This article originally appeared on BikeRadar
The Liv female-specific brand obviously takes cues from Giant’s unisex models. The Avail Advanced Pro isn’t just a repainted, wide saddle Defy Advanced though, it’s a fully reshaped and reimagined bike that’s a great fit for a lot of riders – and rides.
- Highs: Confident handling and braking, easy female fit, balanced performance
- Lows: Not obviously smooth or speedy, relatively expensive
- Buy if: You want a confidence boosting, well balanced all weather all rounder
While there are plenty of disc brake options on men's/unisex bikes now, for some reason there are much fewer female targeted bikes controlling their speed with rotors rather than rims. That makes the Shimano Ultegra R685/785 disc brakes an obvious highlight of the Avail, particularly as they're integrated into the far corner of the frame very neatly.
The six-bolt, alloy spider 140mm rotors are less visually obtrusive than the 'official' frilled Shimano Freeza rotors and typically lighter ladies should be fine with the reduced heat eating capacity too. Despite pre-test worries, even our smallest handed testers had no problem with the R658 STI shifters and their bigger, hydraulic hiding shape either.
Giant's own brand SLR 1 Disc wheels are some of the best original equipment disc-specific sets we've used too, comparing closely to some premium carbon options when we've swapped between them as part of separate standalone tests.
The softer, grippier compound front and harder, more durable compound rear Giant P-SL1 tyres let you make the most of the enhanced braking control. The 25mm carcass size is fattened up by the broad rims to add more smoothness and rough road speed sustain at the point of contact.
Properly thought-out geometry tweaks
When it comes to other contact points that triangulate the ride the Avail also has one of the most conspicuously tweaked geometries of the several women's bikes we've tested recently, when you compare it with the mens/unisex model. The 74.5-degree seat tube puts hips further forward over the pedals than its competitors, and the seat tube is shorter and the standover is lower in proportion to similar top tube lengths.
It seems as if Liv's designers have done their homework too: the Avail was immediately praised by all testers for an immediately welcoming and well-balanced fit that was comfy over long distances without feeling so tall and upright that a basket would seem an obvious upgrade. Despite the low height, the long 420mm chainstays, slack 72-degree head angle and 990mm wheelbase create a very stable and surefooted handling feel that was particularly welcome in wet winter test conditions when combined with the disc brakes.
Liv has also got that most crucial of contact points – the saddle – right according to the various derrieres of our test team. While it's certainly not the usual plump and plushy profile that most manufacturers seem to assume women riders always want, Giant's Liv Contact SLR Forward saddle never caused any complaints. That's impressive, given how much disagreement saddle shape can provoke from riders of different shapes and sizes. The carbon rails mean it's pretty damn light too, and the unique D-shaped seatpost underneath it is all part of Giant's ride softening master plan.
All-round aspirations mean a few compromises
While the flat back of the seatpost and the flattened rear stays are both designed to create a leaf spring style spring to the back of the Avail there are clear signs it's not a totally cruise- and comfort-focused bike. The OverDrive 2 steerer, fork and stem are extra oversized and at the other end of the big, boxy down tube you'll find a 'PowerCore' decal on the similarly outsized, stiffness propagating bottom bracket.
Obviously the hope is for a best of both worlds split between a butch bottom half that hustles hills and a more flexible top half that sucks the sting out of rougher roads to keep spine and shoulders happy on longer rides.
If you can smell a 'but' coming though, you're right. While overall weight is comparable with rim braked bikes and any extra disc weight is centred well away from wheel edges where it'd be noticeable in terms of inertia the Avail (and Defy Advanced bikes we've tested) aren't as responsive as we'd expect from a carbon expert like Giant. They accelerate purposefully enough and don't drop gears without a fight, but there's a lack of pop or natural eagerness in their gait whether you're trying to turn a big gear or using the compact crankset to spin an efficient cadence.
Despite decent 25mm rubber and a long shaft of extended, 'designed to flex' seatpost, this isn't a particularly forgiving bike either. It's less rigid than a race bike for sure, but not in the same comfy class as Trek's scissor framed Silque, or Cannondale's Synapse or even the latter's SuperSix Evo racer, which we tested at the same time as the Avail. It's definitely a frame and fork thing too as we switched wheels and saddle to check it wasn't stiff components stifling an otherwise supple frame.
What it lacks in giddy enthusiasm or feather bed comfort it makes up for in an instantly glove like fit and wonderfully surefooted handling confidence. It never put a tyre wrong or gave us a sketchy moment even when we were bombing down Yorkshire Dales descents in the midst of a storm or when gravel path exploration left us sneaking down the edge of a farmers field to reach the next bit of properly surfaced track.
This ready for anything character literally makes it a great fit for riders who want to explore all the elements of modern road riding from rough gravel tracks to sticking a number on and trying some competitive laps round your local 'have a go' road race.