was estimated at about a two hour job, uninterrupted and I think that accurately reflects the time it takes for someone familiar with the Turbo.  Below, I will run through the process and how to do it with advice on what to avoid doing or what helps the install go more smoothly.  As of now, this is the first coverage I can find anywhere on the Internet on how to do this, so I hope the documentation is thorough and helpful.

After swapping several of the components with new ones from a known working 2013 Turbo S, I encountered the same errors on a consistent basis (even with two other batteries).  When the wiring harness came last week, I was psyched and ready to dive in.  I took photos of the whole process so you can visually compare when working on this project yourself.

The first part of the project involves removing the old wiring harness first.  This is literally every wire that runs from the handlebar connectors (the brake motor disengage, the mode selector, and the control interface) to the back of the bike.  First, remove the small 2.5mm hex bolts that attach the frame stops/guides for the wires on both side of the frame where the downtube meets the headtube.

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Once this is done (by the way, put these tiny screws in a magnetic parts bowl, because you WILL LOSE THEM OTHERWISE), remove the anchor bolt on the non-drive side of the bike (which holds the main part of the wire harness in place).  It is a 6mm bolt that uses blue loctite.  In addition, this is a great time to replace the rear derailleur cable as the housing where it fits into the rear derailleur housing stop usually is bent and stretched.  Clip the housing on each end clean.  Any exposed housing casing will cause friction in the cable and affect shifting.  In the fourth photo, you will see a tiny 2mm screw right in front of the wire harness in the battery compartment.  You MUST remove this screw (which holds the brake housing securely under the downtube).  More photos below and then the next step.

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When doing this project, I suggest removal of the crank.  While the bottom bracket isn’t necessary to remove, uninstalling the crank is a good idea so you have better angles of working with the bottom bracket access point on the frame.  It’ll make your life a whole lot easier.  I also discovered that you only need to loosen the two hex bolts (5mm) inside the bottom bracket access point in order to successfully route the harness.  Each individual wire (3 of them, black, red, and orange) is easiest to pass through the routing individually.  When pulling the wiring harness center out of the frame, it’s a good idea to take a nice flat tip screwdriver and carefully pry the rubber casing on the harness wires going down the battery compartment before pulling out the main unit.  The connection plug to the front wiring (7th and 8th photos) must be routed through the frame.  Allow some slack ont he wire from the frame stop and push the frame stop perpendicular to it’s mounting position through to the inside of the frame and then the wire connector itself.

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Take a good look at the above photos and then I will explain them.  At this point the bulk of the wiring harness from the front of the bike should be ready to remove.  Now, we take a look at the progression of the wires through the bottom bracket and out to the hub motor and the rear taillight.  The rear wires are encased in  “Chinese finger trap” style mesh once they exit the frame to the hub motor.  As you compress its length, it widens and allows removal.  The new harness came with heat shrink tubing to cover the connections and the mesh harness is used again to protect the wires running into the frame.  The fittings for the red, black, and orange wires are compression fittings into the plastic plug that connect to the motor.  It takes a significant amount of pulling force to remove these, but they do so without much of a problem.  The key is installing the new connectors back into the plug, which  I will cover shortly.  The next few step include literally pulling on the old wires to get them to exit under the pressure plate (the motor and communication wires) and the seatpost light wires (through the seatpost and then through the seat tube).  By the way, I think one of the hardest part of the install is the installation of the seatpost light.  However, that is a sweet feature of the bike and requires considerable attention.  i show a decent way to do it, though I think there might be an even better way.  Here is the next series of photos.

