Mountain bikes offer different suspension setups for different types or riders. Regular columnist Kath Fourie recently found out that less travel is not necessarily a bad thing.
When I first bought my own bicycle, I had no idea that bikes came with different suspension measurements. However, it didn’t take long for me to find out that travel was going to play an essential part in my bicycle story. I loved the downhills, I thought rock gardens were awesome and the first time my wheels went up in the air my heart nearly burst with happiness. I graduated from 100mm of travel, through to 140mm and took the leap to 160mm in 2016. The head angle on my bikes went from upright to full-on Harley-Davidson.
Recently though, I was given the chance to ride a 120mm bike with a 70-degree head angle, the Liv Pique Advanced 2. This is Liv’s new XC trail bike, and after spending a year on a bike that is geared at descending, I was super keen to see how I would handle the same trails I was used to crunching with my Giant Reign. Well, the experience has been eye opening – and left me a little torn between the two necessities every rider debates – speedy climbing and speedy descending.
The first thing I noticed on the Pique was how upright I felt, but I quickly deducted that my typical wide bars and short stem set up would make any other bike feel upright. The second thing I noticed, while pedalling around the yard, was how easy it was to lift the front wheel – as I nearly shot over onto my backside while attempting a wheelie. Clearly a 70-degree head angle makes it easier to lift the wheel as more of the bike is below you than on a raked-out bike.
My first proper ride on the Liv Pique Advanced 2, was on the Sappi Howick Classic – a 40km race known for its technical singletrack and “up and down” profile. It’s very rarely that you’re riding anything of a flat nature in Howick. Having just ridden my Giant Reign on the Enduro the day before, the ease of climbing some of the same trails and hills compared to 24 hours prior was noticeable straight away. But the real difference came in when riding up single track with rocky sections in it – the tracking on this bike is like a laser gun – pew-pew – slicing right up the rocks, even in the slick sections. I finished as 2nd Sub-Vet woman, and thought “Hmm, not bad, little bike!”
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I travelled to Johannesburg to watch the Pixies concert. We started off the weekend with a ride along the Spruit – and in the urban environment interspersed with grassy tracks and a much flatter terrain in general, 120mm of suspension was perfect. The Spruit has a section of berms, drops and jumps in an area known as Hurlingham, and while I was a wee bit nervous to put my faith into the bike, it handled the jumps and drops with ease. I didn’t even get through all of the travel, despite a few ‘eek’ moments on my side. It was the least taxing ride along the Spruit I’d ever experienced, with my ride mates bent over their raked-out forks saying “ja, ja, whatever … you’re on an xc bike”. Whatever indeed.
The following weekend was the Giba Gorge Enduro, and so impressed with the laser-gun Pique was I, that I decided to enter her into her first Enduro race. To be fair, this was because the race organisers had chosen exceptionally pedally stages, and normally if it was steeper I would have gone with the big guns. However, what I didn’t think about was how technical trails would feel at full race pace, particularly in the rain. A steeper head angle keeps your weight on the front wheel, which is awesome when you’re pinning it and trying to grind every bit of energy into how fast your wheels are spinning, but somewhat less awesome when you hit a series of hairpin mud corners and try and do inside corner cutting turns. This is because with a more Enduro styled bike, the wheel sort of guides you out of super tight situations as it is not pinned down by your own weight, and with an xc style bike, if you turn your wheel in sharply it is far more likely that your back end is going to wind up flying over your front end. As I found out. I had to adjust my race strategy (after picking myself off the floor) to ride smarter and not expect the bike to soak up my mistakes. I tackled the technical features with no problem on 120mm, but it was the unexpected simpler things that didn’t even require suspension that I struggled on when I had upped the pace!
And I guess that is what the crux of the matter is here. The Liv Pique Advanced 2 is a bad-ass bike with a 120mm of punch and ninja-kicks, and is extremely capable on many types of trails, in many types of conditions and it will make you feel like a flippin’ hero on hill climbs and trail ascents. If you’re going to extend its range into Enduro or steeper trails it should be ridden cleverly – a top tip is getting low on the bike and putting your elbows out in a square shape to keep the bike stable and locked down. As for me though, I am just procrastinating on giving the demo bike back. Maybe just one more week…