What goes into making a bike? It’s more than just bonding tubes together. The perfect ride requires diligent research, a clear understanding of what riders want and need, the vision to see what could be created and the engineering know-how to turn that vision into a reality.
BikeRadar Women went behind the scenes at Liv Cycling to see how a bike goes from concept to the actual physical thing you ride.
- Liv Intrigue Advanced: trail-ready and reinvented
- 5 simple steps for setting and smashing your cycling goals
- Women’s road bike buyer’s guide: comprehensive advice to help you find the perfect bike
For women, by women
As a company, Liv makes a huge selection of women’s specific bikes for commuters, road cyclists and mountain bikers. Each bike has been developed for women based on data from academic sources, published research and databases.
Liv is also something of a rarity in the bike industry in that most of its staff, from designers and engineers to product managers and the marketing team, are female. So Liv doesn’t just make women’s bikes: the women of Liv make women’s bikes.
Sophia Shih — product development advanced engineer
Once Liv has decided to create a new bike — whether that’s a road or mountain bike — it’s Sophia Shih’s job to engineer that bike from concept to reality using the materials and manufacturing techniques available.
“Engineers design the good quality into frames. I’m in charge of the new bikes and specific parts designs for Liv, including on-road and off-road, from lifestyle to performance.
“In addition, I manage Liv Cycling’s female bike sizing and fitting knowledge, Liv bike geometry, and am creating Liv’s current global sizing strategy aimed at fitting the majority of women around the globe.”
There are at least nine steps that go into creating a new bike. In some cases, steps will be repeated and repeated until the design is right.
Shih explains the process:
“Step 1: We research geometries for fitting women well first, according to the product plan from the category managers.
Step 2: We build prototypes for field tests.
Step 3: Get feedback from field tests and based upon this we might start from step 1 again.
Step 4: Plan the overall quality for the bike.
Step 5: Finalise geometry after discussions with the designers on functions including the spec, weight-saving features, stiffness, strength and so on.
Step 6: Engineers check all the 3D designs from the design team, develop structure and quality and discuss the production process with manufacturers, including the creation of frame molds.
Step 7: Get the first batch of prototypes from the new molds.
Step 8: Solicit prototype feedback from athletes, ambassadors and riders, and double check quality and designs.
Step 9: Finalise the designs for mass production!”
This whole process, from conception to production, takes at least a year. So, right now, Shih will be working on the bikes people will be riding next year, or the year after.
Liv’s dedication to women’s specific design — or 3F Design as it calls it — is based on data taken from more than 15 sources.
“This includes NASA published research, a Global Body Dimension Database and Aerospace Medical Research laboratory published research,” explains Shih. “This informs thousands of data points about women’s anatomy, sizing variations, muscle energy and outputs and more which I analyse to segment across body dimension, muscular energy and strength pattern data.”
Shih’s role is wide-ranging and demands qualifications in engineering science as well as years of experience. In Shih’s case, she began her career back in 2011 at sibling company Giant.
Dorothy Hsu — industrial designer
Design isn’t just about how something looks, it’s also about how it works, how it moves, how it can be made and how well it fulfils its objectives for the people it’s designed for.
Working closely with Shih is industrial designer Dorothy Hsu. As well as the elements mentioned above, the industrial design process at Liv also focusses on developing products that can be mass produced to meet its high quality standards.
“I also consider myself a creative worker who helps shape every Liv bike, helping to produce hundreds of design renderings and contributing to team discussions,” Hsu explains.
“My role is to define the form of the Liv bike from top to bottom and front to back. Imagine it as architecture: I will be responsible for the outer shape which combines creative design and functionality so it works perfectly with its related technology and componentry.”
Designs take into account market demand, user needs, opinions and voices, product positioning, as well as global design trends from the automotive industry, fashion and more. These are tempered with constraints in available parts, available technologies and componentry compatibility.
It’s about developing a product that resonates with the people who will be riding, and finding the right blend of aesthetics and functionality.
