Liv Hail Advanced 2017 Mountain Bike Review

Liv Hail Advanced 2017

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Liv 117,088

At A Glance

Calling all ladies out there! You are about to lay your eyes on a very tasty, women’s specific all-mountain bike, which ticks all the boxes of an aggressive and slack geometry enduro rig. This is a bike that makes an instant impression.

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If you didn’t already know, Liv is the sister brand to Giant Bicycles and has only been on the market for the past couple of years. The bikes all feature Giant markings, but are a bespoke creation with specific geometry designed for women. Not only are they exquisite to look at, the thought process gone into the build helps the bikes offer far more to the female rider.

The Liv Hail is the first women’s specific bike offering 160mm travel at both ends (yes you read right, 160mm!). The Hail is fitted with Fox suspension front and rear, which comes in a very cool 'murdered out' black. At the pointy end, the Fox Talas 36 Performance Elite fork guides the bike through the rough. This fork has a travel adjustable air spring enabling switching between 130-160mm travel, meaning you can knock it down to 130mm on long-haul climbs, and then turn it up a notch for a bump devouring descent. Also included are the usual rebound and compression adjust.

Out back lives the high volume Fox Float X2 shock, offering a super plush ride, yet also a compression adjust lever that can be switched to firm, helping improve climbing ability, and again the usual rebound damping to keep things in check. These features on the front and rear shock are excellent, and it’s obvious that consideration has gone into maintaining the bikes climbing capabilities as well as the descending.

The frame features an Advanced Grade Composite carbon front triangle, with an ALUXX SL-Grade rear triangle. Keeping her relatively lightweight, which is always helpful when manoeuvring a bike on tight trails and ploughing up steep ascents. The women specific geometry presents a dual-link Maestro suspension with a raised bottom bracket. This is meant to improve handling of the bike over technical terrain for lighter weight riders.

Giant’s Advanced Forged Composite carbon upper link increases the stiffness of the frame, helping it to soak up everything in its path. Liv has used Boost spacing (110 front/148 rear), which gives good tyre clearance and the wider flanged hubs allow the building of a stronger, stiffer wheel. The Hail offers a decent level of transmission with a mix of SLX and XT 1x11 speed, fitted with a 30T chain ring. This provides a wide range, whilst offering a nice low gear for ascending. The bike is specced with Shimano SLX disc brakes, a 200mm rotor in the front and an 180mm rotor out back presenting a very responsive and dialled braking system.

My first impression of the Liv Hail Advanced, with its matt camo colour scheme, was that this bike was ready for battle! Matched with its slack geometry and substantial travel, I had some pretty sizeable expectations. With the claim of being the first women’s specific enduro bike, it certainly had a lot to live up to!

On The Trail

Living in the far North of England we have a plethora of different trail types at our disposal, so I decided to get stuck straight in and take the Liv on a classic, big-mountain hike-a-bike. As most bike rides start with an ascent (following the old adage of ‘what goes up, must come down’) I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Hail climbs. It just seemed to glide up the hills so smoothly. I had a fiddle with the Fox Talas fork, lowering the front end and this I found steepened the head angle and stopped the front end wandering around on steeper climbs.

When we arrived at the carry part of the ride, where it’s necessary to shoulder the bike, I did start to question the weight a little bit, (along with “why the hell am I doing this!” which is pretty much what runs through my mind on most hikes). However, I always know that it’s going to be 100% worth it when it comes to the downhill, and leave us gagging for more at the bottom!

My first descent on the Hail did not disappoint; this thing is a weapon! I could instantly feel that the bike really wanted to pick up speed and encourage me to pedal faster. The Fox Elite suspension felt smooth and supple - soaking up the rough and tumble of the Lakeland fells. The slack head angle and longish wheelbase, for a small frame, was stable and the Hail felt planted to the ground. Going into the first few steep switchbacks just blew my mind - the Hail really seemed to come alive. This bike inspires and instils confidence.

I certainly had no complaints about the tyre set up, running the classic combo of a Schwalbe Magic Mary up front and a Hans Dampf at the rear. For my local trails I always tend to run Magic Marys across both (it can be a bit wet) and I find they offer real grip, so this was the first time I had tried a Hans Dampf. On my first ride out, which was slightly wet and a little greasy, I was concerned the Hans Dampf didn’t quite have enough grip. However, a few more rides in I had definitely changed my opinion, and my confidence was starting to grow. For me, the tyre set up worked well, a tried-and-tested combination. Offering a good bite up front and a reasonably fast rolling rear, this is a feature I absolutely wouldn’t change.

Not everything in life is perfect, so they say, yet I am struggling to find things I didn’t like about the Hail. There are a few personal set-ups I would change if this were my own bike, but they really are only minor. For example, the bars - at 800mm I felt they were too wide to be fitted to a size small woman’s bike. That being said, I can understand speccing with this width as it gives scope to cut them down, and someone less petite might not have any issues.

Another slight niggle was the 100mm dropper (Giant Contact SL), it just did not drop low enough and the travel wasn’t sufficient for my kind of steep riding. I would modify with a 125mm or the longest dropper I could get away with. For me, the 30T chainring was slightly too low, and on the steeper technical climbs I found the front end started to lift ejecting me off the back. I managed to prevent this by keeping the bike in a higher gear to gain more bite. This is again is easily changeable and every rider has different preferences - some may like the easier setup.

I got to test the Hail on a real mix of terrain, from the rocky tech and gnar, to the more flowy, natural trails in my regular forest, including a good bash down a local trail called ‘Super Steep’ (the name speaks for itself). I was left grinning like a Cheshire Cat every time, after every ride - the bike really speaks wonders.

Overall

This Hail means business! In summary, I think a more experienced rider would take advantage of the capabilities this bike has to offer. Yet on the other hand, an intermediate rider would have just as much fun, it really is a confidence-inspiring machine. The larger travel makes hitting more technical things a lot easier (and smoother!).

It is an enduro trail bike that wants to be ridden fast, handling anything you put in front of her. I would say she has a little treat in store for any rider and I would absolutely class the Hail as an ‘all-rounder’ - she climbs well and descends even better. Coming in cheaper than the equivalent men’s top of the range Giant Reign (with a slightly different spec), the Liv seems great value for money. All Hail the Queen!

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This review was in Issue 48 of IMB.

For more information visit Liv

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By Callie Leach
Callie lives to ride bikes, motivated and committed she rides more miles in a week than most ride in a month stating 'the best thing I ever did was start riding my bike'. Always keen for adventure she's probably happiest shouldering her bike and climbing to the top of the nearest mountain before plummeting back down the steepest and rockiest trails to the valley before the pubs shut.

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