The Liv Avail 4 is a decent entry-level road bike, with its aluminium frame and carbon fork delivering a fun and nippy ride. It can be quite harsh over rough surfaces, though, and the Shimano Claris groupset is frustrating at times.
Liv is Giant's women-specific brand, and this is the entry-level model in its Avail range. This tops out at the Avail 1, with an £899 price tag and Shimano 105 groupset, although the Avail Advanced SL will set you back £4,000...
Liv has taken a belt-and-braces approach to stiffness on this Aluxx grade aluminium frame, from the chunky PowerCore oversized bottom bracket and hefty chainstays, to the 30.9mm oversized seatpost. The result is a nippy and responsive bike – a fun ride if you're on smooth roads.
Unfortunately, on less salubrious blacktop, the lack of flex makes for an at times harsh and buzzy ride, as can be the case with some aluminium frames, and on really rough road surfaces (we're talking properly decayed here) that stiffness transfers vibrations and jolts to you, the rider, to an uncomfortable degree.
The steering is on the twitchy side – not a problem for me, but not everyone may want or enjoy this level of responsiveness on a beginner's bike.
Many beginners will appreciate the wide-range gearing, though, courtesy of an 8-speed 11-32 cassette and FSA Tempo 50/34 compact chainset. It's a decent enough bike on the climbs anyway, but the low gearing helps to negate any extra weight that comes with cheaper components – and it's not the lightest bike.
Saying that, in my experience Claris can be a bit frustrating – and its performance on the Liv was no exception. The front derailleur could be hard to shift, and had a tendency of getting stuck in either the big or small ring. It may be a case of fine-tuning, but once you move up Shimano's range into Sora territory and beyond, this tends to be less of a problem.
In terms of finish, I like the graphics – as you can see from the photos, white with aqua blue and dark blue highlights, and an attractive star pattern repeated on the down tube and fork, the seatstays and the inside of the chainstays. On the downside the welds are a bit knobbly-looking, and the externally routed cables stick out quite a way from the frame, thanks to the positioning of the cable mount on the head tube rather than the down tube. So long as you don't plan on riding through bramble thickets this shouldn't be too much of a problem...
There are no pannier rack mounts on the frame, so if you're looking for a commuter bike and aren't into cycling with a rucksack, this is something to bear in mind. On the other hand, Giant says the chunky seatpost can handle a collar-mounted rack.
I was in between sizes and opted for the small model, which had some not insignificant toe overlap. This became an issue in tight manoeuvres, or when setting off when the front wheel wasn't entirely straight, so something to bear in mind when choosing your frame size.
Wheels, tyres, brakes…
The Avail 4 uses the same own-brand SR-2 wheels as specified on the Avail 3 and 2 (the Avail 1 has PR-2s), but other components change as you progress through the models: the Avail 3 has Shimano Sora gears, the Avail 2 moves up to Tiagra, and the Avail 1 has the excellent 105. Wheels and tyres performed well on a variety of surfaces, and there were no complaints, grip-wise.
In terms of stopping power, the made-for-Giant Tektro brakes offer nothing to complain about. The Avail 4 also has cross-top brakes – secondary levers mounted on the bar top. Love them or hate them, Giant's reasoning is that some women new to road biking feel uncomfortable about riding in the drops, and if this is the case, and it's helping people get into road biking, this can be no bad thing.
Another benefit of these levers could be for riders with flexibility issues, or back problems, that means riding with their hands on the hoods is uncomfortable. I didn't use them at all, and found they got in the way when it came to mounting a phone on the bar; I had to resort to mounting it sideways on the stem, which made map reading interesting...
The Liv Connect Forward saddle was acceptable. The surface felt a little cheap and plasticky but I had no complaints in terms of comfort, even on longer rides. As always, though, saddles are a matter of personal choice.
I found the shallow-drop Giant Connect handlebar comfortable, too, and I particularly liked the soft finish of the bar tape, which was also well-padded, helping to reduce buzz on rough surfaces.
Overall, the Avail 4 is a fun, nippy, entry-level bike designed to get you from A to B quickly. However, if the roads near you are poorly maintained, this bike has less to recommend it than models with a bit more flex in the frame.
A fun, nippy entry-level offering, although if the roads near you are poorly maintained then it has less to recommend it
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Liv Avail 4
Size tested: Small
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Aluxx grade aluminium frame with carbon fork.
Sizes XXS, XS, S, M, L
Frame ALUXX-Grade Aluminum
Fork Hybrid Composite, OverDrive Steerer
Handlebar Giant Connect
Stem Giant Sport
Seatpost Giant Sport 30.9mm
Saddle Liv Connect Forward
Pedals Wellgo with clips and straps
Shifters Shimano Claris 16 speed
Front Derailleur Shimano Claris
Rear Derailleur Shimano Claris
Brakes Tektro TK-R312 Giant Specific, Dual Pivot
Brake Levers Shimano Claris
Cassette SRAM PG850 11x32
Chain KMC Z7
Crankset FSA Tempo 34/50
Bottom Bracket FSA cartridge
Rims Giant S-R2
Hubs Giant Tracker Sport Road
Spokes Stainless Steel
Tyres Giant S-R4, Front and Rear specific, 700x25mm
Extras Cross top brake levers
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Giant says: "Built specifically for women riders, the Avail is a versatile performer for all types of road adventures. From short training rides to long days in the saddle, its comfortable endurance positioning and easy handling keep you in control. Other features include an OverDrive steerer tube for precision steering and a PowerCore oversized bottom bracket for maximum pedalling efficiency."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Looks-wise the welds are a little knobbly; and the ride can be a bit harsh, but on the other hand it's stiff and responsive.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Aluxx grade aluminium frame with carbon fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Giant's "women's endurance" geometry.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
I ended up on a small as I was between sizes, which was perhaps a little cramped.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It was comfortable on smooth roads, though the ride tended to be a bit harsh on rougher surfaces.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
A little too stiff.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, it felt efficient.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Yes, this was a problem when setting off or manoeuvring very tight corners.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Handled well, though the steering was a little on the lively side.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Stiff frame, chunky seatpost made the ride a little harsh; could offer more give.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The oversize bottom bracket and chainstays; could do with being more forgiving.
Steering a little twitchy
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
I found the Shimano Claris derailleurs a little temperamental, at times refusing to shift on the front chainrings.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? No
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your score
It's a fun, responsive bike to ride but loses points in terms of comfort on rough surfaces, and even though it's good value I'd probably suggest spending a bit more for a better groupset.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: I ride: I would class myself as:
I regularly do the following types of riding: