2022 Liv Embolden Review | Brilliant trail-ready performance for less than $3,000

The not-so-minor details


2022 Liv Embolden 2


Liv Cycling



$2,999 AUD




- Confidence-inspiring handling
- Plush, traction-rich suspension
- Genuinely tubeless-ready wheels & tyres
- Crisp shifting and wide gear range
- Dropper post is an absolute winner


- Handlebars are too narrow
- Active suspension can be a little bobby on the climbs
- Lack of chainstay protection

Roz reviews the 2022 Liv Embolden

Designed for newer riders and those who are looking to make the leap from a hardtail, the Liv Embolden is the cheapest full suspension mountain bike on offer from Liv Cycling. It is essentially the women’s version of the Giant Stance – a bike that impressed us with just how much fun it was to ride, despite its entry-level price tag. However, it’s worth noting that the new Embolden isn’t a carbon copy of the Stance. It features a unique and updated frame design with a number of improvements, and it also comes equipped with Giant’s own Crest 34 suspension fork. So how does it ride? And is it worth the premium over a hardtail? We’ve been testing the new 2022 Liv Embolden for the past few weeks to find out!

From the very first ride, the Liv Embolden has proven to be an absolute hoot to ride, with a genuinely surprising level of capability given its modest price tag.

2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
Roz ripping up the singletrack on the new Liv Embolden.

Liv Embolden overview

The Liv Embolden is designed to be a ride-most-of-the-things trail bike. With a greater focus on comfort and control, it features more suspension than the Pique (Liv’s cross-country race bike), with a 130mm travel fork up front, and 120mm of rear wheel travel.

Riders can choose between four frame sizes, which Liv claims will suit riders from 145cm to 185cm tall. With the exception of the X-Small size that comes with 27.5in wheels, the new Embolden is otherwise purpose-built around 29in wheels.

The new frame is manufactured from alloy tubing that has been hydroformed and gently curved into an elegantly uncomplicated shape. Part of this simplicity comes from the FlexPoint suspension design, which controls the rear travel.

2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
The Embolden gets a brand new chassis for 2022, which features sleek internal cable routing, bolt-up axles and the simple-but-effective Flexpoint suspension design.

The suspension is one of the key differences between the Embolden and the Intrigue. The Intrigue uses the more complex Maestro platform, and it comes in at a much higher price point as a result. You’ll be paying thousands of dollars more, making it a significantly bigger investment over the Embolden.

Liv Embolden price & specs

For 2022 there is just a single model in the Liv Embolden lineup. It’s the Embolden 2 that we have on test here, which retails for $2,999 AUD.

Despite the appealing price tag, Liv has still managed to tick off a load of boxes that are becoming must-haves for a modern trail bike. The dropper post is a highlight, as is the adjustable air-sprung fork and shock. You’re also getting the latest 1×10 Shimano Deore drivetrain, along with tubeless wheels and tyres as standard.

2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
There’s just the single Liv Embolden 2 model for 2022, and aside from the XS size, all frames are now built around 29in wheels.

2022 Liv Embolden 2

2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
Roz, our smiliest tester, has been putting the Liv Embolden through its paces over the past few weeks.

Liv Embolden sizing & fit

To see exactly what it’s capable of, we put the Liv Embolden 2 into the hands of our smiliest bike tester, Roz.

At 165cm tall, Roz had the option of riding a Small or Medium size. Given her long arms and legs, and the fact that the Embolden is a trail bike and not an XC racer, we decided to go with the Medium. And for the most part it’s been a great fit.

The Medium frame gets a 430mm reach, which is identical to the Giant Stance. However, the seat angle is a degree steeper and the head tube is 15mm taller, providing a more upright and centralised riding position. There’s decent standover clearance thanks to the curved top tube, and the low bottom bracket ensures you’re placed in the bike, rather than made to feel like you’re perched precariously on top of it.

Given its trail riding intentions, the 680mm wide handlebars are too narrow though. According to Roz, “I felt like I was driving a tractor with a sports-car steering wheel.”

Smaller riders may be fine with such dainty handlebars, but the narrow width exacerbates the short cockpit and its ‘sit-up-and-beg’ riding position. To rectify this, Roz fitted a set of 760mm wide bars, which opened things up and radically improved the Embolden’s overall descending stability. It also made it easier to corner with, by reducing the amount of force required to push the inside grip down when leaning the bike over into a turn. Funnily enough, we did exactly the same thing with the Giant Stance 29 and the results were similar there.

Contact points are otherwise excellent. The women’s specific Liv Sylvia saddle is a winner, and while the grips are of the non-locking variety, they’re soft and well-damped, providing welcome comfort on longer rides.

