A supremely satisfying ride, the Liv Avail SL 1 manages to gather all the finest attributes of aluminium and carbon together to create a bike that’s comfortable and forgiving on longer rides, while still being capable of the odd turn-of-speed.
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As with all bikes in the Liv Cycling range, the Avail features a women's specific frame geometry. The Avail is designed as a performance endurance bike with the aim of being comfortable over long distances, but also able to lick out the speed when you put the power down. A good all-rounder is the purpose and the Avail certainly fulfils this.
The SL 1 sits at the lower end of the Avail range, coming in at a budget friendly £999 in the UK. Interestingly, this model isn't available in the US or Australia; instead, the more-or-less equivalent is the Avail SL 1 Disc which has — you guessed it — hydraulic disc brakes for more powerful stopping power. This bike is priced at £1,149 / $1,299 / AU$1,315.
Aluminium frame with a carbon composite fork
The Avail SL 1 is based around an aluminium frame, and any danger of the traditional ‘rattliness’ of aluminium is amply eliminated by the advanced-grade carbon composite fork and the carbon-composite D-fuse seat post. This also has the added advantage of guaranteeing your saddle is always completely straight, since it’s not circular so can’t swivel — although this is something you'll need to take into account when it comes to fitting lights.
This makes the Avail SL 1 a surprisingly comfortable ride. Over rough tarmac it’s ‘bumpy’ rather than ‘buzzy’ and it hugs the road nicely round corners without feeling sluggish.
While it lacks the rocket-like urgency of the lighter Avail Advanced Pro 2, the Avail SL 1 is gratifyingly responsive when you put the power down. The frame is stiff enough and the seat tube angle steep enough to encourage an aggressive riding position, and while aluminium is obviously somewhat heavier than carbon, the bike wastes little energy when flying up the hills and goes pleasingly well when you get down onto the drops and give it some.
The Avail SL 1’s comparatively short reach makes for a comfortable ride over longer distances and the addition of cross-top brake levers, whilst potentially mystifying to your average roadie, might well make the bike more attractive to those in the process of upgrading from flat bars or a more upright riding position.
I’d probably end up removing them myself as they leave far less space for lights, GPS units and food bags, but that’s not to say I might not also appreciate them when varying hand positions over a longer ride.
Good parts for the price
Spec-wise the Avail SL 1 doesn’t disappoint. The bike is equipped with Shimano 105 almost throughout, which is pretty much the best you could hope for in this price bracket and isn't to be sniffed at. It's a groupset that provides reliable, predictable shifting with a 2x11 crankset, 50/34t chain rings and an 11-32t cassette.
The 11-speed cassette offers a top gear that corresponds well with the bike’s responsive geometry, while also holding enough in store at the lower end to get you up the longest, steepest hills.
As for descending, the handling of the Avail SL 1 can’t be faulted, but the braking power of the Tektro calipers is perhaps slightly less than you’d hope for. I didn’t manage to test this bike in the rain, but in comparable conditions the braking distance was slightly further than for a 105 or Ultegra caliper brake.
Wheel-wise, the Giant PR 2 rims are sturdy enough to last a while, but also light enough to be competitive. As with most bikes at this price point, they aren't the lightest so this is one area where a future upgrade would help lighten the bike and improve the performance.
Overall the Avail SL 1 is everything you’d want in a road bike, equally happy bombing along on the flat or racing up the climbs, and comfortable enough to keep you going wherever it is you plan to journey.
Pricing, sizing and availability
The Avail SL 1 is available in sizes XS, S, M and L which covers a smaller range of rider heights than many of the other bikes on test for Bike of the Year. According to the Liv Cycling sizing chart, the XS will suit a rider from 5ft1in/1.5m with the L fitting a rider up to 6ft/1.8m, but with both, inside leg length needs to be taken into account too.
It's available to purchase online via regional Liv websites and also from Giant and Liv stores, plus various other retailers and local bike shops.
Price: £999 (Liv Avail SL 1 Disc £1,149 / $1,299 / AU$1,315)
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.