The Development Story of the 2019 Specialized Turbo Levo | Birth Of An E-Bike


– The Alps, and with over a hundred peaks at 4,000 meters or
more, it is the ultimate place to ride, design,
and test a mountain bike. Indeed, it’s the very place where the Specialized Levo was developed. So we’re gonna go down
there to take a closer look. (electronic effects) Here we are in Cham, in Switzerland, and it’s home to 19 mechanical
and software engineers from seven different
countries around the world. And to show me around is Dominik Geyer, who is the Global Business
and Marketing Manager for Turbo Levo. Dom, nice to nice to meet ya. – Steve, pleasure meeting you. – Can you show us around? – Of course. Welcome to our Turbo
Innovation Center here in beautiful Cham, Switzerland. (tranquil music) – Dom, what gets me, is why Europe? I mean, surely all the
R and D for Specialized has been in Morgan Hill,
California, over the years, right? – Yeah, that’s
– Why, why are we here? – That’s correct. The reason why we are here
in Switzerland and Europe is that, back at the time
when we decided to start with our e-bike business,
the key e-bike market clearly was in Europe. The US market wasn’t evolved at all, and it was crucially
important for us to be at the core of the market, where the business really happens, to be surrounded by the riders, to see what they are riding. – Hey, so, what have we got here? This is the first Levo, this
is the first printed Levo from what, 2011? – 2013.
– (laughs) OK. it’s the complete print-out. – Hey, I tell you what, Dom. You’ve come a long way since then, right? (laughing) – Yeah, yeah, but even back at the time, I mean, this was really, a
really forward thinking design and integration piece, back at the time. We had already with the very
first generation Turbo Levo we had a clear vision on how
the product should be, in mind, and developed everything,
each individual component and the frame accordingly to it. And, yeah, what you see here is the very first real printed frame which we showed internally
to our global markets. – Do you know what, though, Dom? I mean, we’ve seen the latest bike, and it’s really good, but I mean, it’s not much different
to the first bike, right? – (laughs) Oh, no, if you
would know, if you tell that to our engineers
and product managers… – What, you gotta be f
(beep) king kidding me. – Your kidding me, man?
(beep) – Which are investing
years of work to bring it to the next level. – And here it is, the latest Turbo Levo, Specialized’s lightest and best handling e-mountain bike to date. Now clearly it’s gonna take
a load of geeks and boffins to develop this bike. In fact, there are 19
here in Switzerland alone, but, if you think about it,
there’s probably hundreds of people worldwide involved
in developing this bike. Marco Sondregger is the Product
Manager for the Turbo Levo. Marco, 2013, 2000 and 19. Five years of development, not much has changed really. – What, you’ve gotta be
f (beep) king kidding me. Really? – Go back to the early days of e-bikes, when are we talking, 2010, 2011? – Well, the ideas we
started, like, 2009, 2010. It was a small group of
mountain bike riders, obviously. Jan, myself, we lived in Morton Hill, and we kept bothering the
mountain bike product managers in Morton Hill to, to make an e-bike, and they call us nuts, and
we tried a lot of e-bikes back in the day.
– Why, though? Why did you want to make an e-bike? – Well, because we realized quickly that with a little motor power, you can ride more trails. That was that eye-opening moment when you realize that you
can hit the trail twice instead of once, and still get an amount of fitness you want. It’s, like great. – I mean, that’s the point, right? The point with an e-bike
is it needs to handle like a traditional mountain bike. – Well that’s what we believe in, yes. We believe in that with adding a motor and the battery, the
bike should still handle like a mountain bike. – Who made that decision, back then? What were the conversations all about? – Well, our main goal
was to, that, if a rider on the trails sees you on an e-bike, that he doesn’t realize that
you have an e-bike, right? That the main goal was to
blend everything into a bike, so it rides and feels
and looks like a bike, too, on top of that. And obviously we wanted
water bottle clearance. We like long rides, we
need water on the trail, and by bolting on the battery where usually the water bottle fits, that was back in the day,
not an option for us. So we went the long route, to make a custom battery
integrated into the tube. – Vincent, have you got a minute? – For sure. – Hey, listen, you got a
motor, you got a battery, it must have been pretty simple, getting that motor and that battery to fit into the downtube
of a mountain bike, cause, I mean, let’s face it,
that was, it was just made for it, right? – Your kidding me, man? We had to redesign everything, like motor, battery, frame, everything. – Really? – Yeah, for sure. – So, come on, it can’t
have been that difficult. – Not that difficult? You mean, like, remodeling everything? Figure out new carbon construction? New ways to attach motor,
new ways to attach batteries? Making it happen in a large scale? – OK, one thing, what to you
mean, new carbon construction? Why was there new carbon construction? You didn’t just simply
cut a hole in the bottom and slide it in then? – No, that just wouldn’t hold. I mean, you have to,
like, rethink everything, like how do you transfer
load in the frame? How you hold that motor secure in place. – Talk us through the late nights involved in designing this Turbo Levo. – Did you have any late nights? – Absolutely.
