Posted on: 12th February
I must say when Specialized first announced that the Levo SL was coming I was pretty damn excited upon readings its stats sheet. Such a lightweight package and about a third of the motor power output of existing 'Regular' Levo. Was this finally the E-Bike to blur the gap between pedal assisted bikes and regular MTBs?
Then finally the day came that I got to ride an SL for the first time. I'll be honest, that maiden ride felt very promising. I am lucky enough to work at Will Ride and because of that I was actually allowed to borrow an SL for a full week. However, after I rode it a few more times I did find myself missing the extra grunt and 'feel' of my standard Levo. Perhaps it's just the way that I like my bikes to handle but for whatever reason I decided the SL probably wasn't for me.
But then something out of the blue happened...whilst the SL was in the garage at home, my 11 year old daughter Jayla, took quite the liking to it. Given she had never ridden an e-MTB before. I was excited that she wanted to give it a try. Even though Jayla is 145cm tall, even the size small SL with its 29'er wheels and 780mm wide stock handlebars, the bike was simply too big for her to ride safely. Oh well, it wasn't meant to be for Jayla either I figured...
On returning it back to work and slotted the bike back into our hire fleet again, I got chatting to my boss (Will Rischbieth) tell him that Jayla had expressed an interest in wanting to take it for a ride, but it was just too damn big. He then came up with a rather cool idea, "why don't we see how small we can set the bike up. Let's try it with a set of 27.5 wheels, flip the rear chip, slam the dropper, put the shortest bar and stem we can find on it and maybe that'll be enough?"
What an idea - and it bloody worked too! So with the bike now set-up so that she could ride it, all that was next was to plan our first trail outing together. Now usually my daughter, as I'm sure most parents out there will agree on/sympathise with, is 'keen as a bean' to come riding with me right up until about halfway up the first hill climb... That's when the laughter and excitement usually turns into moaning, frowning, and eventually stopping every 10 metres, until eventually we have to abandon the ride all together (yet again). I'm sure most of you have had similar experiences when you've taken your young 'ens out for a lap of the trails, am I right?
That was then, this is now; bring on the E-Bike! Holy cow what a difference having that bit of motor assistance gave her. The first ride we shared together was awesome. She actually was so excited about climbing the hills she never could before, she didn't stop talking and laughing the whole way up the first climb. She even pedalled her ass off and kept up with me the whole way and forgot that her legs might be getting tired. ON reaching the top she was sweating hard and puffing but with a huge silly grin on her face.
Had I cracked the code of getting kids to love proper long rides? It sure appeared so. Ok time for the most fun part, it was time to descent back down the mountain. Now, I have towed her up these tracks a few times on her acoustic bike and on the way down she's pretty confident but has to take it easy and go around a few obstacles.
Well holy crap, she took off like a bullet with me in tow first run. The extra weight, long, low geo and stable suspension with the grippy Maxxis tyres and big brakes gave her so much confidence, she absolutely smashed it down to the bottom. Hitting drops and rock sections like never before. Her teeth full of bugs and dirt from grinning the whole way down wasn't even enough to get the smile off her face. We even got another 2 self-shuttle runs that day.
Within the next few rides, she tackled climbs and techy DH runs, that to be honest had me shi**ing myself for her, with ease. We also took the bike on a long weekend away to Melrose where we did some epic 20+km rides together, riding to some places she never would have got to before.
Don't get me wrong, I am all for learning to ride an acoustic bike when starting out, and she won't be giving that up anytime soon, but the SL has opened up a whole extra biking experience for her and myself, that with no doubt has improved her riding significantly. What a bike. I'd say if you have the money to get your kids into it, and I mean a lot of money, do it. You won't regret it.
Keen to try the SL out for yourself? Why not hire it for a day?
Words and photos by Kane Naaraat. Originally published in Revolution eMTB magazine.