Designed to offer endurance versatility, Liv's women-specific road bike has been reworked to become lighter, faster and more comfortable than ever before.
It’s been nearly 10 years since Liv launched its first Avail, with the range a real hit as a comfortable endurance-style bike.
However, over the years it’s been slightly overshadowed by the brand’s more race-orientated bikes, the lightweight Langma and aero Enviliv. But the Avail is front and centre again, having had a total makeover.
Liv says the fine-tuning of the geometry of the new Avail Advanced is mostly down to making it 32c tyres compatible – the previous version was limited to 25s.
The wider tyre capability not only means the new Avail Advanced gains significantly greater freedom for roaming the roads less travelled, but it entails a whole chassis rework too.
To accommodate the wider tyres the new design gains a longer fork, a lowered bottom bracket, a shorter head tube, more fork rake and a longer wheelbase compared to the previous version.
Although this creates a more upright position, the Avail Advanced still manages to maintain similar stack and reach numbers for what Liv calls an ‘optimal rider comfort position’.
Liv also says the design overhaul has given the new Avail Advanced improved front-end agility while maintaining its much-liked stability for confidence-inspiring cornering and descending.
It’s great to see this predictable characteristic of the Avail Advance preserved in the new design, as well as the continued use of disc brakes for enhanced speed modulation even in wet conditions.
The new geometry has been teamed with – also new – an advanced-grade carbon composite layup for the frame and fork, making the latest model of the Avail Advanced Pro also the lightest. Although pinning Liv down to specific numbers wasn’t possible, I’m satisfied that it’s certainly lighter than the previous top of the range model.
Liv says this construction process, plus the OverDrive 2 steerer technology with its oversized headset bearings (1¼ inch top and 1½ inch lower bearings) and tapered steerer, backs up the new, improved geometry, giving the Avail Advanced a significantly stiffer front end for a more nimble and responsive performance.
This zoned stiffness theme continues lower down the bike with the PowerCore bottom bracket, like the OverDrive 2 tech carried over from the previous bike, which features an oversized BB/chainstay area and fully integrated 86mm wide bottom-bracket design, as well as asymmetric chainstays, to provide additional stiffness on the driveside and stability on the non-driveside.
Much of the compliance comes in the form of the larger-sized tyre compatability and carbon composite D-Fuse women-specific handlebars, providing a shorter reach and less drop, and D-Fuse seatpost, quite literally a D-profiled post that has up to 12mm of flex. All of which aim to absorb road buzz and soak up bumps, which Liv says will aid a smoother ride, helping to minimise rider fatigue.
While rigidity and comfort sounds like a contradiction in terms, the Liv team are clear that the specifically tuned areas are all about improving the feel of pedalling and cornering for all-day riding, giving the bike an energetic and determined feel which, when partnered with the endurance geometry, makes it perfect for all-day riding.
“The Liv Avail Advanced still very much adheres to our 3F design philosophy, says Elise Heinold, Liv global marketing specialist. “The fit, form and function of the bike are the key principles of our entire range. We use a significant amount of data that consistently demonstrates that the varying proportions, dynamics and strengths of women’s bodies are different from a man’s.
“For fit we use three layers of data: body dimensions, muscular activity and strength patterns. This enables us to design bikes that harness lower body strength with balance and comfort.
“Form wise, it’s not just about creating good-looking bikes – we want to create bikes that you fall in love with and will get you excited and inspired to ride.
“And of course function: the package needs the union of frame design, componentry and technologies.”
To that end, the new Liv Avail Advanced has also been updated in terms of technology compliance. Integrated cable routing ports are now located on the top of the down tube for either mechanical or digital shifting, as well as continuing to feature RideSense compatibility within the frame, allowing riders to transmit speed and cadence data to any ANT+ or Bluetooth device.
“Most excitingly we’ve chosen to equip the Avail Advanced Pro 1 with the new SRAM Force eTap AXS, as the whole wireless transmission set up is 100 per cent in line with our 3F ethos,” continues Heinold. “The new AXS system makes a lot of sense in a gearing capacity too, as it enables you to ride compact ratios without big jumps in the cassette.”
Having only just landed in April, the Liv Avail is a really early adopter of the the new 12-speed SRAM AXS set-up which is, quite literally, geared around the new 10-tooth sprocket, reducing the size of the chainrings and moving the gear range more to the rear. This means that working upwards from that 10-tooth sprocket with smaller chainrings creates similar gears to a standard groupset with the benefit of smaller incremental jumps.
