Flow’s First Bite: Liv Hail 1

The Liv Hail 1 is a female specific enduro weapon.
Despite there being many passionate female mountain bikers, from beginners to professionals, female specific models are few and far between. Liv Cycling is attempting to change that.

Apart from the fact that there’s a whole heap of absolute shredders out there who also happen to be women, more and more women are getting into mountain biking every year, which is awesome to see.

Kath Bicknell recently wrote an article on the importance of women to the cycling industry as a whole.
Kath Bicknell’s recent article on the importance of women to the cycling industry as a whole is a great read.

It’s also great to see bike companies starting to put more resources behind female specific models, and in the case of Giant Bicycles, an entirely separate company for women’s bicycles, components and apparel- Liv Cycling.

Liv Cycling is a separate brand to Giant Bicycles, and produces solely female specific products.
Liv Cycling is a separate brand to Giant Bicycles, and produces solely female specific products.

We’ve got a Liv Hail 1 on test, a 160mm enduro race bike, but before we jump into the First Bite, let’s learn a little bit more about Liv, and what makes them unique in the women’s market.


I haven’t heard of Liv, what’s it all about?

Liv Cycling was launched in 2014 as a standalone brand to Giant Bicycles focusing entirely on women’s specific bikes, equipment and apparel. Rather topically, the first ever Liv specific store is about to open in Vancouver!

Liv also offer the Pique, a 120mm trail bike.
Liv’s 120mm trail bike, the Pique.

For 2017, Liv have signed Kiwi shredder Raewyn Morrison to race the EWS aboard the Liv Hail Advanced, which is the only female specific 160mm bike currently on the market.


What makes the Hail 1 female specific, or is it just the fancy colour scheme?

Thankfully, the entire Liv range shows a real attention to detail through bikes with genuine differences to their Giant counterparts- you won’t simply see colour changes with different grips and saddles here! For a bit more of an overview of the entire Liv range, check out our 2017 range highlights piece.

Liv Bicycles might be made by Giant, but the finished product is very different.
Liv Bicycles might be made by Giant, but the finished product is very different.

All Liv products follow their ‘3F’ principal, which encompasses fit, form and function. We think that all bikes should follow these principals, regardless of the gender they’re designed for, but the video below goes into Liv’s ‘3F’ mission and its centrality to all of their products in a bit more detail.

Another aspect that makes Liv Bicycles truly female specific is their use of the Global Body Dimension Database.


What’s the Global Body Dimension Database- is my head going to start hurting?

Thankfully, despite the fancy name the Global Body Dimension Database is pretty simple.

The database provides Liv with information on the average body dimensions of women around the world. Average arm, torso and leg lengths give Liv essential measurements to consider when designing new bikes.

Data from the Global Body Dimensions Database indicates that men and women have very different body positions on the bike.
Data from the Global Body Dimensions Database indicates that men and women have very different body positions on the bike.

Where does the Global Body Dimension Database information come from?

We must admit that initially reading about the Global Body Dimension Database we were a bit sceptical about the data, but Liv’s website gives a clear explanation of where they source the information, its relevance in their bike designs and its limitations. Read below for the summarised version of what the data encompasses.

The Global Body Dimension Database includes over 250 individual body measurements from men and women of nine different nationalities. From this data set, Liv can gather information on things like stature, inseam, torso length, shoulder breadth, arm length, hand length, hip breadth, ischia (sit bone) distance, weight, and strength that allow them to uncover fundamental differences between men’s and women’s bodies.

Liv’s ‘function’ design principal is also an interesting point of difference to their Giant parent company. From the data Liv have collected, they’ve changed the material layup of Liv bikes compared to comparable Giant models to make the bike stronger and stiffer where it needs to be, and lighter where possible. These changes are made relevant to where women are putting forces through the frame and where they aren’t. Interesting stuff indeed!

Liv use different tubing thicknesses in their frames to account for the different forces women put through their bikes compared to men.
Liv use different tubing thicknesses in their frames to account for the different forces women put through their bikes compared to men.

Getting back to the Hail 1 we’ve got on review, the obvious comparative model in the Giant range is the Reign, however there’s some key differences that demonstrates the Hail 1 is an entirely different product designed specifically for women.

The Hail also comes two carbon variants, including the Advanced 1 model pictured.
The Hail also comes two carbon variants, including the Advanced 1 model pictured.

What are some differences between the Liv Hail and the Giant Reign then?

The Giant Reign has a head angle of 65 degrees, in comparison with the Hail’s 66-degree head angle. Liv say that their data indicates that by making the bike slightly steeper in the front end, it will be easier for women to manoeuvre the Hail up and over obstacles due to their generally shorter upper torsos.

The Liv Hail has a one degree steeper head angle than the Giant Reign.
The Liv Hail has a one degree steeper head angle than the Giant Reign.

Another point of difference in comparison to the Reign is the higher bottom bracket height. Liv say that  their data has indicated that the benefit of a higher bottom bracket in allowing a female rider to pedal over rough terrain with more ease is an attribute they wanted to incorporate on the Hail.

The Hail's bottom bracket height is slightly higher than a comparable Giant Reign.
The Hail’s bottom bracket height is slightly higher than a comparable Giant Reign.

The Hail also has more standover clearance than Reign models in the same size, and yes, female specific finishing touches are present such as the Liv Contact Upright saddle.

The Liv Contact Upright saddle is a female specific model.
The Liv Contact Upright saddle is a female specific model.

Are there any other differences other than the geometry?

There sure are! The front and rear suspension on the Hail runs a different tune to a Reign or Trance, to specifically accommodate female riders. We’re very interested to see how noticeable the different suspension tune is during testing.

The Hail's suspension is tuned specifically for female riders.
The Hail’s suspension is tuned specifically for female riders.

How much does the Hail 1 cost, and what do you get for your dollars?

