Jo & Roz Put Liv’s New Gravel Bike To The Test
The Devote Series is Liv Cycling’s first foray into the gravel market. As a brand that is dedicated to getting more women on bikes, it is timely to now see a gravel bike come to production that has been shaped by research and development specific to women, and hence utilises dedicated geometry for female riders.
Women-specific gravel bikes are definitely A Thing™, with brands such as Norco, Canyon and Julianna producing dirt-friendly drop bar bikes designed specifically for female riders. But while the Devote isn’t necessarily a new concept in the industry, it is representative of a company and brand that has history and credibility in producing an extensive range, which includes high performance women-specific bikes.
To put it simply, the Devote has been designed to be a versatile bike that is both capable and comfortable for whatever style of gravel riding you may be into.
The Liv Devote – Give Us The Lowdown
To put it simply, the Devote has been designed to be a versatile bike that is both capable and comfortable for whatever style of gravel riding you may be into. It is suited to going long on single and multiple day adventures over mixed terrain, blowing your mate’s doors off on group rides, or being fast and competitive in dedicated gravel based events.
Coming out strong with its first ever gravel bike, Liv is offering no fewer than five different Devote models for 2021. The two cheapest models use alloy frames with a carbon fork, while the top three models get a full-carbon chassis. Prices start at $1,699 AUD for the alloy-framed Devote 2 and go up to $7,299 AUD for the Advanced Pro we have here.
All Devote models share the same geometry and roll on 700c wheels. One bike that stands out in particular though is the $4,199 AUD Devote Advanced 1, which is the only model that comes standard with a 1x drivetrain and a dropper post. It also gets slightly wider 45c tyres, while all the other bikes come with 38-40c tyres.
The bike that Roz & I’ve been testing is the Advanced Pro, which is the top-of-the-line in the Devote Series. Catching many fellow rider’s eyes, the frame is attractive with its sleek, flawless shape and exceptionally clean lines. The frame is integrated with internal cable routing adding to the simplicity, while the Chameleon Blue/Reflective Mushroom paint job fits nicely with Liv’s pledge of not wanting to Shrink & Pink everything.
The frame is constructed from Liv’s ‘Advanced-Grade Composite Carbon’, which is impressively lightweight and tuned for comfort. The seatstays are dropped to help improve rear-end compliance, while the addition of thru-axles, a PF92 bottom bracket shell and a tapered head tube ensure there’s a positive connection through the downtube and chainstays.
Catching many fellow rider’s eyes, the frame is attractive with its sleek, flawless shape and exceptionally clean lines.
Women’s Specific Fit
According to Liv, the geometry of the frame has been developed using a multitude of metrics collected from all types of female riders from around the globe.
Personally, I believe a good bike fit is relevant and reflective of your specific body type rather than needing to be exclusively gender specific. And it’s worth noting that Roz and I both currently ride unisex gravel and mountain bikes. However, women in general do share some common features such as; shorter torsos, narrower shoulders, longer legs, wider hips and smaller hands and feet than men. These typical metrics for women are well catered to in the Devote’s women-specific geometry.
Looking at the numbers, there’s been a lot of focus on weight distribution and stability. Compared to an equivalent size in the unisex Giant Revolt, the Liv Devote features a 10mm lower BB, a slightly longer wheelbase, and a higher stack height. With the goal of optimising your pedalling power, the seat angle is also steeper (75° vs 74°).
The frame geometry allows clearance for up to a 700x45c or 650x50c gravel tyre, and there are lugs for bolting on heaps of bottle cages, a top tube bag, racks, mudguards, and anything else you need for a speedy bikepacking adventure.
More importantly, the Liv Devote can be had down to an Extra Small frame size – an option that isn’t always guaranteed with unisex gravel bikes. However, we won’t quite see the full size range come to Australia. Each Devote model will be available in Extra Small, Small & Medium sizes, with only the Devote Advanced 1 adding a Large into the equation. If you need an XL, you’ll be wanting to look at the unisex Giant Revolt instead.
