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In a relatively small pool of female-focused gravel bikes, the Liv Devote 1 delivers a fun and sporty but confidence-inspiring ride, on tarmac or trail.
Many will argue to and fro indefinitely about the need for women-specific bikes, when any good bike fit should be able to sort out comfort issues in a standard bike frame. However, I tend to sit just over the fence on the pro female-specific side, having found better and more reliable ride comfort over the years and less tweaking with women's bikes than unisex ones. I'm average height at 5ft 5in so I guess I sit right in the target zone for women's bikes.
One of the areas that's been lagging behind over recent years is women's gravel bikes. If you're looking for a do-it-all steed for tracks, trails and our country's fantastically variable road surfaces, a gravel bike makes a lot of sense.
The Devote range of gravel and adventure-focused bikes from Giant's women's bike specialist arm Liv is one of very few in the market with a female focus. With two aluminium-framed models and three carbon, there's something for everyone too.
I've been riding one of Liv's previous gravel bike models – the Invite – for a few years now, with great success, taking it on and off road in equal measure and on weekend bikepacking trips. I was looking forward to trying the Devote 1 as being a step up in terms of commitment to gravel and in quality.
Straight away, I noticed how stable and planted it feels, both on the road and off, with the geometry and lower bottom bracket position placing me firmly within the cockpit for maximum control and confidence. To start with I felt the riding position was quite aggressive, but that was soon solved by adjusting the spacers to give a different bar position.
Climbing is an absolute pleasure, and even on a fairly tricky off-road climb it gave no twitchiness in terms of handling or issues with front wheel lift at all. It actually climbs better than my hardtail mountain bike!
When putting a bit more oomph into the pedals, there are no issues with flex or lack of power transfer – the ride is sprightly and fun. The steering is responsive without being twitchy, and it corners well.
Descending is also confidence inspiring – though I had to make some adjustments to the bar position. On my first ride it felt rather alarming as all my weight was at the front – I realised I needed to adjust the handlebar position to move my weight back and away from the centre-line just a little. Thankfully, the bar and stem come with plenty of tweaking options to make adjusting fit a doddle, and after flipping the stem and tilting the bar to suit me (pretty flat), descending and climbing are awesome.
It's no slouch on flat tarmac either, although unsurprisingly I lost a little average speed over routes ridden on the road bike. At 10.3kg it's not a lightweight, but there was no feeling of drag.
Even with the fairly low gearing – a 48/32-tooth chainset paired with an 11-34t cassette – there weren't many occasions where I was spinning out, and I didn't struggle (too much) with even the steepest off-road climbs.
It also handles well at slow speeds, making it a good option for in-town use as a commuter.
Where the Devote 1 excels, though, is in mile-eating rides over rough ground. The 38mm Giant CrossCut AT 2 tyres can handle a variety of surfaces well without sacrificing speed too badly at all. Okay, I wouldn't pick it for a club ride, but for clocking up the miles at the weekend it quickly became my go-to. There is clearance for up to 45mm tyres if you want, but I'd only be inclined to change to that if I were planning an extended off-road multi-day tour with no tarmac at all. Otherwise, there just didn't feel the need.
The Devote 1 is capable as a road choice, particularly for worse weather conditions, but its real strength is in those routes you plot on the likes of Komoot where it's not entirely clear whether that section is tarmac or something more challenging. This bike lapped up whatever I threw at it and made me smile in the process.
The Devote 1 is the higher specced of the two aluminium-framed options. Both come with a carbon composite fork and OverDrive steerer, which is stiff enough to cope with vigorous braking but also gives good ride comfort, on and off-road.
The frame is well finished, with obvious but neat welds, and I really like the matt paint finish in this attractive 'non-girly' colour. It's a sturdy but sporty-looking steed.
The frame features internal cable routing throughout, as well as rack and mudguard attachment points – a crucial but often overlooked feature for an adventure bike, I feel, and something that makes any bike a whole lot more practical in UK conditions.
Liv says it has a press-fit FSA MegaExo bottom bracket, but as the eagle-eyed among you have spotted, it's threaded, though there were still some creaking issues even fairly early on. It's a fair bit lower than standard (80mm drop), which helps account for the planted feel of the ride.
The Devote is available in sizes XS, S and M, catering for heights from 150 to 175cm. The geometry is set up for female proportions, with a shorter top tube than the men's equivalent size, giving a smaller main triangle (which can cause problems for frame packs and bottles, more on that in a mo).
The size small on test, which Liv says suits heights between 158 and 169cm, has a 525mm top tube, and you can tweak the setup at the front using spacers and flipping the stem – there's scope for being either stretched out or really quite upright, depending on what you do with the bar and stem.
In common with many smaller framed women's bikes – gravel-focused ones in particular – this small size frame did struggle to take off-the-peg bikepacking bags, particularly a frame bag. Custom could be the way to go. My small Apidura pack did fit but only just.
There's not a huge amount of clearance between saddle rails and rear wheel either, meaning a saddle pack needs to be cinched in well to avoid rubbing.