The Liv Hail 1 retails for $4499, putting it squarely in the budget price point as far as enduro bikes go.

There's three Hail models brought into Australia, ranging from $4499 to $7999.
There’s three Hail models brought into Australia, ranging from $4499 to $7999.

For your cash, you’re getting an aluminium frame (except for the carbon rocker link which comes as standard across all Hail models), RockShox suspension front and rear with a Lyrik RC dual position (130-160mm) fork and Deluxe R shock, and the full SRAM package in the form of an X1 drivetrain and Guide RS brakes.

SRAM's X1 drivetrain is about as hassle free as it gets.
SRAM’s X1 drivetrain is about as hassle free as it gets.

Giant provide the handlebar and grips, which are a standout item, offering tackiness and a nice profile. The Truvativ Holzfeller stem is a nice touch, and so is the MRP chainguide, something we see as a must for any bike with more than 150mm of travel.

The Liv branded grips are impressive.
The Liv branded grips are impressive.

The bashguard is another welcome inclusion, especially on a bike with 160mm of travel, saving your chainring from a walloping should you get a little eager out on the trails.

A chainguide and bash guard as standard is always a welcome inclusion on a 160mm bike.
A chainguide and bash guard as standard is always a welcome inclusion on a 160mm bike.

The Giant dropper post is simple and very mechanic friendly, but we would like to see a 125mm drop specced over the 100mm drop model that comes on the medium sized model we have on test.

We feel that a 100mm dropper post on our Medium sized test bike is a bit short.
We feel that a 100mm dropper post on our Medium sized test bike is a bit short.

The wheels are a nondescript aluminium offering from Giant called the PAM-2, however the tubeless conversion with the Schwalbe tyres was simple and the slightly wider rim width than you see on some house brand wheelsets gives the Schwalbe rubber great shape, so our initial impressions are positive.

Giant's PAM-2 wheelset converted to tubeless easily and gives a solid tyre profile, it's a thumbs up performance so far!
Giant’s PAM-2 wheelset converted to tubeless easily and gives a solid tyre profile, it’s a thumbs up performance so far!

Speaking of the tyres, it’s good to see Giant going with the beefier Magic Mary up front paired with the slightly less chunky Hans Dampf out the back to offer predictable traction up front paired with something faster rolling in the rear.

A Magic Mary up front offers oodles of traction.
A Magic Mary up front offers oodles of traction.

Women’s bikes are often more expensive that a comparable unisex model, does the Liv Hail 1 represent good value?

For under $5000 the Liv Hail 1 packs a fair amount of value and is a bike that can be ridden out of the box with no real weak spots in the components.

The Hail 1 packs alot of value for under $5000.
The Hail 1 packs alot of value for under $5000.

Our only complaint would be the lack of piggyback reservoir on the Deluxe R shock, but considering the price and the other nice touches such as the chainguide and bashguard we’ll wait until we get some trail time on the bike before making any hasty judgements.

We're interested to gauge the performance of the Deluxe R shock.
We’re interested to see how the Deluxe R performs against a piggyback equipped rear shock.

Where will we be riding the Liv Hail 1?

Everywhere we would normally shred a 160mm bike! Just because the Hail 1 has a lovely colour scheme doesn’t mean it’ll be subjected to anything but the most brutal trails we reserve for testing 160mm bikes.

We're excited to get the tyres dirty on the Hail 1!
We’re excited to get the tyres dirty on the Liv Hail 1!

Stay tuned for our detailed thoughts in a full review soon!

LIV 2016 Range Preview

2014 saw LIV launch as a standalone brand, a women’s specific range from Giant. With a comprehensive range of hardtail and suspension bikes, it grows to meet the demand for a growing segment.

Fast forward to 2016 the range is super strong and complete. With the addition of the Intrigue SX for 2016 with generous suspension travel and high end spec, the women’s enduro category now has a serious contender.

[divider]Intrigue SX[/divider]

Based around the aluminium Giant Trance 27.5 platform, the Intrigue SX is not going to be afraid of tough terrain. With 140/160mm travel, slack head angle, wider bars, meatier tyres this bike speaks stability and confidence. For steep terrain, or pushing the speed limits this is the one.

The Intrigue SX goes for – $4799

Giant 2016 79

  • News
  • Simple
  • Fancy
  • Featured
  • Plain
  • Mobile
  • Two shots - both landscape
  • Three shots - Big on top
  • Four Shots - Big on Left
  • Five Photos
  • Two shots - landscape and square
  • Three shots - Big landscape, two small squares
  • Four Shots - All Same Size
  • Mobile (new)
  • Two shots - vertically stacked, both landscape

[divider]Intrigue 1[/divider]

LIV’s Intrigue 1 uses 140mm of Maestro suspension with a FOX fork and rear shock.

A double chainring with a wide range of gears and adjustable height seatpost highlights the massive versatility of this trail bike!

Intrigue 1, $3599.

LIV Intrigue 1
LIV Intrigue 1.

[divider]LIV Lust[/divider]

The world’s first women’s specific carbon dual suspension bike with 27.5″ wheels goes even higher spec for 2016. The Lust Advanced 0 is a seriously gorgeous bike, and dripping in the highest quality components around.

The Lust range begins at $3499 for the aluminium frame, and tops out at this one below for $9399.

Take look at our review of the 2014 LIV Lust 27.5 2.

Giant 2016 70

Giant 2016 81
LIV Lust Advanced 2.
Giant 2016 82
FOX Float suspension front and back.
Lust Advanced 2_Blue_2000px
LIV Advanced 2, $3499.

[divider]Obsess[/divider]

For 2016 the cross country race hardtail from LIV consists of two carbon models. Obsess Advanced 2 for $2999 and Obsess Advanced 1 for $5799.

Giant 2016 80
The detail on the Obsess Advanced 2 is fantastic.
Obsess Advanced 2_Comp_2000px
Obsess Advanced 2, $2999.

