Globe is Specialized's alternatively branded city bike line, with an emphasis on offering bikes that reflect a rider’s personal taste, rather than just being a method of transport.
The Live 3, with a price tag of US$1,550, sits at the top tier of Globe’s light-duty utility bike range. It's a stylish machine that packs some serious around town performance, but at a high price.
Ride & handling: Quick and lively in town, but gearing limits longer distance potential
Instead of a chain, the Live 3 uses a Gates Carbon Drive belt to transfer power from its forged aluminium Sugino EX-1 square-taper cranks to its eight-speed Shimano Alfine internally geared hub with double roller clutch.
If you’ve ever ridden a belt bike, you know that they have a unique feel when pushing down on the pedals – one that’s very positive – and the Live 3 is no exception. It accelerates astutely when you push on its classically-styled alloy flat pedals.
The belt doesn’t require any sort of lubrication, so no grease stains, and the belt drive chainring doesn’t have any sharp teeth, so no chance of tears. Despite this, a trouser guard is fitted, which adds to the bike's overall aesthetic.
The Alfine hub's tap-fire shifter works the opposite way to a standard Shimano shifter, so you have to push the paddle for downshifts and pull the trigger to up shift into an easier gear. This took a bit to get used to, especially when switching back and forth from a bike with standard shifters.
A bigger issue with the Alfine setup is its gear range. Gear ratios of 0.53, 0.64, 0.75, 0.85, 1, 1.22, 1.42 and 1.62 are fine for around town, but the distance between gears in the middle of range makes long-distance commutes less enjoyable than with a greater number of speeds with a tighter ratio.
With a trailer or heavy load attached we worked hard to get the 35.3lb Live 3 up steep hills, seated, with its 24-tooth sprocket, 50T chainring and a low gear ratio that equates to a 29.6in. We had to adjust the Alfine hub once in five months of use, which depending on your expectations is either pretty great or one time more than you would have expected.
Our medium test bike was on the small size, and even with the seatpost at its minimum insertion limit we were still looking for a little more height. Reach was exceptionally short due to the 57-degree backsweep of the bar. The tight fit made for some issues when standing up or negotiating hairpin corners, so we wouldn't recommend this size for anyone over 5ft 9in. A shorter (5ft 6in) tester found it to be a perfect fit.
Frame: Quality alloy chassis with added urban versatility
The clean lines of the Premium A1 alloy frame define the styling of the Live 3, which is hand-built by one of Specialized’s Taiwanese partners. The aesthetic is complemented by matching alloy mudguards and front rack, both of which have been designed to continue the bike's clean, utilitarian look.
The rack has a finished plywood base and is rated for loads up to 25kg (55.1lb). We felt it should come with a bungee net – which Specialized may make available with 2011 models and as an accessory – because the short-sided basket struggles to hold onto its contents around corners or over bumps.
Because the rack adds considerable weight to the front end, Specialized use a tightly wound spring strung between the back of the fork and the down tube to keep the fork aligned and the basket from whacking the top tube; this is mostly for when the bike is parked. A side effect is that this makes the Live 3 very hard to ride no-handed – something that caused us a close call.
Equipment: All decent enough kit, but spec isn't great for a $1,500 bike
Tektro’s Auriga Comp hydraulic disc brakes, with thick 160mm rotors, take care of slowing the Live 3 down and nicely complement the Alfine hub and shifter’s aesthetic. Once properly bled, they didn’t require a lick of additional maintenance or adjustment.
The cockpit kit – handlebar, stem and seatpost – is unbranded alloy, while the grips, saddle and tyres come from Specialized’s well-developed product lines. The Body Geometry Fitness saddle has a 143mm width and pressure relieving design, while the Infinity Armadillo 700x32mm tyres feature reinforced casings to ward off punctures over their high-mileage lives.
What would a city bike be without a kickstand? Much more beaten up. The Live 3 is equipped with a unique Pletscher double leg kickstand, which does a good job of keeping the bike upright, even with a kid-toting trailer attached.
So, is it all good on the spec front? The first impression is that the Live 3 is too expensive; US$1,550 is quite pricey for a townie bike with a limited useful range. But the drivetrain alone – the Alfine hub and Carbon Drive belt, chainring and sprocket – costs in the region of $600, and add the disc brakes and slick alloy frame and the price is explained, mostly.