Big Rubber & Speed-Packing Ready
The frame geometry allows clearance for up to a 700x45c gravel tyre and also has the capability to run a 650b wheel fitted with up to a 50c tyre, so there are plenty of options to trick this bike up for whatever adventure takes your fancy.
You can keep it sleek and minimal, or the Devote can be loaded up with multiple racks and gear bags with the smart mount system. A super practical feature offered on all frame sizes is the ability to mount a third bottle cage underneath the down tube for longer, more remote missions out into the bush.
The Devote Advanced Pro also comes standard with Giant’s own D-Fuse carbon seatpost, which is physically D-shaped with a flat section down the back that provides more rearward deflection to help smooth out the bumps. The D-shaped seat tube comes fitted with a shim at the back of the post, which when removed, allows for a standard round 30.9mm seatpost to be installed. That means you can fit a dropper post if you fancy – a neat trick for those pushing their gravelly limits.
While the alloy Devote frames also features the D-Fuse seatpost design, they don’t utilise the same shim system. Since inside of the seat tube is D-shaped and not round, that means you can’t run a dropper post on the alloy Devote frames – you’re locked into using the D-Fuse post.
What’s It Wearing?
Being the top model of the bunch, the Devote Advanced Pro is decked out with seriously high-end goodies. There’s a SRAM Force eTap AXS wireless groupset, which uses a compact 43/30T chainring combo, and a big 10-36T cassette on the rear to deliver quite the spread of gears. To slow you down, hydraulic disc brake callipers clamp down on snazzy two-piece 160mm rotors.
Giant provides the broad carbon CXR-2 wheelset, along with much of the finishing kit including the carbon D-Fuse seatpost and flared handlebars. Touch points are from Liv though – there’s a women’s specific Approach saddle and squidgy All Condition bar tape.
Confirmed weight for our test bike is 8.38kg, weighed without pedals or accessories.
2021 Liv Devote Advanced Pro
- Frame | Advanced Grade Carbon Fibre, 142x12mm Thru-Axle
- Fork | Advanced Grade Carbon, Carbon Steerer, 100x12mm Thru-Axle
- Wheels | Giant CXR 2, Carbon Rims, 25mm Inner Width, Tubeless Compatible
- Tyres | Maxxis Velocita EXO, Tubeless Ready, 700x40c
- Drivetrain | SRAM Force eTap AXS 2×12 w/Force 43/30T Carbon Cranks & XG-1270 10-36T Cassette
- Brakes | SRAM Force eTAP AXS Hydraulic Disc, 160mm Rotors
- Handlebar | Giant Contact SLR XR D-Fuse, Carbon Fibre, 8° Flare, 400mm Width
- Stem | Giant Contact, Length: 70mm (XS), 80mm (S), 90mm (M)
- Seatpost | Giant Contact D-Fuse SLR
- Saddle | Liv Approach
- Size Tested | Small
- Confirmed Weight | 8.38kg
- RRP | $7,299 AUD
Sizing & Fit
We were sent a size Small in the Liv Devote Advanced Pro to suit Roz at 165cm tall, and myself at 168cm tall. I normally ride a Flanders Forte CX bike in an Extra-Small with a 49cm frame. In comparison to my normal ride, the Advanced Pro has a slightly slacker 70.5° head angle and more fork rake (50mm). Essentially this pushes the front wheel out a bit more and increases the wheelbase ever so slightly. This was evident when I turned the bars and discovered that the toe of my shoe did not bump into the front wheel as it does on my CX bike. Brilliant!
The cockpit itself immediately felt familiar, in a good way. The 400mm wide bars (at the tops, they’re wider in the drops due to the flared profile), 80mm stem and the slightly taller stack height had me feeling super comfortable from the first ride. The only adjustments I made were to reposition my saddle backwards a little, and also dial in the SRAM brake levers to suit my reach and braking contact point preferences.
