Liv Vall-E+ 0 Pro first ride review

New women's-specific e-MTB hardtail from Liv Cycling helps you fly up mountains

Liv Cycling has unveiled its new e-MTB hardtail, the Vall-E+. The new e-bike features a Yamaha SyncDrive motor, 120mm front suspension, plus-sized tyres and the women’s specific geometry that’s a hallmark of Liv’s approach to women’s bike design.

While this is Liv’s first foray into the world of e-MTBs, it’s unlikely to be its last.

Europe is undoubtedly the spiritual home of the e-bike, so where better to test the capabilities of an e-mountain bike than on the mountain trails of the Italian Alps.

Two days of riding on long, hot and dusty climbs, plus forested singletrack descents, provided ample opportunity to put the Vall-E+ through its paces and get a good first impression of its performance.

The Vall-E+ 0 Pro was more than equal to the majority of the Alpine singletrack it was tested on
The Vall-E+ 0 Pro was more than equal to the majority of the Alpine singletrack it was tested on

Why a hardtail?

A hardtail might seem like an usual choice for Liv’s first e-MTB — why not go for a full suspension? Well, its justification lies with Liv's understanding of its market.

Liv bases its bike design philosophy on women’s specific geometry. It feels that there are sufficient differences between the average male and female body that women will benefit from a bespoke frame design and finishing kit, while acknowledging that not all women need or will suit a women’s bike.

"We’re not trying to cater to 100 percent of women — that’s not possible — just to as many as possible," commented Erin Lamb, global marketing representative for Liv Cycling. 

Liv reports that its biggest selling bike is the Tempt, a 27.5 hardtail that sits around an entry-level price point: £475–£749 / $520–$750 / AU$749–AU$1249.

The popularity of the Tempt, plus the comparatively lower cost of an e-MTB hardtail over an e-MTB full suspension bike, formed the basis of the decision. The market is already familiar with Liv’s hardtails, and the price jump, which is still in the region of several grand, may not feel as prohibitive to the fledgling e-mountain bike market.

That said, given that Liv is the sister brand to Giant Bicycles who has both hardtail and full-sus e-MTBs in its lineup, a full-sus option can’t be too far away for Liv.

Liv Vall-E+ 0 Pro

I tested the top of the range Liv Vall-E+ 0 Pro, which comes with RockShox Revelation 35RL 120mm forks, a 1 x 11 Shimano SLX/RT drivetrain, Giant eXX 2 tubeless-ready 27.5 wheels with 35mm rims, and Maxxis Forekaster 2.6 plus tyres with Exo protect casing.

This version of the Vall-E+, like both models in the Pro lineup, features the top-of-the-line Giant SyncDrive Pro motor, which was developed collaboratively between Giant and Yamaha.

A 1 x 11 chainset works with the SyncDrive system and provides ample gearing
A 1 x 11 chainset works with the SyncDrive system and provides ample gearing

This system features an integrated battery called the EnergyPak 500, which slots into a cradle on the down tube and sits flush. While it’s not as bulky and obtrusive as other battery packs on the market, you still won’t quite get away with no-one noticing it as the bulky down tube gives the game away.

The climbs would have been brutal and interminable on a regular bike, but I flew up several hundred metres in about 20 minutes

It can be removed to the side, locked in place, and charged in situ or off the bike.

The control unit, called the RideControl unit, is a small square of buttons placed on the bars. The main controls give you on/off and power up and down, which moves you through the five different assist settings.

Placed centrally on the bars is the display unit, which indicates remaining battery life as a graphic and percentage, tells you what assist mode you are currently in, and allows you to scroll through elements such as average speed, time on ride, distance travelled etc.

The two non-Pro versions of the bike come with a Sport version of the SyncDrive, which offers three rather than five modes. 

The bike comes with Giant Connect Trail bars, which at 730mm were too narrow for my liking on the trails I rode, but for less technical terrain may be fine.

A 1 x 11 Shimano SLX/XT drivetrain offered more than enough range, given the power assistance, and despite the heaviness of the bike the Shimano MT500 hydraulic disc brakes offered sufficient stopping power in conjunction with the plus tyres.

Ride feel

In the interests of journalism (read: ill-advised long ride with incorrect cleat position on a recent ride), I tested the Vall-E+ with a dodgy knee. I get pain at the top of the pedal stroke, so putting a lot of force through my knee such as on hard climbs hurts right now.

For the e-MTB naysayers out there though, allowing injured or otherwise physically impaired mountain bikers to ride and keep up with other riders is one of the main plus points of the things.

Other benefits include equalising group rides by allowing riders of different fitness levels to ride together; being able to squeeze in more trail time as climbs are quicker; and being able to cover more ground.

The cockpit features a control panel and display for the Giant SyncDrive motor system developed with Yamaha
The cockpit features a control panel and display for the Giant SyncDrive motor system developed with Yamaha

I can vouch for the fact you still most definitely get a workout. While the motor assist on the climbs makes them much, much easier, you still have to pedal. But rather than all-out effort, I found I tended to sit in my endurance heart-rate zone rather than maxing on the rises.

The bike is also, predictably, much heavier than a regular hardtail, so manoeuvring it on the trail gives you a good upper body workout.

Add to that, the fact we were riding in heat in the mid-thirties Celsius.

The climbs would have been brutal and interminable on a regular bike, but I flew up several hundred metres in about 20 minutes without giving myself heatstroke.

On the rough, dry and loose terrain of the test tracks, the plus-sized tyres did an admirable job of providing plenty of traction, and combined with the weight gave the bike a very stable and planted feel.