2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
The stock handlebars are too narrow, so Roz fitted some wider bars partway through the test period.

Suspension & tyre setup

A big plus for the Liv Embolden is its air-adjustable suspension. As well as being lighter than the coil-sprung forks and shocks found on cheaper bikes, the air-sprung suspension can also be easily adjusted with a shock pump, allowing you to tweak the pressure to suit different riders.

To suit Roz’ riding weight of 60kg, we aired up the Suntour Raidon shock with 100psi. This delivered 30% sag with Roz sitting stationary on the bike, though it’s worth noting that we had to add an O-ring to the shock to help with setup, as it doesn’t come with one from the factory. Rebound speed is adjustable via the red dial, and we set this one click faster than halfway (8/14 clicks).

Up front is the new Giant Crest 34 fork. Despite this being an in-house product, it’s got a quality feel about it, and it features plenty of adjustments. In addition to air pressure, you can adjust the air volume via plastic spacers. There’s also externally adjustable rebound and compression damping with a lockout.

We set up the fork as per the recommendations printed on the back of the forks, with 60psi in the air spring. The rebound dial has a huge range of adjustment, arguably too much with nearly 30 clicks. Roz ran this on the faster side with 20/29 clicks.

Another nice aspect of the Embolden is that it comes properly tubeless ready from the factory. The rims are already taped, and both tubeless valves and sealant are included in the box. With the tyres setup tubeless, Roz ran 17psi in the front and 19psi in the rear.

2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
With its plush suspension and upright geometry, the Embolden has encouraged Roz to hit features on the trail that she normally wouldn’t attempt.

What does the Liv Embolden do well?

From the very first ride, the Liv Embolden has proven to be an absolute hoot to ride, with a genuinely surprising level of capability given its modest price tag.

Coming from a shorter travel XC bike with 27.5in wheels, Roz has found the Embolden to be considerably more comfortable and confidence-inspiring. In fact, it’s encouraged her to ride features that she’s never attempted before, on trails that she’s been riding for years.

The centralised riding position is relaxed and undemanding, with no back-breaking yoga required just to reach the grips. That comfort extends to the plush suspension performance, which allows the Embolden to iron out bumps beautifully on rough terrain. Along with the big 29in wheels and high volume tyres, there’s a generous helping of traction and stability on offer. This sure-footed grip allows you to ride through gullies and across ruts confidently, with little fear of the rear wheel skipping out.

It’s this comfort and control that sees the Embolden holding a clear advantage over a hardtail when riding on rougher trails. “I’m so impressed with how grounded this bike feels”, explains Roz. “I felt in the first ride that I could ride tough sections that I’ve previously balked at on lesser travel bikes. I didn’t think that such an upright position on the bike could allow me the feeling for speed and skill. This bike eats up technical, rocky, organic-style trails”.

2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
You like cornering eh? Not as much as Roz and the Embolden!

Devouring descents and chomping the corners

No doubt about it, the Embolden loves to rip down technical singletrack. The dropper post is an absolute winner, allowing you to crush the saddle out of the way so you can get your weight back when heading off of drops and down steeper descents.

The wheelbase is roomy, and the 67º head angle hits a nice sweet spot. It isn’t so slack as to make cornering a chore on flatter trails, but it kicks the front wheel out far enough to minimise the chance of you going over the bars on the descents. Along with the low BB and supple suspension, the Embolden affords terrific stability.

Of course a bigger travel bike like the Intrigue will offer a greater margin for error on chunkier and steeper trails, but the Embolden does well to keep you in control on technical terrain. And the fact that it isn’t a huge bike means it’s also bags of fun to ride through flowing switchback corners — both up and down.

There’s heaps of cornering grip, with the speedy Maxxis Forekasters delivering low rolling resistance with plenty of volume. The tyres mould easily over rocks and ripples on the trail surface, maintaining traction and keeping the wheels connected to the ground. Through twisty singletrack, the abundance of grip meant Roz was able to stay off the brakes for longer, leaning the bike over further and further. “I’m definitely taking more risks and this bike just says, ‘try harder, go harder, go faster!’

2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
The active suspension can bob on the climbs, but it also provides the Embolden with a smooth and floaty ride quality on rockier trails.

What does it struggle with?

Coming in at 14.36kg, the Liv Embolden is heavy, especially compared to a hardtail. Roz has been transporting it in the back of her station wagon on the way to the trailhead, but is less enthusiastic about the idea of loading it onto a roof rack.

On the trail, the weight conspires with the long wheelbase to make it harder to lift up the front wheel.

