Cyclocross

2021 Liv Devote Advanced Pro review: An entry into gravel – CyclingTips

Just after announcing the new Brava Advanced Pro cyclocross bike a couple of weeks ago, Liv Cycling enters the gravel bike market with its all-new Devote series.

Story Highlights

  • What it is: Liv’s first dedicated gravel bike series.
  • Features: Advanced-Grade Composite frame and fork, OverDrive tapered steerer tube, SRAM Force eTap AXS wide-range drivetrain, fenders and rack compatibility, internal cable routing, three water bottle mounts on all frame sizes, D-Fuse flare drop handlebar, D-Fuse seatpost, 700 x 45 mm or 650 x 50 mm tire clearance, BB86 press-fit bottom bracket, 30.9 mm dropper seatpost compatibility.
  • Weight: 18.08 lb (8.2 kg) without pedals or cages
  • Price: US$5,500 / €5,000 / AU$7,299
  • Size tested: Small (approx 50 cm)
  • Highs: Lightweight, confidence-inspiring geometry provides comfort and stability, impressive spec, option for a 30.9 mm dropper post.
  • Lows: Longer wheelbase means it doesn’t suit tight singletrack where the handling can feel a bit slow.

The Devote Advanced Pro model that’s reviewed here uses Liv’s Advanced Grade Composite frame and fork, making it a lightweight, fast bike with other build options that can take it from gravel grinder to backcountry-bound. It’s also quite an eye-catcher in its psychedelic Chameleon Blue / Reflective Mushroom colors. Total weight is 8.2 kg (18.08 lbs) for my small-sized tester, and that’s without pedals or bottle cages.

Details include rack and fender mounts, as well as three water bottle locations to allow for plenty of exploring. There’s also internal cable routing, a tapered steerer tube, and because the frame allows the use of a 30.9mm post, it makes it easy to fit a dropper if you want to get a little rowdy. And if you do, the impact zone on the down tube is covered by a protective pad, just in case.

The bike is set up with a 400 mm Giant Contact SLR XR D-Fuse flared handlebar, paired with Liv’s All Condition tape. There’s also a D-Fuse SLR seatpost, and Liv says that using these components at the rider’s two main contact points improves compliance.

Seeing a trend? Everything Liv did with the Devote was centered around comfort and stability while offering the versatility to make this a racing machine or an adventuring buddy.

Geometry – Devoted Stability

Liv is one of the few brands still committed to women’s-specific geometry, with more and more brands moving away from that approach. Liv uses a policy of “fit, form, function,” when starting the design process, whether that’s bikes or gear. Liv designers start by using a Global Body Dimension Database, which gives insight into female anthropometrics and different ways women use their leg muscles compared to men.

The Devote seems to take some technical inspiration from the Giant Revolt Advanced gravel series that also boasts stability, including a 70.5º headtube angle, 1,020 mm wheelbase, and 50 mm of fork rake. While there may be these similarities in slackness and length, the overall geometry of the Devote is still designed with women’s proportions and anatomy in mind.

The Devote’s geometry would complement events like Crusher in the Tushar, DK, or Rebecca’s Private Idaho. The 50 mm fork rake offers up a 76 mm trail on sizes x-small and small, and is intended for long days in the saddle and a variety of terrain. (Medium and large sizes also use a 50 mm fork rake reducing the trail to 73 mm).

The higher trail figure results in the front wheel being positioned further out in front of the rider, thus leading to greater stability, but it can compromise steering speed. I’m not saying you’re screwed if you get onto some tight, twisty singletrack, but with that head tube angle and longer wheelbase, this bike really excels (and accels) when going in a straight line. Up or down. And toe overlap? Forget about it.

Max tire clearance is 700 x 45 mm and 650 x 50 mm.

Much like Giant’s Revolt, the Devote uses a 430 mm chainstay to offer more tire clearance. The Advanced Pro comes with Maxxis’s smooth and fast Velocita 700 x 40 mm tubeless tires, with max tire clearance being 700 x 45 mm and 650 x 50 mm.

Pricing for the Advanced Pro (as tested) is US$5,500 / €5,000 / AU$7,299.

The testing and exploring

Liv stated in a press release that the company’s intent with the Devote design was to “optimize weight distribution on the bike to allow the rider to be positioned for maximum power and efficiency,” while also offering a comfortable and stable ride.