 

See more from Giant’s 2016 range here.

Shred-ette: Specialized Rumor Expert Evo 29 Reviewed

The empowerment theme is a big one in women’s cycling at the moment. Done well, the range of women’s riding desires and experiences gain visibility, traction and respect. Done badly, conversations descend into debates about product names, colour choices and whether ‘women’s specific’ products are really necessary.

In comparison to some products that boast divisive graphics or product names, the Rumor Evo simply oozes respect.
In comparison to some products that boast divisive graphics or product names, the Rumor Evo simply oozes respect.

The Specialized Rumor Evo 29 rises above debates about what women’s riding should or shouldn’t be and lets ladies’ actions do the talking instead. Besides, anyone shelling out nearly $6K for a bike is likely to be more interested in how it rides than how it looks. If you were to rank the Rumor’s success on an empowerment scale of 1-10, it sends the measuring system through the roof and into outer space.

For starters, the mysterious black finish prompts conversations that put its owner on the front foot regarding her choices in bikes, equipment and experiences. The ensuing discussions demonstrate she clearly knows a thing or two about bikes, and takes riding just as seriously as anyone else. In the absence of said conversation, the shred-ready spec gives her away otherwise.

Bicknell-Rumor Evo-16

First impressions are important. The Rumor Expert Evo 29 sends a trail loving, singletrack shredding, confident performing message that is loud and clear. Given our experiences on the Rumor Comp, and the parts drizzled all over its big sister, we were always going to be impressed.

[divider]Build[/divider]

The Rumor Evo 29 is a beefed up, higher end model of the Rumor Comp we tested last year. Wheel size is one thing, but frame innovations accommodating this is are where the design gets more exciting.

The standover is low through the range. 707mm in the small size, 711mm in the large.
The standover is low through the range. 707mm in the small size, 711mm in the large.

A combination of aluminium forging techniques allow for the low top tube height. This not only reduces frame weight, it provides an opportunity for shorter riders to experience the ride benefits of 29” wheels. Some riders, who have never had an issue with a standard size bike fitting pretty well, tend to comment negatively on the appearance of this frame. Jump over to our previous review for more detail on why we find it such a winner.  A full size biddon still fits neatly in the cage. We preferred biddons with a shorter, flatter top, as longer designs meant we sometimes knocked the CTD lever on the shock.

While the geometry has been carefully researched to provide an exceptionally balanced ride feel for women, its low fuss appearance also means the bike shells any negative connotations associated with overly ‘girly’ aesthetics that makes some riders groan about women’s specific marketing. In fact, Specialized’s women’s mountain bikes also provide a solid option for smaller framed men.

The new Myth saddle reduces soft tissue pressure by placing this critical depression further forward.
The new Myth saddle reduces soft tissue pressure by placing this critical depression further forward.

The Rumor Expert Evo comes in a higher spec than the rest of the Rumor range, a spec so good it feels like we hand picked it ourselves. Shimano XT brakes offer a crisp and reliable ride feel and, in our opinion are the best performing brakes on the market for the price. SRAM X01 is quiet and classy, with a well-chosen 30T chain ring on the front. A Specialized Command dropper post says, ‘Shit yes, let’s shred!’ The dropper lever replaces the absent left hand shifter making it the easiest to operate of any dropper we’ve used previously. The new Myth saddle fills a gap in the Specialized range for women’s mountain biking too.

 

My what big wheels you have.
My what big wheels you have.

Specialized’s Evo line uses a modified linkage to bump the rear travel up 10mm, without having to produce a separate range of bikes. In this case, the Evo treatment means 120mm Custom Fox Float CTD shock out the back. A 120mm RockShox Pike, a front-runner in this year’s competition for the most lusted over fork, slackens the angles a bit for more stability on the descents.

This grip-brake combo works great with small hands.
This grip-brake combo works great with small hands.
Pike perfection.
Pike perfection.

The componentry was not only well chosen, but we couldn’t fault its performance throughout the test period, something we don’t get to say often. In terms of upgrades, a light carbon wheelset is the most obvious investment. It would add some extra compliance to the alloy frame and help push the bike below the 12kg mark.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

We spent a solid month on the Rumor Evo, and were even more impressed by its versatility after that time than on the day we first laid eyes on it.

Reilly Hurst-RideCairns-Rumor Evo-2
First stop for the Rumor was a round of the Australian Gravity Enduro series in Cairns. Straight into the deep end for this bike!

We didn’t so much as even test ride it before throwing it in a bike bag and taking it to the gnarly jungle trails of Smithfield, Cairns for the final round of the Australian Gravity Enduro Series. Feeling a little apprehensive about riding sections of the World Cup downhill track on an unfamiliar bike, we took things fairly easily. Yet, every time we pushed this rig into a new obstacle or a long technical section, the feedback through the bike kept seeming to say, ‘Is that all you’ve got?’

The stock Butcher/Ground Control tyre combo offered great grip in loam and mud, but still rolled well on the hard stuff.
The stock Butcher/Ground Control tyre combo offered great grip in loam and mud, but still rolled well on the hard stuff.
Bicknell-Rumor Evo-22
A big 2.3″ front tyre added even more forgiveness, making it feel as if the Rumor had more than its 120mm up front.

The combination of big wheels, a long wheelbase, high performing suspension and the 2.3” Butcher front tyre make this bike feel like it has a lot more than 120mm of travel. We were immediately struck by how plush the suspension felt on big drops, a sign of custom tuning making a noticeable difference for light weight riders; riders who often wait until the first service to get full awesomination from their suspension.

Wade Lewis-Rumor Evo-13

The dialled geometry really came into play on steep, loose, rooty descents as well. Our position felt instinctual, rather than forced. We buzzed our bum on the rear tyre once, rather than several times. We took bad lines, thought we were going to hit the ground hard, and yet the bike took care of us again and again. The longer we rode, the more jumps we tried, the more speed we applied, the more we felt like twice the rider we are on a bike that never fits or feels quite right.