– Or was it simply a nine to five job? – No, absolutely not, I
mean all the late nights, basically what happens is you
only have like so much time to design the outer skin of that bike. And of course we want it
to be, like, beautiful, supple and et cetera. And of course we sweat all the details. We, like, we go over, Ah,
that edge doesn’t feel good, like, that doesn’t right, et cetera. That’s gonna be very difficult to mold. That might not be as robust
and as stiff as we want. So, like, every time, one
more detail, one more detail, one more detail, and
just like, as you said, hours add up. – Let’s talk about weight, because, the mountain bike industry
loves to talk about optimum. Everywhere you go, optimum
this, optimum that. Do you think we are getting
close to an optimum weight of an e-bike, because,
when I ride an e-bike, I really like the feeling, the
grip that 19 kilos, 20 kilos, it’s holding those
corners really well, so. – And plus it’s damped,
like it acts like a big pan arm, it’s actually,
sometimes, it’s actually scary, the speeds you can go on
one of the e-bikes, right? – Yeah. – I would say we’re
getting somewhere good. I don’t think we’re there yet, entirely, so like we’re really,
really close, I think. – At 700 watt-hours, the
new Levo battery is one of the largest capacity
batteries on the market, meaning, it’s increased
the range of this bike by up to 40%, and that means
a ride for about one hour to seven hours, if you’ve got the energy. Jan Talavasek is the Director
of Engineering on the Levo. Jan, this is the kind of
stuff we were dreaming about a couple of years ago, right? – Absolutely. We’ve all been in the situation where you want to do one or two more laps and you ran out of
battery, and you had hoped, like, a little more,
and you could have done that additional trail. – But now you’re gonna have
to have a lot of energy to be using (laughs) this battery, right? – One of the jokes we keep saying is your ass hurts before the
battery’s empty. (laughs) So good luck draining this one. It’s got plenty of juice. – Talk about the development
process of this battery. What were the challenges
about getting that into the downtube? – Obviously, you can
always add more cells, but one of the big goals
here is to add the cells at the right place on the bike, like the center of
mass, center of gravity. You want the bikes to remain nimble. You don’t want a battery
that creates a gigantic, large downtube, like the aesthetics of the bike are super important. – And there’s plenty of them without that. – There’s plenty of them,
but also when designing this, there is aspects,
like, you want the battery to be removable. Like there was one of the things where it’s like, OK, and people, not
everybody can charge the bike at home, he needs to take
the battery out, et cetera. And also, last but not least,
it’s actually overarching, is the safety and the
functionality of everything, where there’s certain limits how close you can squeeze
the cells together, by not creating any dangerous situation. We gotta keep a very safe
and healthy battery pack. – Battery management system,
talk us through that. – Battery management system,
very, very important. So, within the battery you have the cells. They provide you the energy, the capacity. But you wanna make sure
that the way they’re drained and the way they’re charged,
it’s constantly monitored by a pretty complex computer system, that’s inside, so we’re making sure that the cells are balanced. We’re making sure that
there is no situation like an undervoltage, overvoltage,
undercurrent, et cetera. We’re making sure that
the temperature is always in the sweet spot. What that gives you is ultimately
an extremely safe battery, and it also gives you a battery pack that lasts very, very long. For instance, when there is
a situation where the battery might be too cold, because
you kept it outside in Siberia overnight, and you
wanna ride in the morning, or it’s too hot because
you kept it in your Fiat in the sun outside. We are actively reducing
motor power to make sure that the battery stays extremely healthy throughout the lifetime. – You talked about how important it is, is that the connection between
the battery and the motor, how they talk to each other. That must be a difficult part. – That’s the part that we play here in the office really well. The battery, specifically
at the end of the charge, say, the last 10, 15, 20%,
there’s a lot of communication between the battery and motor. You wanna really make sure that you get the last little juice out of the battery to
get the extra capacity. – To get you home? – To get you home, or to
get one more trail in, one more loop in, but at the same time, you wanna make sure
that you don’t discharge too low, because that could
cause permanent damage to the battery. And this game between squeezing it empty and keeping it healthy and
safe, we’re playing really well. – 700 watt-hours, people
may be thinking, “Oh my God, “the downtube’s gonna be
absolutely massive,” right? – Absolutely, and it’s not. (laughs) – What is it then? How much, is it smaller? – If you look at the downtube,
it’s actually 10, 12% smaller than the previous version, of the, first version of the Levo. So we’re pretty proud. We, like, we added 40% and
made the downtube even smaller. – And how did you test for
the range of this battery? That must be very complicated. I heard these numbers,
2500 meters of climbing, six hours riding, how on
earth did you work that out? – There’s boring tests,
where you basically, you plug this thing into a machine
and a discharge box, and you just run it, and then you just watch the numbers going up. That’s boring. There is the more fun test,
where we believe a lot in data acquisition. Where we have the whole data
acquisition mounted to the bike and we record everything. And then we do also specific rides, where we tell our employees
to out out and ride, and that “today you’re going in Eco Mode. “Don’t touch it and go.” – Jan, I like that, where
you just say you tell your employees to go out and ride. Are you tellin me you’ve not
been out riding it as well? – (laughs) I do it as well. Of course, but at some point
I can’t do all the riding. I’m actually a big fan
of data acquisition. When it comes to data, that’s me. When it comes to just drain the battery, that’s our colleague, Victor. He’s the guy hanging out
