If your priority is travelling light, going fast, and you like an agile, nimble and exciting ride, then the Liv Pique Advanced 2 offers you all that on a carbon-framed 120mm platform.
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On paper, the Liv Pique shouldn’t work. It has a geometry that verges towards the old-school, with a steep 70-degree head angle, relatively slack seat angle of 73 degrees, short wheelbase and reach, and a long stem. But don’t dismiss the Pique on geometry alone: it’s a fast, efficient, capable bike that eats climbs for breakfast.
Despite the geometry, or because of it, the result is a fast bike that climbs exceptionally well and, most surprisingly of all, feels more confident than it has any right to on technical descents — with the caveat that you do need to get used to riding in a more front-heavy, cross-country style.
Designed for women
Sitting at the cross-country (XC) end of the trail bike spectrum, the Pique is also the only bike in our Trail Bike of the Year test that could be termed ‘truly’ women’s specific. This isn't a unisex frame with women's finishing kit; Liv has designed the Pique from the ground up for female riders, based on body geometry data and rider feedback.
In addition to a women's specific frame, the bike has parts and components chosen to complement the bike's purpose. In this case, with the bike sitting towards the XC side of things, expect lightweight components and fast-rolling tyres.
It weighs in as the lightest in our Bike of the Year test at 12.4kg, due in part to the carbon frame and also because of the 1x11 SRAM GX groupset, which still provides plenty of range for tough climbs and fast flats.
The combination of low weight and cross-country build results in a bike that makes short work of technical uphill sections, rolling up and over rocks and roots easily.
Delving a little deeper into the numbers, it seems that the Pique Liv has gone for a geometry that could be called 'old school' and reinforces the aggressive cross-country stylings of this bike rather than being out-and-out trail focused.
At 70 degrees, the head angle is two degrees steeper than other bikes in the test, which combined with a seat angle of 73 degrees (interestingly, a couple of degrees slacker than the other test bikes) you have a bike where both head tube and seat tube are nearly parallel. The size medium also has the shortest wheelbase in the test at 1,089mm and a very short reach at 409mm.
To me, this would indicate that the bikes size up small and that, although a medium is recommended for a rider of 5ft8in/1.76m, in practice a large would be a better option. I expected it to feel short, twitchy, uncomfortable and unwieldy — but I was wrong.
While the position the bike places you in does take some getting used to, the result is a far more fun, capable and confident ride than I had expected — the Pique is full of surprises.
The reach is mitigated somewhat by a very long 80mm stem, without which it would certainly feel too short, and I'd strongly recommend taking the bike for a test ride to gauge the right size for you, particularly if you sit on the cusp of two sizes.
While that steep seat tube and short reach, which brings the rider weight forward, unsurprisingly results in a bike that flies up hills, it descends much better than the steep head angle gives you any reason to expect.
The Pique also has some of the widest handlebars on test at 750mm, which is on par with the Trek Fuel EX. The wide bars seem to counteract the sluggish steering you'd expect with the long stem to an extent and also make for a more stable and controlled body position on steeper descents, allowing arms to be placed in a better position for bracing against impacts and flexing to absorb hits.
Interestingly, Liv has also gone for a slightly higher bottom bracket compared to the other bikes and it does help with pedal clearance when riding through large rocks or roots: no risk of pedal strikes means more confident and consistent power. The higher centre of gravity should make descending more sketchy, but in practice didn’t seem to.
Capable suspension and good finishing kit
The Pique is spec'd with a 120mm RockShox Revelation RL fork and a RockShox Deluxe RT shock. Overall, the Maestro suspension system was impressive giving progressive travel with little activation while pedalling, which resulted in a smooth and efficient ride. However, that Revelation fork does have some flex to it as a result of the comparatively narrow 32mm stanchions, which make the bike skittish on very rough, bouldery ground and off of big hits.
The bike can however handle more than the 120mm of front travel would have you believe, though you do need to be comfortable riding in a more XC position on the bike.
Finishing kit comes in the form of a women's specific Liv Contact saddle and a Giant Contact SL Switch-R Trail dropper seatpost which, with 100mm of travel, felt a little too short. Up front, the Giant Contact Trail handlebars are matched with SRAM GX shifters, SRAM Guide R hydraulic brakes and the remote lever for the dropper post, which was a little awkward to operate.
The Pique comes with a 1x11 SRAM GX groupset, larger-than-average 30t chain ring and 11-42t cassette, which provided plenty of gearing to tackle technical climbs. The shifting on these is reliable, though not as smooth and controlled as on pricier groupsets, and is one of the compromises that have been made to cover the cost of that carbon frame.
Likewise, the SRAM Guide R brakes do the job well, but don't have the modulation and subtle control that can be found on spendier brakes.
Liv Pique Advanced final impressions
Liv has weaved some kind of magic with the Pique, as it’s not at all the sort of bike I’d have looked twice at on paper, but really spices up a regular ride and is pretty much perfect for long-distance endurance based events.
The overall build is very lightweight and is ripe for upgrading, which could shave even more weight if you wanted.
While it's more suited to aggressive cross-country and trail riding — rather than drops, jumps and rock gardens — if flowing trails and long fast rides are your thing, or you don't want to heft a heavy bike around, the Pique is a great choice.
Pricing, sizing and availability
The Pique Advanced is available in the UK, US and Australia from Liv and Giant dealers, and various online retailers. It comes in three sizes: XS, S and M so taller riders don't really get a look in, unfortunately.
Incidentally, if you are tempted by the Pique but would prefer something more trail oriented and with longer travel then the Pique SX is available with 140mm forks and slacker geometry.
The Pique Advanced isn't available in this build in Australia, but their are builds at both higher and lower price points available.
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How we tested
This bike was tested head-to-head against a number of other women’s specific trail bikes as part of the 2017 BikeRadar Women’s Bike of the Year awards. Each bike was tested multiple times on a test loop that incorporated a variety of terrain from technical climbs and descents to rooty singletrack, steep chutes, berms, rollers, tabletops and drops.
The size tested was a medium frame, recommended for a rider of my height at 5”8.
In addition to the solo testing I conducted, each bike was also test ridden by a panel of five BikeRadar Women readers, all of a similar height and with a range of riding backgrounds, preferences and experience.
What our reader panel say
This bike was tested as part of the 2017 Women’s Trail Bike of the Year awards, and it’s important to BikeRadar that we take into account the views of the women the bikes in the test were aimed at. All the bikes were ridden by at least three members of the panel, who have provided feedback which has been incorporated into this review and into the judging for the overall title.
Rebecca Smith: "The fit felt about perfect but only because the stem is very long! With a short stem it would be too short. That said, I didn't feel that the stem was too long when riding and I didn't notice the steep head angle on descents, though it did feel a little skittish in corners."
Saskia Dugon: "Once I changed the spacer stack [to lower the handlebars] it felt fun and handled very well. It was fun to pump around corners!"
Women’s Trail Bike of the Year
Look out for the results of Women’s Trail Bike of the Year coming soon to BikeRadar Women and What Mountain Bike magazine. We’ll give you the lowdown on the testing, introduce the reader panel, show you the shortlisted bikes and of course reveal that all-important winner. Which bike will take the coveted title? Not long to wait now.