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The next part is great.  This is where the skill comes into play.  Before the installation of the new wiring harness, I suggest using an air compressor with a ‘crack pipe’ disc adaptor to clean out the frame of the dust from usage and age.  My buddy, Curtis, photobombed the second photo pretty well and helps me keep focus during these diagnoses.  To loosen the battery pressure plate mounts so you can route the wires, use a long L-hex 5mm to turn them counterclockwise until you can move the plate from the battery compartment with your hand a decent amount.  Note that the frame routing for the rear chainstay motor wires is quite small.  I suggest you route each under the pressure plate and the chainstay separately.   Route each under the pressure plate and then each through the chainstay (check the last photo above for the entrance point).  The wires are pretty stiff and pass through the frame relatively well.  Once you see each (with a nice flashlight), use a pokey tool to route them out of the chainstay. At this point, slide the mesh protector onto the wires and the shrink wrap from the earlier photos.  This will make your life easier in the next few steps. Apply a tiny tiny tiny amount of  dielectric grease to the brass collars of each wire before pushing into the original plastic plug.  This will help seat each wire in the plug a little easier.  It is tough to push them through.  Use a small blunt pokey tool to push from the rear of the plug.  I did it successfully on the second attempt.   Then I I hit the shrink wrap material with a lighter and tightened to the connector and wires.

 

Once this is done, it’s a matter of connecting everything.  To route the seatpost light wire, I ran a brake wire cable through the tubes and out the seapost drilled hole, taping the connectors in a row to minimize diameter of the hole it had to exit through.

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Once I had done this, I realized the new harness use d a male and female connector for the rear taillight. Well, I rewired the old connector so it fit, and it worked flawlessly. 🙂

Here is the last of the install photos.

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I also realized that the control unit docking station wire was malfunctioning, so I replaced that as well from a known working Turbo S in the shop.  Other than a small few inconsistencies in startup, the firmware was updated successfully as well as the battery communication issue software.  I am still waiting to hear back on the error reports from Specialized.  Bike performs successfully 90% of the time, but a final confirmation from them is necessary.  Thanks for tuning in.  More to come.  I am compiling a great Campagnolo EPS diagnosis article that should be up in the next few days.

 

SNC, David Polk

Further Troubleshooting the Turbo S & Other Fun Things

Well, I had two choices when I got home from the shop.  The first was to update my recently built cyclocross bike with some newly acquired 10 speed 105 and Ultegra (along with two nice red Specialized rib cages).  The second was two write a new article on first thoughts with the newest edition of the Turbo, which has split into several more models and options and really continues to develop the lower price point and affordability.  So, thus, I am writing the article (mainly because I don’t really care about 9 versus 10 speeds for a few more days of riding around in dirt and gravel.  Pretty sure it is working quite well).  In addition, I have come across some good troubleshooting problems and solutions (particularly the first gen Turbo S from 2013-14).  In fact, the solution for the issues in diagnosis are still in the process of being resolved.  However, due to some great communication with the lead Turbo experts over at Specialized, we have a solid direction toward fixing the issue and this will really mark the first time since they’ve arrived on the market that one can assess the long term durability and dependability.  I will go ahead and say that I certainly think it is worth it and, if you ride regularly (or wish to) year round, it’s a far better bargain (particularly in the DC metropolitan area) that sitting in traffic all the time with a car.  Let’s dig in!

First, I had a new customer stop through recently with an amazing modification of a 2015 Turbo S that made my eyes pop thinking about future possibilities with ebikes.  Her name was Marissa Muller and her website is http://www.marrissamuller.com.  Her Turbo had not only a aero wind shield, but could run indefinitely with the solar panel she attached to her Burley bike trailer.  Unbelievable!  Using extension wires with Rosenberger connection plugs (the same kind on the Turbo), she outfitted it so the Turbo could keep charging at a rate slightly more than the rate of battery discharge from riding it.  Essentially, it charged faster than you could deplete it!  Carrying an extra battery (which apparently wasn’t needed), this woman rode cross-country on an ebike pretty much without ever plugging it in.  Think if the frame was covered in super efficient solar panels.  Never charge the bike.  Use the free energy of the sun.  It’s both a noble concept and challenge to make it happen.  Unfortunately, adding this technology directly into the bike now would make the price skyrocket to a likely 15k or more.  So, rigs like these now are proven for the meantime and is a great way to tour the country without fear of running out of battery power.  Here are some photos of the setup!

