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The Liv / Giant Avail Composite 1 is a striking, aerodynamic ride with excellent components, designed for all-day endurance riding. However, we'll come to all those aspects later because what really stands out is the ease with which you can change from the small to the large chainring on the compact chainset (50/34 tooth ratio) thanks to Shimano Ultegra gearing, which although not electronic, is electrifyingly good. If you've ever had difficulties pushing a stiff gear lever across with the overstretched fingers of your left hand mid-race, having to take your hand off the handlebars and use the whole thing, or even giving up entirely and pulling it across with your right hand, you'll know what I'm talking about. On the Avail Composite 1 however, you can flick instantly to the large chainring, proving both satisfying in training and blimin' hallelujah-worthy in races where the last thing you want is to miss out on the first stages of a place-gaining downhill because you're fighting with a gear lever.
So what about the rest of the bike? Well seeing as we're on the subject of the second-to-elite-level Shimano Ultegra gearing, I'll continue, and to balance it out let's address one of the downsides. In my opinion there needs to be a couple more teeth on that lovely, easily accessed large chainring. There are 50, but I'm spinning out down hill in mildly undulating Lincolnshire, so it's no match for the mountainous Lake District. And seeing as downhills are the only time I'll ever overtake anyone, powering down in a big gear is important to me. On the other hand, the 34 teeth on the small chainring allow you to take it easy up most hills, from Lincolnshire to the Lakes and everything in between. Well, with a bit of out-of-the-saddle and a lot of puffing that is in my case…However, this 50/34 compact chainring combination is common to all the other makes of bikes I've compared the Liv/Giant to, so this is just a personal opinion.
Bar the Shimano 105 10 speed cassette (11-28 tooth ratio), the whole groupset is Shimano Ultegra, so you're getting top notch, slick-moving componentry here. The brake levers are easily adjusted via a screw to accommodate smaller women's hands, and are quick and responsive on the Giant P-SL1 Wheel System which are strong yet light at 1187g/1776g front/back. The tyres they provide out of the box, the Giant P-R3 with Flat Guard, have harder rubber protection at the centre and provide excellent grip so I feel much more confident cornering at speed than ever before. A recent ride in the rain proved the quality of the braking, and while I definitely took the corners more steadily, my confidence in the tyre performance was confirmed.
However, during the course of just one month I got no less than four punctures, one front and three back. So despite their very pleasing performance when not succumbing to thorns, sharp rocks or pothole pinches, the Giant P-R3 tyres are just not tough enough. I haven't had any punctures on any of the other bikes I've ever tested on the same commuting route so this bike has been a joy, yet also a, "Not again!" nightmare to ride too many times. Get some more robust tyres on and the whole story would be different.
The frame uses Giant's Composite Technology, high performance T-600 Carbon Fibre. It's certainly light (7.87kg without pedals) and absorbs road buzz nicely, and it's modified monocoque construction means that the front triangle is assembled and molded as one continuous piece, then joined to the rear chainstays and seatstays in a secondary process. This eliminates the outermost woven composite sheet which reduces the weight of the bike without affecting the ride quality, strength or stiffness. The aero seat tube is made from Giant Vector Composite. This results in an aerodynamic bike that cuts through the wind on anything from an hours commute to a whole day sportive.
On plenty of Sunday morning and commuting rides around hilly Lincolnshire and not-so-hilly Cambridgeshire, I found the geometry of the Avail Composite 1 made for a very responsive ride that encourages pace. You feel efficient on climbs and sprints, but at the same time comfortable as the bike is designed especially for female riders as part of the dedicated brand Liv/Giant. The top tube slopes down, decreasing the standover height (height of the top tube from the ground) which is better for shorter female riders and reduces the weight of the front and rear triangles.
The Avail Composite 1 also features Giant's OverDrive steerer tube which is oversized for better handling and slightly taller to help your position on endurance rides. The Fi'zi:k Vesta saddle with manganese rails also helps with comfort. It feels good, cushioned in all the right places, but as a recent convert to Adamo double-pronged saddles, I must confess to swapping the provided saddle over to my other road bike. Whenever ridden, the Fi'si:k performed well however and felt comfortable for short journeys.
All in all, this lightweight carbon fibre bike has performed excellently on all durations of riding in hilly and undulating areas. The Shimano Ultegra gearing works brilliantly - quick and easy, so if you were thinking of upgrading to electronic gearing, fear not, you don't need to shell out. For an extra £850 you can get electronic Shimano Ultegra Di2 gearing on the Giant/Liv Avail Composite 0, but I'd say save yourself the money - plain Ultegra is good enough. This bike is a good compromise for women who don't want to fork out for the lightest weight carbon fibre frame and wheels, but do want to change gear efficiently. But you will have to change to some more robust tyres!
At a glance
|Verdict||A high-performance, light, carbon fibre bike with quick, easy-shifting gears designed for endurance riding, but you will need to upgrade to tougher tyres.|
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