I recently completed the installation of a Mahle/Specialized SL 1.2 motor into a 2022 Specialized Levo SL. Overall, the process is pretty straightforward, but there are some things to keep in mind if you’re planning to do this, as well as some issues you’ll need to be aware of post-install. That said, if you are reasonably adept at working on bikes and tinkering with mechanical things, then you should be able to complete the process of harvesting one new motor from a donor bike and swapping it to your Levo SL in under two hours. I hit a few roadblocks and silly errors that made the process take more time than that for me, but hopefully this guide will alleviate those issues for others.
Before I get into it, why the heck am I doing this? First, I absolutely love my Levo SL. From the moment I hopped on a borrowed one at a popular trail network near Seattle, I knew I was riding atop the future. I got more laps on Tiger in a single day than I could ever imagine getting in week of repeat visits on an Amish steed. It was a revelation, and just pure fun. So I laid out around $10K for my own Levo SL in late 2021, and have since put nearly 4000 miles on it.
The thing is, e-bikes are going through the same rapid evolution that electric cars are going through, and that also means rapid obsolescence. However, a mere mortal like me can’t afford to keep up with the pace of improvement by slapping down another $10K on the next iteration of the Levo SL, which released in 2023. Meanwhile, the market value of my Levo SL dropped considerably, precisely because of the dynamics at play in e-bike technology advancement. What’s more, my original motor has gone out of warranty, so I was looking at putting down a good chunk of change for a replacement if it decided to start acting up.
It’s also worth mentioning that Specialized offers no path for upgrades to customers who have laid down some serious cash, other than buying an entire bike. And unlike the recent moves we’ve seen from Trek to offer a trade-in/trade-up program, as well as used bike sales, Specialized has not responded with anything to rival what is likely their biggest competitor. With respect to astronomically expensive e-bikes, Trek saw the writing on the wall and made what I think is a very smart move, just as the auto industry has been forced to do.
Specialized, not so much. On the other hand, there’s no denying that they make incredible e-bikes. In terms of integration, reliability, and overall design, I’d argue that none are doing it better right now.
So that forces rational people to look for options. And one popped up somewhat unexpectedly.
Recently, a Levo SL Kids model was steeply discounted on at my favorite local e-bike retailer. In the words of the owner of the shop owner: “I guess Specialized didn’t realize people don’t want to spend $3,800 on a kids bike.”
I quickly told a friend who has a 9-year-old son about the deal. Here was a bike that had the latest and greatest motor in it for $2,500. After some deliberations, we agreed to split the cost, with the goal of putting my original motor, battery and control unit in the Kids Levo SL, while swapping the new motor, battery, and control unit to mine. The upshot: My friend’s son will get a bike that’s great for the next couple of years until he outgrows it, and will likely survive the reduced thrashing he’s capable of exerting on the motor. Meanwhile, I get a system that’s new, is far quieter, and has more power, for only $1,250, instead of $10,000 for a new bike. Math has never been my strong suit, but I knew I’d nailed the calculations this time.
The first step was removing the motor, battery, wiring harness and TCU from the Levo SL Kids. This is pretty straightforward, with one exception. Here are the disassembly steps:
Remove Cranks and Chainring Spider
But you’ll want to keep track of where all the bolts and parts go as you’re disassembling it.
Disassemble 2022 Levo SL
Issues: cranks (bikeinn). Wheel size. Speed governor.