- Balanced geometry
- Plenty of mounts for luggage
- Versatility - rides well on and off-road
- Rubber seatpost clamp cover drove me crazy
- Bars not flared
- Tyres could be more off-road ready
Price as reviewed:
It would be fair to say that gravel bikes are beginning to outgrow their category, in the same way that ‘road bikes’ did decades ago. An endurance road bike is substantially different to an aero race bike, and in the same way gravel bikes at either end of the spectrum carry very different ride personalities. Some are designed to be trail tackling hardcore experts, whilst others are more suited to fast, hard-packed dirt.
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So what sort of character can we expect from the Liv Devote? As specced, I’d describe Liv’s first foray into gravel as very much a mixed-terrain adventure bike, ideal for flitting between tarmac and light trails in a day’s work. However, with adjustments to the componentry, it carries the potential to gel well with the UK’s rooted and rutted trails too.
The Liv Advanced range is made up of three bikes. The Pro model, as its name might suggest, sits at the top of the spec ladder. The cheaper Devote Advanced 1 actually comes with a gnarlier spec – making it a little more suited to riders who want to push the limits off-road. But it’s the Pro we have on test, so let’s dive in…
All of the bikes within the Devote Advanced range use the Liv/Giant Advanced Grade Composite. The Taiwanese brand makes its own carbon in-house, which is pretty rare, and of course it designs and constructs its own moulds, which is also not a uniform approach.
The women’s specific sister to Giant, Liv is one of few brands still persisting with a wholehearted belief in drawing up bikes with women’s specific geometry. The brand says that women have shorter upper bodies comparative to their legs, and that they carry weight differently, affecting centre of gravity as well as utilising lower body muscles slightly differently.
The Liv Devote’s geometry is reportedly designed to suit a female body better than the comparative Giant Revolt men’s gravel bike.
Looking at the charts, the reach on my Small Devote is 376mm, with an 80mm stem. A Small Revolt is 375mm with an 80mm stem. The stack on both is 558mm. The head angle matches at 70.5º though the seat tube angle on the Devote is 75º vs 73.5º on the Revolt, which will affect reach and rider positioning – the steeper angle centering the rider more which can be beneficial, particularly when climbing. Liv has specced narrower handlebars on the Devote, at 400mm over 420mm on the Revolt.
Regardless of the differences, or lack thereof, between the Devote and Revolt, the Devote’s geometry worked well for me. I tested the bike with all the spacers below the stem, increasing my stack and offering a pretty upright position which felt ideal off-road. If I wanted to use this bike on the road, I could slam the stem and the position would become much more aggressive, and faster by way of improved rider aerodynamics.
The relatively long wheelbase (1020mm) created a feeling of stability, and the slack head angle paired with a short stem offered good off-road handling prowess, though not quite good enough for true trail centre riding – but more on that later.
The bottom bracket drop, at 80mm, is in keeping with competitors. However, it did make for a higher BB than that of the Kinesis G2 that I tested recently, and I did notice I was more likely to smack the pedals and quite possibly the chainring on high roots and protruding tree stumps (that, let’s be honest, I should have seen) when on this bike. Liv has provided a rubber downtube protector on this model to guard against rock strikes when taking on rougher trails.
At the front, the Overdrive steerer provides plenty of stiffness and the frame comes with ample mounts for racks, mudguards and bottles – with three water bottle mounts as well as fork mounts.
The frame can fit tyres up to 45mm on 700c wheels, with capacity for tyres up to 50c should you opt for a 650b wheel. That’s in keeping with trends, and should provide ample cushioning for some proper roots and rocks – anyone needing more than 50mm of rubber may be better off looking at a hardtail mountain bike.
In terms of the frame, so far so good – the Devote has all the right angles and fittings for an extremely versatile machine.
Liv has specced the Advanced Pro model with SRAM’s Force 2x AXS groupset. This was released in May 2020 as a competitor to Shimano GRX, and features a 43/33 chainrings and a 12-speed 10×36 cassette designed with the trend towards off-road traversing in mind.
On the road, there’s ample gears available – allowing you to bomb along the flats with no issues over spinning out. Off-road, I expected to find having a double chainring an inefficiency. However, I quickly found that AXS shifting is so smooth in its electronic nature that I was able to change chainrings without any worry for the terrain beneath me (within reason). The result was eternally reliable shifting and a huge range of gears – so this was a real success.
Liv has used the Giant D-Fuse SLR seatpost, this is specific to the brand and offers flex and therefore comfort. It does a great job, though worth bearing in mind it restricts choice if you decide to swap it. It is compatible with the Giant Contact Switch Dropper seatpost, should you wish to install that at a later date to give you the freedom to adjust your position for techy trails.
I absolutely loved the Liv Approach women’s saddle. I rarely mention a saddle in reviews, since most bikes on test are unisex and fitted with something seemingly designed to stray into my nightmares, which I’ll swap ahead of the first ride. I left the Approach on throughout the test period, and found the dipped profile was particularly comfortable off-road when I was sitting further back on my sit bones, whilst the cut-out provided relief when leaning over the front of the bars.