for seven hours in the snow, and in Eco Mode, and just
climbing for 25 hundred meters. – It strikes me that there’s
a lot of people here, even though this is an
e-bike R and D facility, there seems to be a lot
of pretty fit people in this building, right? – And interestingly, by adding
e-bikes we got even fitter. (laughing) And you may wonder why. I think one of the main reasons
is we’re riding more often. Like, before there was a rest day, and now we can actually ride, and the amount of rides we’re doing. And we’ve remained competitive. – Marco, flex versus stiffness. It’s a huge subject, and
it is crucial to the grip of the tires and the comfort
when you ride your bike. How difficult was it when it came to getting the
sweet spot on the Levo, on an e-bike? – It was really, really difficult. At the very beginning we
decided to have a battery coming from the bottom, and we
basically cut the downtube almost in half and let a
big opening for the battery to go in, which was a challenge, because the frame was not stiff. – Must be comfortable that. – It was comfortable, it was hard to keep your line, you know. It was like going off. So what we did, we
increased wall thickness at the first generation,
to make it stiff again. But that makes it heavy, right? So to come up with an idea
to integrate a battery without cutting a downtube in
half was the challenge, right? To package it all in a
frame and keep it stiff. – What’s talk about alloy, I
mean you’ve got alloy Levos and you’ve got carbon ones. From a consumer point of view, now, why would you choose one or the other? – Well, you now, first of all, alloy is a very nice material, right? The challenge behind alloy
is how to make it light. And we were challenged
to make an alloy frame as light as the previous carbon frame, and we achieved that goal. So if you’re on a lower budget scale, and you want a beautiful lightweight bike, alloy would be it, right? If you have a bit more money to spend and you want an even stiffer frame, obviously carbon is stiffer. Carbon is more compliant. Then you go for a carbon frame. – Now, at the heart of
the Levo is Specialized’s new 2.1 motor which they’ve done in collaboration with Brose. It’s lighter, it’s more
compact, it’s more powerful, and more efficient than ever before. Which means that Specialized have made one of the most stealthy
e-bikes on the market. Why Brose? Could have been Bosch,
could have been Yamaha, could have been anybody, really. How did that all happen? I mean did someone just come and knock on your door from Brose or what? – Well, we talked to everyone, right? We talked to every player, and Brose basically delivered the motor only what we wanted. Brose was open to talk to us about things we wanted to change within the housing, things we wanted to change
within the firmware. And they were very
cooperative listening to us, and making changes to what
we liked to be changed. – So, having ridden the
new motor, it’s smooth, and it’s quiet, so what
makes it efficient? – From a perspective of noise,
what it makes it efficient for that is the belt drive, right? There’s a belt in there which basically takes a lot of the vibration
and the electric noise out of the system before
it hits your spider, which obviously goes
right into the cranks. So the efficiency comes out
of a different gear set up. – And also it’s in sync with the chassis of the bike as well, right? That helps to make it
more efficient, surely. – Yeah, the motor itself
is just a motor, right? How you build it into the
frame makes the bike complete. And with that we came up
with these new motor mounts which allows us to make the frame a lot lighter and easier to assemble. – Marco, we were out in Croatia. We rode some ridiculously steep hills. This new motor is 90 newton meters. I could see some people
struggling with the power on the hill, but are we
on the border of maybe too much power? How much is too much torque, how much is too much power do you think? – Well there’s never
too much power, I think, depending on the rider’s skills, and with that we allow you
to change the power, right? We have Infinite Tune. We have different modes. We have Eco Mode, Trail Mode, Turbo Mode. I don’t tell you to ride Turbo
Mode if you cannot handle it. Try and see. You know, if you feel
better in Trail Mode, just ride it uphill on Trail Mode. That’s what I do. Sometimes, you know,
when it gets technical, Trail Mode is, you’re much better off. – Yeah, so you think 90 newton meters is on the sweet spot now. – I think it’s actually
on the sweet spot, yeah, because in Switzerland we have some of those nasty long
climbs on lame fire roads, just getting it done to get to the trail. And on those you just
wanna blast up the hills. So there you can use all the power. – The Specialized approach has always been about simplicity, rather
than a cockpit cluttered with cables, controls and relays. The new Levo has moved
the display of the TCU onto the top tube, which makes
this bike totally stealth. – Well that goes back to the
very first generation of Levo. And back in the days
there was like the battle on the market, like who can
make the biggest cockpit and game consoles on the handlebar. And we came from not the gaming industry, we’re by heart, we’re mountain bikers. And when you see our normal trail bikes, how we’re equipped on the handlebar, we want it stealth, we want it clean, with the most minimal
impact on the aesthetics and how it looks. So we mountain bikers, we were
convinced from the beginning, keep it really, really, really clean. Of course there were
battle, within the company, certain people, like, ah, the salespeople, right now, there is the so and
so with a five inch display. It’s got seven million colors and touch. We’ve gotta have the same,
we’ve gotta have more. And we said no. So in the end, like often at Specialized, let the rider decide. And let the trail decide. – Dom says this bike is
smarter than ever before. Is that sales, or is that actually true? – I hate saying that,
but Dom’s right. (laughs) Usually we argue. Dom’s right. The whole connectivity,
modularity of the Levo is pretty unique, and
we’ve expanded even more to where we were in the past. – It’s to do with what you’ve got in your hands, there, right?