The Devote came at a great time as the summer of COVID-19 progressed, and I’ve been able to ride and test it since the end of June. I packed up and moved to Squamish, British Columbia, two years ago from the rolling roads of Colorado, so to be spending more time at home exploring my backyard was quite welcome.

While they’re rich with mountain biking culture, Squamish and British Columbia have impressed me with their gravel offerings too. The roads don’t go on for endless miles as they do in Colorado, but they do send you straight into the steep mountains via old logging and access routes. Combine that with some fun, rooty singletrack that Squamish has no shortage of and you’re bound to have a great time.

My riding tends to gravitate towards “off the beaten track”. I want to be able to explore some of these roads and trails way out in the mountains and I need a bike that can handle it. Or maybe that can handle me. The Devote was up for the challenge.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the Devote Advanced Pro is set up with SRAM’s new Force eTap AXS Wide, particularly for the wide, low-range gearing it offered. The wireless 12-speed shifting element is great, but it’s the 10-36T cassette and smaller 43/30T chainrings that had me feeling thankful.

The 10-36T cassette, and smaller 43/30T chainrings made climbing the steeps much easier.

The bike’s AXS drivetrain had enough range for my local gravel climbs, all of which seem to aim straight up as soon as they leave the valley floor, and the button-touch robotic action supplies instant shifting when told to do so. Yes, cable-operated drivetrains can do the same thing, but you’d be surprised (or maybe not?) by how bad your technique can be when every muscle in your body is straining to keep you moving forward. With AXS, you just tap the button and it happens. If only that wall of a climb was that easy.

The drivetrain did run a little noisier than expected when pedalling along, but the shifting remained smooth and I never dropped a chain.

The Maxxis Velocita tires (700 x 40 mm tubeless) come stock, but didn’t suit the terrain where I was riding up in British Columbia.

The Maxxis Velocita tires that came with the Devote are great for fast-rolling surfaces. But up here in Squamish I find myself on more aggressive, loose terrain that would be more suitable for a mountain bike at times. I opted to switch to Vittoria’s Terreno Mix 700 x 40 mm tubeless tires. Same width but much more pronounced knobs to dig into the dirt and keep me upright.

I opted for a knobbier tire than the stock Maxxis – Vittoria Terreno’s for mixed terrain.

Is slacker better?

Coming from a mountain bike background where slacker and longer is the new norm, I’ll admit that my interest was sparked when I saw that the Devote skews to the more relaxed side of the gravel road.

Relatively speaking, the slacker head angle and longer wheelbase found on the Devote (compared to the likes of the Marin Gestalt X10, Trek Checkpoint, Santa Cruz Stigmata, and Juliana Quincy) indeed make for a fast and stable descending companion. And when it came to heading straight into the abyss at speed, it accelerated with ease.

This shift in weight over the rear wheel kept the front wheel from being overloaded, making for a stable ride down, but also made tighter and technical turns a little more awkward than they might have been on a more compact machine. Singletrack descents didn’t feel as playful on the Devote as I would have liked, but it was more predictable, which isn’t a bad thing when the trail is challenging. It also helped on washboard gravel and other imperfect, traction-limited surfaces, especially compared to a more traditional bike.

As the shift over the rear wheel benefits descending, the same principle applies to the front wheel; weight tends to overload the rear when climbing. The Devote did have slower handling during climbs due to the long trail, especially when climbing out of the saddle. It was a little more challenging to get that front tire to bite compared to other gravel bikes that might have a slightly steeper head angle and shortened wheelbase, but it climbed best when I could stay seated and low on the bike, distributing my weight to optimize the effort.

The 400 mm Giant Contact SLR XR D-Fuse flared handlebar complements the comfort and stability theme.

As I mentioned before, the Devote is set up with a D-Fuse flared handlebar and D-Fuse SLR seatpost, which help to improve compliance and comfort. The D-Fuse bar positioned me a bit more upright, and with its wide stance I could immediately tell the Devote could handle those long, gruelling days. I felt supported and stable. The shape helped to create that more forgiving ride with the wider hand positioning, however, the bars felt a little clumsy when I found myself out of the saddle. This naturally made me choose seated pedalling when I could.