The Giant CXR-2 Carbon Disc WheelSystem is a bit of a treat, and makes the bike look exceptionally smart. As per all of Liv/Giant’s carbon bikes, this model arrives set-up tubeless. The tyres specced are Maxxis Velocita tubeless rubber in 40c. These feature an almost completely smooth surface. On the road, they bombed along, reminiscent of how I imagine a trusty old tractor to feel were I given the opportunity to get behind the driver’s seat. The Velocita tyres also performed well enough on dusty fire roads, but I swapped them for a wider and more knobbly option for more techy trails – resulting in an immediate increase in confidence.
The Giant Contact SLR XR D-Fuse handlebars come with a 5° back sweep, and a very slight drop flare. However, the degree of flare was barely noticeable, and I found this dramatically influenced my confidence on technical descents off-road. A wider bar with a more pronounced gravel-specific handlebar flare widens your grip, stabilising the ride and instilling an extra level of confidence and manoeuvrability. As a fairly inexperienced off-road rider, I’ll take any chance I can find to increase my confidence via spec changes – so a wider bar with more flare would absolutely be my preference. An experienced cyclocross racer after a nimble front end may feel differently.
The cables are routed internally, keeping them out of the way of muck, but they are external of the handlebar. This makes adjustments to the front end much easier, with no concern over cutting cables simple because you want to change the stack height.
One minor quibble – which genuinely really got on my nerves – is the small rubber cover which hides the seatpost clamp. Many bikes use a similar cover, and it should be a simple and effective system. I found that after the first ride, it failed to stay in place, moving up and down the seat post, sticking out sideways, and generally annoying me.
The first couple of miles of any gravel ride from my house takes place on the road. After all, I’ve got to get to the trails. And from the early pedal strokes, it was clear that Liv had created a versatile machine. The Devote handles exceptionally well on the road. With the smoothed out 40c Maxxis Velocita tyres pumped up to a higher-than-you’d-like-off-road pressure, I felt almost as though I was riding an endurance road bike, just a particularly comfortable and stable one. I dropped my husband-on-a-hardtail with immediate effect, entirely by accident. I kept the tyres as specced fitted for the first few rides, tackling some dry days on the dusty South Downs with plenty of success.
However, hitting the clay slick trails around my home in Caterham, I initially lost a little love for this bike – finding my confidence levels dented by the smooth profile of the tyres, which performed so well on the tarmac. Elevating off-road performance in importance, I swapped these for 45mm Hutchinson Touareg rubber and quickly recouped most of my off-road finesse, though I still wanted a stronger flare to the bars.
Keen to really push the Devote through its paces, I even spent an afternoon circling the manmade trails of Swinley Forest. Swinley’s Blue and Red trails are fairly tame, but the bike handled the berms and rollers well considering it’s not exactly the intended use.
A chance meeting with a walker looking to purchase a bike that would allow her to accompany her young son on the trails and boyfriend on the road did highlight that there might be riders with ambitions of using a gravel bike for this dual pursuit. My answer would be “with compromise.” With a tyre swap the Devote would perform with aplomb on the road, but it’s important to manage expectations: it’ll never fully take the place of a hardtail mountain bike, the handling is slower to respond and swapping between the tops and drops for sharp changes in gradients is far from ideal.
For many riders, the pull towards the gravel trend is the ability to stitch together sections of road, gravel, trail, fire road and cycle path, so I also took the Devote out for several mixed bag jaunts just like this – one covering a section of Cycling UK’s King Alfred’s Way and another looping between Reigate, Dorking and Caterham. It was these rides where the Devote felt most at home – tackling each component of the changing terrain, perhaps not perfectly, but always very capably.
The Liv Devote Advanced Pro comes in at £4699, fitted out with SRAM 1x AXS wireless shifting and carbon wheels. It’s a smidge more affordable than the Di2 equipped Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon at £4750, and quite a chunk off Trek’s Checkpoint SL7 at £5100 with SRAM Force AXS.
The Pro model competes well against other models on the market. However, the Liv Advanced 1 is a much more affordable £2399. This comes with the dropper post, and Maxxis Rambler 45mm tyres which are more capable off-road. The groupset is not electric, like the Pro, but it’s 1x GRX which performs well and provides plenty of range with the 11×42 cassette and 40T chainring. In summary – electric gears are nice, but if it was my money, I’d go a step down and buy the Advanced 1.
The Liv Devote Advanced Pro is a very capable bike, it's got all the mounts you'd need for bikepacking, rides like a super endurance bike on the road and - with spec changes - could be a trail slayer. With the spec sheet as standard, I feel it's a little under-equipped for UK riding. I would swap the tyres and handlebars if you want to ride any technical trails. If your gravel riding consists more of joining together sections of light gravel or hardpacked dirt with road segments, then it's spot on.
Frame: Liv Devote Advanced-Grade Composite
Fork : Advanced-Grade Composite, full-composite OverDrive steerer, 12x142mm thru-axle, disc
Handlebar: Giant Contact SLR XR D-Fuse, 31.8, 5° back sweep, flare drop
Stem: Giant Contact, 8-degree
Seatpost: Giant D-Fuse SLR, composite
Saddle: Liv Approach
Groupset: SRAM Force eTap AXS, 30/43, 10-36
Brakes: SRAM Force eTap AXS hydraulic
Wheels: Giant CXR-2 Carbon Disc WheelSystem
Tyres: Maxxis Velocita, 700x40c, tubeless
Bottom bracket: SRAM DUB, press fit
Sizes : XS, S, M
Weight: 8.1kg (small)