 

This is almost as low as we could get the 100m travel Command Post. The small frame is specced with a 75mm post instead. Some riders might want to swap out the stock post for a different length option at the time of purchase.
This is almost as low as we could get the 100m travel Command Post. The small frame is specced with a 75mm post instead. Some riders might want to swap out the stock post for a different length option at the time of purchase.
The Rumor got to see a good chunk of Queensland trails, including Atherton, pictured here.
The Rumor got to see a good chunk of Queensland trails, including Atherton, pictured here.

Then there were the climbs. Most riders in Cairns describe every climb as something you have to walk up. That’s a fair call if you’re more downhill oriented, so we forgave them as we continually cleared sections of trail so steep we weren’t sure how people’s shoes were gripping the ground as they walked.

No flowers or ‘girly’ colours here.
No flowers or ‘girly’ colours here.

A week later riding a 96km stage of the Crocodile Trophy, we were surprised to see a whole lot of cross-country and marathon riders walking their XC bikes up hills as well. The stable handling and excellent suspension of the Rumor meant the steeper and looser the terrain got uphill, the more this rig held traction when other bikes fired their distress beacon. A trail bike wouldn’t normally be our pick for a marathon, but the Rumor Evo’s ‘can do’ attitude saw us make huge gains on the longer, looser climbs and the fast, never-seen-before descents.

The Evo linkage and the red Autosag valve: it's Specialized's way of encouraging riders to get more out of their rear suspension.
The Evo linkage and the red Autosag valve: it’s Specialized’s way of encouraging riders to get more out of their rear suspension.

Our next stop was Rotorua. Once again we found the instinctual handling let us push our skills over the steepest and most playful trails we could find, even in slippery, tree rooty mud. The bike’s all day riding ability made day-long group rides exploring old growth forests equally pleasurable allowing us to tick off a full hit list of mountain bike tourism experiences.

The XO1 drivetrain never missed a beat, whatever the weather.
The XO1 drivetrain never missed a beat, whatever the weather.

In short, you’d be hard pressed to find another bike that is as at home on a downhill track as it is on an all-day mission. If your budget is after one bike for a diverse number of riding experiences, this is a bike that is hard to pass up.

A small Allen Key set is tucked away under the biddon cage. Even the small size frame fits a full size bottle.
A small Allen Key set is tucked away under the biddon cage. Even the small size frame fits a full size bottle.
A spare link is hidden away under the headset cap.
A spare link is hidden away under the headset cap.
Valves, sealant and air: all that was needed to tubleless the Roval Control 29 wheelset.
Valves, sealant and air: all that was needed to tubleless the Roval Control 29 wheelset.

The sticking point for most riders wanting to push the Rumor ride experience to the next level is that a carbon model doesn’t exist yet. While we loved the robust properties of the aluminium when riding really technical terrain, on longer rides we missed the extra softness that a carbon frame provides. In fact, we ended up leaving the rear shock in descend mode in these situations as it softened out bumpy trails more, and was more comfortable for our lower back.

Jumping on the Specialized Camber Expert Carbon Evo, a bike with a near identical spec, but a carbon frame and a geometry more suited to men, the extra lightness and flickability that comes with carbon was apparent. To our surprise though, the biggest difference between to two bikes is best summed up by the inner monologue we experienced on board.

Wade Lewis-Rumor Evo-11

When riding the Camber, even with chick mods such as narrower bars and a women’s seat, we’re constantly reminding ourselves about body position in order to feel in control at speed: “Elbows out and over the bars,” said the voice. “Steer with your hips,” “Look around the corner.” The Camber feels like a lot of bike and if we got complacent we quickly felt like a passenger on board.

 

Where to next? The Rumor Evo is a great ride-all-day machine.
Where to next? The Rumor Evo is a great ride-all-day machine, happy on just about any trails,

This voice went quiet on the Rumor Evo. Slight differences in the angles, tube lengths and the lower standover meant we felt centred, ambitious, ready to respond. The inner monologue became focused on things other than body position. We’d notice different lines more, attempt bigger jumps, hold more speed in and out of corners.

Reilly Hurst-RideCairns-Rumor Evo-4
Instant confidence, on the ups and the downs.

Some riders might gravitate toward a bike at a lower price point to save more cash for holidays and other experiences. Or some might prefer a rig with 650B wheels to trade supreme stability for a little more playfulness or sprightliness. But if it’s the ability to take on several trail types, sight unseen, with gusto, the Rumor Expert Evo is hard to beat. It’s incredibly hard to make this bike feel like it’s losing control. Given it rolls over just about anything, you can ride just about anything on board.

[divider]Overall[/divider]

The Rumor Expert Evo is one of most capable, versatile women’s bikes we’ve had the pleasure of riding. This is in part due to the spec, but also the dialled geometry and fit, which doesn’t need hundreds of dollars of customisation before leaving the shop. Given the experiences we had on board, we’re biting our nails as we wait to see how long it takes for a carbon edition, or a longer travel women’s trail bike, to complement Specialized’s fast growing range.

Specialized’s systematic research into bikes for women makes the empowering experiences that come with them feel genuine rather than forced. As a result, the Rumor Expert Evo will make you feel controlled, confident and keen to take on a variety of new things. This will come through time and time again in the way you share the experience of riding with others, too. This made us enjoy our time on the Rumor even more as a result.

Tested: Specialized Women’s Myth Saddle

In June this year we tested two popular women’s saddles from Specialized, the Jett and the Ariel Comp. In addition to reviewing the saddles themselves, we also looked at the comprehensive in store fitting processes and saddle test program that go hand in hand with the purchase of one of these products.