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She was super nice and had a great knowledge base to understand how the setup worked.  With extension Rosenberger connectors, she was able to route a cable from the solar panel to a the front of the Turbo into the charging port.  It was by far the best mods I have seen yet on an ebike.

Concerning the troubleshooting, I had a customer come in from visiting other shops with unsuccessful results in need of service with his Turbo S (first gen).  When the battery was started up, it’s on-board diagnostic LEDs showed errors for the motor, light, and remote.  The battery would finish the diagnostic and then immediately shut down.  This is a first for me.  After speaking with some of the experts at Specialized on this case, they suggested I take a look at all of the connections to make sure they were tight and not discolored.  Apparently, while a rare case, some of the Rosenberger connections would have one of the two pins discolored dark, which would mean it somehow went bad.  This was not the case as you can see in the photos.

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I even removed the central core of the wiring harness at the top of the downtube to check for bad connections and/or frayed wires.  As you can see, there were none that stood out as bad.  I triple checked the regular connections of wires at the front of the bike (where the motor disengage connects to the remote and mode wires, and then into the bike).  The connection for the light was not quite tight and when tightened, it responded well by turning on correctly, though it still read as a fault in the system.

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After inspecting everything and also trying to remove and reinstall the battery several times (and unplugging the motor connection near the non-drive side rear dropout and cleaning it with electronic component cleaner), I am of the assumption at this point (along with the guys at Specialized) that the wire harness may indeed be worn out.  In an effort to fully check this before replacing, I will be performing a diagnostic of the ebike with the newest edition of the software.  Once this has been confirmed, I will update the article accordingly and link this one to the other articles I have on the Turbo.  It is reasonable that the wire harness is worn out for a three year old bike, but maybe not since this one was purchased only about a year ago.  Either way, it seems to be solvable issue.  If the wire harness does need replacement, this is an extensive installation that will require quite a bit of time.  I plan to record this process with my GoPro and will post it here with the conclusion of the article.

On a side note, the battery error report showed some irregular data as well as the absence of data regarding some controls of the motor and battery cells.  For instance, there is a field of data readings that mention a note every time a permanent failure occurs and this data was completely gone from the report.  Anyways, once the issue is resolved, the Turbo should be back up and running.  I also used a different battery from a brand new Turbo with the same exact error LEDs, so this is also why I believe the issue is not the battery itself, but the communication between it and the other components.

Me working on fixing these ebikes...

 

Congratulations to Peter Sagan today on winning the UCI World Road Championship.  It was such an epic win and was smartly finished by attacking on the cobblestones.  It was the type of race where perseverance and smart racing skills took the field.  Let’s look forward to some special edition painted Specialized bike for him winning.  Thanks for tuning in!

 

  • SNC

Specialized Turbo Parts Installation

The Turbo S comes mostly assembled in a large sturdy box from Specialized that also has plastic support handles in lieu of simple cardboard ones since it still does weigh about 48 pounds.  The battery is separately packaged in the box in additional cardboard and usually has a decent charge right from the start.  I always un-package it and plug it into the included AC charger so it is at full charge once the bike is ready to ride.

The handlebars and stem need to be installed onto the steerer tube of the fork ) appropriately spaced with the right amount of spacers.  Once this is done, any remaining packaging is recycled and removed.

