Unless you've been having a bit of a snooze over the last few years, you'll have noticed Liv Cycling being incredibly active in the women's market. They truly believe in the idea that bikes change lives, and have done a great job at selling their lifestyle and bikes via that message thus far. But the landscape for the female rider has evolved, and Liv recognized that although they were doing a lot of things really well, they weren't offering the kind of bikes that would attract more serious, aggressive riders. For 2017 Liv are cleaning house and bringing their off-road line up to speed with current trends. The 140mm Intrigue and the 100mm Lust are no more, and the 160mm Hail and the 120mm Pique are the new kids on the block. And they are being bold in saying that these are the bikes that the women of the world want.
We were invited to the Arizona desert to face off with the red rocks and cactus and the get a taste of what these two new models have to offer.
Liv Hail Details
• Intended use: trail / all-mountain
• Rear wheel travel: 160mm
• Wheel size: 27.5''
• 66º head angle w/ 160mm fork
• Advance Composite Carbon or Aluxx aluminum models
• Metric shock sizing
• Boost hub spacing
• Sizes XS - L
• 27.75 lbs (Hail Advanced 0, size S)
• MSRP: $3,250 - $8,250 USD (complete).
Liv Pique Details
• Intended use: XC / trail
• Rear wheel travel: 120mm
• Wheel size: 27.5''
• 70º head angle w/ 120mm fork
• Advanced composite carbon or Aluxx Aluminum frame models
• Metric shock sizing
• Boost hub spacing
• Sizes XS - L
• 23.49 lbs (Pique Advanced 0, size S)
• MSRP: $2,375 - $8,975 USD (complete).
These days, women are riding harder than ever, and the growth of enduro racing has led to more riders regularly searching out rough, technical trails. Liv recognized that although successful, its beefed up Intrigue SX lacked some of the features that a 160mm bike should offer. Liv Ambassador and former world champion, Leigh Donovan, was pushing for a true 160mm bike, and customer feedback urged for the same. So Liv sat down and thought hard about the bike they wanted to build to truly fill the void.
They honed in on body geometry data gathered from the Global Body Index of what type of rider they thought would be using this bike, then applied their findings to a blank slate and their 160mm bike geometry wish list. They then added rider feedback from Leigh Donovan as well as Lindsey Voreis, and went through three frame iterations before settling on the final product.
The Hail comes in two Advanced Composite carbon models and two Aluxx Aluminum models in four sizes, from XS - L. There are four complete bike option, with prices starting at $3,250 USD and going up to $8,250. Each Hail has 160mm of front and rear travel, Boost hub spacing, a 1x drivetrain, a dropper post, a 160-130mm travel adjust fork, 800mm carbon handlebars, shorter stems and some geometry decisions that are a little different to what's currently trendy. More on that below. You'll also notice that there's not even a dab of pink or purple on the two advance Hail models - the company's colorways are evolving and I'd bet on a few fellas being just a wee bit into how this bike looks.
Clean lines and not a spot of pink in sight.
SRAM x01 Eagle and the new trunnion mounted Deluxe shock.
The Hail ever-so-slightly bucks some of the trends we see currently in this category of bike. At 66º, the head angle is a touch steeper than some of its gender neutral competitors. Liv claim that by making the bike less raked out in front, it will be easier for women to maneuver up and over obstacles while still using a shorter stem. Also different is a higher than average bottom bracket height. Liv felt that having a higher bottom bracket would allow the rider to pedal over rough terrain with more ease and less pedal strikes. Liv bikes have also been classically quite compact but designers have extend the top tube to make it more in line with current trends.
Giant has been using their Maestro suspension platform since 2005, but have significantly updated the system this year. By employing a trunnion mounted metric shock, Liv has lowered the leverage ratio. They were also able to move the linkage closer to the bottom bracket, resulting in a slight lowering of the bikes' center of gravity. In addition to these suspension changes, Liv claim Maestro's braking and pedaling performance have also been improved.
The metric rear shock uses a trunnion mount, and the upper link is constructed from molded carbon.
Also new is the upper link that is now constructed from molded carbon, and weighs half as much as the previous alloy link did. This link is also 50% stiffer, which should help with lateral stiffness and improve suspension performance.
In 2015, the 100mm Advanced Lust, Liv's most expensive, top-of-the-line mountain bike, was the best selling bike across all of Giant and Liv. Take a moment to soak that in. A women's bike... The best selling bike.
The Lust's replacement, the Pique is dubbed as an 'aggressive XC' bike. With 120mm of travel, it's a bike Liv believe is light enough and fast enough to take to your favorite XC race, but one that can also handle a decent amount of rough terrain. The Pique features the same technologies as the Hail - Advanced Composite layup and Aluxx Aluminum versions, Maestro suspension with the new advanced composite link and metric shock sizing. It also comes with Boost hub spacing for added stiffness and 1x drivetrains across the board.
