Rutland's Sally Middlemiss test rode the new 2015 Liv Invite 1 women's cyclocross bike and found it a lively, versatile addition to Giant's Liv tribe, delivering a fast, fun, comfortable ride on roads, gravel and trails.
Abbreviated by those in the know to �cross,� cyclocross is the en vogue discipline of the moment. Combining on- and off-road riding over a variety of terrains, with riders hopping on and off the bike and getting so covered in mud that they have to keep switching bikes throughout a race, cyclocross races make exciting viewing and already command prime-time TV slots in several European countries. It's gaining ground in the UK, too - the 2014 Cyclocross World Cup held recently in Milton Keynes attracted crowds of over 7,000 on a grey day in November.
Cyclocross. Not for everyone.
If the idea of slopping around in the mud, jostling for pole position in a kind of open-air roller derby doesn't appeal, hang on in there. Cyclocross bikes, it turns out, aren't just for cyclocross. In fact, a whole new sub genre of cyclocross, �Gravel Bikes�, has spun into existence. They offer the promise of a 'do-it-all' bike that'll get you out and about exploring your local roads, paths and bridleways, while also handling commuting and light touring. It's less of an emphasis on racing in ankle deep mud and more about broadening the horizons of a typical bike ride.
With two children, time out on a bike is often spent with one eye on the clock. The prospect of being able to grab one bike and ride anywhere, turning a road ride into a cross country adventure if an intriguing track catches my eye, is a prospect I'd grab with both hands. I wanted to find out if these bikes lived up to their hype, so I took a brand new 2015 Liv Invite 1 from our Giant demo fleet for a spin around Rutland Water.
I wanted a picture perfect autumn morning and the weather man delivered.
Sunday morning turned out to be one of those perfect late Autumn days for cycling: sunny, still and crisp, with a chill in the air. The route was tailor made for the Invite: 17 miles of mainly unsurfaced track, with some bumpier sections and a couple of steep sections - although nothing too technical - and a few miles of road to break up the journey. My friend and fellow British Cycling Breeze Champion Lizzy joined me on her Trek 3900 hardtail mountain bike and, once I'd fitted my SPD pedals, we set off.
How did it ride?
The Invite's relaxed, women-specific geometry made it a comfortable, responsive ride - not having ridden a drop-handlebar bike off road before, I wasn't sure how it would handle, but I was impressed. Its lightweight, ALUXX aluminium frame meant it sped up the inclines, without being too twitchy (the Giant SX-2 32mm tyres were amazing and stuck to the trail like limpets!), and took bumpier sections in its stride. It came into its own along the road sections, of course, and the more upright position and wider 32mm tyres than my own road bike (I ride with 25mm tyres) didn't make it feel at all sluggish. In fact, I found the women-specific handlebars and saddle very comfortable - the Liv Connect Forward saddle in particular deserves a mention as it's the most comfortable saddle I've ever tried on a first ride. The Connect ergo-shaped drop handlebars, with specially-designed brake levers which you can operate from the top or side, definitely made me feel more secure and in control, even over rougher sections of trail.
Disc brakes have made the long awaited jump to road and the benefits are immediately clear.
But how would the Invite cope with downhill sections? Well, there aren't any Black routes on the lap of Rutland Water, but there are a couple of fairly steep downhill sections and it was a muddy late November day, so I'll admit to going into the first descent with a degree of trepidation. But I needn't have worried - those limpet-like tyres, combined with the Invite's shock-absorbing carbon forks and SRAM BB5 mechanical disc brakes, gave me great stability and enough confidence to keep up with Lizzy on her hardtail. Mud was gleefully beginning to splatter the bike and if it was dulling the paintwork it didn't dull the brakes. On the couple of occasions where I had to brake sharply - wow! Those disc brakes proved they had great stopping power and I noticed a real difference compared with the calliper brakes on my road bike.
Whilst not a quagmire the surface was greasy enough. Not that you would know thanks to a superb geometry, fantastic tyres, and SRAM disc brakes.
A note on sizing: I'm 5ft 4 and I rode the S - I had the saddle a fair way up, so if I'd been buying the bike, I would have wanted to try the M too, to check which was a better fit. If you're of shorter height, it's worth noting that the Invite is available in an XS, too, making it suitable for riders of 5 ft 2 and above.
The Liv Invite 1 is a perfect choice if you're looking to do a mixture of road and trail riding, including commuting, and build up to some longer rides or light touring. I found the Invite's women-specific geometry and finishing kit, including handlebars and saddle, made for a very confident, enjoyable ride. Even on the first outing, the Invite was so comfortable I felt like I could have ridden it all day - in fact, I was very tempted to take it on a second lap of the lake! I couldn't fault it - it delivered everything I was looking for and more.
2015 LIV INVITE 1 WOMEN'S CYCLOCROSS BIKE - TEST REPORT
Make and model: 2015 Liv Invite 1 Women's Cyclocross/X-Road Bike
Sizes available: XS, S, M (Sally rode the S - see her sizing comments above)
Best for: mixed-use riding on roads, paths and trails; commuting; longer day rides; light touring
- Women-specific geometry and finishing kit
- ALUXX-Grade aluminum frame
- Giant Composite carbon fork with ALUXX Steerer
- Shimano 27 speed drivetrain
- SRAM BB5 Road mechanical disc brakes
- Giant S-X2 wheel set
Overall rating: ????? 5/5
About the rider:
Sally is a lifelong cyclist and has toured extensively in the UK and Europe. She is a British Cycling Breeze Champion and is passionate about getting more women out cycling. A mother of two, Sally founded our popular weekly Breeze Mums and Tots bike rides in 2012. She rides a Specialized Ruby Expert women's road bike and a Scott Contessa women's hardtail mountain bike (now with child seat).