“Design equals understanding people,” Hsu says. “Through my design I can reach out to Liv athletes, ambassadors and all kinds of female riders. I connect with them via my products and become a part of their cycling adventure.”
Chelsea Peng — graphic designer
Buying a bike is a big investment. You want to love the item you’ve just spent money on, and looks are an integral part of this. Enter Chelsea Peng, Liv’s colour and advanced (C & G) graphic designer.
It’s Peng that decides on the colours, patterns and looks for all Liv bikes, now and in the future. Her responsibilities include developing and sharing an annual design plan that will inform the designs of bikes, apparel, marketing and more. And it’s not just about creative ideas, Peng has to ensure that the designs she comes up with can actually be added to products.
“I always have incredible and crazy ideas for colour and graphics design, but sometimes they’re difficult to do with today’s technology. But I enjoy the journey from impossible to possible,” she explains.
Ludi Scholz — category manager
Ludi Scholz is the category manager for Liv off-road and you could either say her role is at the very beginning or the very end of the process, since it’s her close contact with the market that helps inform Liv’s decision to make a new bike in the first place.
In reality, her work intersects with that of everyone else throughout the production of a new bike.
“I am responsible for everything it takes to bring a mountain bike from an idea through design, testing and to finished product shipping out of our factory to the bike shop for consumers to buy,” she explains.
Scholz has her finger on the pulse, knowing what the market trends are, how Liv product can meet those trends at the right time to satisfy rider needs, technical data on sizes and fits, and aesthetic preferences for colours and shapes.
“I tap into a wide range of sources inside and outside of our brand to gain information so Liv can stay on pace with the market. There’s been lots of debate from the industry about ‘women’s specific’ bikes, so understanding what this means for our customer base is critical,” she says.
Her role is varied and also includes testing and feeding back on the bikes, including the new Liv Intrigue Advanced, which is her favourite bike to date. When asked what her favourite part of her job is, it’s an easy answer for Scholz, “The riding!” she smiles.
Brook Hopper — global marketing manager
Once the bike has been created, the next step is to tell the world about it, which is a bit more complicated than it might at first seem.
It’s not just about creating a few nice images and magazine ads, though that is certainly part of it, it’s about creating a vision and personality for the bike. Who is this bike for? What kind of videos and images will inspire and engage those riders?
This is part of Brook Hopper’s role as global marketing manager for Liv Cycling, and it’s only one part of many interconnecting elements.
“My primary focus is to develop and oversee the execution of brand and product campaigns to attract, engage, and build a meaningful relationship with riders,” Hopper explains.
“I oversee our global athlete team, PR and communications, content creation, and digital marketing. Spending so much time with a bike from concept to reality you really get to know them, and my role is to help tell their story and bring that story to life in the most authentic way possible.”
As a brand, Liv Cycling also sponsors and supports a huge number of female athletes from pro road racers such as Team Sunweb to triathletes, enduro mountain bikers and more.
While things are improving, female athletes tend to get less support and coverage than their male counterparts, so it’s an opportunity for a brand to harness the power of strong female role models in marketing campaigns and support their careers.
“Athletes help us design our bikes and they provide valuable feedback during our design and development process. I love sharing the imagery because their stories are inspirational to us as employees and to our dealer and customers too,” she enthuses.
“Our athletes also form our core community, out in the world, working united with our vision to get more women on bikes.”
The tip of the iceberg
Of course, these five women are only a small selection of the women and men who work behind the scenes at Liv Cycling, but their stories give an insight into the skills and passion involved in making bikes that we want to ride.
Each person works as part of a close-knit team at Liv to share ideas, feedback and refine designs and clearly takes great personal pride in their work. Each of them is passionate about cycling, passionate about getting more women on bikes, and passionate about making sure those women have the best bikes possible for what they do — whether that’s road racing, social riding, enduro mountain biking or everything in between.
They all love riding, and they want women who ride Liv bikes to love riding too.