2017 Liv Hail Advanced 1

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Review - 2017 Liv Hail Advanced from Vital MTB Test Sessions

This women's bike makes no compromises, but must be ridden in the right terrain and with gusto to really excel.

Rating: Vital Review
Review - 2017 Liv Hail Advanced from Vital MTB Test Sessions

Totally new to Liv for 2017 is the Hail series. This line of enduro/all-mountain bikes was designed from the ground up to fit and perform for women riders looking to ride technical trails. A first of its kind, this women’s bike has a healthy 160mm of travel front and rear and 27.5-inch wheels. The Hail has one goal in mind: to get you to the bottom of the mountain… and fast! Lucky us as Tucson, Arizona's Mount Lemmon loomed over the desert during Vital MTB's 2017 Test Sessions. There will be mud. There will be sand. There will be rock. Lots of them. Let’s see how the Liv Hail handles it.

Highlights

Totally new to Liv for 2017 is the Hail series. This line of enduro/all-mountain bikes was designed from the ground up to fit and perform for women riders looking to ride technical trails. A first of its kind, this women’s bike has a healthy 160mm of travel front and rear and 27.5-inch wheels. The Hail has one goal in mind: to get you to the bottom of the mountain… and fast! Lucky us as Tucson, Arizona's Mount Lemmon loomed over the desert during Vital MTB's 2017 Test Sessions. There will be mud. There will be sand. There will be rock. Lots of them. Let’s see how the Liv Hail handles it.

Highlights

  • Advanced-grade composite main frame with ALUXX SL rear triangle
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) of rear wheel travel // 130 to 160mm (5.1 to 6.3-inches) of fork travel
  • Maestro suspension design
  • Tapered OverDrive headtube
  • Internal cable routing
  • Forged composite upper rocker
  • Integrated downtube and chainstay protection
  • Trunnion-style upper shock mount
  • Press fit bottom bracket shell with ISCG05 mounts
  • Boost 148mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size small, no pedals): 29.9-pounds (13.54kg)
  • MSRP $5,350 USD

Launched in 2014 as a sister brand to Giant, Liv Cycling focuses solely on women's-specific bikes, equipment, and apparel. One of their latest creations, the 2017 Hail Advanced 1, is marketed as the only enduro race/all-mountain bike designed from the ground up for women. It’s not a tweaked unisex bike. It’s actually a different design than the Giant Reign, the closest comparable ride in the men’s line.

All of Liv's products follow their 3F design philosophy – short for Fit, Form, and Function – to address the unique needs of female riders and "to help all women feel confident and enjoy the ride." They achieve this through the use of their Global Body Dimension Database and product testing with lady shredders like Leigh Donovan, Katie Holden, Lindsey Voreis, and Rae Morrison. One example of this is the women’s-specific carbon layup on the front triangle. They do this to make the bike stronger and stiffer where it needs to be while lightening it where possible.

While much of the geometry is similar between the Hail and Reign, the Hail is 1-degree steeper in both the head tube and seat tube angles, quickening handling slightly and improving climbing performance. This geometry and the parts on the Hail Advanced 1 beg to get gnarly. The 66-degree head angle is great for riding the bike park or down your favorite shuttle trails. The FOX 36 Talas Performance Elite fork and FOX Float X2 Performance Elite shock with EVOL air can work together to eat up the roughest of trails. Whether those trails require nailing high speed corners or navigating rocky tech, the fork and frame’s Boost spacing provides stiffness and control. Then when the trail turns uphill those slightly steeper angles and travel adjust feature of the FOX fork should make for an easier ascent.

The bike uses Giant's Maestro suspension system to deliver 160mm of travel with "pedaling efficiency, complete suspension activity, and total brake independence" as key design goals. New for 2017, they've updated it to use the latest Metric shock standard and a Trunnion style mount on the composite upper rocker. Moving to a composite rocker is said to "lower the rider’s center of gravity and shorten the chainstay for better handling, efficiency and agility" while also increasing frame stiffness. That's paired with a rear shock featuring a women's-specific tune.