One of the most exciting outcomes of the new SRAM eTap AXS set-up is the fact that it’s 100 per cent interchangeable between Force and Red, allowing you to completely dial your ride depending on budget, with the only significant difference between the two set-ups being material plus a slightly bigger chainring size availably for the SRAM red system.
There are three tiers and five variations of the Liv Avail, the Advanced Pro 1 and 2, Advanced 1, 2 and 3. The key differences are pretty much just the componentry specs, with SRAM Force eTap AXS on the Advanced Pro 1, Shimano Ultegra on Advanced Pro 2 and both coming with the Giant SLR 1 30 wheelset. The Liv Avail Advanced 1 keeps Ultegra, but gets a slightly less jazzy wheelset in the form of Giant PR-2 Disc, which is also the same wheelset that the Advanced 2 and 3 use, with the former coming with Shimano 105, and the latter with Shimano Tiagra.
The availability of the 2020 range in the UK, and their prices, is still unknown at this stage, but we’d expect to see the bikes landing in shops late summer and hope to be able to provide a full detailed review around the same time.
Launching the bike in Provence in late spring has been a canny move by Liv as, let’s be honest, it’s so breathtakingly beautiful, warm and sunny. However, after the sunshine-induced endorphins wore off, I was left with mixed feelings about the Avail Advanced Pro 1.
There’s no question that it delivers that Liv quality feel, with the handling and sure-footed nature just as on point as the previous model. The position is noticeably ‘endurance’ in feel, in that it’s more upright than a traditional race bike despite the shorter head tube. The predictable handling nature is something that all Liv bike excel in, with the Avail no exception.
To be able to design a bike to immediately give a rider confidence to descend and corner at speed on some pretty sinuous steep and long roads is a huge skill, and one that the Liv design engineers deliver on time and time again.
In fact, the whole predicable nature of the ride is really notable. Combining the Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1 new geometry, SRAM Force eTap AXS system and fat tyres will be a dream combination for many riders, especially if you’re looking for a bit of moral and mental support in cornering and/or descending, or even bike riding in general.
The women-specific touch points are also a great addtion, with one of the most notables the women-specific handle bars, which have a shallower ‘D’ than most bars. Teaming these with the ultra adjustability of the SRAM eTap AXS triggers (aka shifters), make it the ideal bike for so many riders with smaller hands who currently struggle to fully reach levers from all handlebar positions and therefore don’t feel fully in control of their stopping capabilities.
But, there’s a but….
There’s a big part of me that can’t quite shake off the fact that it’s not a Liv Langma, which is one the best bikes I’ve ever ridden. The Langma is just so capable in turning its hand to whatever you throw at it, that it inevitably makes the Avail seem like the proverbial difficult second album, which although is still enjoyable, is more hits than anthems.
There were a few comments at the launch about the Avail feeling similar to the Specialized Ruby, a bike that’s recently been discontinued in favour of ‘gender fluid’ bike geometry by the Specialized team, and it’s a fair point that I wouldn’t disagree with per se. But where the top-end Ruby had a performance aspect straight out the box, the equivalent Avail Advanced Pro currently hasn’t, and I’m left not feeling sure if it wants to or not.
I personally feel that Liv could have been braver with its purpose and really nail its colours to a mast in terms of either touring aspirations or performance/endurance .
At the moment I feel its purpose isn’t 100 per cent defined, with fundamentally the tyre pairing letting the ride feel down. I totally get that the whole Avail Advanced makeover was around the ability to run 32c tyres, and there’s a huge urge to demonstrate this capability from the get-go, but the selection of the Giant Gavia Fondo tyres on the Giant SLR wheels feels at the expense of the ride quality.
The file tread-like pattern is a halfway house and something more akin to a touring/hybrid bike set-up, but I believe that the Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1 has so much more to offer, and hitting a section of rough tarmac and cobbles on the second day of test riding the bike at the launch gave me a glimpse.
As soon at it hit the broken road it shone. The bike is truly capable in this hardcore terrain, proving to be powerful in terms of converting every pedal revolution into forward propulsion without leaving the rider feeling beaten up by the bumps. Balancing stiffness with comfort is a really hard task to master, and the Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1 has nailed it.
Swapping the tyres out for some rapid but plump 28c tyres, which will still provide great rubber-to-road contact, will certainly give this bike a much-needed injection of speed and a performance edge.
The alternative would be to go down the more speed touring/adventure style of riding by selecting a slightly more aggressive patterned tyre, making the bike a faster rival of the Specialized Diverge with its ‘go anywhere’ credentials.
It’s a really exciting conversion concept and I’m keen to try both once I get a bike for a full review in a few months, where I’ll really be able to discover the Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1’s true colours.