Posted on: 11th September
Giant’s Trance E+ and Specialized’s Turbo Levo range are two of the most popular electric MTBs across the industry, and in our store. We frequently get asked by our customers which is best for them. So let’s lay it out; what are the differences and what should you buy? Well, both companies have recently rolled out their 2019 ranges so we thought it’s a good time to dive in.
So let’s begin with a simple question; why is this a common choice?
Well, there’s a couple of similarities between the ranges:
- There’s some price comparability in the middle of both ranges, more on this below.
- They’re both full suspension ranges with 150 mm or 160 mm travel.
- Motor outputs are close with 80 Nm from the Giant and 90 Nm from Specialized but with the same 250 watt nominal power from both.
Mostly it’s the clout and relevence of the brands. Giant and Specialized are some of the biggest names in the bike industry. They rightly have reputations for making excellent products and that’s why we stock both ranges in our store. So you’re guaranteed to get a good bike. But how do you decide which is best for you? Read on!
For many, budget will make this decision easier.
The Giant Trance Range starts lower with the E+ 3 Pro at $5,999, then the E+1 Pro at $6,999, the SX E+ Pro at $8,299, and the range-topping E+ 0 Pro at $8,999.
Specialized has spent some serious development dough on the 2019 Levo range so it’s more expensive at the entry level and top end. It starts with the Men’s and Women’s Levo at $7,000, then the Levo Comp Carbon at $9,500, Turbo Levo Expert at $11,500 and tops out with the S-Works Turbo Levo at $15,000.
The Giant Trance E+ 3 Pro is the cheapest introduction to the glorious world of e-MTBs.
There’s a power and weight differential between the two ranges.
Giant take their power unit from Yamaha, and it puts out 80 Nm at 250W nominal power, and tips the scales at roughly 3.1 kg. Specialized hits almost the same numbers with an output of 90 Nm at 250W nominal power and a little lighter at 3 kg.
Giant’s unit has a great kick of torque when you need it and is very smooth when you do. They’ve done well with their power sensoring system that detects your pedal input and supplements that power with the motor. It doesn’t quite match the smoothness of the Specialized motor, but the same can be said of basically every other motor, but we’ve been riding these units for years and always enjoy them.
The Specialized unit made by Brose with plenty of their own design input and wizardry. It has more top-end power of the two units. It won’t make a massive difference to the ride experience because you will only occasionally use maximum power on very, very steep terrain. For those who really want the extra oomph could be best served with the Specialized. They’re also industry leaders when it comes to smoothness. Specialized are truly obsessed with dialing in the most natural motor response and that hard work feels wonderful during the ride.
The battle of battery life is too close to call between most of the Levos and Trances. Generally speaking though, we advise all customers that the biggest determinant of battery life is how and where you ride. That said, it’s still good to know how much life you’ve got at your disposal.
Both Giant and Specialized have juiced most of their entire ranges with a 500Wh battery pack. The only outlier is the top-dog S-Works Levo that’s rocking a 700Wh battery.
A quick calculation can be done on the fastest burn time by dividing the watt hour capacity of the battery by the nominal maximum power. That’ll tell you approximately how long the battery lasts if you ride using full power constantly. So all of the Specialized and Giant bikes should all last for approximately 2 hours if you ride them at full noise, except for the S-Works Levo that’ll hit close to 3. In the real world, there would be a difference between how long they last but we’d expect them to be very similar.
Buy either brand with confidence that you’ll get exhausted before the bike does.
Controlling the motor’s power output is an important consideration when choosing an e-MTB.
Specialized have favoured a minimalist approach. There’s a simple button-control at your left hand that comes on all bikes with a small stem-mounted screen as an optional extra. You give the buttons a flick with your thumb to cycle through the power modes. There’s 3 power modes and an “automatic” mode that works a lot like an automatic car. The motor automatically responds to your pedalling and chooses the appropriate power rather than having a maximum power setting like the other modes.. It’s a smart system indeed. They’ve put their battery indicator on the down tube to keep everything clean and sleek.
Giant have more power modes and more data on display. There’s 5 power settings in all from ECO through to POWER. Switching is done with the left thumb on a control unit that’s a little bigger than the Specialized equivalent but still discrete. It doesn’t have the same automatic mode like the Specialized, preferring to give you a greater spread of fixed power modes that you switch between.
Giant’s Trance E+ range is an all-aluminium range, using the same frame from top to bottom of the range. Aluminium is a great frame materials and suits e-MTBs well. It’s rugged, resilient, but a little heavier than carbon fibre. It’s a material enjoying a renaissance across all disciplines of bikes from road to gravel to MTB. For an e-MTB it’s a great material to make the bike more affordable while maintaining high performance.