All of the other little details are present, including the ability to mount a chainguide, room for a water bottle even on smaller sizes, the latest axle standards, decent mud clearance, and internal cable routing.

Our tested Advanced 1 slots in at an averagely priced $5,350 USD, and the higher end Hail Advanced 0 features RockShox suspension and a SRAM Eagle drivetrain at $8,250. The full aluminum Hail 1 and Hail 2 bikes come in at a more affordable $4,200 and $3,250, respectively.

Geometry

A big part of Liv's 3F philosophy revolves around fit, which they base off studies around their Global Body Dimension Database. According to Liv, "This extensive database provides information on average body dimensions of women around the world. Information on things like arm, torso and leg length gives us a good place to start when we are designing bikes. Of course women come in all different shapes and sizes, so this database just helps us identify basic trends. For example, from our research we see that women tend to carry their body weight lower than men, and much of our power comes from our lower bodies. This impacts Liv’s frame geometries as we aim to achieve better balance and stability for the rider."

Recognizing fundamental differences between men’s and women’s bodies – in addition to customized frame geometry with lower standover across the XS to large size range – they optimize stem lengths, handlebar width and drop, crank arm length, brake reach, and more to fit the female shape. That's paired with components to match. We tested the size small.

Suspension Analysis

Using the bike industry's leading linkage analysis software, André Santos, the Youtube suspension whiz, was able to determine a close approximation of the Liv Hail's kinematics for the purpose of this review. These charts provide great insight into several key factors that impact how it rides. Those unfamiliar with these types of graphs should watch André's excellent series of suspension fundamentals videos. The results of his analysis are as follows:

Observations:

  • The Liv Hail is a progressive 160mm enduro bike at 40%.
  • Pedaling efficiency is very good at 30% sag with a 30-tooth chainring. Anti-squat values range between 100-110% in bigger cogs, peak at 130% on the smaller cog, and remain close to 100% on the whole pedaling zone.
  • Given the significant decrease of anti-squat values throughout the travel, the total pedal kickback is relatively low compared to many enduro bikes.
  • Anti-rise of 75% at sag, meaning that the geometry of the bike is well preserved under rear braking.
  • Overall, the Liv Hail has a quite progressive suspension design coupled with very good pedaling efficiency.

How does science meet the dirt? Did our real life ride time confirm the analysis? It's back to Vital's testers to hear how the new Hail performed on trail.

On The Trail

For this year’s Test Sessions we headed south once again, away from the lands of ice and snow, shedding our parkas and donning our bike shorts and jerseys. Ahhhh, yes. Welcome to sunny and warm Tucson! Our days were spent exploring Mount Lemmon where the trails offer an impressive bang for the buck. Riding from the top to the bottom of the mountain we encountered everything from snow and mud to loose over hard-pack soil types. The trails varied widely in their technical features from wet roots to rocky tech. Oh, and don’t forget all the sniper cactus lurking at the edges of the trail! Our test rides included Aspen Draw, Incinerator Ridge, Bug Springs, Prison Camp, and the famously rough La Milagrosa trail.

Jumping on a bike for the first time is always a bit exciting. What will we notice first? What will we like or dislike? Sure we’ve seen the pictures and description on the internet, but this is the first date in the flesh. Things started well as the Hail didn’t cause us much concern while we got it ready to ride. The 31.8mm Giant Contact SL DH bars were a nice and wide 750mm, and the snug 50mm Truvativ Holzfeller stem matched the bike's personality. We appreciated the short headtube which allowed us more cockpit adjustment options than many bikes. The levers on the Shimano SLX brakes were easy to adjust without tools. For the first ride the only change we made from stock was to switch the tires to tubeless. We were riding in cactus country so this was a must!

After getting the tires desert worthy we moved to suspension setup. We initially had some issues with the position of the air valve on the Float X2 shock, but were able to rotate the air can to provide better shock pump access. We started with the recommended 30% sag. Low-speed compression and low-speed rebound were three and two clicks from full open. The 36 fork was set at the recommended 25% sag and rebound two clicks from full fast. With everything in order it was time to grab the pack, some snacks, and hit the trail!