When swapping the bike between testers, it became apparent that adjusting the saddle height requires a little more thought than usual. This is because instead of a conventional seat clamp, the Devote uses an internal wedge system that locks the seatpost into place. You’ll need to lift up the rubber sheath to access the 4mm hex bolt underneath, though when extending the seatpost height, we found the wedge system could pull out of the frame, making things a bit fiddly. The shim at the back of the seatpost can also be dragged upwards, and we did have it fall out completely, so keep an eye on that if you’re making trailside adjustments.
The seatpost uses a D-shape profile that encourages rearward flex for a bump-soothing ride. On the Advanced carbon models, there’s an alloy shim that sits between the back of the seatpost and the seat tube – remove this and you can fit a conventional 30.9mm round seatpost, say if you wanted to upgrade to a dropper down the line. However, the shim and the wedge system can come out of the frame when extending the seatpost, making things a bit more fiddly than usual.
Overall this bike does touch points very well. Liv is keen to stipulate that it views those touch points as efficient dampeners, which are there to help absorb vibrations and feedback from the trail, without having to resort to more complicated pivots or inserts. Comfort might not sound like a performance attribute, but if it reduces fatigue on your body, then it allows you to ride further and faster. Simple really.
And I have to say that the Devote Advanced Pro delivers an exceptionally smooth, efficient and fast ride experience. The bike comes stock with Maxxis Velocita 40mm tyres, which coincidentally are the same tyres I run on my own gravel bike. They suit the riding that Roz and I do here in Central Victoria really well. They’re fast on the inevitable bits of sealed bitumen that link up all the good gravel, and they perform well on the open dirt roads. These are generally dry and compacted, and don’t justify the need for a knobblier tread pattern.
The 700x40c Maxxis Velocita tyres are fast on the inevitable bits of sealed bitumen that link up all the good gravel, and they perform well on the open dirt roads.
What Does The Devote Do Well?
The Advanced Pro is exceptionally responsive under acceleration and has a real knack for efficiently maintaining the speed that it so readily generates. This bike is built for covering ground quickly, and the faster this bike goes the smoother the ride gets.
It excels on rail trails, vast gravel roads, long sustained and steep climbs, heavily corrugated and irregular surfaces, and fast descents. I was not only impressed with the sensation of speed, but as I rode this bike over more of my local routes, I was pleasantly surprised to see most of my existing PR’s and QOM’s on Strava become superseded by the times I was able to lay down with the Devote. The longer segments are where I saw bigger gains, due to the efficiency and speed this bike is able to generate, but I was also substantially quicker on sustained climbing segments and those that were filled with undulations and constant changes of gradient.
It’s also a really competent descender, thanks to the slack head angle, generous trail, and low BB – all proven geometry attributes that have been borrowed from the MTB world. Along with the powerful disc brakes and high volume Maxxis tyres, delivers a substantially more confidence-inspiring ride than a traditional road bike. If you’re new to the curly-bar world, the Devote will surprise you with its stability.
While the Devote is very stable and predictable through the corners, I didn’t spend much time riding dedicated singletrack, simply because my local trails are super rocky and generally suited to a full suspension mountain bike. When I did hit the trails with the Devote, I found it to be surprisingly stable once I widened my stance by putting my hands into the drops. Commit to that position, and you’ll enjoy a fun and responsive ride as things tighten up.
What Does It Struggle With?
The Devote, as with all gravel bikes in general, struggled on very rocky, rutted and steep descents. Hitting rocks that are embedded in the road surface with descending momentum certainly tested the limits of this bike. Yes it’s comfortable and smooth, but only to a point. After all, you’re still aboard a fully rigid bike without any in-built suspension.
As such, I’d say the Devote isn’t a bike that you would purchase if the majority of your riding involves technical singletrack across predominately uneven technical terrain. To be fair, there are few gravel bikes on the market that offer that kind of capability – the BMC URS, Niner’s full suspension MCR and Cannondale’s Lefty-equipped Topstone are three of the more ‘progressive’ gravel bikes that come to mind, but I’d still prefer to be on my full suspension mountain bike for our local trails.