The seatpost is installed with grease (for alloy) and fiber grip paste (for carbon on the older models).  Right before install the two wires coming from the saddle’s LED need to be connected to the opposing two wires coming from the seat tube.  One of each set will have a blue line on it.  Connect those two and then connect the other two.  Coil the additional wire into the seatpost as you mount it into the frame.  Torque the seatpost binder bolt to a value of 5Nm.  Clamp the bike in the stand with moderate pressure to hold the bike firm while finishing the build and tuning.Turbo Integrated Tailight

The Turbo S uses a MegaEVO386 bottom bracket and compatible crank (30mm spindle).  I remove the crank and use a torque wrench to check the outboard bearing bottom bracket cups to 40Nm.  I then make sure to use a thicker grease on the spindle before installing it into the BB.  This helps ensure that there are no creaking or clicking issues.  Most of the time, I find that the factory build installs it correctly and I have to just double check it.EVO386 Bottom Bracket

I then take both wheels off of the bike.  The front is a thru-axle as is the rear wheel.  Both are necessary to adequately support the wheel in the frame.  After greasing the thru-axle and checking to make sure the cassette lockring is tight, I true and tension both wheels.  Nearly every time I find the wheels are already well-built and simply detension the wheel from shipping and production and lubricate the spoke nipples.Rear wheel motor specThru axle and torque spec

After getting the wheels ready, I like to take care of a few things on the bike that is easier to do without the wheels on.  I wipe the frame down with rubbing alcohol at all points of contact between parts and components. For instance, this would include crank arm pedal threads, both front and rear dropouts, all frame fitting contact points (where cable and wires enter and exit the frame), brake calipers (with pads removed), handlebars, the surface area under the grips, and the rotors on the wheels.  Then the wheels are installed and torqued to the required spec with a torque wrench.

At this point the handlebar is installed, the bottom bracket checked, the wheels checked and trued and cleaned, and the frame is prepped.  After the wheels are installed, it is time to center the brake calipers on the rotors.  At this time, it is also suggested to toque the rotor bolts to spec as well (3.5-5Nm).  Loosen the top and bottom mounting bolts for each caliper and  until they move freely back and forth.  Normally there is blue Loctite on these bolts.  If none is present, apply some.  Then, with the mounting bolts loose, use one hand to press down on the caliper body and with the other hand, squeeze the brake lever.  Slowly snug down the top and bottom mounting bolts until the body does not move easily.  Release the brake lever and place a white piece of paper below the caliper and rotor.  You should be able to easily see the space on each side of the rotor from the pad.  If it is uneven, slightly loosen each of the mounting bolts and center the pads over the rotor.  Once this is done, tighten and torque the bolts to spec and spin the wheel.  Listen for any sound of rubbing and observe that the rotor is true and straight.WP_20140515_008

Shift through the gears in the rear until the chain is positioned in the largest cog (the lowest gear).  Set the LOW limit screw so that the derailleur may very slightly go past the last cog (about a half of a millimeter).  Then, down shift and use the barrel adjuster to correct the cable tension for the smoothest shifting.  Once the chain is positioned in the smallest cog (the highest gear), adjust the HIGH limit screw so the chain is in line with the cog.WP_20140515_018

Now that the ‘bicycle’ parts have been checked and tuned, it is time to install the frame fittings the wires enter and exit.  These are small 2mm hex bolts that should have a small amount of blue Loctite on them.  If they don’t apply some.  Avoid using a ball head hex key to install or remove these as it tends to either strip the bolt head or simply not apply enough bite to turn the bolt.WP_20140515_011

Check the rubber pad in the frame slot for the battery to make sure it is flush against the base of the panel and is covering the wires that run the length of the down tube.  Then, clean the contact points at the top and bottom of the battery slot and on the battery with isopropyl alcohol and place the battery in the frame bottom side first.  When the top half connects into the frame, you should hear a distinct click, indicating the battery is installed correctly.  Attempt to wiggle the battery to ensure it is installed right and test its removal by turning the key located near the bottom bracket on the non-drive side.  Keep this key handy at all times!  It is ridiculously hard to remove the battery without the key.

With the battery installed, the Turbo is ready to rock!  Press the power button on the battery to start up the system.  Now on to the electronic parts and diagnosis!

 

– SNC