Once we started descending, we quickly confirmed that the Hail was made for the downs. It was responsive and stable at speed, giving us the confidence to plow through numerous fast rocky sections. As the high-speed rocks transitioned into slower-speed and more technical descents, we were not quite as comfortable on this bike as others. The front end would push in ledgy terrain and we experienced lots of front to back weight shifts. The tendency to push surprised us given how capable the bike is, but it's a somewhat normal trait of bikes with slacker head angles. When not being aggressive in our riding or carrying speed the Hail was a handful. Braking was good though straight chatter, though we did experience some skipping in the rear of the bike while braking into rough corners. Made for descending? Yes. Descending everything well? Clearly not a jack of all trades. This bike was best when ridden with authority.

Once we started descending, we quickly confirmed that the Hail was made for the downs. It was responsive and stable at speed, giving us the confidence to plow through numerous fast rocky sections.

When the trail turned uphill we had some tweaking to do. For all our efforts to get it to go, it felt like much of that energy was being lost as the bike bobbed rather than powering forward. We added a bit more air and a few more clicks of compression. After the adjustment the Hail would do all we asked but it didn’t seem to relish the thought of it. Like needing to do a chore the bike will it get done, but at a hefty-feeling 29.9-pounds (13.54kg) it won't do it in any hurry or with much zeal. The rear wheels seemed to have a tendency to get hung up on rocks when standing and climbing, although the higher than normal 345mm bottom bracket height and shorter cranks allowed us to pedal through rough terrain when needed. We also found it a bit hard to pop the front wheel up and over rocks.

When not being aggressive in our riding or carrying speed the Hail was a handful. This bike was best when ridden with authority.

During some of our longer seated climbs we tested the firm mode on the rear shock and dropped the fork to 130mm travel up front, which helped considerably with traction and power transfer. We personally don’t like having to flip suspension levers, but if you have a long climb ahead of you it's totally worth it.

Build Kit

According to Liv’s research, "many women do not want to compromise when it comes to components." This is apparent when looking at the overly burly build on the Hail Advanced 1.

Paired with the FOX Float X2 shock is the 36 Talas Performance Elite fork with a FIT4 damper. The 36 fork has three compression settings to switch on the fly in addition to a 130 to 160mm travel adjust. The travel adjust came in handy for extended climbs. This fork was supple off the top and smooth through the travel, though perhaps a bit overkill for smaller riders. In the end we settled on compression that was five clicks in from full open, supporting the front end to keep it higher in the travel while going through slower speed rock features. One potential issue with this fork is the negative spring, which uses a non-adjustable coil spring instead of a self-equalizing air spring used in some other forks. Lighter riders who run less than the minimum recommended pressure might end up with slightly less than full travel.

The rubber helping to keep us rubber side down was a combination of an aggressively treaded 2.35-inch Schwalbe Magic Mary up front and a faster rolling Hans Dampf out back. This was one of the few bikes that didn’t suffer any flat tires thanks to the Snakeskin casings, but we did notice that the side knobs of the Hans Dampf began to show wear after just a handful of rides. The Hans Dampf also had a tendency to break free a bit more than we would have liked on our climbs. While cornering and braking, though, it seemed just right. The large side knobs of the slow rolling Magic Mary dug in when we had some dirt but weren’t the best when it was loose over hard-pack. That is a challenge for any tire, however.

Many of the components on this bike are house brand products, including the wheels which are made up of Giant P-AM2 rims, 28 butted Sapim spokes per wheel, and Giant Performance Tracker Disc Boost hubs. We were slightly disappointed with the engagement of the rear hub as it wasn’t the fastest, but then again this bike is designed with the downs in mind more so than the ups. While the rims stayed in one piece, the spokes both front and rear required tensioning after just a few rides. We felt the wheels shouldn’t have needed attention quite so soon. The bike rode better after tightening the spokes with a noted improvement in cornering and overall handling.

The Hail Advanced 1 has Shimano SLX brakes paired with large 200mm front and 180mm rear rotors to slow your roll. We felt that they had good power when we needed it and didn’t fade. You won’t get much adjustment with the SLX brakes, but at least the most important one, reach, can be taken care of in a snap. We also liked the feel of Shimano's smaller levers.