That said, the addition of rack bosses makes kitting it up for touring a world easier, and fitting a rack also makes it a practical bike for day to day use and commuting.
It also has capacity for three bottles, again making it a good long-ride option, but again, fitting them all on could be problematic on such a small frame, especially with other luggage.
The Devote 1 comes with Shimano's gravel-specific GRX RX-400 derailleur at the rear and Tiagra at the front, and both deliver reliable shifting.
As I mentioned earlier, the pairing of a 48/32t FSA chainset with an 11-34 cassette provides a good spread of gears, high enough for riding reasonably fast on the road and low enough for tackling rougher trails and climbs.
The matching RX-400 hydraulic disc brakes work well, even in bad conditions. They coped with prolonged descents and gave good confidence with minimal effort, on gravel or tarmac.
Compared with the standard levers I'm used to, the longer, flatter hoods of the GRX hydraulic brake levers did take some getting used to, in terms of hand position – those with smaller hands may find them less comfortable than non-hydro designs.
Braking was easy and efficient, though, with no issues of losing contact with the levers even in the wet or on bouncy rough terrain.
I found the 40cm Giant Contact XR D-Fuse handlebar a good width for plenty of hand positions and wide enough for steering confidence, but the bar tape wasn't padded enough for my liking, especially for the rough riding the bike's designed for. I like a bit of gel padding under my bar tape.
Setting the Giant D-Fuse alloy seatpost to the correct height isn't that easy, as the torque bolts are very close to the seatpost, which makes it tricky to tighten to the correct amount. The post is also slightly elliptical in shape, so changing it is a non-trivial option.
Saddles are a very personal thing, but the Liv Approach is a cut above many supplied as standard, if a little wider and with more flex in the wings than I would choose.
The Giant S-X2 wheels work very well both on and off road, being sturdy enough for gravel and rough terrain without being overly heavy for road use. The tubeless compatibility is a good fit for a gravel and adventure-ready bike.
The 38mm Giant CrossCut tubeless ready tyres do a great job of coping with most surfaces, from tarmac to gravel, rocky more technical off-road and muddy trails, though they're better on drier surfaces than deep mud.
As I said earlier, there's space for 45mm tyres which, if I was going to spend more time on rougher terrain I'd consider fitting, but only if I was committed to a prolonged off-road adventure. The 38mm ones it comes fitted with coped with everything I needed them to.
For me, this model hits the sweet spot on price. For a gravel and adventure bike, I'm looking for something at a price where I'm getting a good quality bike, which delivers comfort, performance and fun, but I'm not so precious about it that I'll worry about getting it a bit scuffed up by flying grit. At this price, the Devote 1 delivers all I'm looking for, with a combination of good handling, a fun responsive ride, understated good looks and excellent braking at a price that won't break the bank.
As for rival women-specific options, the Cannondale Topstone Women's 2 is remarkably similar in spec to the Liv Devote 1 and very slightly cheaper at £1,299.99. It comes with an alloy frame, carbon fork and Shimano GRX 400 (both front and rear mechs), lower gearing with a 46/30 chainset, internal cable routing and tubeless ready tyres. It's even a similar colour!
The Canyon Grail WMN 6 is slightly more expensive at £1,499, also has an aluminium frame and GRX 400 derailleurs front and rear, but an RX 600 chainset (again, 46/30 like the Cannondale), along with DT Swiss C 1850 wheels and a Selle Italia saddle.
The Liv Devote 1 is a well-thought-out bike for both on and off-road adventures, offering fun, practicality and performance all in a reasonably priced package. It's not perfect, given the issues with frame packs, but the compromises don't feel egregious. Even the sort of 'girly camo' colour (officially 'desert sage') seems spot on for a women's bike suitable for the rough as well as the smooth.
Those who favour women-specific designs and want a gravel-focused do-it-all bike will love the geometry and confidence-inspiring handling of the Devote 1, and it's not bad value for money either.
Fun, confidence-inspiring and very capable both on the road and off
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Liv Devote 1 2021
Size tested: Small
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
ALUXX Grade Aluminium frame
Full composite fork
Giant Contact XR D-Fuse, 31.8 handlebars
Giant Contact, 8-degree stem
Giant D-Fuse, alloy seatpost
Liv Approach saddle
Shimano GRX RX-400 gear shifters
Shimano Tiagra front derailleur
Shimano GRX RX-400 rear derailleur
Brakes and levers - Shimano GRX RX-400 hydraulic
Shimano HG-500, 11-34 cassette
KMC X10 with Missing Link chain
FSA Omega Adventure, 32/48 crankset
Giant S-X2 Disc wheelset (rims, hubs and spokes)
Giant CrossCut AT 2, 700x38c, tubeless tyres (max tyre width possible: 45mm)
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?
Liv says: "From bikepacking and gravel grinders to everyday adventure rides and group trekking, Devote has what it takes to stir your backcountry desires."
