When it comes to women's specific bikes and geometry, there seems to be an equal argument for and against their existence in the the cycling world. While some women feel comfortable on their men's specific bike, a few of us can feel bent out of shape... literally.
It can be argued that the necessity for gender specific frames and builds come down to the discipline of riding. With the growing demand for more female specific shops, cycling clothing, and kit, it may be that bike brands are keeping up with this trend, however unnecessary. So do we really need women's specific bikes?
Liv bikes encapsulates everything about women who ride. From lifestyle, to racing to riding for fun, Liv believe in empowering women who have a passion for two wheels. They've been outspoken about their beliefs that women's specific bikes are indeed, more suitable for women. So it came as no surprise that Liv had been hard at work to develop two brand new women's specific MTBs: the Hail and the Pique.
Whatever discipline you ride, even if you don't ride a bike at all, these two models are undeniably sassy. Oozing with style and loaded with more new tech than you can shake a stick at, I was nothing less than excited to throw my leg over and give them a shred. But what makes the the Liv Hail and Liv Pique so great for women?
Liv Hail and Liv Pique: The Tech
Liv bikes have carried out extensive research on female riders. By studying the female form, riding habits and drawing upon their wealth of mechanical know-how, they've developed what appears to be a winning recipe.
Both the enduro Hail and the cross-country Pique have been designed and built from a blank canvas. Rather than taking and existing frame and modifying it, these two bikes are totally new from the bottom up.
The Liv Hail and Liv Pique are full suspension bikes, boasting 160mm and 120mm travel respectively. When I first heard this, I thought: "Wow, these are beasty bikes", and they are. Having 160mm travel on an all-mountain bike is quite a lot, for any rider regardless of gender. Having a larger amount of travel often results in the bike having a steeper head angle which can make climbing more difficult, especially as a lighter female rider.
The Maestro suspension system has been updated. Using the existing 4 pivot linkage technology to create a floating point, Liv have been able to implement a Trunnion mount which goes through the top of the shock, rather than overhead.
The Trunnion mount allows for a longer shock to fill the same cavity, and lower air pressure with more control over the rebound settings. The updated Meastro suspension on both bikes enables the rider to pedal without activating the suspension, and improves control over rougher terrain when feathering the rear brake.
Raised Bottom Bracket
Liv's research shows that women carry their weight mostly around their hips and bum, while men carry their weight up top, around their chest and arms. For this reason, women have a different centre of gravity to men which affects weight placement on the bike for effective pedalling.
It's for this reason that a common problem amongst women is lifting their front wheel up over obstacles. If you're unable to do this, it's likely you'll end up clipping a pedal, which is most frustrating. Liv have managed to raise the height of the bottom bracket to provide ample clearance when riding over lumpy bumpy terrain, or through narrow channels.
Boost Hub Spacing
Liv developers have increased the width of the rear hub. This additional spacing allows the back wheel to be set further in, reducing the length of the chain-stay.
This feature improves wheel stiffness, so the rear wheel cleanly follows the front, something especially felt in corners. With the rear wheel sitting more so under the bum, the weight placement of the rider is in a more suitable position with their centre of gravity.
However, the margin of clearance between the wheel and frame is significantly decreased, and so it has me wondering whether the muddy trails of the UK will build up in this cavity, and cause hindrance. Nothing that a little further testing can't answer.
Where better to have a cheeky little test ride than the dusty rocky routes in Sedona, Arizona?
Upon seeing both bikes in the flesh, I was pretty blown away by how aesthetically pleasing they are. Liv has done a great job of keeping both of these bikes looking gnarly, whilst retaining subtle feminine charms.
It was a look that turned into a stare when I locked eyes on the Hail. This monster of a bike boasts a whopping 160mm travel, which I had my reservations about for being perhaps too much bike. I'm a firm believer that bigger, isn't always better... when it comes to bikes.
Reservations aside, I took this beauty out for a dusty and rocky trail day and long story short, I loved it. I found the Hail to be playful on the more techy terrain, and yet smooth on the climbs and flats. The 160mm front suspension can be compressed to 130mm using a dial on the fork. This compression really helped when tackling difficult climbs which I was quite relieved by.
From the many bikes I've tried and tested, at a first ride, I was comfortable and well planted on the Hail, more so than others. Whilst it felt easier to pick up the front wheel for obstacles, I felt there was a little too much skipping of the front wheel on looser climbs. Although I'd like to give the Hail a longer testing on more local trails to see how it really handles on more familiar terrain.
The Pique is built to be fast and aggressive for cross-country riding, and it was. Being able to completely lock out the forks enabled power efficient climbing, and the dynamic riding style gets you in a racy position, ready for the attack.
The higher bottom bracket position was really noticeable when it came to rock climbs. I'd see a protruding rock, and brace myself for that inevitable pedal strike, that never came. For both bikes, the clearance was brilliant.
As much of a Shimano girl as I am, I was surprised by how well I got on with the SRAM Eagle drive-train. Smooth transitions between gears enabled quick and light movements to shift into the right gear at the right time. At no point did I feel like I needed more gears, or that the increments were too big/small.
Both bikes are available in a number of different models with varying colour-ways, specs and price-tags. For more information on the bikes, head over to the Liv Bikes website here.
I had immense fun on both of these bikes, but my favourite has to be the Liv Hail for it's beasty playful attitude. It's surprisingly graceful on the climbs, and nimble on the descents.
Of course, these are just my first impressions form a single day of riding on each model. I'm hoping that further trail testing on both models will reveal a little more about these exciting new bikes from Liv.
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