Who Does It Suit Then?
The Advanced Pro is a bike that will easily please a rider that enjoys exploring and spending long days in the saddle. The versatility of this bike with ample mounts will appeal to those who would like to have the option of loading the bike up and exploring over multiple days. It would also be an ideal bike for a competitive rider who requires an efficient and fast racing machine to compete in the growing array of gravel events, like the Gravel Grit Laguna.
Component Highlights & Lowlights
As mentioned before, Liv has done a fantastic job on this bike’s contact points. I’ve been really impressed with Giant’s D-Fuse carbon bars, which are super compliant. They have a decent amount of flex, particularly when down in the drops, which is the default position for descending and riding fast. Overall they do well to dampen vibrations and the jarring impacts that would otherwise be felt in the upper body. And when you need to switch up your riding position, the tops of the bars feature a lovely flat shape that provides a really stable platform to rest the hands.
The gel-backed bar tape offers a really nice supple feel, and also does a great job of limiting vibration and feedback. I normally wear gloves to limit friction and potential callouses on long rides, but I was really surprised after doing a 5+ hour ride how fresh my gloveless hands, arms and shoulders felt.
Out back, the D-Fuse carbon seatpost is similarly effective at absorbing vibrations. The D-shaped tubing has a flat back edge and allows for flex over rough terrain, contributing to my lower back feeling un-expectantly descent after a 5+ hr ride. And while stock saddles are usually more miss than hit, the Liv Approach was a no brainer from the start. It instantly felt comfortable and over long durations did not lead to any uncomfortable friction points or discomfort.
The carbon frame itself is beautifully finished, and it’s nice to see a generous armour plate underneath the downtube to protect the striking paint job from rogue rock strikes. There’s also decent protection added to the chainstay, providing aesthetically pleasing protection from chain slap.
However, I don’t rate the integrated hex tool that was included to tighten or loosen the thru-axle. The lever fits into place fine, and with a 5mm hex bit, it carries out the job of tightening and loosening just fine. But the fit isn’t snug enough that you’d want to leave it in while riding. This partial integration seems like a bit of an afterthought, given it’s an essential tool that you’ll instead have to remember to stash in your jersey pocket or saddle bag.
This partial integration seems like a bit of an afterthought, given it’s an essential tool that you’ll instead have to remember to stash in your jersey pocket or saddle bag.
I’ve nothing but good things to say about the SRAM Force groupset though. The hydraulic disc brakes are pretty neat how they are flat mounted onto the frame, contributing to the sleek simplistic look. They provide substantial stopping power for long descents and would also serve well at controlling the momentum of a fully loaded bike with gear bags. The adjustability is also fantastic, as I was able to easily adjust the lever throw to suit my small hands – important for a women’s specific bike.
The electronic shifting was smooth and responsive, and the smaller 43/30T chainrings allowed me to ride sections and routes that I would normally avoid with my usual 1x set up. I never ran out of gears on the steep climbs and enjoyed having the confidence to be able to ride up pretty much anything, which builds on this bike’s go-anywhere attitude.
The Devote Advanced Pro has been a treat to ride and has presented itself as a very capable and versatile gravel bike. While it isn’t exactly a specialist tool for smashing rocky singletrack or taking on hardcore touring, overall the Devote impresses with its versatility, which makes it appealing to a wide range of riders as it doesn’t present any deal breaker limitations.
There are no doubts that the Devote Advanced Pro I’ve been testing is a beautifully spec’d bike that is also very pleasing on the eye. It does come with a committing price, though there are four models beneath it to suit more modest budgets. If you can stretch to the Advanced Pro however, you will enjoy a smooth and thoroughly refined ride experience. This bike will easily do all that you ask of it and more, all with style, speed and comfort.
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