More and more bikes these days include a 1X drivetrain which we like to see as almost anyone can benefit from their simplicity. In fact, all Hail models come with a 1X drivetrain. The Hail Advanced 1 has an 11-speed Shimano SLX cassette that spans from 11-42 teeth and is paired with a 30-tooth chainring on the XT crankset. We wouldn’t have minded a 28-tooth ring to help convince the Hail that she can climb. Shifting wasn’t as buttery smooth as we'd expect from the XT rear derailleur, but we didn’t experience any issues like skipping or dropping chains. What we did experience was noise. There were points on the trail where chainslap and noise from the rear hub was loud enough almost to the point of distraction. This bike wasn’t winning points for stealth and we occasionally felt the chain hit our leg with grease marks to prove it. Before we realized that was the norm we stopped to make sure everything was attached and not falling off. Adding a rubber guard to the inside of the seat stay will help quiet it down considerably.

An MRP AMG V2 chainguide is included to keep everything on track while smashing down rough trails. This is a great inclusion we were glad to see.

The only thing that we found to be totally off with the the spec was the Giant Contact SL Switch Trail dropper post. With only 100mm of drop it was impossible for one of our testers (with 30-inch inseam) to get the seat fully out of the way, and the other two testers missed the added drop in steep sections. In the end we swapped the Contact SL post for a KS Integra with a 125mm drop. This greatly improved the ability to move around on the bike and we no longer felt violated by the seat. To be fair, we believe that Giant is unable to spec a longer Contact SL post due to the location of the upper pivot and their post design. If you choose or require a change, the frame's dimensions should allow you to switch the post for another brand. Just check the total length vs travel when you go to do that. The post was paired with Liv's Contact SL Upright saddle, which we found firm but comfortable.

When comparing the various Hail models we found ourselves questioning whether the extra $1,150 over the ALUXX Hail 1 was really worth it as many of the components are the same or only marginally better on the Advanced 1. As such, the Hail 1 might be worth a glance for ladies who aren’t too focused on having a carbon bike. It could save you enough dough to get that bike park season pass or visit a few new riding destinations.

Long Term Durability

Normal wear and tear on bikes is to be expected, but we felt the wheels and fast wearing rear tire could be an issue down the road. We had to tighten spokes both front and rear after just a few days of riding on them.

We kind of like that this bike has an aluminum rear triangle as it's nice to not have to worry about laying the bike down and gouging the carbon. The only downside we experienced is the little bit of extra noise. Liv backs the frame with a lifetime warranty and gives one year of coverage on all other original components.

What's The Bottom Line?

Many of the individual parts on the Liv Hail Advanced 1 work well independently - the rear shock is great on small bumps and medium hits; the fork works well with few issues; the brakes have a good feel and could stop us in a controlled manner; the tires held traction and didn’t suffer injury in rough desert riding. Unfortunately, unless you're tackling extremely rough or steep terrain day in and day out, it all feels a bit overkill and hefty as a whole system. As spec'd it needed a surprising amount of attention and effort to feel like it was working well. This might be tough for riders newer to the beautiful sport, and for that reason we suggest it for advanced riders only.

Liv claims the Hail is "built to come alive at high speeds," and they're exactly right. The Hail works well for those who are willing to ride it a certain way, you just have to put on your big girl panties and giv’er.

Visit www.liv-cycling.com for more details.

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 2.5 stars - OK
  • Descending: 3.5 stars - Very Good
  • Fun Factor: 3.5 stars - Very Good
  • Value: 3 stars - Good
  • Overall Impression: 3 stars - Good

Bonus Gallery: 21 photos of the 2017 Liv Hail Advanced 1 up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Amanda Wentz - Age: 35 // Years Riding MTB: 10+ // Height: 5'6" (1.68m) // Weight: 135-pounds (61.2kg)

"I am really trying to be more smooth but somehow I still end up just smashing my way through things." Over the last decade, Amanda has soaked up all aspects of mountain biking and continues to push herself to progress. She's a personal trainer and mountain bike coach and loves knowing what her gear is doing and why.

