The Liv Avail Advanced Pro is a stiff-framed, fast riding, smooth cornering speed machine. It features a carbon composite frame and fork for stiffness, plus reliable Shimano 105 gearing, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and a Giant SLR 1 Disc wheelset.
The Liv Avail fills the brand’s ‘endurance’ niche, featuring a noticeably more relaxed geometry than the racier Envie, whilst also promising “light weight, efficiency, quick handling”.
Liv Cycling was originally the women's specific product line within Giant Bicycles. Bonnie Tu, now chairperson of the Giant Global Group, was the driving force behind the brand which split from Giant to become its own entity in 2014.
Since the split from Giant in 2014, Liv has aimed to set a new standard in women’s road bikes, completely designing its range for the female body, whilst retaining all the innovations that its sterling reputation is built on.
Liv's approach to bike design is to design and build a frame with geometry and parts specifically for women, distinct from bikes in the Giant range, which differs from the approach some other brands take which is to opt for a unisex frame with women's specific finishing kit and parts such as saddle, cranks, bars and grips.
The Avail in action
I found the Avail ticked all my boxes for speed, responsiveness and stability, whilst lacking slightly in comfort. Giant’s advanced composite carbon promises “the highest stiffness-to-weight ratio available today”, and I certainly wouldn’t argue with that. The bike accelerates almost surprisingly well, and the tapered steerer tube offers a reassuring amount of control, cancelling out some of the twitchiness you might otherwise expect from such a stiff frame.
I was particularly grateful for this on twisty descents, and impressed that the Avail handles as well swooping round tight corners at top speed as it does flying up steep climbs.
Where I found the Liv Avail lacking was in its comfort over long distances, or on uneven terrain. The Avail boasts asymmetric chain stays: a narrower one on the drive side, for stiffness when you’re putting the power in, and a wider one on the non-drive side, for comfort.
But the only concession to vibrations up front seems to be slightly softer bar tape, and even on a two-hour ride there was a noticeable comfort penalty, especially in comparison with bikes that now offer front suspension, like the Specialized Ruby.
I’d have no hesitation recommending the Liv Avail for shorter, faster rides, but if you’re planning all-day or multi-day rides, and if you’re worried about sore or numb hands, you might want to look elsewhere.
Designed for endurance but built for speed
The Avail is specc-ed for speed, with stiff, deep-section Giant SLR rims, and Giant Gavia SL tubeless tyres with 25mm width. These are amongst the narrower tyres specc'd on bikes in our selection of bikes for our Women's Road Bike of the Year test, of which this bike was one.
The Shimano hydraulic disc brakes are nicely responsive, and offer a psychological advantage in that they balance out the Avail’s exceptional acceleration capabilities, meaning that even a cautious descender like myself will be happy to give the bike its head on the downhills.
I did occasionally find myself longing for an extra gear or two at the top end; 50/34 up front with an 11-32 cassette is adequate for most, but for a bike with the Avail’s sprint capabilities, it seems a shame not to include a slightly smaller sprocket for those occasions when you really want to drop the hammer.
If you do want to upgrade to an electronic groupset in the future, the frame is designed to handle this.
Parts and spec overview
The Shimano 105 groupset is a good, reliable choice which offers reliable, smooth shifting. That said, at this price point there are other options that are both carbon framed and with the higher level Shimano Ultegra groupset, so it looks like a compromise has been made for parts here, though in return you do get a good hydraulic disc brake system and wheelset.
Shimano BR-RS505 hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm provide reliable, smooth braking even in wet conditions. The thru-axle hubs help increase stiffness at this point which makes for a more reliable feel; previously, with the quick release system if the wheel wasn't perfectly aligned disc brakes could end up squealing and rubbing. The thru-axle system, which is extensively tried and tested in the world of mountain biking, does away with this.
Add to this a smooth action that requires little pressure to actuate and that provides plenty of modulation for subtle control. This is a boon on long descents, where gripping on brakes to control speed can rapidly lead to sore hands and cramping fingers with rim brakes.
The Avail also includes RideSense, an integrated but removable sensor on the chainstay that records wheel speed and cadence and connects to any ANT+-compatible computer.
Finishing kit includes a women's specific Liv Contact SL saddle, and alloy Giant Contact SL handlebars and stem.
The wheels are also set up tubeless from the get-go, which along with the carbon frame helps keep the weight of the bike noticeably low. This low weight certainly helps with the acceleration and climbing ability of the bike.
Overall the Avail has a nice clean look, with thru-axles and a concealed seatpost clamp complementing the press-fit bottom bracket and internal cabling. I loved riding it, but it wouldn’t be my first choice as an endurance bike for long distances.
The Avail was popular amongst the reader test panel with several of the testers listing it in their top 3 bikes from the test. One commented that it was 'fast-feeling but also versatile and winter friendly with mudguard mounts and clever features. It felt like quality.'
Aesthetically, the Avail Advanced Pro scored favourably with the test panel. It's arguably one of the most 'feminine'-looking of the bikes in the test, with a purple and turquoise palette. The colours are model dependent; go up or down within the range, and you'll find blacks, blues, oranges and reds.
Sizing and availability
The Liv Avail Advanced Pro 2 is available in sizes XS, S and M. The size tested was a medium with all test riders in the range of 5'6 to 5'8/1.6m to 1.8m. This means that any women taller than this won't be able to get themself an Avail to fit. Since the bikes are based around a unique women's specific geometry, so there isn't a unisex frame that can be specc'd with different parts.
The Avail Advanced Pro 2 is also not available in the US or Australia: the nearest equivalent models are the higher-level Avail Advanced Pro 1, retailing at $3250 or AU$4299, or the model below which is the Avail Advanced at $2375 or AU$3299.
The UK retail price for the Liv Avail Advanced Pro 2 is £2499. It's worth noting that the price has crept up since the test began, with the Avail originally costing £2399, which is a jump of nearly £100. That price places this bike towards the upper end of the price spectrum for Bike of the Year.
How we tested
This bike was tested as part of BikeRadar's Women's Road Bike of the Year, run in conjunction with Cycling Plus magazine, also published by Immediate Media Co.
The main tester was Emily Chappell. Chappell, a member of the Adventure Syndicate, is a former bike courier, long distance cyclist and author. In 2016, she placed 40th in the Transcontinental Race, an annual ultra-distance bike race that crosses Europe, and was the first woman to cross the line. If anyone knows about performance and comfort when cycling, it's her.
Chappell tested the bikes in Wales and Scotland, covering a variety of terrain and conditions including mountain climbs and descents, flat, smooth sprint sections, uneven road surfaces and twisting roads.
In addition, all bikes tested as part of Bike of the Year were put through their paces by a panel of six BikeRadar Women readers over several days in the Mendip Hills in South West England. Each bike has been ridden by at least three testers, and their feedback and verdicts have been incorporated into the reviews and overall judging.
Additional reporting by Aoife Glass.