Our main criticism of the Jett was that we tended to get caught up on the wedge shaped cut out at the rear of the saddle when riding steep, technical terrain. We had to plug it with a saddle bag to stop baggy shorts and hydration pack straps getting wrapped around the back every now and then causing a few heart-in-mouth moments out on the trails.

One glance at the new Body Geometry Myth saddle and we were instantly excited. This saddle doesn’t look anything like other offerings from the big red S, indicating a fresh approach to design. And it’s filled in at the back.

The new design sheds mud easily.

The first thing most riders will notice about the new design is that the cut out in the middle of the saddle has been replaced with a long, wide groove instead. It looks a little odd at first with the widest part of the groove sitting much further forward than we’re used to seeing in women’s saddles.

Listening to the backstory behind the new Myth when we met with the doctors behind the Body Geometry revolution, we learned that previous saddle designs have been accommodating the vagina around a best guess scenario. Yep, you read that right. Despite all the other research that goes into saddle design, no one had actually measured where the vagina sits in relation to the pelvic bones. It turns out its much further forward than people (men?) thought. Shocked and surprised? We were too.

Once we got over the disbelief that women’s hoo-has have been an afterthought in saddle designs we started to look at this new one a little more closely. Placing the foo-foo cut out further forward means ladies are more comfortably cradled (as opposed to squished) when they lean forward into a more aggressive riding position.

Taking the opportunity to jump on a pressure testing mat at the afore mentioned Specialized Doctor Day, we were surprised to see that no pressure registered in this modified area. In fact, you can get the set up completely out of the ball park, and the saddle will still feel pretty good: We mapped the Myth with the seat post too high, the reach to the bars too long, and wearing jeans rather than a chamois, and still failed to produce unwanted pressure in the midsection of the saddle. Instead, pressure showed up on the nose and sides as we compensated for set up by reaching further for the pedals and bars.

The depression in the Myth (left) is much further forward than in the Jett (right).
The depression in the Myth (left) is much further forward than in the Jett (right).

This means that while the Myth excels with a perfect bike set up, it also relieves pressure from the va-jay-jay when your bike set up is way off the mark. We also watched a bunch of blokes test this saddle, also in jeans, and they also failed to register any pressure in the midsection of this saddle.

Jumping back on the Jett we realised that when making the transition from an upright to a more aggressive riding position, we tend to shift our position a little further backwards on the saddle. This places our soft tissue in the wider part of the cut out where it’s more comfortable. This keeps the Jett comfy on the trails, but means if you set up your bike while seated in a more relaxed position, the position of your knees in relation to the pedals and the bottom bracket will shift when using the bike in the wild.

The Myth saddle looks smooth and minimal from this angle.

The Myth is much better suited for other body movements off-road too. The lower friction finish makes it easier to slip off the back when descending. The new design allows the rider to move around on the saddle and remain comfortable: toward the nose on steep climbs, a little further forward for more power, a little further back during longer rides or if you tweak an injury. Three widths (143mm is now the narrowest size on offer with 155mm and 168mm catering for wider sit bones) accommodate different sized pelvic areas too.

Cr-Mo rails and a more recreational level of padding for 2015.

If we were to offer one gripe about the Myth it would be that we’re disappointed that it’s only available as an after market purchase at the comp level, with Cr-Mo rails. (A Ti railed version comes specced on the 2015 women’s S-Works level bikes . The soft padding was very comfortable on shorter rides but once we started using the Myth for rides of 3-5 hours, or multiple days in a row, we found our sit bones started to ache. While this reflects a personal preference for a denser level of padding, we’d expect the majority of its intended users to find the saddle more comfortable as is. In any case, the design principles underlying the development of the Myth will certainly influence a range of future women’s saddle designs from Specialized. We look forward to seeing some slightly firmer and racier options developed as a result.

The Myth represents a solid step forward for women’s saddle designs. It’s a welcome update to the Specialized range for technical trail riding and the versatile riding positions it supports makes it appropriate for a range of mountain biking disciplines. While detailed pressure tests and a medically informed design have led to its development, what we liked most is that, as a rider, you don’t need to know any of this stuff to experience its benefits.

Tested: Giant Women’s Lust 27.5 2

Liv/Giant are clearly committed to women’s bike design and innovation. In 2014 they were the only brand to manufacture a comprehensive range of alloy and carbon bikes exclusively built around the 27.5” or 650B wheel size.

In 2015 we’ll see these products launched under the name Liv (without the Giant). This designates a confident and purposeful step toward a section of the market that’s thankfully getting the attention it deserves.

The comfort and capabilities of this bike give riders the confidence to build up to tackling new things.
The comfort and capabilities of this bike give riders the confidence to build up to tackling new things.

The Giant Lust 27.5 2 is the latest in a growing number of women’s bike tests at Flow. With a minimal 100mm of front and rear suspension, it’s the obvious choice in the Liv/Giant range for women looking at making a serious jump into the world of mountain biking. It’s also an interesting opportunity to reflect on whether the Liv brand is heading in the right direction for the varying needs of female riders.

Test Giant Lust 36
Some riders will prefer the stability offered by larger wheels, or the different sizing and spec of bikes designed around them.

[divider]Build[/divider]

Our alloy test Lust features the same XC race geometry as the carbon Lust Advanced 27.5 0, but in a package that is $2,500 rather than $7K; a difference of quite a few dollars per gram, a ticket to Europe or a new Ikea kitchen (OK, maybe not the whole kitchen).

In comparison to the men’s counterpart, the Giant Anthem 27.5, the Lust geo has a few key changes to fem it up. These include a tighter wheelbase, lower standover, slightly shorter reach, and a taller head tube (the bit at the front of the bikes that the forks run through).

Most women will feel pretty comfortable and at one with this bike straight away, or with a lot less part swapping and set up issues than custom fitting an Anthem.
Most women will feel pretty comfortable and at one with this bike straight away, or with a lot less part swapping and set up issues than custom fitting an Anthem.

