Gravity addicts unite. The Liv Intrigue SX has arrived and it is everything you could want in a trusty steed. Liv is one of the few brands making women's bikes with geometry and componentry designed and packaged specifically to fit smaller body proportions. The Giant Bicycles' spinoff has gained a reputation as a leader in recent years for its women's-specific bikes like the new SX, which is essentially a souped-up version of the Intrigue 1.
For this third iteration of the Intrigue, Liv has made some seriously smart spec decisions. It beefed up the front travel from 140 millimeters on the Intrigue 1 to 160 millimeters via a RockShox Pike RCT3, and swapped the Fox Float CTD shock for the RockShox Monarch Plus Debonair RT. The longer-travel fork slackens the headtube angle from 68 to 67 degrees, meaning this machine wants to go downhill. Fast.Although Liv doesn't offer a carbon-fiber frame option, none of our testers minded the aluminum frame, and in fact reported that it felt lightweight and capable in spite of the bike's longer travel. Liv has also given the Intrigue SX a SRAM X1 single-ring drivetrain with a 30-tooth chainring. This gearing can make uphills a bit of a slog, but Giant's Maestro suspension platform does a decent job of reducing pedal bob. Regardless, we still preferred to climb with the suspension locked out when we were on smooth trails or fire-road climbs.
Another bonus to the Intrigue SX is its overall simplicity. With few distractions in the cockpit, clean lines and internal cable routing to keep everything tidy, the bike has a minimalistic aesthetic. For $4,475, the components are stacked with SRAM Guide RS brakes, Schwalbe Hans Dampf and Rock Razor 2.35 tires and Giant's smooth Contact SL dropper post.
Liv offers the Intrigue SX in three sizes: extra small, small and medium. The benefit of an extra-small frame is perhaps most apparent in its low, 27.4-inch standover height. Liv has a history of making bikes that fit smaller riders without compromising performance, and the Intrigue SX is no exception. For anyone willing to work for those dream descents, the Intrigue SX is an excellent choice for the price.
Q&A with Janette Sherman
Before this year's test bikes rolled into our barn, we had questions about them–some of the same questions that you might be asking yourself when you start poking around at a new bike. Here's something to chew on for the next couple of minutes, courtesy of Liv's Global Marketing Manager, Janette Sherman. –Vernon Felton, Bible of Bike Tests Moderator
Vernon Felton: Who is the ideal rider for this bike?
Janette Sherman: If there is one truth we want to communicate about Liv and our products now and in the coming years, it is that we are a no-compromise brand. The Intrigue SX clearly demonstrates that truth. We took no shortcuts and spec'd this bike at the highest level. We had the most advanced female trail rider in mind and looked to professional athletes like Leigh Donovan and Katie Holden (as well as our ambassadors) on how they were setting up their Intrigues and what they wanted from their trail bike. The Intrigue SX is the result of that research and feedback. We want this bike, like any Liv bike, to build confidence in the rider and allow her to conquer technical trail features that may have been a challenge in the past.
VF: Are there conditions in which you feel this bike really excels and, if so, what specific design attributes of the bike make that so?
JS: Yes, this bike will perform exceptionally well on technical downhills, without compromising climbing efficiency. For the descents, the specific design features that really make this bike the go-to choice for any discerning female trail rider are the lower bottom bracket and tighter cockpit–the latter of which is achieved with a shorter top tube, a longer head tube as well as the–yes, dare we say it–slightly steeper head angle than our competitors.
This proven geometry allows the rider to be in a more aggressive riding position by lowering her center of gravity and allowing her to drive and maneuver the bike from her lower body–her source of strength.
These geometry choices are what make this bike truly women's specific. The result is a confident and stable ride that remains playful. One bit of feedback we always hear from our testers is that the Intrigue SX also performs exceptionally well in corners. The front wheel locks in nicely and the solid wheelbase keeps everything tracking in line. This is again due to the same frame geometry attributes I mentioned a moment ago.
VF: There aren't a ton of women's-specific bikes in the aggressive-trail/all-mountain category, but their numbers are growing. What sets this model apart from some similar bikes that consumers might be looking at in 2016?
JS: We are so pleased to see the other brands realize the opportunity and, quite frankly, the need, for high-end product in the women's market. Giant, as a brand, recognized this need way back in 2007 when Giant for Women was started. We grew into Liv/Giant and then established ourselves as a stand-alone brand, Liv, in 2014.
As we continue to grow, Liv remains fully committed to the women's market. That said, at Liv we are doing it differently than other brands by providing women's-specific geometry based on global body dimension studies and athlete and ambassador feedback. Thanks to our brother brand, Giant–which remains a leader in innovation, technology and engineering we are able to design women's-specific frames that really harness a woman's strengths.
From start to finish these bikes are engineered, built and marketed all in-house, by a team of passionate and driven women. We own the entire process from start to finish. No other brand can say that. I would never say one approach is right or wrong, but the Liv philosophy is to do more than paint a bike a different color and add different components. By offering women's-specific frame design we offer a one-and-only product in the market. The Intrigue SX embodies that effort.
As I mentioned in the previous question, we made purpose driven design decisions as we engineered the Intrigue series. By providing a bike with a lower bottom bracket, shorter top tube, longer head tube and a slightly steeper head angle than other trail bikes on the market, we meet the needs of the female rider and really allow her to use and access her lower body strength, both descending and climbing.
VF: Are there any aspects of the frame design that you guys are particularly proud of? If so, what are they and why?
JS: We took a totally different approach than anyone else out there and we went against the grain a little. Time and time again, women come to us and tell us how the Intrigue has changed the way they ride for the better. Aside from the geometry aspects of the frame design, we are also really proud of our high-end, proprietary ALUXX SL aluminum frame. It is extremely light and has exceptional ride quality.
VF: What was Liv aiming for with the spec on this bike and how did you achieve it?
JS: We have known since we released the Intrigue series that we had a trail bike geometry with tons of potential. The spec choices for this bike are based on market wants and needs. The 160-millimeter RockShox Pike decreases the head angle (over other models in the Intrigue line) by an entire degree. This gives the bike a nice slack feel, but holds enough angle to keep the front wheel from wandering.
The addition of the RockShox Monarch Plus DebonAir allows for better performance in extremely technical rock gardens and big hits, allowing the rider to push her limits in both arenas.
Finally, the SRAM X1 11-speed drivetrain drivetrain was an absolute must on this bike. The bottom line is that one-by is perfect for this type of rider and decreases the instances of chain drop and the need to anticipate gear shifts on climbs. We also added on a 50-millimeter stem and 740-millimeter-wide bar for super-responsive handling.
VF: Are there any details/features on this bike that you think are particularly critical to its performance that might be easily overlooked by consumers at first glance?
JS: Again, that this bike offers a women's-specific frame design. We have this bike on all three of our US Liv demo fleets traveling the US and I encourage any women to test the Intrigue SX first hand. Visit this link to see where our demo crew is going next.