Bike industry women: the designers and engineers of Liv cycling

What is it like to work behind the scenes in one of the world's largest bike brands?

Global cycling brand Liv is dedicated to producing women’s specific bikes and has created some of the most popular models on the market such as the Langma road bike and Hail mountain bike. Another major difference betweel Liv and other global brands is that these bikes aren’t just made for women: they’re also made by women.

Founded by Giant Global Group chairperson Bonnie Tu, Liv is the sister brand to Giant Bicycles and was created in 2008.

Tu herself is and always has been a champion for women's cycling. The brand was founded when she wanted to embark on a particular cycling event and couldn't find kit that suited her, was comfortable or performed well. It was the start of a personal mission that also shows a savvy understanding of the market. After all, women's cycling was and is still the fastest growing sector in the sport.

Bonnie Tu, centre, and just a few members of the Liv Team
Bonnie Tu, centre, and just a few members of the Liv Team

In an industry traditionally dominated by men, Liv bucks the trend in having a significant number of women in every role and at every stage in the design and engineering process from concept to creation and from talking to the women the bikes are aimed at to working with sponsored athletes. BikeRadar chatted with these women to find out what it’s like to do what they do, and what advice they’d give anyone considering a similar career in the bike industry.

In the history of bicycle design, the process was dominated by the male perspective

Sophia Shih - product development advanced engineer

Cutting edge engineering processes help Sophia Shih turn vision into light-weight reality
Cutting edge engineering processes help Sophia Shih turn vision into light-weight reality

"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 create Liv’s current global sizing strategy aimed at fitting the majority of women around the globe."

What path did your career take to lead you to Liv?    

"I studied mechanical engineering in college and earned a master of engineering science at the National Taiwan University. I specialized in fluid mechanics and designed a maintenance system for wind turbines for my masters degree."

"In 2011 I entered the bike industry, joining Giant Company. This was my first full time job and I started as an associate engineer. I worked in the cycling science team focusing on general cycling research and fitting knowledge."

"After that, I was assigned to the Liv team as a product design engineer. That’s when I changed to working on women’s specific research and design. I like being on the Liv team, we have a great team with many great people!"

Seeing many women riding Liv bikes with big smiles is a big achievement for me

What are the highlights and challenges of your role?

"Seeing many women riding Liv bikes with big smiles is a big achievement for me. And we’re seeing the Liv-sponsored Team Sunweb pro team win stages with the Langma, which I worked on. It’s terrific!"

"I think the challenge for me is how to manage multitasking and implementing all the work not only on time but also done well."

What advice would you give someone who’s interested in working as an engineer in the bike industry?

"Observation, creativity and teamwork are very important. You need to keep observing what products people want for cycling, you need to create the products and transform them from imagination into reality and especially in a global company like Liv, you need to communicate with people all around the world."

Chelsea Peng - colour & graphic (C&G) advanced designer

Peng works on new graphics application techniques like those used on the Liv Langma road bike
Peng works on new graphics application techniques like those used on the Liv Langma road bike

"I’m responsible for the color and graphic designs for all Liv bikes from design strategy through annual color plan, plus new technology development."

Tell us about your career path and what your role entails

"I love art, architecture and all beautiful things, which is why I joined the design sector."

I enjoy the journey from impossible to possible

"I’ve been in the bike industry for about 7 years, then joined Giant 6 years ago just as  Liv was launched as an independent brand, which meant we had the chance to create everything from the ground up for women."

"My role is to carry Liv’s aesthetic to all Liv bikes and to share the annual colour palette with category managers, apparel managers and the marketing team to ensure clothes and other materials fit within the design theme."

"I also collaborate with vendors and factories to develop new technologies and apply these to products."

What’s the highlight of your role?

"I always have incredible and crazy ideas for colour and graphic design, but they’re not always possible with the technology currently available! But I enjoy the journey from impossible to possible."

Ludi Scholz - category manager for off-road

Ludi Scholz's favourite part of the bike development process is getting to test the new bikes
Ludi Scholz's favourite part of the bike development process is getting to test the new bikes

"My role is to manage and coordinate Liv’s off-road bike product from start to finish. This means taking a concept to the design and engineering teams, working with them to create a digital rendering, then based on about a million variables, the next step is a physical prototype. We build and test prototypes to evaluate many factors before sending the project into commercial production."

"While all of this is going on, we also work on colors, graphics, aesthetics and forecasting for all global markets to create product that meets the market on trend, so our customers have the best possible bike to fit their needs and wants."