It's aimed at female riders looking to get further from the tarmac than a road bike will allow. Spot on for a mix of on and off-road riding and for potholed country lanes.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The Devote 1 is the more expensive of the two aluminium framed Devotes (the cheaper is the Devote 2 at £1,049.) The Devote 1 features upgraded Shimano GRX gears and brakes over the Shimano Sora gears and Tektro MD-C550 brakes of the Devote 2.
There are also three models in the Advanced range of Devotes, which use carbon frames and forks – the Devote Advanced 1 at £2,399, Devote Advanced 2 at £2,199 and Devote Advanced Pro at £4,699. The Advanced 1 features a 1x drivetrain and an optional dropper seatpost.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Nicely finished aluminium frame and carbon fork in an attractive "Desert Sage" matt mint/camo sort of colour – a shade that to my mind fits with the off-road aspirations of the bike and should fail to offend both the pro and anti girly colours camp.
Rack and mudguard attachment points are a plus point.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
ALUXX Grade aluminium frame
Full-composite OverDrive steerer fork
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Size Small tested
Seat tube - 420mm
Seat tube angle - 75 degrees
Top tube length - 525mm
Head tube length - 125mm
Fork rake - 50mm
Trail - 75.9mm
Standover height - 706mm
Available in sizes XS-M to suit riders 150cm to 175cm (4'11" to 5'9")
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Bike was spot on for the suggested sizing. It was a good fit for me at 5ft 5/165cm.
Reach was good but getting my position right did take some fine tuning with bar positioning, particularly with the longer hoods of the GRX shifter/brake combo.
Height of the bike was similar to other female-focused bikes of a similar sized frame.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The bike was very comfortable to ride, with little in the way of road buzz on tarmac. The most noticeable feature was how confident it felt, both climbing and descending, on and off road. The gearing was spot on for all of the riding I tried, including slightly more technical off-road, hilly road rides and flatter cross-country bimbles. There was no point where I wished I'd had either a lower bottom gear nor a higher top gear. The relatively low bottom bracket and the geometry that places the rider within the middle of the frame gives a very confidence-inspiring and stable ride.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It all felt good and stiff for riding on the flat as well as climbing and descending, but there was some flex in the saddle, which was slightly broader than I would normally use, which made for a good creak.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Felt very efficient. I had no issues with putting my foot down when I needed to, and climbing was a pleasure. That said, it's not a speed-focused bike, more a fun on and off-road adventure machine.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
There was no toe overlap at all until I fitted mudguards.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? The steering was pretty neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Before I adjusted the spacers on the steerer tube, the bike felt quite light at the back and skipped a little on steeper off-road descents. However, with some tweaking of the position of the handlebar, that was solved and the bike handled well on the flat, climbing and descending. It was no slouch on tarmac and handled gravel, mud and trails very well, although the lower bottom bracket did make for a few knocks on rockier terrain.
The oversized steerer tube made for reliable and confident steering.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Adjusting the bar position to suit me was crucial to comfort. There was plenty of scope for tweaking, though.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Frame and fork were good and stiff without being over harsh. I'd probably go for a narrower saddle as per my usual saddle preferences, as there was some saddle wing flex.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Everything felt pretty efficient.
Felt responsive on and off-road, on the flat, climbing and descending.
It's not designed as a race bike but it's no slouch if you need to get some speed going in a hurry.
I'd not use it for a time trial but it's no slouch!
Very stable, even on high speed descents.
Stable and confidence-inspiring.
No issues with slow speed manoeuvring.
Corners pretty well, but not as tight as some.
Climbs really well, helped by the geometry placing the rider perfectly.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Gear changes were easy, and braking was effective and confidence-inspiring even on long descents.
Wheels and tyres
Solid and reliable but not over heavy. Tubeless tyre ready.
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
The wheels worked very well both on and off-road, a good balance of being sturdy off-road without being overly heavy for on-road use. The tubeless compatibility is a good fit for an off-road and adventure-ready bike.
No significant problems on a variety of terrain, from tarmac to gravel, rocky more technical off-road and muddy trails. Better on drier surfaces than deep mud.
The 38mm tyres are a good compromise for on and off-road use. Those wanting more off-road comfort will like the clearance to fit up to 45mm tyres.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
A good size and pretty grippy for on and off-road general purpose riding. If I was going to spend more time on rougher terrain I'd consider fitting wider tyres with a more aggressive tread – the bike has clearance for 45mm.
The bar offers lots of hand positions, but the tape could be more cushioned, especially given the bike's remit.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Getting the position of the bar correct for ease and reach, combined with effective use of controls, is a tricky one, but made easier by the multiple adjustments available.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Very much.
Would you consider buying the bike? Definitely
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes, but only once I'd bought one...
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There are cheaper gravel bikes on the market. It's a bit more expensive than the Merlin Malt G2X GRX at £1,199 and the Ragley Trig Gravel also at £1,199. Cannondale has the similarly specced Women's Topstone 2 at an equivalent price (£1,300) while the Canyon Grail 6 WMN is a bit more pricey at £1,500.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's very good: a well-thought-out bike for both on and off-road adventures, offering fun, practicality and performance, all in a reasonably priced package.
About the tester
I usually ride: Liv Invite My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.