The idea behind these changes is that they reflect a generally shorter torso length in women, and add agility and confidence in smaller frame sizes. The Lust is only available in sizes XS-M. Giant have found a way to incorporate these features around their well-loved Maestro suspension and maintained enough clearance for a full size water bottle. Functionality through and through.

The ALUXX SL alloy frame uses the same ‘OverDrive 2’ head tube technology as Giant’s racier bikes. We can’t say we noticed the claimed extra stiffness or steering precision in a bike of this spec. What we did notice was that OverDrive2 system requires a stem with a different diameter to other popular bikes on the market. This means owners are more or less locked in to using Giant’s own stems.

We swapped the original 80mm stem for a 90mm one, which allowed us to get our weight further forward and improved handling in relation to our body shape.
We swapped the original 80mm stem for a 90mm one, which allowed us to get our weight further forward and improved handling in relation to our body shape.

While we appreciate that the Lust frame has a taller head tube to suit a broad number of women riders, we would have liked to be able to purchase a stem with a steeper angle to let longer torso-ed or racier minded users lower the height of the front end. Unfortunately Giant Australia don’t currently stock this. This forces local customers off-shore and into best guess set up scenarios, hopefully something that will change in the near future.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Wherever you stand in the wheel size debate it’s not hard to appreciate the benefits of 27.5 for smaller riders.

Riders we met during the test period were consistently quick to comment on the value for money the playful looking Lust 2 offers in terms of the spec. It’s basically a no nonsense build drawing on technology that top level racers were peeing themselves to use about five years ago, assembled around the latest craze in wheel size. Wherever you stand in the wheel size debate it’s not hard to appreciate the benefits of 27.5 for smaller riders. They offer some of the extra rolling ability of 29” hoops, without the so-called disadvantages in cornering and acceleration. More than that, they allow for XS-M frame designs that promote a very nimble and responsive ride feel.

The 27.5 wheels make the bike sit higher off the ground than your standard 26er. A lower standover makes it easier to swing your leg over the frame to get started too.
The 27.5 wheels make the bike sit higher off the ground than your standard 26er. A lower standover makes it easier to swing your leg over the frame to get started too.

At 13kgs this model isn’t particularly light and there’s obviously some weight that could be quickly shed by swapping out the Giant branded wheelset. But unlike a 29er at a similar price point, riders will be far less conscious of this weight slowing them down.

The Shimano and SRAM componentry are the other big brand names that turn heads on this blue and purple plaything. The 22×36 SRAM crankset offers slightly easier gearing than the 24×38 tooth chainrings you’ll see on the Anthem 27.2 2. The Shimano Deore Shadow Plus rear derailleur keeps everything quiet and secure at the rear. We never dropped a chain, nor did we wish for gears (or legs) we didn’t have.

Test Giant Lust 28
The Shimano brakes can be adjusted with a small allen key to fit small hands. Winner!

Test Giant Lust 12

Test Giant Lust 17

The Shimano brakes are in the identified-by-numerals-rather-than-words end of the range. We were surprised to discover that they weren’t very bitey when called into action. The positive side of this is that the brakes won’t grab too hard or fast, which can be irritating or disconcerting for developing riders. The negative is that once we got the bike up to speed we had to compensate for a lack of braking power by quickly exaggerating our body position to stop the bike shooting off into the bushes. This improved our riding dramatically, but if we were to buy this bike and ride it in this way regularly, we’d absolutely upgrade the brakes for increased control.

 Probably the best ‘stock’ grips we’ve used.
Probably the best ‘stock’ grips we’ve used.

Other contact points were taken care of nicely. The 690mm bars and the 170mm crank length were spot on. The Giant women’s saddle was a good shape, although the soft parts were a bit too soft, making the structural parts feel a little hard.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

The 27.5” wheels make the Lust so playful and responsive that we quickly zoned in on the trails and completely lost track of time, the way all good rides should be

Whether you’re carefully thinking about buying your first serious mountain bike, or a hardened dirt shredder curious about the latest technology and a shiny new ride, the first thing that stands out about this Lust is how comfortable and agile it feels. It blew us away at what can be achieved at this price point. Satisfaction is even higher in this regard due to an out-of-the-box build that is so spot on we hardly changed a thing.

Smooth trails, endless fun.
Smooth trails, endless fun.

The 27.5” wheels make the Lust so playful and responsive that we quickly zoned in on the trails and completely lost track of time, the way all good rides should be. In comparison to bigger wheels we never had that feeling of being on board too much bike or having to think too hard about cornering position.

The rear suspension makes this bike almost limitless in it’s appeal too. It’s comfortable, capable and adds versatility to the types of trails, events and experiences it’s owner could consider.

We found ourselves throwing the Lust at everything from lumpy rock gardens in Sydney’s Northern Beaches to all-day rides linking together the best bits of Canberra’s Centenary Trail as we made our way from one trail network (and coffee shop detour) to the next.

Test Giant Lust 46
Quick, agile and easy to move around on.
Test Giant Lust 47
The Lust felt most stable with our weight forward over the front wheel.

With it’s XC race geometry the Lust feels most stable with an aggressive riding position: elbows out and weight over the front wheel. As new riders pick up their confidence on the trails it will reward them instantly. It provides an addictive feeling of playfulness and is incredibly capable at speed. This made us want to climb every climb just to experience it again on some well-loved descents. On technical climbs we found it quite hard to keep the front wheel tracking where we wanted it too. We imagine this is partly due to pushing the extra weight of this model up the hill, and also to do with not setting the front end up in a way that suited our personal preference and riding style.

We spoke to a couple of riders who had ridden the Lust 2 as well as the carbon Lust Advanced 0 team race bike. They confirmed that the carbon model, despite sharing the same geometry, feels more balanced and is much easier to climb on. The flipside of buying a bike at a cheaper price point is it does show you why some riders won’t question paying extra to build on the great things a such bike allows.