Courtney Steen - Age: 29 // Years Riding MTB: 9 // Height: 5'7" (1.70m) // Weight: 155-pounds (70.3kg)

"Going downhill puts a smile on my face and I climb for ice cream, pizza, and beer." Courtney routinely shocks the boys with her speed and has experience in various disciplines. Today she travels the country in an RV in search of the next best trail and writes women's reviews for Vital MTB. Her technical background helps her think critically about products and how they can be improved.

Krista Rust - Age: "I've been told I act 12" // Years Riding MTB: 14 // Height: 5'5" (1.65m) // Weight: 118-pounds (53.5kg)

"I love racing down technical trails." As a racer at heart, Krista's focus is on going fast and racking up results. She brings an engineering perspective to the tech side, isn't afraid to try the burly moves or be friends with Tucson's tarantulas, and absolutely hammers on the way downhill.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

For five years a dedicated crew of Vital MTB testers have been bringing you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. This time around we rode 2017's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes on a wide variety of rowdy trails in Tucson, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Arizona Cyclist. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Specialized, Five Ten, ZOIC, Sombrio, Race Face, and EVOC. All photos by Lear Miller.

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Specifications

Product Liv Hail Advanced 1
Model Year 2017
Riding Type Trail
Rider Women
Sizes and Geometry
XS/14.5, S/16 , M/18, L/20 View Geometry
Size XS/14.5 S/16 M/18 L/20
Top Tube Length 570mm 585mm 610mm 625mm
Head Tube Angle 66.0° 66.0° 66.0° 66.0°
Head Tube Length 95mm 100mm 115mm 130mm
Seat Tube Angle 74.0º 74.0º 74.0º 74.0º
Seat Tube Length 365mm 380mm 431mm 482mm
Bottom Bracket Height 5mm drop 5mm drop 5mm drop 5mm drop
Chainstay Length 435mm 435mm 435mm 435mm
Wheelbase 1145mm 1160mm 1188mm 1205mm
Standover 710mm 717mm 755mm 795mm
Reach 404mm 418mm 439mm 450mm
Stack 576mm 580mm 594mm 608mm
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Advanced-Grade Composite with ALUXX SL Rear Triangle, Advanced Forged Composite Upper Rocker, Maestro Suspension
Rear Travel 160mm
Rear Shock FOX Float X2 Performance Elite, Trunnion Mount
Fork FOX 36 Talas Performance Elite, FIT4 Damper, 15mm QR, Boost, OverDrive
Fork Travel 130-160mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset
Handlebar Giant Contact SL DH, 31.8mm
Stem Truvativ Holzfeller
Grips
Brakes Shimano SLX, Hydraulic Disc, 200mm Front / 180mm Rear
Brake Levers Shimano SLX
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters Shimano Deore XT
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore XT
ISCG Tabs Yes
Chainguide MRP AMG V2 (Alloy Backplate)
Cranks Shimano Deore XT
Chainrings 30 Tooth
Bottom Bracket Shimano, Press Fit
Pedals N/A
Chain KMC X11 EL
Cassette Shimano SLX 11x42, 11-Speed
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b)
Rims Giant P-AM2
Hubs Giant Performance Tracker Disc, 28 Hole, Boost 110x15mm Front / Boost 148x12mm Rear
Spokes Sapim Race, 14/15g
Tires Front: Schwalbe Magic Mary, 27.5"x2.35", Snakeskin, TL Easy, Trail Star
Rear: Schwalbe Hans Dampf, 27.5"x2.35", Snakeskin, TL Easy, Pace Star
Saddle Liv Contact SL Upright, SST Tubular Rails
Seatpost Giant Contact SL Switch Trail
Seatpost Diameter 30.9mm
Seatpost Clamp Standard
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions Boost 148mm x 12mm
Max. Tire Size
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors Dark Green
Warranty Lifetime Frame, 1 Year Paint Finish and All Other Original Components
Weight 29 lb 13.6 oz (13540 g)
Miscellaneous
Price $5,350
More Info

Liv Website