Specialized have specced their cheapest Turbo Levos with aluminium frames and everything above that is carbon. Carbon fibre is a fantastic frame material; light, whippy, and exciting. But it comes at a cost, particularly on e-MTBs. If you absolutely must have carbon fibre, and we don’t blame you for wanting it, then the top Turbo Levos will be a great choice.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, so we’ll just say the Turbo Levo looks most like a standard mountain bike. Its curves, tube profiles, and general shaping mean it’s not immediately obvious that it’s hiding a battery and motor. Its bulbous bottom bracket area is really the only clue that’s it’s packing some extra power.
Giant have gone for a beefy, utilitarian approach. That’s their modus operandi across all of their bikes. They tend to focus on stuffing the most great parts into their packages than making them the most aesthetically pleasing. They’ve done some clever design work with the Trance to make it much cleaner than the Full-E range that preceded it. Still, the Turbo Levo edges it out in the looks department.
Giant and Specialized have gone down very different paths for their wheel and tyre choices.
The 2018 Levos were all kitted out with 27.5″ wheels and MTB+ tyres. For 2019 Specialized went back to the good ‘ole 29er wheels and 2.6″ tyres. That decision was driven by the greater trail feel that bigger, narrower tyres can give, and the greater variety of tyres available for that rim size.
Giant have stuck with the 27.5″ wheels and, like Specialized, have chosen 2.6″ rubber. It’s a setup that’ll give you plenty of of feedback from the trails. Buyers who love and prefer their wheels a little smaller will be well-served by Giant’s Trance models.
Geometry and Sizing
There’s some important differences between the size and geometry of each range.
Giant have only made the Trance in 3 sizes; Small, Medium and Large. Specialized have 4, with an XL at the top of their range.
The front end geometries are quite different. The Giant Trance line is more stretched out with longer Reach and lower Stack numbers than the equivalent sized Turbo Levo. Giant have chosen a shorter stem though, with 40 mm on the S and 50 mm on the M and L sizes. Specialized have put a 50 mm on everything. Head angles are slightly slacker on the Specialized than the Trance too.
Specialized have designed a shorter chainstay length, with 455 mm across all models comapared to Giant’s 470 mm. Specialized took their inspiration from their Stumpjumper when they designed the 2019 Levos
What does that all mean? Broadly, the Giant will be the faster steering bike. It’ll change direction and turn quickly at the front end due to its steeper angles and shorter stem. It’ll have the edge over Specialized on tight, twisty corners.
Specialized will have the more agile rear end though, which matches nicely with a slightly more relaxed front. For 2019 they slackened the head angle a little compared to the 2018 model to bring it into line with their other MTBs. The sum total is a bike with greater balance front to back. It’ll edge out the Giant on flowy, and fast tracks where you need to position the rear of the bike to compliment the front.
Neither bike is inherently better or worse than the other. Ultimately it’s all about you and what you prefer.
Specialized and Giant have chosen different paths for their e-MTB ranges. Both have favoured 1x setups but each has chosen their own specification path.
Specialized has chosen 11-speed 1x SRAM groupsets for their entire with NX at the lowest model the going up, GX, X1 and XX1 at the top. Why 11 speed over 12? Weight. Specialized saw the cassette weight of SRAM’s 12 speed and went with 11 to save some weight. They believe the motor offsets the need for SRAM’s 50t Eagle drivetrains. SRAM’s 1×11 drivetrains are highly regarded for very good reason. They’re reliable and shift very sweetly so you’re not missing out on much with 11 speed.
Giant have used both Shimano and SRAM. Their entry level Trance E+ 3 goes for 10-speed Shimano Deore with SLX derailleur, and Tektro brakes. The mid-range Trance E+ 1 Pro has GX Eagle 12 Speed with SRAM’s Code brakes. At the top is the Trance E+ 0 Pro with a complete Shimano XTR 12 Speed. Giant is typically very creative with their specification choices. They carefully choose every compnenent to hit the best performance for your dollar.
Each range takes a different approach and chooses groupsets according to the ride experience and price they want.
Well done to all those who made it through all of the information!
There isn’t a wrong answer when choosing between a Specialized Turbo Levo or Giant Trance. It’s all about what you want from a bike. We’re happy to help talk you through the decision if you want to drop into the store and take a look.
We have a range of Giant Trance hire bikes if you’d like to spend the day on one before you make any decisions. We don’t hire out Turbo Levos but we’ve usually got one on the shop floor for you to come and drool on.
Drop us a line if you’d like to talk
-The Will Ride team