Test Giant Lust 50

Given the absence of a better specced alloy Lust in the range the $3499 Lust Advanced 27.5 2, featuring a carbon frame, much better brakes and more manoeuvrable weight, is arguably better value that upgrading the alloy model one part at a time. It will be far more nimble on climbs and allow its pilot to push it harder on the descents. If you’re more interested in building your skills and discovering the trails, we’d recommend leaving this one largely unchanged. Ride it, crash it, replace the odd part that isn’t going to break the bank, have a blast, have a holiday and push your skills on more trails still.

[divider]Verdict[/divider]

 The biggest confidence vote the Lust 27.5 2 provides in this respect is that there’s not much we’d want to change

Liv/Giant’s range goes far beyond chick specific gimmicks and covers the bases for a variety of rider types. The biggest confidence vote the Lust 27.5 2 provides in this respect is that there’s not much we’d want to change to make this bike feel ‘more right’, provided an agile XC ride feel is what you’re after. Those wanting the extra stability of a trail bike might want to cross their fingers and hope that 2015 sees the Intrigue hit our shores (this one is more like the 5” travel Trance).

For someone thinking of giving mountain biking a crack, or simply choosing between a hardtail and a dually, the biggest benefit of the Lust is that it provides its owner with endless options. It forces her to develop a good riding position, rewards a thirst to explore and try new things and it doesn’t need a super human knowledge of bike components to make it fit and perform the way it should. Most of all, it is such a pleasure to ride it will make her feel fit, skilful and strong as a by-product of having a great time outside.

Test Giant Lust 2

[tabgroup][tab title=”Rider Details” ]Kath Bicknell, 164cm, 56kg[/tab][tab title=”Changes Made” ]Tubeless conversion, Longer 90mm stem[/tab][/tabgroup]

Tested: Specialized Women’s Riata and Cascade Shoes

I remember my first set of mountain bike shoes. I picked a ‘best guess’ size and special ordered them from my local bike shop. There were a men’s design, fitted well enough, and worked well in the face of no other wildly different options that small or at that price point. I’ve had knee niggles ever since, a likely outcome given over training, under stretching and my feet swimming around in my shoes.

Specialized have developed research, training and design systems that eliminate experiences for female riders like the one above. Like the women’s saddles we tested recently , our women’s shoe test also began by meeting with Lyndell van de Walle at Cyclery Northside, getting fitted for two new offerings from Specialized: The Riata MTB shoes and the Cascade XC shoes.

[divider]Finding your fit[/divider]

The fit process for a pair of Specialized shoes takes into account two important measurements. The first is a rider’s size, the second is the amount of contact their foot has with the sole of the shoe.

A heat sensitive device measures the two in one go. This limits the fussing around with special ordering and multiple shop visits if the first size isn’t right. (Although, due to brand’s reputation for excellent fitting women’s shoes most shops stock a good range of sizes and styles.)

Behold, the arch-o-meter.
Behold, the arch-o-meter.

Our foot contact measurement indicated a high arch. This signalled that extra support inside the shoe would provide additional stability, an improved pedal stroke and better power transfer.

Three different innersoles, or footbeds, are available as an add-on to a shoe purchase for riders who want to address this area of fit and performance. In our case, we were supplied with innersoles that support a higher arch, which stopped our foot collapsing during the pedal stroke.

The underside of the original footbeds (left) and the ones with increased support (right). The green material is designed not to collapse adding to the longevity of this add-on.
The underside of the original footbeds (left) and the ones with increased support (right). The green material is designed not to collapse adding to the longevity of this add-on.
Side view of the different footbeds. You can see the extra support along the midline of the foot.
Side view of the different footbeds. You can see the extra support along the midline of the foot.

The built up footbeds have led to much better tracking of our hips and knees, to the point where knee pain on the bike and was far more responsive to stretching and maintenance off the bike. The difference is so pronounced we want to put these in our regular shoes as well – except that they’re carefully designed for a pedal stroke, not a foot step.

With size and arch support taken care of, what would the shoes offer on top of this?

[divider]Specialized Women’s Riata MTB Shoe[/divider]

The Riata MTB shoe is an entry level mountain bike shoe. At $129.95 it retails at a price you’d expect to pay for a reasonably supportive running shoe.

Like a similar level of running shoe, the Riata is constructed out of well-researched features delivering fit and performance without going over the top with bells and whistles.

We can't say enough good things about the Riatas - especially for riders new to the sport or who don't want to remorgage their home for a new pair of shoes.
We can’t say enough good things about the Riatas – especially for riders new to the sport or who don’t want to remorgage their home for a new pair of shoes.

The sole provides reasonable traction. There are no studs or softer compound materials to add extra grip, but we didn’t miss this. In fact, we preferred the durability of the more basic sole that is less affected by walking on scratchy surfaces.

Specialized shoes are built up a little along the inside middle of the foot. Whether you buy additional inner soles or not, riders will also benefit from the ‘metatarsal button’ which helps to keep the toes feeling relaxed and ‘longitudinal arch’ support. Again, great for the demands of long rides and a cycling pedal stroke.

The sole of the Riata has a ‘stiffness factor’ of six. This means it’s stiff-ish without being so light, hard and power transfer-y that Specialized would want to use similar materials for Tony Martin’s next time trial bike.

The more basic sole provides ample traction.
The more basic sole provides ample traction.

Of the two pairs of shoes we tested we preferred these for trail riding and gravity enduro – ride days where we valued the flexibility of the sole for extra pedal feel and subtle manoeuvres through the feet. We also preferred the Riatas for these rides as we’re more off and on the bike as they’re better suited for walking. Our heel tended to slip a little but not in a deal breaker way.

We were very impressed by the fit, feel and value for money of these shoes. They offer new riders an affordable, stylish and very functional package.

We were blown away by how far they’ve come from heavy, ‘unisex’, box-like designs of the past.