I was surprised to find that our ride group of over 10 riders experienced no punctures at all on the ride, so Maxxis' Forekaster Exo 2.6 tyres certainly seemed up to the job, especially given the rocky terrain.

Combined with 35mm aluminium rims, the tyres were plenty chunky, though getting the right tyre pressure was tricky. I opted for a lower pressure for better traction on loose rock and gravel, which was fine for the most part, but I did notice compressions hard enough to feel the rim when dropping off of rocks and roots.

Motor assist

Some alteration of riding technique is required to get used to the power assist of the Yamaha motor. It kicks in as soon as you pedal, and while it doesn’t jolt you forward, it is noticeable.

On climbs, a low gear and steady cadence is required to get you up, as well as good weight distribution front and back. Too much weight at the front and the rear wheel loses traction, causing the drive from the motor to spin out. Not enough at the front and the front wheel can lift.

While for the most part I got used to the motor quickly, a few elements still grated. The biggest was that the assist vanishes as soon as you stop pedalling, which meant for some technical sections, where I wanted to coast with level pedals to avoid clipping them, I decelerated right when I didn’t want to.

In terms of battery life, while two days isn’t enough to comment fully, I did have 20 percent battery life remaining at the end of a three to four hour ride, which involved a lot of climbing in Power mode.

Overall impression

Plus-sized tyres provided sufficient traction on technical descents, though getting the right pressure was tricky
Plus-sized tyres provided sufficient traction on technical descents, though getting the right pressure was tricky

The trails I rode at the launch event also included several Alpine hairpin switchback sections, and the Vall-E didn’t do well on these in my experience.

Manoeuvring it around the corners was hard; leaning the bike at slower speeds was tricky due to the weight and the rear end wasn’t playing ball, possibly due to the length and stiffness.

The Walk Assist mode was useful on a number of occasions, especially on hills when I was trying to heft the weight of the bike upwards — this mode gives an assist boost when pushing the bike.

However, the button isn’t located in the most convenient position for operation when pushing the bike as it’s under the control unit on the handlebars.

Also, the pedals turn when this mode is activated, which means I ended up catching them on either roots and rocks or my own shins when pushing the bike up tricky bits.

Overall though, I enjoyed riding the Vall-E+. It was capable over most of the singletrack trails I rode, and given my dodgy knee and the high temperatures during the ride, it’s unlikely I would have got that much riding done without the assistance of a motor on the climbs.

That said, it is still quite an investment and unfortunately the top of the range model I tested isn’t available in all countries, including the UK.

The non-Pro versions of the bike have the Sport version of the SyncDrive motor which only has three options rather than the five on the higher level version, but I feel this is still plenty of assist to get you up most climbs.

Pricing, sizing and availability

The top-of-the-range Liv Vall-E+ 0 Pro
The top-of-the-range Liv Vall-E+ 0 Pro

The Vall-E+ Pro and Vall-E+ are available to purchase from Liv and Liv retailers globally from autumn 2017.  Not all bikes are available in all territories.

All versions come in four sizes: XS, S, M and L.

Not all bikes are available in all territories. UK pricing and availability yet to be confirmed. 

Liv Vall-E+ 0 Pro

  • ALUXX SL Aluminium frame
  • Giant SyncDrive Pro motor
  • Giant EnergyPak 500 Lithium-ion battery
  • RockShox Revelation 35RL 120mm fork
  • Shimano 1x11 SLX/XT drivetrain with 34t chainring, 11-46t cassette
  • Shimano MT500 hydraulic disc brakes
  • Giant eXX 2 tubeless-ready 35mm rims with eTracker Boost hubs
  • Maxxis Forekaster 27.5 x 2.6 Evo tyres
  • Giant Contact Switch trail dropper seatpost
  • Price: £N/A / €3499 / $3850 / AU$TBC

Liv Vall-E+ 1 Pro

  • ALUXX SL Aluminium frame
  • Giant SyncDrive Pro motor
  • Giant EnergyPak 500 Lithium-ion battery
  • SR Suntour Raidon 32 100mm LO-R fork
  • Shimano Deore/XT 10-speed drivetrain with 34t chainring, 11-42t cassette
  • Shimano M506 hydraulic disc brakes
  • Giant eXX 2 tubeless-ready 35mm rims with eTracker Boost hubs
  • Maxxis Forekaster 27.5 x 2.6 Evo tyres
  • Price: £TBC / €3,099 / $TBC / AU$4,499

Liv Vall-E+ 2

  • ALUXX SL Aluminium frame
  • Giant SyncDrive Sport motor
  • Giant EnergyPak 500 Lithium-ion battery
  • SR Suntour XCR 32 Lo-R 100mm LO-R fork
  • Shimano Deore 2 x 9 speed drivetrain with 24/38t chainrings, 11-36t cassette
  • Giant eXX 2 tubeless-ready 35mm rims with eTracker Boost hubs
  • Maxxis Forekaster 27.5 x 2.6 Evo tyres
  • Price: £TBC / €2,599 / $TBC / AU$3,699

Liv Vall-E+ 3

  • ALUXX SL Aluminium frame
  • Giant SyncDrive Sport motor
  • Giant EnergyPak 400 Lithium-ion battery
  • SR Suntour XCM LO-R 100mm fork
  • Shimano Acera 9 speed drivetrain with38t chainring, 11-36t cassette
  • Giant eXX 2 tubeless-ready 35mm rims with eTracker Boost hubs
  • Maxxis Forekaster 27.5 x 2.6 Evo tyres
  • Price: £TBC / €2,199 / $2,550 / AU$TBC
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.
  • Age: 35
  • Height: 173cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 74kg / 163lb
  • Waist: 82cm / 32in
  • Chest: 86cm / 34in (below bust measurement)
  • 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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