We love the Liv Hail. It’s a kick ass bike for kick ass women. It recognises that girls also want to have fun and is designed specifically for that.
It’s an aggressive, 160mm travel bike and the one of the only female bike of its class that isn’t simply a gender neutral frame re-painted and re-branded. It’s not just marketed to women, the Liv team actually took the time to build a frame to better suit women, with differences inspired by the feedback of female Liv brand ambassadors.
So, how did it feel?
Beefy, solid, strong. This bike is not mucking around, we felt confident and comfortable straight away. The long wheel base keeps you in control and the Maestro suspension system eats up technical terrain with ease.
With the aluminium frame and overall burly feel, we were a bit worried about how the bike would handle climbing, yet were pleasantly surprised.
Any modifications pre-ride?
Before heading out, we swapped out the bars from 800mm to 740mm (rather than cutting down the stock bars), and changed from a 50mm to a 30mm stem. As we’ve noted later, the medium sized frame was pretty long for us, hence the shorter stem to get the reach feeling good for us.
After the first ride, when we dinged the rear rim, we also swapped out the tires for something with thicker sidewalls to protect the rims and let us ride harder.
How did it perform?
Over a four week period we took it to our local trails many times – enduro style trails with rocky sections, fast corners, drops and jumps – to get a good feel of the bike on familiar and technical terrain.
The handling overall is unreal. If you want to ride aggressively, it inspires a level of daring that we haven’t ever experienced in a women’s specific bike. It was stable at full speed, we felt assured right away and it absolutely gave us the confidence to send it.
We also enjoyed the control on slower speed navigating down steep technical rocks chutes. We were able to tell it where to go, not the other way around.
But could we get it back up to the top?
Absolutely. We weren’t about to win any XC races, but we could comfortably pedal all day on this bike and still be smiling at the end.
The Lyrik RC dual-position fork allows you to adjust from 160mm to 130mm when climbing for steeper angles, however we didn’t use this much. We would have preferred to see more adjustability in the rear shock rather than the fork. The bikes comes with a RockShox Deluxe R, Trunnion mounted rear shock, which has an external rebound dial but no compression setting adjustment.
On technical climbs, with rocky features, we found pedal striking a recurring problem. We would have liked a compression adjuster on the shock, not so much to increase efficiency, but to help with pedal clearance by keeping the shock higher in the initial stroke – but there’s not a lot of tinkering on this shock.
How does it size up?
The reach on this bike is long, like proper Enduro long. So if you’re considering the Liv Hail, read the size chart and don’t assume that it fits small being a womens-specific frame.
We tested the medium, however at 165cm tall, we would have been more comfortable on the small. The size chart was spot on, also indicating we should have had a small.
So what’s actually ‘female specific’ about the frame?
According to Liv, their team takes data from a global body dimension database for its design, coupled with feedback from its ambassadors and refinement through testing. A key physical difference for females is strength distribution, where females have a lower relative upper body strength vs. their male counterparts.
This means women will generally favour leg strength to manoeuvre the bike vs. upper body comparatively to males, and it can mean women are generally positioned a bit further back on the bike as a result.
The mens’ equivalent of the Liv Hail is the Giant Reign, also a 160mm, 27.5 wheel size bike. Compared to its brother, the Hail’s head angle is a bit steeper (66 degrees on the Hail vs. 65 degrees on the Reign) and there is a higher bottom bracket. We assume these difference are all about making the bike more manoeuvrable and less reliant on upper body muscle to command it. The reach measurement is about 25mm shorter than the Reign in the same frame size too, and the cranks are 170mm across all sizes, versus the 175mm cranks found on the Reign.
As we’ve mentioned above, even though this is a big bike in terms of travel, we never felt like we were a passenger on it, so clearly the geometry mix works well for us, and likely a lot of other women too.
We don’t like the lever of the Giant dropper post. We much prefer dropper levers that are positioned under the bar, so you don’t have to compromise your grip to hit the lever. There are lots of aftermarket levers that will work with this post, so we’d swap it out for a different brand if this were our ride.
The Giant PAM-2-disc rims are pretty soft considering what this bike is capable of. We managed to ding the rims on first ride with our usual pressures.
Other options in the range
There are three Hails in the Liv range – the alloy Hail 1 we have here, and two Advanced carbon versions too, at $5699 and $7999. Seriously, Liv deserve a huge pat on the back here for not only creating a women’s specific Enduro bike, but offering properly high-end versions as well. We’d loved to have had the chance to ride the lighter Hail Advanced 1, which comes with a FOX Float X2 shock with compression adjustment. Without obviously having had the chance to ride it, it looks like a very impressive bike.
If you’re on of those girls that when the working day is done you just wanna have fun, then the Liv Hail was made for you. At $4499, you’ll be able to push limits, ride harder and faster on technical terrain, and generally progress your riding. It rides hard and won’t ruin you at the bank.