[divider]Specialized Women’s Cascade XC Shoes[/divider]

There aren’t many companies offering a high end women’s specific XC shoe. The carbon soled, fancy-strapped, shiny, pro-looking Cascades are in fact a model down from the even more blinged out Specialized Women’s S-Works race shoes.

We were excited about testing them, but then devastated when they didn’t seem to fit. They’re so snug, stiff and efficient that, at first, matched to our broad feet they just seemed to cause blisters and cramps.

The women's Cascade XCs. Sleek, supportive, fast.
The women’s Cascade XCs. Sleek, supportive, fast.

We were surprised about this given our success with other models in the Specialized range, but soon realised it wasn’t the shoe that was causing the problem, but the shoe combined with our broad, high arched feet and the extra bulk of the add-on green footbeds we’d inserted.

After a month of breaking in the shoe with the original, less built up footbeds we were able to switch back to the support of the green inserts and have blissfully remained blister and cramp free since. In fact, the Cascades now feel akin to a pair of stylish, powerful slippers. Cinderella eat your heart out.

The Cascades do away with some of the extra material that adds room and bulk in the Riatas. Two Velcro straps and a replaceable ‘Boa S2 Snap’ dial pull the top in nice and close.

The Cascade XCs bascially wrap around your foot.
The Cascade XCs bascially wrap around your foot.

Test Specialized WMNS Shoes 3

A carbon sole adds stiffness and shaves weight. The sole also has more traction than earlier women’s shoe designs from Specialized, a welcome addition given they are made for mountain biking after all. Like the Riatas, we were really pleased to see these shoes come in a practical black.

With a stiffness index of 11, five more stiffness-es than the Riatas, these shoes are the pick for transferring power to the pedals. They hold the feet in place well eliminating extra movement and energy loss, but are still as comfortable at the end of an all day ride as they are at the beginning (after that initial breaking in period for our test feet).

A carbon sole positions these shoes at the serious end of the market.
A carbon sole positions these shoes at the serious end of the market.

Like the name suggests, they’re best suited to XC and marathon. We also used them a lot on the road bike during the test period. They’re light, efficient and we prefer the extra float on MTB pedals compared to some road brands. Plus, if we were to spend $350 on a pair of shoes, we’d want to be using them every chance we could!

The Cascades are more than twice the price of the Riatas. In the absence of many competitors on the market, they’re a worthwhile investment for women wanting a high performing, injury reducing, snug fitting pair of kicks.

[divider]Overall[/divider]

We were obviously impressed by these two women’s offerings from Specialized. While some brands still only make a token effort in the women’s shoe department, it’s impressive to see such a comprehensive, innovative and extensive range coming out of this company for female riders at both ends of the sport.

Specialized's womens Riata MTB and Cascade XC shoes.

The fit process reflects the research findings from the design team and adds to the pleasurable ride experience both shoes provide. The impact of a good fitting pair of shoes on injury reduction is something we can’t emphasise enough making either pair a valuable investment if you find yourself riding regularly.

We were surprised by the initial tightness of the Cascades, but it was in fact the fit process that made us think it was worthwhile trying them a little longer – and given how comfortable they became, we’re certainly glad we did.

 

Flow’s First Bite: Juliana Joplin Primeiro

The Juliana Joplin Primeiro is the latest in a growing collection of women’s bikes that we’re taking to the trails. This one pairs a high-performing parts list with the light and compliant ride feel of a quality carbon frame.

29" wheels, carbon frame, VPP suspension and a premium level build kit - oh yeah!
29″ wheels, carbon frame, VPP suspension and a premium level build kit – oh yeah!

Juliana is Santa Cruz’s female specific line of bikes. The range is named after 1990’s US mountain biking pioneer, Juliana Furtado, the John Tomac of her time, or a Gunn-Rita DahleFlesjå in today’s terms. We are excited to clip our feet into the latest 29” trail bike offering from the company, the Juliana Joplin Primeiro.

WEB_Test_SantaCruzJuliana_0197

The Joplin part is a throw back to the rock legend of the same name (it’s ‘the Queen of rocks and roll’). Primeiro is Santa Cruz for ‘highest spec in a specific range,’ in this case kashima coated Fox front and rear suspension (120mm on the front and 100mm on the rear) and a Shimano XT build.

Shimano triple ring crankset, gives a massive range of gears.
Shimano triple ring crankset, gives a massive range of gears.

Despite the high-performing build and shiny marketing of the Joplin Primeiro, we were a little disappointed to discover that the frame shares the same geometry as the Santa Cruz Tall Boy. The women’s features extend to the contact points, the powdery blue finish and a 3×10 drive train with a roomy 11-36 cassette on the rear.

One question we have for the review period is whether these changes are enough to satisfy a growing number of savvy female consumers. The small size Joplin was in fact released ahead the small Tall Boy, which had male riders thinking about buying a women’s bike rather than the other way around for a change. The frame design of the Tall Boy also incorporates female friendly features like a low standover and short head tube length

Santa Cruz's well-loved VPP suspension design makes for efficiency to the maximum.
Santa Cruz’s well-loved VPP suspension design makes for efficiency to the maximum.

Marketing questions aside, the performance of the bike is something best answered out on the trails. Hitting the dirt, the Joplin immediately showed us why the Santa Cruz and Juliana brands have such a proud and loyal following.

The Joplin climbs more efficiently than we were expecting, mowed over short technical ‘ups,’ and descended at warp speed. It feels fast, stable, very capable and has a beautifully smooth ‘ride feel’; a winning combo for all-day outings on an extensive variety of trails.

Note the step down in the handlebar's diameter under the grips, for smaller hands.
Note the step down in the handlebar’s diameter under the grips, for smaller hands.

We’re looking forward to getting more attuned to the Joplin over the test period to discover more about the experiences it opens up and the subtleties of how it performs. Keep an eye on Flow for a full review soon.