Specialized SL 1.2 motor review

The new Specialized SL 1.2 motor resembles the old SL 1.1 in a few ways. Both the looks and weight is very similar, and they are both “generous” motors. I find there are two categories of mild emtb motors, they can be generous or stingy. See our motor review or keep reading below.

A generous motor​

A stingy motor can be strong, but it requires more effort from the rider. This usually results in a natural ride feel and good range. A generous motor requires less rider effort, making it feel more like a full power motor. It’s possible riding fast uphill without becoming too exhausted. This does of course reduce the range.

The old 35 Nm Specialized SL 1.1 was a very generous motor when ridden with maximum assistance. It was eager to put out maximum power. With max assist, the motor was constantly pushing 240W even though we didn’t pedal hard. If we decided to hit the pedals to increase speed, we discovered the motor had nothing more to give. The SL 1.1 was a bit difficult to handle with max assistance and it was twitchy when pedaling at cut-off speed.

Specialized TCU display
Specialized handlebar remote

More power​

The new 50 Nm Specialized SL 1.2 has the same generous characteristics at full assistance. According to the bike display, we were pedaling 70 W at 70 cadence and the motor was pushing 300 W. That’s close to the 320 W max power output. The SL 1.2 is powerful and more well behaved than the old SL 1.1.

Specialized SL 1.2 50 Nm and 320 W.

More control​

When starting to pedal, the SL 1.2 ramps up the power quite carefully and comfortably. Some rotation of the pedals is required before the motor activates and it’s reasonably fast to disengage when we stop pedaling. Motor overrun, a motor that keeps pushing after the pedals have stopped, can be difficult to handle on low-speed technical trails. It can result in an unexpected push that disturbs the riding. But motor overrun can also be an advantage. It can help us through and over obstacles where there’s no room to turn the pedals.

The SL 1.2 has a bit of motor overrun. It’s a relatively short push that can easily be aborted by back-pedaling. We find the motor behaves very well at max assistance. It can feel a tad slow to engage, but in most cases that means the motor is easy to handle.

2023 Specialized Levo SL with the new SL 1.2-motor

Is less assistance is better?​

Like the SL 1.1, the SL 1.2 is eager to put out maximum power. When pedaling harder the new motor too has reached its limit and has nothing more to offer. The solution is to reduce the power amplification, what Specialized calls “support” in the Mission Control-app. This reduces power consumption since we’re getting less help. And it results in a more natural ride feel. Now the motor has a power reserve when we increase pedaling force during a climb. This feels great, just the way a mild lightweight emtb is supposed to be. But it’s nice to have the option to ride the motor both ways, sometimes we want easy access to full motor power. And that’s just what we get with the Specialized SL 1.2.

2023 Specialized Levo SL with the new SL 1.2-motor

Not always powerful​

The small and light SL 1.2 isn't far behind the 85-90 Nm motors in some situations. But we immediately notice this is a weaker motor if we enter a climb in a way too tall gear. If the cadence drops too low, most of the assistance disappears. This isn’t unusual for a lightweight motor. We need to pay more attention to shifting gears compared to a full fat emtb. We also notice there is little power when we start pedaling in the middle of an ascent, but the power improves with a turn of the pedals or two.

Yhe new SL 1.2-motor


The new motor is less noisy than its predecessor. SL 1.1 was among the noisier lightweight motors. The new one has a pleasant noise level but it’s not as silent as the TQ and Fazua motors. Specialized have lowered the noise level a bit, but they have also dropped the frequency of the noise to where the human ear is less sensitive. The SL 1.2 sounds much less noisy.

The Specialized 1.2 SL is silent when coasting, there is no motor rattle..

The Specialized 1.2 SL is silent when coasting, there is no motor rattle.

Assistance modes​

As usual, Specialized offer tree levels of assistance. But this time there’s more. Holding the “+” button on the handlebar remote makes the display color turn orange, this activates the new “Micro Tune” mode. Now we can turn the assistance up and down with increments of 10%. We were excited to test this. Micro Tune should make it easy finding the optimal assistance without having to use the app. But in the end, we did most of our rides in the regular Tubo and Trail modes. There is of course a walk assist too, just push the button under the remote and the bike is pushed along perfectly fine.

The battery is integrated in the downtube, the range extender sits in the bottle cage.

Battery and range​

The 320 Wh battery is fixed inside the downtube. We got about 25 km and 800 m of climbing using the Trail and Turbo modes. This is comparable to the competitors with a 360 Wh battery. We could easily go further by using the Eco mode a bit too, or we could use the 160 Wh range extender battery. We rode the extender on the old Levo SL. It gave us another 8 km and 400 m of climbing, mostly in Turbo mode.

Range estimates by Specialized.


The new Specialized SL 1.2 is a generous motor. With everything set to max, the motor shoves us uphill with little rider contribution. Dropping the amplification a bit results in a more natural and inspiring ride. And when hitting the pedals hard, the motor has a bit of power reserve to draw from. The Specialized SL 1.2 is a powerful motor that is easy to handle on challenging trails. It's a great motor and a good upgrade over the old one.
About author
Started mountainbiking in the 90s. Moved to emtbs in 2014 and have been reviewing them since 2016. Contact me here https://emtb.no/contact/


"Specialized offer tree levels of assistance" I heard the soil searching program is doing well!
My KSL has mircotune and in trail i can get 1000m climbing easily out of it and I'm 103kg.
I'm wondering if the new motor can be retrofitted to the previous generation frames?
Mounting wise I think it can. There may be the odd clearance issue due to the slightly different shaped housing. You would also need the whole electrical system to go with it. As Specialized at this time won't sell you a motor separately, you would need a wrecked 2nd gen bike to harvest the whole system.
I understand that if it's generous or not, depends on your settings and mode ....

Can you fit it to old KSL ? (first gen)
Is the Kenevo SL getting the new 1.2 motor? I wonder why they only gave it to the Levo SL this year? Why not both bikes?
There has been leaks of the 2023/4? kenevo sl which shows it has the new motor. Why they gave it to the levo sl this year? So people will rush to buy the new powerful levo. The kenevo sl has been heavily reduced (as the mk1 levo sl did) to shift the old stock also.