We Go Behind the Scenes of the Specialized Kenevo SL R&D.

Specialized launch their second ever SL-based emountain bike in the form of the Kenevo SL and we took a look at how it came together.

Pete caught up with eMTB Product Manager for Specialized, Joe Buckley, to find out how the Kenevo SL development differed from the recently-released Turbo Levo.

When did the Kenevo SL development start?

Date wise I am unsure, but it was 2018 that we started talking about it. We were pretty far along with the Levo SL at that point, we were pretty happy with it and riding bikes out of the tool, we knew how they rode. Internally, we were really stoked about that project. Then we started talking about if we’re going to have this and it’s going to be a successful product, just with pedal bikes, like where the Stumpjumper lives, there will be riders who want more control and more travel.

It made sense to have an Enduro-style SL bike and so we got to talking about it. The project to redesign the Enduro was well underway at that point, and it seemed to make the most sense to see if we could fit an SL motor system into that platform somehow. That’s how the project was born.

Did the Enduro platform lend itself well to taking the SL motor?

No, it was not an easy process. It took a lot of time and effort by the engineer that dealt with this project. He spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make the motor work with that linkage arrangement. One day he’d be convinced that we wouldn’t be able to do it, then he’d come in the next day having thought of something overnight which got the project rolling again. This process kind of repeated itself a few times, so it was not clear if we were going to be able to make it happen for a while.

It was probably a couple of months of backwards and forwards on that alone. Then there was the case of trying to fit the battery in and that the wiring harness and the charge port would work without having to make a custom one for the Kenevo.

Have you updated any of the e-systems for the Kenevo compared to the Levo SL?

It’s the exact same system. There’s only two things that are different. It has the Mastermind TCU that we use on all the models now, and it has its own length for the range extender cable, just because of where the water bottle lives on that bike.

What allowed the 29” wheel setup on this bike?

We’d traditionally had extremely long chainstays with the full power Turbo bikes, we haven’t had that issue with the smaller motor bikes, so if you run the Kenevo SL in the ‘short’ chainstay configuration, it has the same chainstay length as an Enduro. As a 29er brand in general, there wasn’t a huge benefit to a Mullet setup like on the Levo.

Photo by Ian Lean.

How did you achieve the 12lb weight reduction?

There’s a few things going on, the motor and battery are a lot lighter, but I think there may be a little bit of confusion in comparing the Kenevo and the Kenevo SL. The Kenevo and the Kenevo SL are probably more different to each other than the Levo and Levo SL. On the Levo, you get the same experience, it’s just one has a smaller battery and less output, as well as being a bit lighter. We’re going after core trail bike riders who have traditionally been on pedal bikes that might be interested in having a bit more help but don’t want to sacrifice descending capability with the extra weight.

We’re still going after the core customer with the Kenevo SL, but the full power bike is considerably more plush, has more travel, and is closer to a DH bike than what Kenevo SL is. It’s a way more aggressive bike than the Kenevo SL.

Big Trail

That being said, weight savings come from a few different places. On the Expert Kenevo you have a triple clamp fork, whereas you have a Fox 38 on the SL. The battery and motor are significantly lighter on the Kenevo SL, as well as the frame being carbon-only. The full fat Kenevo is alloy-only. There’s different parts packages as well as different casing tyres too.

Photo by Ian Lean.

Was the process for getting this bike to market the same as the Levo?

This was a little different to be honest as we’d done so much work with the Enduro as a full ground-up development, with downhill team-developed kinematics, which is where the 6-bar linkage evolved from. So we had a bike that we knew was going to be really good, we didn’t feel the need to do another ground-up design just for the sake of being different. We wanted to capitalize on an excellent design that was soon going to exist in the market with Enduro. We wanted to make it more about adapting the existing bike to the SL system rather than starting over.

The process here was more to try and make the SL system fit the Enduro. So it was more about making sure we could get it to work, so different in some ways to how we’d usually develop a bike. Rather than building prototypes to ride, because we’d done that with the Enduro, it was more about printing frames and trying to plug pieces into them to make sure that we could get it to work on those printed plastic parts before we opened tooling and went in that direction.

Saying it was simple would be a massive disservice.

As we weren’t on the same timeline as the Enduro development, there were things that don’t appear on the Enduro that we could bring to the Kenevo SL. We were able to bring the geometry adjustments from the Stumpy EVO that you don’t get on the Enduro.

How did that affect the rest of the development?

It all sounds a bit too easy, but we still had to go through all the usual steps that we’d go through with any other bike. We still had to find the Rx tune for all our bikes just like we would normally which is an involved process. It definitely wasn’t just a plug-and-play exercise.

Even once we have the bike working we still have to go through the mammoth series of lab testing on every size of every bike, and that took a while as a few things came up during that process too. Any problems we experienced at this stage were pretty new to all of us as it’s only the second mountain bike we’ve made with the SL system. There were new problems that we couldn’t anticipate with this bike, and that just meant that each problem would take slightly longer to overcome.

You can check out the new Specialized Kenevo SL on their website here.