In its standard get-up, customers who roll this bike out the store receive a comfortable and versatile ride suited to country lane ambles and occasional detours on gravel - which is perfect if that's what they signed up for. Those seeking the blend of compliance and speed that the Avail is famous for will be rewarded with exactly that, after a tyre swap.
Tyres sluggish for a road bike
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I would generally avoid opening a review with a comment about a bike's paint job - but the Liv Avail Advanced 1 has attracted so many positive comments it's hard to avoid. This isn't a 'pony' - it's a unicorn.
>>> Buy now: Liv Avail Advanced 1 at Cyclestore for £2198.99
The Liv Avail is the brand's all round endurance machine. It's designed to be comfortable over long distance, without sacrificing nimble handling. Whilst Liv say it's built from the ground up around its women's specific ethos, this bike is twinned in the Giant range with the Defy and the Advanced 1 model's spec sheet is near identical.
The frame has always been considered an ideal platform for those who want to take on sportives, Gran Fondos and long days out. However, for 2020 the brand has chosen to spec the machine with 32c tyres as opposed to previous iterations which wore 25c rubber - this means that as standard it's a more versatile ride, but we had to stage an early switch for the much anticipated lively ride quality to make an appearance.
Power and compliance
In the Avail, Liv takes Giant's power boosting and compliance providing technologies and blends them to create an ideal harmony for those who want to ride fast, in comfort.
The frame is built from the brand's own Advanced Grade [Carbon] Composite, and the carbon fork comes with the OverDrive steerer which uses oversized headset bearings to offer a sturdy base for those out the saddle efforts. The PowerCore bottom bracket creates a similar effect at the pedalling base.
However, all of this is paired with the D-Fuse seatpost, with its unique shape designed to create flex and dampen road buzz en route to the rider's derriere.
Starting out on this bike with the 30mm Giant PR-2 disc wheelset shod with the brand's own Giant Gavia Fondo 1 tyres in 32mm, set up tubeless as it would roll out the shop, the compliance on offer was genuinely next level. I floated over the speed bumps on my regular test route and barely noticed the rugged road surface which is usually jarring.
Hitting the gravel road on cheeky (flatter) shortcut home, uneven surface was no match for the Avail.
I was, however, rather slow - averaging almost 2mph slower than normal on my favourite hilly Kent route. Granted, to an extent the comfortable ride dampened my desire to push on, and some of the drop in speed will have been matched by drop in effort, but I'd say that the 32c tyres had a notable effect.
This isn't necessarily a negative - I thoroughly enjoyed my jaunt, but it wasn't what I'd expect from the sportive ready machine I imagined the Avail to be.
A tyre swap later, with 25c rubber fitted, I was straight back up to expected average speeds, and enjoyed blasting up the hills and swooping round the bends.
For me, Liv's decision to spec such wide rubber as standard is a little odd, especially when all its carbon bikes come set up tubeless ready. With narrower tyres, this is a fun and fast bike, with wide rubber it's a fun and versatile machine that can handle some light gravel. If you're after the former ride quality, I'd swap the tyres straight away but the latter configuration may suit those who want to explore any road and aren't worried about speed.
Our first look at the Liv Avail Advanced 2020
Set up for comfort
The Avail's geometry enjoyed a reshuffle as part of the 2020 shake up, but its ethos is unchanged and characterised by a trinity of stability, comfort and quick handling.
Starting with the numbers: on a size small the wheelsbase is long, at 998mm, with a fairly short reach (373), high stack (547), and a 71.5 degree head angle. Comparatively, the race orientated Langma has a much shorter wheelbase - 974mm, with a longer reach and shorter stack (378mm/525mm) creating a more aggressive position with a 72 degree head able.
The Giant Defy, for reference, is very similar to the Avail - with a stack of 546mm, reach of 374mm, 995mm wheelbase and 71.8 degree head angle.
Wading through the data, the message is that Liv has aimed at offering up a ride which feels planted on the road, yet still handles the corners with ease thanks to a suitably tight front end. This certainly came through for me out on the road. I could chuck this bike around the bends on my crit testing loop, feeling confident I trusted it to delivery me round quickly and safely. There's plenty of spacers at the front, so you can drop the bars if after a more aggressive ride or go full stack for ultimate comfort.
Like the tyre choice, some of the finishing kit choices left me a little bemused. I test both unisex and women's bikes, and one of the things I look forward to when a women's specific machine comes around is the fact that I can almost always expect a 380mm bar, as opposed to the 400mm option which comes on almost all unisex bikes in my size. My expectation was wrong in this case, Liv has gone for a 400mm bar in a size small.
Finishing kit choice is personal - a wider bar can create stability, whilst a narrow bar will feel quicker and more flighty. Most bike fitters suggest you begin with a width which matches the measurement between the bony protrusions on your shoulders, in my case 370mm. Whilst other women many differ, most females I know who have had a bike fit will size down to a 380mm or 360mm bar.
Dressed in Ultegra
Coming in at £2,199, Liv has specced its unicorn bike with a largely Shimano Ultegra groupset - meaning the shifters, derailleurs, and hydraulic disc brakes all use the second from top-flight system. At this price point, the biggest (non-direct) players are typically opting for Shimano 105, so that's a big plus.
Unfortunately Liv has opted for a Shimano RS510 crankset which won't be as light or stiff as the Ultegra version, but cost savings do have to be made somewhere.
The gearing is a compact (50/34) with an 11-34 cassette at the back. This will ensure that any rider heading to the hills will have more than enough gears, though those who want smaller jumps between shifts might want to swap the cassette for a closer ratio 11-28 when it comes time to replace.
Weighing in at 8.85kg, the Avail Advanced 1 isn't featherweight. You can find lighter for a similar price - Trek's SL6 Emonda, for example, came in at 7.66kg on our scales whilst the Boardman SLR 9.2 was 7.28kg. However, the Emonda's USP is its pound dropping credentials, and Liv's offering is on par with bikes at a similar price point, and more - the Bianchi Infinto XE we reviewed this year costs £1,000 more and comes in at the same weight.
>>> Buy now: Liv Avail Advanced 1 at Cyclestore for £2198.99
It's not all about the number on the scales, the Liv carries its weight well, and felt sprightly on the road, though it'd never be a model we'd label as a climber. As ever, the Avail is a true all rounder, it just might need a little post-purchase fine tuning.
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