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It was also an opportunity to create bikes around the ever-more-popular 27.5-inch wheels. “It’s the best size for women,” Santurbane says.
Giant says the midsize wheel, like 29er wheels, rolls over rocks and other obstacles easier than 26-inch hoops. But the new wheel size fits better on all frame sizes (29-inch wheels are often unwieldy on the smallest frames and create stability issues on those with a longer wheelbase) and allows for a shorter wheelbase, lower standover height, and lighter overall weight—key attributes the company says can make a woman’s ride experience more satisfying.
In fact, Liv/giant believes so strongly that the 27.5-inch wheel size will hit a sweet spot in the female market, that it is no longer making women’s 26-inch or 29-inch models. The entire 2014 lineup features bikes with 27.5-inch wheels. There’s a snappy carbon-fiber hardtail racer, a full-suspension trail bike, an aggressive longer-travel enduro-style bike, and even a budget-friendly aluminum hardtail for beginners.
Liv/giant is betting that women want more than a versatile wheel and women’s-specific geometry, and has given the bikes distinctive design branding. Bold paint colors (think teal, rich violet, raspberry red, lime green) and kaleidoscopic patterns adorn the frames and select components. The result is a certain combination of fierceness and femininity—not unlike Katie Holden’s hands.
The bottom line is, “You have to be excited about the bike you’re riding,” says Santurbane. And many women riders are as intrigued by a paint color—or even a gel manicure—as they are by the gnarliest trail.
Liv/giant Lust Advanced 0 (Jake Orness)
The flagship model, the Lust, is meant for women who want a light, responsive bike that can pick through the most technical rock gardens, spring up steep rises, and carve tricky descents. With four inches of rear travel, it’s available with a carbon front triangle, or a lightweight aluminum frame. Liv/giant says it’s the world’s first full-suspension, carbon mountain bike with 27.5-inch wheels for women. Four models: Lust Advanced 0 $8,050; Lust Advanced 2 $3,500; Lust 1 (aluminum) $3,000; Lust 2 (aluminum) $2,300.
Liv/giant Obsess Advanced (Jake Orness)
This carbon-fiber Obsess hardtail is designed for winning XC races. The frame is made with Advanced-grade composite material, and engineered to work with the 27.5 wheels to keep the bike light, agile, and maneuverable, yet stable on technical trails. Technologies include the 1.5-inch to 1.25-inch OverDrive 2 tapered steerer tube and 15mm front thru-axle for pinpoint steering precision. It has a wide pressfit PowerCore bottom bracket area that resists twisting under heavy pedaling, plus clean internal cable routing and an integrated seat clamp. Two models: Obsess Advanced 1 $4,125; Obsess Advanced 2 $2,775.
Liv/giant Intrigue (Jake Orness)
For aggressive trail and enduro-style riding, the Intrigue features 5.5 inches of rear travel and an ALUXX SL aluminum frame. Giant Factory Off-Road Team rider Kelli Emmett helped develop both the Lust (above) and Intrigue and she has been competing on both at XC and enduro events. Two models: Intrigue 1 $4,250; Intrigue 2 $2,775.
Liv/giant Tempt (Jake Orness)
In addition to all the-new performance models, Liv/giant will offer a line of aluminum hardtail bikes for riders who are just getting into the sport. The Tempt series is ideal for beginning and sport-level mountain bike riders, and features a low standover height and 27.5-inch wheels. Three models: Tempt 0 $1,700; Tempt 2 $1,175; Tempt 5 $570.
Designers chose bold colors for the 2014 Liv/giant lineup, and echoed patterns across frames and components (note the hatching pattern on the grips) like matching jewelry. (Leah Flickinger)