Looking to repeat the success of the Lust, Liv felt very comfortable about spec'ing a high-end fully blinged out Pique. There are two Advanced Composite models and two Aluxx aluminum models that will sell for between $2,375 - $8,975 USD. There's also an SX model with a 140mm fork for those riders who want get a little more rowdy.
Even though this is a different beast from the Lust, the Pique features the same 70-degree head tube angle, a lower standover height, slightly shorter chainstays, and slightly more stack to accommodate a 120mm fork. The BB is also a little higher for more pedal clearance.
It's single chainrings all the way for Liv; the Pique Advanced 0 comes with SRAM XX1 Eagle.
The Pique's internal cable routing gives the bike a very clean and tidy look.
Riding the Hail
The Hail I was aboard for this test session was the top of the line Advanced 0, which comes loaded with a RockShox Lyrik RCT3 dual position fork, a RockShox Deluxe RC3 rear shock, SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, SRAM Guide Ultimate brakes with 180mm rotors, Schwalbe Magic Mary tires and an 800mm carbon DH bar mounted to a 50mm stem. At 5’6”, Liv recommended I try the size small, but I ended up switching to a medium later on during testing which I found to be slightly more comfortable.
After warming up a little and getting a feel for the desert terrain, we jumped onto the rocky and fast switchbacks of the Chuckwagon trail. The first thing I noted was that this bike felt much lighter and easier to push around than an average 160mm bike. The flowy trail threw out a few interesting climbs, loose corners and rock gardens to navigate, and it was here that we got quite a good introduction to how the Hail climbs. As promised, the bike handled itself quite effortlessley, and as we climbed up the red rock ledges the bike felt very light and balanced. Switching the fork into 130mm travel mode improved the already impressive climbing capability noticeably, and it was much easier to move my weight over the front of the bike to crest the tough pitches that were being thrown at us. I really felt no need to switch the rear shock into trail mode, and when I did I felt as though the setting would be best used for long sustained climbs rather than the punchy rock gardens of Sedona.
I would have loved to have more time on some serious descending trails with the Hail, but we had to make the most of what time we had. As we rallied down Slim Shady, a fairly fast flowing trail with a couple of rock gardens thrown in for good measure, I got those few important glimpses of how this bike really behaves. As I pushed the bike through its travel the words the phrase 'stable yet playful' came to mind. One thing I did note was that with only 100mm of drop, I couldn't get my seat down as far as I would have liked, and although the standover height is quite low, it was difficult to achieve the riding position I wanted. In spite of this, I was left with a big smile on my face after riding that trail and a positive impression, but I'm itching to get it onto some familiar trails to understand what the Hail is really made of.
Riding the Pique
For our second day of riding I was fitted onto the top-of-the-line, size small Pique, which comes with a RockShox RS1 Solo Air with OneLoc Remote, a Deluxe RT3 rear shock, SRAM Eagle XX1 Drivetrain.
Diving into the same trail we began on day one was a whole new experience aboard the Pique. Loosening up and relaxing into the ride took a little getting used to, especially knowing that photographer Sterling Lorence was hiding behind who knows which tree waiting to grab our star shots. It didn't take long, though, to figure out that the Pique is a very fun little weapon.
The Chuckwagon trail, with its dried up river beds, ledgy climbs, tricky turns, punchy ascents and fast little switchbacks was really the perfect testing ground to see what a bike intended for ‘aggressive XC’ could handle. The bike felt very light and stuck like glue as we meandered our way up the trails staircase-like climbs. As we rolled through a section of loose, swoopy trail the Pique was quick and snappy as we rallied around the corners. I was fully prepared to deal with a flexy feeling front end, but that sensation never arose. The RS1 felt really plush, and plenty stiff. Although having a lockout remote for the RS1 was cool there was no way I needed it on these particular trails. I also felt no need to switch the Deluxe shock into trail mode either. Perhaps that would be different if I were on any sort of death climb, but thankfully our test lap didn't include one of those. The Pique definitely felt capable of handling the chunky Sedona terrain while still remaining very nimble and eager. I asked Liv if they would ever bend their 27.5 rule for a 29er XC race bike, and they did acknowledge that it's a request that they hear from customers, but for now, they aren't saying too much...
A few hours on each bike was just enough time to start getting acquainted with these two new rides, but it was certainly a promising start. It's great to see Liv shaking things up and aligning their bikes with what the modern trail rider is looking for. I left our test rides with a smile on my face, and I think any women who haven't paid much attention to Liv in the past might want to check out what they are doing now.