First Ride: Liv Cycling Embolden E+1 - women specific 120mm trail and touring e-bike
The Liv Embolden E+ is a bike of two niches, firstly it’s a full suspension e-bike and secondly, it’s a women-specific e-bike. We were invited out to Italy to try out the new 120mm trail bike from Liv Cycling, sister brand of Giant along with the longer travel Intrigue E+.
The Embolden E+ is designed as a capable trail bike for encouraging new riders to the sport, built for anything from touring to trail riding at a reasonable price. The bike we tested was the Embolden E+1, the top spec bike coming in at €3,499, there is also an Embolden E+2 which is slightly cheaper at €3,299 with a 500w battery or €3,099 with a 400w battery (UK pricing will available in August). The bikes are powered by Yamaha SyncDrive Sport motor, with a fully integrated battery (500Wh capacity) and a handlebar-mounted RideControl ONE button system. Giant is the only company that has the buying power with Yamaha that allows them to buy just the motors from Yamaha and spec the rest of the system themselves, hence the rebrand to Giant SyncDrive.
The SyncDrive Sport motor features five support modes and offers 80Nm of torque and up to 350% and of the riders effort through the Pedal Plus technology. This is the use of four sensors to measures pedal inputs from the rider and deliver the appropriate power assistance depending on the mode selected. The bike uses speed and torque sensors, along with motor and pedal rotation sensors to give assistance ranges from 50% of your input in Eco up to 350% in Sport+. The motor also features a walk assist mode and, on this bike a wider Q factor than the Pro motor used on the Intrigue E+1. Interestingly there will be an app available in September that will allow the rider to tune the motor to their preferences, record fitness and navigate too.
As I said, the bike is a full susser, getting 120mm of ‘Flex Point’ suspension which is a linkage driven single pivot system rather than using Giant’s ‘Maestro” floating pivot link. This is paired with 130mm forks, Rockshox Recon RL’s for the more expensive bike I rode. The rear suspension is taken care of by a Rockshox Monarch RT shock. The rest of the kit is as follows; there is a Shimano SLX 10 speed drivetrain with 36t chain ring up front. Brakes are also Shimano, these are the new and just released base model Deore BR-MT520 levers with BT-M500 4 piston callipers with 203mm rotors front and rear. The rest of the gear is Giant own branded including bars, stem, seat post, grips, Liv saddle, 35mm internal width rims with Giant eTracker hubs and two Maxxis Recon EXO 2.6” tyres. The spec appears on par with the Women’s Trek Powerfly 5 which come in at £3,600, although with Liv you do get the added benefit of those wider rims and 2.6” tyres. Critical parts are also sized incrementally; shorter stems and narrower bars are provided for smaller bikes and there are 165mm cranks on the XS and small with 170mm for the medium and large bikes.
Noteably, as this is a women’s bike, Liv have designed the geometry with women in mind, giving them the fit that the company believe's is best for the female shape. Liv quote research saying that women have shorter torso’s and longer legs than men and that a large amount of a woman's strength comes from their legs, affecting their weight distribution. The brand says that “if you put a woman on the correct size men’s frame, she will likely be bent too far over the bike – resulting in an extreme back angle – and be too stretched out – resulting in an extreme armpit angle.” The geometry of their bikes address these issues alongside producing bikes in one size smaller (XS) to enable most riders, however short or tall to fit on one of their bikes.
So, how does it ride?
I took the Embolden E+1, in a size medium, out in the Venosta Valley in South Tyrol, Italy on some excellent, purpose-built mountain bike trails taking in large amounts of both climbing and descending over the day. Climbing aboard the Embolden E+1 is easy from the off, the 100% assistance provided by the motor in Eco mode is plentiful and will see you powering up climbs out of the gate. I found the motor to engage quickly but required a half pedal stroke as it felt like it was ‘winding up’ to full power assistance, not a problem but just something to get used to. The direct drive motor is also easy (albeit heavy) to pedal with the motor off but there is little lag, good to know if you get stuck with no battery or top out over the 15mph. We had our batteries replaced during the day, depleted or not, so I need to spend more time with this stem to give you the facts on how the battery lasts versus bike usage. In a 20km ride using mostly the normal (175%) and sport (250%) mode I never dropped below half battery. Liv says this usage would give a range between 60-85km which seems a little ambitious but time and a longer term test will tell.
When on more technical climbing terrain I had to reign myself in, finding a sweet spot for climbing more technical and steep terrain in the middle ‘normal’ mode with 175% of assistance and sitting in the middle to upper ranges of the cassette. With a wheelbase of 1178mm and chain stays of 464mm, the Embolden was relatively well balanced when climbing as long as you have a keen eye on keeping your weight on the front to keep that front wheel tracking the ground.
Take a turn downhill and the Embolden E+1 is set to devour some trails but not all, the geometry and spec of this bike is aimed at touring riders and ones that want to tackle less serious terrain. With a reach of 431mm its not the most roomy in the cockpit but my medium was equipped with a 60mm stem making the effective reach comfortable for longer distances but less well equipped at tackling more technical trails where a shorter stem and a longer frame reach would give more direct steering and a more confident, stable ride. The 67.5° head angle is average for this type of bike given the trail use this bike is designed for.
That said, the Embolden E+1 happily took on the smoother, less steep trails of the region where the Recon RL fork wasn’t quite so overwhelmed. The 130mm fork required me to run them at a higher pressure to get the support needed which had a detrimental effect on the small bump sensitivity. The wide tyres combined with wider rims were a good coupling for the dusty dry trails, rolling well on the road too, great if this will be your long distance bike to explore such regions as we did, with this use the fork performance won't be an issue. The single pivot suspension system worked well, the positives of an easy to maintain, simple set up offsets the slightly less supple suspension and riders buying this bike as an adventure machine with an added e-boost will likely be happy with the performance.
As with any e-bike the weight helps to provide a great source of stability and it is this that will goad you into pushing the Embolden E+, take it onto rougher trails or chunkier fire roads and the bike, despite slighter short geometry will plough through and see you out the other side unscathed! Stopping was also an efficient affair, the Shimano four piston stoppers are a good upgrade compared to previous Giant e-bikes, not as powerful as other more expensive brakes but a cut above the two piston version.
Buy and Embolden E+1 with some trail use in mind and you might want to make a few upgrades the first being a dropper post, there is room internal cable routing so this will be an easy upgrade. There is also room for fenders and a kickstand if touring is your thing.
The Embolden E+1 looks to be an ideal bike for taking on long distances, this would be great little alpine touring bike; comfortable enough to sit on all day, whilst still adept at tackling singletrack if it crosses your path.