Rosie has spent much of the year testing Liv’s Hail 1, a women’s specific Maestro-suspended trail weapon.
Here’s what she made of the ‘pink princess’.
Photos by Barney Marsh / review by Rosie Holdsworth
I’ve been riding, racing, crashing and generally throwing about a Liv Hail 1 on test since late March this year, giving me plenty of time to get to know the ins and outs of this pink princess.
Just a Giant Reign?
The second question (we’ll come to the first one later) people usually ask me is: “Isn’t that just a pink Giant Reign?” Well, no. Liv designed the Hail from scratch as a completely separate entity to the Reign.
The thinking is that male and female riders are substantially physically different enough to justify two different designs (more on this later, too).
The Hail has some slightly steeper angles than the Reign, shorter cranks and differing stand-over height as well as the usual suspects such as saddle and grips.
First impressions were gleaned on (what was supposed to be) a couple of runs of my personal favourite local trail. A steep rocky woodland descent with some sections of obligatory Northern slop and a couple of all-out gallops thrown in for good measure.
As soon as I was on the bike I could tell it was seriously, seriously fast. With minimal tinkering the Lyrik up front and the Maestro suspension set up at the rear immediately felt incredibly plush and supportive.
With Strava timing and GoPro recording the red mist descended and I started pushing my limits. This was an error… The bike was so much faster than what I’d spent the winter becoming accustomed to, that I was hitting wildly different lines and arriving in technical sections faster and looser than I really cared for.
Cue sapling to handlebar interface and I was slapping my face off the deck before I really knew what was going on. Sighting laps down the pan; Rosie off to A&E. See above video.
Many a rocky Lakeland epic
Summer always spells frequent trips to the lakes and this year was no different. The Liv Hail has accompanied me on many a rocky Lakeland epic.
What I was pleasantly surprised to find on such adventures is that the Hail eats up climbs like a bike with half its travel. The dual position Lyrik was an inspired choice on this Hail 1 model and this combined with a high bottom bracket and shorter-than-the-men’s cranks makes climbing surprisingly easy.
I’ve also found the 10-42 tooth cassette is prime for my noodle-legs. I’ve cleaned climbs on the Hail that I’ve failed to master on a tiny race bike and the Hail has pushed me to stay on the bike longer and attack technical climbs, something which has improved my riding style and developed my skills. Some riders may prefer a bigger gear on the back… but that’s up to them.
Long and high.
It was on these Lakeland jaunts where I discovered that maximum descending speed doesn’t necessarily translate to maximum descending fun: the Hail’s long reach and wheelbase coupled with its high bottom bracket often made it feel planted, stable and very confidence inspiring. Conversely, it did feel somewhat unwieldy through tight gnadgery sections, particularly at low speed.
When you look at the numbers, the minor differences between the Hail 1 and it’s brother, the Reign, add up to a very different ride. Steeper angles in both the head and seat, plus a higher BB, combined with a similar length wheelbase and reach might explain the tall, long feeling behind the bars of the Hail.
That said, having looked at the options for ladies’ trail bikes in this price point and travel, the Juliana Joplin and Specialized Camber Women’s match the trend of fairly long, slightly taller bikes, with steeper angles, when compared to the gents’ equivalent.
I love wrestling a bike through tough technical terrain and popping over and through boulders and rock gardens, but wrestling the Hail just left me feeling a little flat, without the maniacal grin it produces when you unleash it on fast smooth trails.
The bike was so silky smooth through straighter rough sections that it goaded me into faster and faster riding in order to produce the same thrills.
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing; but at anything other than warp-factor 10 it just felt a bit, well, safe. It inspires confidence and holds your hand when things get scary.
I swapped bikes with mates on several rides, mostly because they wanted a go on a “girl’s bike” and on swapping back always felt that the Hail lacked a bit of fizz and excitement even when compared to bikes with similar travel and spec’.
It’s fast, but it’s not terribly engaging and responsive on the steep, tight technical trails that happen to be my favourite thing to ride.
The suspension performance on the Hail has continued to be faultless. It’s one of the stand out features of the bike and is probably my favourite thing about it. I’ve tinkered with it very little and it’s been spot on in every situation.
I recently raced the Hail at the Hopetech Women’s Enduro at Gisburn and the bike was absolutely in its element. The suspension is fantastically well balanced and supportive and really responds on technical trail centre trails. These sorts of trails were where I found I got on best with the Hail.
Through jumps, berms and flowy man-made trails the bike is an absolute joy. The oversized feeling I experienced on Lakeland death-chutes disappears and the bike flatters even the most raggedy of riders. As well as improving my technical climbing skills, the Hail has brought out an inner park-rider I never knew was lurking. I’ve been jumping properly and even caught myself manualling out of turns on more than one occasion.
There were a couple of minor things that irked me about the Hail which wouldn’t necessarily stop me from buying one, but miffed me enough to want to change them.
The saddle was seemingly designed by the dark lord himself; saddles are definitely a very personal thing, everyone’s bum and bits are different, but I had to choose fertility over impartiality and swap it out pretty sharpish I’m afraid.
The Giant Contact dropper post was also a niggle for me, with only 100m of drop I found myself adjusting the position of the post in the frame on most long rides and it quickly became sticky and crunchy and sometimes tricky to depress.
Shrink it and pink it.
The colour! That was always the first thing people asked me about. Not that many people I spoke to liked it and it’s definitely not my first choice, though it has grown on me a little. It immediately marks the Hail out as a “girl’s bike”, and perpetuates the “shrink it and pink it” stereotype that a lot of manufacturers are trying to get away from.
It also set the cogs whirring in my mind about whether we ‘need’ women’s specific bikes at all, or whether different sizes and shock tunes should be available more broadly for different sizes and shapes of people rather than specific genders.
Little things I loved were the bars and grips. The bars being much wider (at 800mm) than those on many women’s bikes they initially took some getting accustomed to but I found they allowed me to throw the bike around a lot on man-made trails and I was glad the Hail had been specced with them. Grips are another really personal thing, but I loved these ones.
Again I feel I need to reference the suspension, which is superb. The higher spec Hail Advanced 1 spec’s a Fox 36 fork and Float X2 shock which adds lock out options but I really feel that this combination would be extremely hard pushed to out compete the set up on the Hail 1 model.
What Rosie thought.
The Hail is an incredibly confidence-inspiring bike; for someone looking to push their riding to new places. For anyone starting to race this is absolutely the perfect tool for the job.
The bike caters perfectly to the women attracted to racing by the trend for more events and races aimed at increasing female participation and I’m sure the Hail will become a firm favourite.
Again, the suspension really is spectacularly well conceived and delivered.
I can’t help likening the Hail to a sporty Ford Mondeo. It does everything and more that a great bike should, and it’s fast enough to throw you into a hedge before you’ve even noticed the trees.
Is it the most exciting bike around? No, probably not. It doesn’t make me whoop and holler the way other bikes have… But that’s the bike’s strength. It’s fast, confidence inspiring and stable at speed.