– Abslolutely. – Those are the component parts. – It absolutely starts with
the TCU, our top tube display. We move all the
connectivity, the smartness in that small little black device. That’s kinda the brain of the Levo. – Really? – Absolutely, it doesn’t
look like a brain, it looks like a brick. – That is the brains to Levo? – That is the brain of the Levo. So that is what keeps all communication, all the smartness together,
where the motor information comes, the battery information comes. But at the same time it also communicates via ANT+ to optional
components on the handlebar. It communicates via Bluetooth
to our Mission Control App. And there’s a whole lotta
smartness in this little thing. – Mission Control, it’s
always been a key part of the Specialized experience,
whether during the ride, or after the ride, analyzing your data. So Mission Control is all new, ground up, more features, more intuitive. Talk us through the
features on it, I mean, Shuttle Mode, why did
you need Shuttle Mode? – Shuttle Mode is an interesting one. We knew that the motor
was extremely powerful, but we had certain riders claiming they don’t get the full power. So what we realized is
that, they don’t get to full power, specifically
at higher cadence, because they’re just not
putting enough torque into the torque sensor of the motor, that we can amplify afterwards. So what Shuttle Mode allows
you as a rider is to get to maximum support at higher
cadence a whole lot easier. – What about Smart Control,
what’s that all about? – Smart Control is a very unique feature that we’re extremely proud
of, because essentially, yes you can shift between modes, but aren’t we all dreaming of that mode you set and forget, and
you just enjoy the ride? – Some people, some, yeah. – Some people do. You basically on Smart Control, you set a duration of
the time you wanna ride. You say, OK, I wanna ride for two hours, and after two hours, I
wanna have 20% battery left. You do that on your smart phone. You hit start and you put the phone away. From that moment the phone
takes over the control over your consumption and your support, and all you do is ride. And after your two hours, guess what? You will be at 40%. – And finally, Infinite Tune,
that’s mind boggling, right? – Infinite Tune enables
the rider to tune the Levo exactly for their ride,
whether you want three different Turbo Modes, you
want three different Eco Modes. You want the Trail Mode
to be slightly adjusted. The ability to tune each mode
in all kinds of direction. We have people that do long rides, and they do nothing but long rides. They never touch Trail. They never touch Turbo. So they set their modes up
in three different Eco Modes, on 10, 20, 30% of maximum power. Or for certain people, like
we just mentioned earlier, the Turbo Mode is too powerful. They just cap off the last
little torque on the Turbo Mode, to basically make the bike
fit their trail riding. – A brief look, then,
into the nerve center of the Turbo Levo here in Switzerland, but remember it’s not
just these guys here. This bike has had global development, from Asia to North America, people that have involved in
such things as the tires, and the wheels, and the
manuals for Mission Control, bars and stems. So there’s a lot of people
have got their hands on the new Specialized Levo, however, it’s actually how this bike handles is what’s really important. So let’s go have a look into the hills above Cham to see where
this bike was born. (bright music) – Wow, five hours in the
hills south of Zurich with the Specialized team that
are behind the development of this bike, really competitive guys, really talented guys
when it comes to skills on their bike. It’s really easy to see
why this bike was conceived in this alpine area,
really challenging terrain, really big terrain. You’re gonna see more in depth story on the Specialized Levo. There’s a video we did here on the launch. Yeah, please give us a
thumbs-up on this video, and, yeah, subscribe to EMBN
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