How did you get into the bike industry?

"A friend of mine showed me a video of some mountain bike racing when I was about 20 years old. At this time my life was consumed with snowboarding, so this really grabbed my attention, especially since it would give me something to do in the summer months! I was hooked and haven't looked back since."

"I've been in the bike industry for about 10 years. it started with a sponsorship from a clothing company and built from there. I started with Liv in 2014 when I was referred by a friend to Liv and they came looking for me."

What are the highlights and challenges of your role?

"The clear highlight is the reward that comes from taking months and months to bring a bike to the prototype stage (this is when I finally get to ride it!), and of course seeing the finished product out in the wild and thinking to myself ‘I helped make that’ as one of our happy customers rides by on the trail. The greatest challenges come in many other forms, keeping up with communications across all global time zones is for sure at the top of the list!"

What advice would you give someone who wants to work in a similar field to you?

"The best advice I could give is to ride your bike for starters. Passion for riding is what ultimately got me where I am today. Of all the other people I know in these types of jobs across the industry, riding is one of the only things that they share in common."

"In the end, that’s what allows a person to have insight to build great product."

Brook Hopper - global marketing manager

If you've found about a new Liv bike, it'll be because of Brook Hopper's work
If you've found about a new Liv bike, it'll be because of Brook Hopper's work

"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. I oversee our global athlete team, PR and communications, content creation, and digital marketing."

How did you get into cycling?

"Mountain biking is my gateway activity that inspired me to undertake a lot of different outdoor endeavors. I worked with The North Face for many years and was exposed to a lot of sports like climbing, and snowsports, which I love. I also fell in love with wingsuit skydiving, and spent a lot time at a drop-zone in Northern California before moving to Ventura, CA where I now live."

Our athletes are our family.

"These days I’m super focused on yoga and cycling, and find constant inspiration from watching my daughter riding her bike, and observing all of the positive impacts cycling can have on women and girls around the globe. My love for mountain biking definitely changed the trajectory of my life, and I’m forever grateful I found it."

You've mentioned in other interviews that part of your role is sharing the 'personality' of the bike with the target market?

"I believe that bikes innately have their own personality which comes from the design vision, target riding style and terrain for which it’s intended. Spending so much time with a bike from concept to reality you really get to know it, and my role is to help tell its story, and bring that story to life in the most authentic way possible."

Tell us more about your work with Liv athletes. How are they involved in the development process?

"Our athletes are our family. 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."

"We are able to share the pinnacle of their achievements, which is great for those athletes and also for women aspiring to ride. Our athletes also form the core of our community out in the world, working united with our vision to get more women on bikes."

Dorothy Hsu - industrial designer

Designing a bike is one thing, mass producing it to high quality is where Dorothy Hsu's expertise comes in
Designing a bike is one thing, mass producing it to high quality is where Dorothy Hsu's expertise comes in

"Industrial designers mainly design products that best meet the news of the customer  – in this case, using our 3F Design data philosophy – standardise the products and make sure it’s able to be mass produced. I also consider myself a creative worker who helps shape every Liv bike model."

Bicycles have become a part of my life. It’s difficult to separate from them!

Tell us about how you got your role

"When I was at college, I wanted to make a mobility product for my graduation project, and applied to be a design intern at Giant where I discovered that bicycles are fun and challenging in design terms."

"I’ve been at Giant for about 15 years after officially joining after graduating, and bicycles have become a part of my life. It’s difficult to separate from them!"

"In the history of bicycle design, the process was dominated by the male perspective. Women’s physiology and psychology are very different, so when Giant established the Liv project team in 2008 I knew my chance had come! I feel I can express my design experience more deeply on female product as they echo my inner voices and opinions."

What’s the highlight of your role?

"A complete bicycle is made up of only 8 tubes. My challenge is how to use these 8 magical tubes to create a variety of bicycles that suit different terrains and users. I love it!"

Aoife Glass

Women's Cycling Editor
A mountain biker at heart, also drawn to the open road. Likes big long adventures in the mountains. Usually to be found in the Mendip Hills or the Somerset Levels in the UK. Passionate about women's cycling at all levels.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Rocky, rough and a long way from anywhere.
  • Current Bikes: Liv Avail Advanced Pro 2015, Juliana Furtado 2013, Canyon Roadlite AL
  • Dream Bike: Juliana Roubion, Liv Avail Advanced SL
  • Beer of Choice: Red wine for the win!
  • Location: Weston Super Mare, Somerset, UK

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