My comfort (especially my lower back) was put to the test when I ventured out on a rugged ride into the backcountry. The route I chose was rough moto trails that beat the hell out of me, and it can even be challenging on a mountain bike due to the grade and big, loose rocks. Much like Giant’s Revolt Advanced 0, which Dave Rome reviewed last year, the D-fuse seatpost and bars use a “D” shaped tubing, with a flat back edge that allows some flexibility while riding over the bumpy stuff, and it was a noticeably smoother ride. Liv, my back thanks you.

Liv uses a Giant D-Fuse SLR (composite) seatpost, but it’s compatible with a 30.9 mm dropper.

What really has me intrigued is the 30.9 mm dropper post compatibility. I am one of those people who has been wanting a dropper post on my cyclocross bike for years, and as the gravel offerings grow, so do the options to include a dropper. Liv offers a dropper post with the Advanced 1 spec.

But, wait. Where do you find a dropper post that comes in the shape of a “D”? You don’t. Here the Devote uses a feature from Giant’s new TCX Advanced Pro and Liv Brava Advanced Pro cross bikes. Effectively it uses a wedge to hold the D-shaped seatpost within a larger 30.9 mm diameter seat tube.

Giant CXR 2 Carbon Disc wheels have a 25 mm inner diameter allowing a 38-40 mm gravel tire or 2.3″ mountain bike tire.

The Devote did an impressive job keeping me comfortable for longer, with the Vittoria Terrenos mounted on Giant CXR 2 Carbon Disc wheels gripping the terrain better than the file-treaded Maxxis Velocitas would have. The carbon wheels are lightweight, and they sure look nice, but there was a small amount of play in the front hub that never went away. It wasn’t something I noticed while riding, but a slight rattle could be felt at the tire if you gave it a wiggle.

And let me tell you, Liv’s All-Condition bar tape is no joke. Not having gloves on this specific ride wasn’t ideal, and I came back pretty callused, but the bar tape offered plushness along with the grip of skateboard tape. Luckily, it’s not as abrasive. Note, the bar tape photographed on my test bike will differ from consumer spec.

Spec

The Devote Advanced Pro is built with SRAM Force eTap AXS Wide, a 10-36T cassette, with smaller 43/30T chainrings. This gearing range was the perfect setup for a bike with no agenda, and it made it possible to opt into rides I typically would not have attempted. As expected, this also means brakes are SRAM Force eTap AXS hydraulic which provide great stopping power.

The Advanced Pro includes a number of Giant- and Liv-branded parts, like the Giant Contact SLR XR D-Fuse flared handlebar, Giant D-Fuse SLR (composite) seatpost, 80 mm Giant Contact stem, and Liv’s new Approach Saddle.

The CXR 2 Carbon Disc wheels have a 25 mm inner width, allowing you to put on a 32 mm road tire or a 45 mm gravel tread. They come with Maxxis Velocita 700 x 40 mm tubeless tires. The Devote Advanced and Devote are designed for 140 mm to 160 mm rotors, and are paired with flat-mount disc brakes.

Riders like myself and those looking for a more capable build may lean more towards the Advanced 1 spec. This is the more backcountry-friendly set-up, including Giant Contact Switch dropper post, Giant P-X2 Disc wheels, 700 x 45 mm Maxxis Rambler tubeless tires, Contact XR D-Fuse handlebar, and Shimano’s 11-speed GRX drivetrain.

Liv is also offering the Devote as the Devote 1 and 2 in an alloy version using ALUXX Grade Aluminum with two build options. The Devote 1 is built up with Shimano GRX and the Devote 2 goes to a more affordable option with Shimano Sora.

Pricing for other models is as follows:

  • Devote Advanced 1: US$3,000 / AU$4,199 / €2,800
  • Devote Advanced 2: US$2,500 / AU$3,699 / €2,500
  • Devote 1: Not available in US / AU$2,199 / €1,400
  • Devote 2: US$1,150 / AU$1,699 / €1,100v

Final Thoughts

Liv was overdue to enter the gravel market, and the brand chose a versatile design and spec to offer women a bike that would fit their needs. It looks damn good. The Devote offers a capable ride whether you’ve decided to race it or take it for an adventure into the bush for a few days. It may not be the quickest on tight singletrack, but its predictability and stability make it a great choice if you’re unsure where the dirt will take you.

liv-cycling.com