Is it possible to be good, I mean really good at everything and do away with the categorisations that us cyclists can't help but apply? Can you really be a sprinter and a hill climber? The Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc seems to think so
It’s hard to believe, but in just over three years we’ve gone from talking about disc brake bikes being introduced to the pro peloton to now, in 2018, getting close to a disc-brake-bike tipping point as more teams introduce their latest models.
Using the ‘later you brake, the faster you will be’ theory, the distinct advantages of better stopping power were clear for the sprinters such as Tom Boonen, who was the first pro to win on disc brakes with his Specialized Venge ViAS disc in January 2017, followed up by Marcel Kittel taking another first on the same bike by winning stages stages 2, 6, 7 and 10 at last year’s Tour de France.
But it wasn’t until the whole of the Canyon//SRAM squad committed to the 2018 season on disc-braked bikes that we even saw them in mountain classification stages and while Team Sunweb Women have already given the Liv Langma platform a handful of 2018 season wins, including Ellen Van Dijk’s win at Dwars door Vlaanderen, the Langma clearly has pedigree, even if the disc version is yet to make the squad line-up.
Geometry and construction
With the Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc version yet to make its pro peloton debut, putting the bike in any sort of category is hard, and there I go wanting to pigeon hole. In terms of geometry it’s very similar to the Liv Envie Advanced, or the Cannondale Supersix Evo women’s, or with its 525mm stack (the bigger the number the more relaxed and upright a bike will feel) and 378 reach (how stretched out you are), it seems to equate to the lovechild of the Canyon Aeroad WMN CF SLX Disc (509 stack and 376 reach) and the Specialized S-Works Venge (536 stack and 386 reach).
It’s an odd geometry in some ways, as just measuring top tube length alone will get you nowhere near your usual measurements. As a test writer I like to review the whole customer experience and went off the Liv size guide, which put me firmly in the size small camp. This meant my saddle to centre bar measurement was about two centimetres shorter than what I would usually ride. However geometry is something that Liv claims to specialise in with its 3F: Design philosophy, building the Langma Advanced Pro disc from the ground up to not only create a platform that it says fits a women’s body proportions better, with women-specific touch points (saddle and handlebars), but its lightweight Advanced Composite frame is also optimally tuned for stiffness and compliance for female riders.
Less gender specific is the full Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc set-up, which quite frankly we all adore, and the tubeless wheel system of the Giant SLR 1 wheels and Giant Gavia AC 1 tubeless tyre combo, which coming set up and ready to roll out the box is an excellent touch.
When a bike claims to be a do-it-all, it’s hard not to immediately seek out its weaknesses – it’s totally a natural human reaction to do the exact opposite that the marketing blurb draws your attention to and I’ve got to be honest, I was surprised to find myself really liking the Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc.
I’ve put the bike somewhat through its, mostly hilly, paces firstly in my local Peak District hills, then up to Cumbria to ride Great Dun Fell, which I might add, at 848 metres of mostly stupidly steep riding, should be on every cyclist’s hit list.
Weighing a very respectable 7.13kg, the Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc feels pretty lightweight, weighing over half a kilo lighter than the Canyon Aeroad WMN CF SLX Disc. I suspect much of that is down to the compact small frame but who cares where the weight savings come from, the point is there isn’t much excess.
Where weight distribution does matter is in the wheelset and the Giant SLR 1 wheels and Giant Gavia AC 1 tubeless tyre combo seem to balance it well. I can honestly say I wasn’t aware of heavy rims when hauling myself up the 7.5km of the second highest mountain in England.
While I didn’t put the Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc on a race start line, I feel pretty confident that it would more than hold its own in the peloton. It might require a tweaking of the the 34/50 compact chainrings for a more race-appropriate selection, but it was tantamount to a hidden motor on the 25 per cent gradients of mountain climbing compared to my riding buddy’s 53/39.
My initial concerns on sizing were also put to bed after ride one. I thought I’d feel squished up and uncomfortable, but to my surprise the Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc felt like it had such a good position, which in hindsight is no surprise giving its geometry similarities to the Cannondale SuperSix Evo, a bike I loved so much it won our 2016 bike of the year and featured in 2017 Editor’s Choice.
Descending on the Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc is sublime. Disc brakes always deliver that extra confidence, especially as someone with small hands who can often struggle to feel like I’ve totally got the brakes covered. I even put them to the test thanks to some well camouflaged sheep who decided to ambush me at close quarters, which also made me realise how well the bike handles. Although a sinuous descent prevents all out speed, it does require agile handling of the left/right hairpins, which the Langma took in its stride.
I really liked the Giant SLR 1 Disc WheelSystem and 25mm Giant Gavia AC 1 tubeless tyres, which is a big deal for me with my tyre obsession. I’m yet to ride them in wet conditions, but in the dry the bite point of the tyres was never in question – a very valuable element when throwing yourself down a mountain. Liv say it’s good for up to 28mm tyres too, so if you want even more comfort/rubber-to-road contact, the option’s there. The wheels themselves also are remarkably good: the wheel and tyre combo has that pulling-you-along sensation, and what feels like a fair amount of free speed. You won’t be wanting to upgrade any time soon.
I did find one snagging point on the Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc though: that nest of front-end cables. Liv has informed me that all bikes are allocated standard ‘standard’ hosing lengths, which should then be cut down to size. Sadly ours missed the personal touch and arrived with overly long ones, which put to waste all the efforts of the aero tubing, including the chainstay-integrated wireless data transmitter ‘RideSense’ (that sends wheel speed and cadence information directly to any ANT+ compatible computer) and even going to the lengths of designing a realigning thru-axle lever. Assuming your friendly local bike shop will also take it upon themselves to tidy up the front end, the end result will be considerably neater than our test ride.
The only other down side is the lack of colour choice. Its sparkly orangey/red wasn’t offensive and indeed created a few admiring comments, but it just wasn’t a colour I would choose personally and, shallow as it sounds, found it hard to coordinate with my kit. If there was a black option too I’d be all over it, but I think the limited colour palette could also limit its potential owners.
Priced at £2,999, the Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc is going to require more than just pocket change to purchase, but I can honestly say it will be well worth the investment of your hard-earned cash. It would be perfect for so many riders and styles of riding that the only time it would be left at home is in winter or to go off road.
The women's-specific Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc is easily a GC contender, and will more than hold its own on all but off-road terrain, meaning there is a great deal to really like about the bike. If there were more colour options and a neater front end it would be close to being perfect.