“This could be that I’m not super strong in the upper body, but I’m wondering if it is more the slacker front-end geometry” explains Roz. “At speed, leaning back and lifting to do a manual over a drop or through a puddle is easy. But on slower and more technical areas, say a switchback with a log that you need to lift over, that feels more difficult.”

It’s not to say it’s impossible, just that you’ll need to use the suspension a little more to push off of the ground when heaving up the front wheel to jump over an obstacle on the trail.

2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
The low-range 1×10 gearing is a fabulous choice for this bike.

Speaking of the suspension, the rear shock does tend to bob quite a bit on the climbs, especially when you’re out of the saddle. Roz ended up adding an extra 10psi, which helped a lot, but it would be nice to see a lockout to match the one on the fork.

Compared to a hardtail, the squishy suspension on the Embolden certainly demands more energy when pedalling along the road and on smooth gravel trails. The suspension bob and overall weight become even more noticeable on extended ascents, where you’ll want to pace yourself to avoid burning through too much energy. It’s certainly no sprinter, but more of a cruiser that prefers you to remain seated and spin your way up the climbs. Thankfully there’s decent low-range gearing on offer courtesy of a 30T chainring and the 11-46T cassette. And the 76° seat angle, which is a degree steeper than the unisex Giant Stance, puts you in a comfortable and steady pedalling position.

The active suspension and grippy rubber also means there’s useful traction on rougher climbs, with a smooth and floaty feel that allows you to stay seated for longer. And providing you take a steady approach, the Embolden is actually a very competent technical climber.

2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
It’s certainly comfortable, but you’ll feel that weight on longer climbs.

Component highs & lows

As a complete package, the Liv Embolden 2 represents impressive value for money, with the air-sprung suspension, dropper post, and tubeless wheels being the main highlights.

The Shimano Deore 10-speed drivetrain has also performed well, providing slick shifting performance despite the large jumps between some of the cassette sprockets. We did encounter a chain drop during the photoshoot, when Roz launched over a rocky ledge and the chain released from the lower part of the chainring on the landing. This hasn’t been a problem at any other time through testing, so it’s perhaps just an isolated incident. Still, given we’ve had repeated chain-dropping issues with the Praxis crankset on the Giant Trance 29, it’s something that Embolden owners may want to keep an eye on.

We’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, which provided a solid feel and consistent braking performance once they bedded in after the first few rides. The levers are quite long though, which is fine if you’re using two fingers to brake. For 1-finger braking, you’ll want to setup the levers inboard of the shifter.

As mentioned earlier, the Embolden really needs to come with wider bars as standard. We’d also like to see some chainstay protection, as the chain is currently free to slap the alloy tubing.

Otherwise the Embolden frame is really well finished. The cables and rear brake hose route internally through the downtube to minimise clutter, and it’s nice to see the same bolt-in cable ports as found on the new Trance 29 and Trance X. The simple suspension design and bolt-up axles continue the neat aesthetic, and the fact that the frame and fork are designed around the modern Boost hub standard means you’ve got plenty of options if you wanted to upgrade to some lighter wheels at a later date.

2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
For a lick under three grand, Liv Cycling has put together a brilliant trail bike in the new Embolden.

Flow’s Verdict

The new Liv Embolden isn’t just a great trail bike for the money, this is a great trail bike full stop.

The suspension is smooth and effective, and there’s loads of grip on offer from the supple, high volume tubeless tyres. Combined with the dropper post and the frame’s contemporary geometry, the Embolden provides you with a confidence-inspiring riding position and plenty of stability for tackling rough trails.

It is crying out for a wider handlebar to make the most of its descending chops, and owners will want to add some chainstay protection to minimise noise and paint-chipping. It’d also be nice to see a lockout on the rear shock, as the Embolden can be quite bobby on smoother climbs. Combined with its generous weight, it’s not the bike we’d pick if you’re only riding rail trails and smooth bike paths. For that purpose, you’d be better off with a hardtail or the shorter travel Pique.

Instead it’s on flowy singletrack and technical terrain where the Embolden comes alive. For riders who are looking to develop their skills and expand their riding repertoire, this is a package that offers a heap of capability that maximises the smiles-per-dollar ratio.

It will no doubt be popular with newer riders to the sport, but we also think it’s a great option for those who have come from an XC background and are looking for a fun trail bike that doesn’t cost the earth. From that perspective, the Liv Embolden delivers a cracking trail-ready package at an impressive price.

2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
The smiles-per-dollar ratio is off the charts with this bike!
2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
For riders looking to expand their trail repertoire, the Embolden offers a huge jump in comfort and stability over a hardtail.

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