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[Tested] Specialized Kenevo Expert

[Tested] Specialized Kenevo Expert

#DH

01/10/2019
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01/10/2019

We have had the honor of riding the new Specialized Kenevo for the past couple of months, and can confidently say that this bike is quite incredible. It has managed to shed 2.2 lbs. off the frame from its predecessor, and features a re-worked suspension design that adopts the asymmetrical layout as the current Levo, which started with the Stumpjumper. The bike is a bit lower, a bit longer, and has the latest in motor technology. Read on for our review of the bike, and watch the video below for some on trail action.

Specs

  • Alloy frame front & rear
  • Internal cable routing
  • 700 watt-hour battery (Kenevo Comp 500 watt-hour battery)
  • Up to 27.5×3.0 tire clearance
  • Specialized 2.1 Motor (Same as Levo)
  • Bluetooth connectivity to Mission App
  • 180mm front & rear
  • GX 11 speed drivetain
  •  Expert – $8,225. Comp – $5,525

Featuring the “Side-Arm” design, the actual geometry numbers of the Kenevo fall in a similar realm as the newly launched Enduro, meaning slacker, more progressive, and long. The Side-Arm also doubles as a sneaky, clean cable routing.

The house branded cockpit was more than sufficient in terms of ride quality (though we swapped grips), and the 800mm bar & direct mount stem look plenty clean aesthetically while offering nice backsweet/upsweep numbers.

An integrated and heavy duty noise cancelling chain stay guard, chain guide, and the lovely SWAT bottle cage & tool make for a well thought out bike, ready for long days on the trails.

Internal routing and little bits like carbon stem spacers all add to the clean characteristics of the fully aluminum frame.

A proven SRAM 11 Speed GX drive with single click shift levers (so as not to strain the chain under motor load) provides plenty of range for the purpose of the Kenevo.

Roval DH alloy rims laced to the DT Swiss 370 hubs provide a smooth rolling platform for the bike, and remained stiff and true, even under the harsher loads that an E-bike will dish out.

The Roval rims are wrapped with 2.6 BLCK DMND casing Butchers, and the Kenevo still has room for wider tires if you desire. We found that though soft, the Butcher’s knobs snapped back a bit quick for our liking, making for a fast rebound feeling from the back end while in turns.

Code R’s wrap around the welcome 200mm rotors, frankly no E-bike should come with anything less, and we were happy to have the strong stopping power associated with the brake/rotor combo.

A smaller downtube stores the new battery tech, giving the new Kenevo a 40% boost in range.

An easy to open, and easy to close magnetic cap covers the battery charging port. LEDs also are present to indicate charge levels.

A 180mm RockShox BoXXer in the front of an aggressive ‘Trail’ bike? Why not!? With the 2.1 motor amplifying your input by 410%, we found the heavy duty build didn’t prove to be an issue, even while climbing.

180mm of rear suspension travel was managed by the Super Deluxe Coil w/ lockout made for smooth suspension performance, and with the kinematics of the new Kenevo, the shock never needed to be locked out, and didn’t dive overly deep into the travel on big hits, no less ever bottom out due to re-tuned, more progressive kinematics.

The Battery Management System (BMS) regulates battery health, and protects it from over charging. Easy Bluetooth connectivity to the Mission App allows for diagnostics, ride uploads, and toggling power output such as the new Shuttle feature, which gives maximum motor support for long climbs.

Geometry

We tested the S3 sized frame, which is akin to a size medium. As this bike was designed with serious terrain in mind, the 470mm reach is certainly longer than the common trail bike. The cockpit feels spacious, yet the bars are not to far off from the seated riding position, especially while climbing, likely due to the 77° effective seat tube angle. The 64° head tube angle is certainly aggressive, and knowing the bike would benefit from it in the steeps, it piqued our interest on how the bike would climb, especially with a dual crown, more on that later. The 454mm chain stays aren’t as short as some other E-bikes on the market, but this isn’t a playful trail bike per-se, but more of an assisted DH bike, so we’ll happily take the stability in real terrain, over doing easier manuals playing around on our pedal home.

On the Trail

As far as E-bikes go, it’s a cliche to say that they all pedal up to the trail entrance similarly due to the assistance of a motor, when in reality each motor platform, battery, and software differ greatly. The new 2.1 motor (which is impressively quiet) is developed with Brose, but the software is tuned and designed by Specialized, who have spent years optimizing how motor performance actually feels out on the trail. The factory levels of assist, combined with the long/low/slack geometry, proved to make for a surprisingly capable climber. Even with the 180mm Boxxer up front, the Kenevo tackled tight corners, and kept its cool, remaining stable at both high and low speeds. Although tunable via the Mission Control app, the Kenevo comes with the following assistance settings:

  • Turbo: 100% (Support) / 100% (Peak Power)
  • Trail: 35% / 100%
  • Eco: 35% / 35%

The factory settings proved to be the best for us, making for a very helpful Turbo mode, for the steepest climbs (or just tired legs), Trail made for a healthy balance, and a good descending platform, and Eco of course was crucial during times of low battery, or simply if we really wanted to work for it and spin the legs. Worth noting: Specialized’s ‘Walk Mode’ is one of the best we’ve tried, it actually provides real help to get you up a steep hill, and isn’t jerky or awkward to use like other motors we’ve tried.

The Kenevo reigned supreme in the steep terrain, the low & slack geo allowing for a controlled riding position even when things got a bit wild. The suspension layout, though aesthetically similar to a Stumpy, falls much closer to the new Enduro, making for an efficient pedaling platform and a much appreciated increased progressivity in the rear suspension. With the help of a motor, it’s often easy to overlook ride feel sometimes, so with that in mind, we did notice the Kenevo was a bit sluggish and hesitant of quick and small movements of body position, particularly when the trail being ridden was flat or mid-grade terrain. That being said, let’s keep in mind the bike’s intended use, and note its apt descending abilities.

With the recommended additional 10 PSI in the fork, and a 500 lb spring, bottoming out, even on heavier hits didn’t occur for us. The Kenevo proved to be stable in the air, and carry plenty of ‘pop’ off the lip, a notable amount in fact for a bike of the Kenevo’s weight.

Cornering felt easy and balanced. The Kenevo has a low center of gravity, and is designed around that idea, even when it comes to the placement of each individual battery cell. The rear wheel seemed to track long sweeping turns with confidence, yet break free and find the pocket in berms when given the nudge to do so.

Overall

Is the Kenevo confidence inspiring? Yes. Is it stable in the air? Yes. Is it easy to remain in control while hanging off the back, sliding down the rowdiest of trail? It sure is. That being said, your average single track aboard the Kenevo might seem like a bit of a buzzkill. The bike’s identity is descending, so as long as the Kenevo is looked at in that light, the bike is an absolute beast, and an excellent performer. With two specs and killer builds for each, if you’re looking for an E-bike to romp some serious trail, considering the Kenevo is a no-brainer.

Specialized

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