-125-millimeter rear travel, 140 front
-From-the-ground-up women’s-specific geometry
-Previous model Intrigue still available with 27.5-inch wheels
-Equally at home climbing or descending
-Highest available build is GX
-No XS frame
-Short reach isn’t for everyone
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It wasn’t too long ago that the concept of a women’s-specific bike was new and exciting—could a special geometry really change our experience? Could we possibly have just been riding the wrong bikes our whole lives? Time has told: For most brands, women’s-specific geometry has fallen by the wayside in favor of different touchpoints and branding. The consensus, it seems, is that women’s bodies (and riding styles) aren’t divergent enough from men’s to require an entirely different platform. Yet Liv soldiers on, more or less alone, with its ground-up women’s-specific builds—and despite the lack of competition, they keep getting better. This year’s Liv Intrigue was the best yet, and not just in its own shrinking category—it was a legitimately good bike in any roundup.
The first thing you’ll notice on the 2021 Liv Intrigue is the short reach, which is intentional. One of the enduring concepts about women’s bodies is that we tend to have longer legs in proportion to our torsos, and this bike reflects that. Depending on how you look at it, that may have earned Liv a pass on the fact there is no XS size in the Intrigue 29 lineup. For context, the size small Intrigue is only 10 millimeters longer than the size XS Pivot Trail 429. Though that comparison is a little murky given that a cornerstone of Liv’s frame design is that women of all heights are better served with shorter reach measurements than they’d find on unisex bikes.
A shorter bike tends to give you more front-end control with less effort—but can translate to a twitchy feeling on descents. That wasn’t the case with the Intrigue. The bigger wheels (this is only Liv’s second full-suspension 29er to date), and modernized geometry result in a delightfully self-assured ride, equally composed when climbing or smashing descents. For the first time, ‘women’s-specific’ truly felt like it was an advantage, rather than something we had to work around.
With 125 millimeters of rear travel and a 140mm fork, the Intrigue hangs solidly in the mid-travel category. You get plenty of efficiency for what some might call a “social” climbing pace, and enough travel to get pretty rowdy on descents. In some ways it’s a master of none (it’s not light enough to be an XC crusher, or burly enough to get super sendy) but if you’re looking for that one bike to get you out on most rides, this could be your daily driver.
We liked the Intrigue right out of the gate—but came to really like it as the ride went on. If you’re feeling lazy, it gives you back more than you put in, softening edges and sucking up the trail effortlessly. Give it a little more juice, and it turns into a playful dirt jumper, more than willing to tackle rock rolls and other chaos. We felt on top of the bike, totally in control, and free to push our limits.
Could the Intrigue have finally accomplished what it set out to do? Is this what a level playing field feels like? It might be six years after the women’s-specific trend, but this Intrigue had us wondering.
For 2021, the Intrigue does away with DVO’s highly-tunable but intricate suspension in favor of more ubiquitous Fox or RockShox squishy bits. To give you even more tunability, a flip chip lets you steepen or slacken the headtube and seattube nearly a full degree depending on your ride style. Other thoughtful spec choices include trusty Maxxis tires (a 2.5-inch EXO-casing Minion DHF in the front and a 2.4-inch EXO Dissector in the rear), 4-piston brakes and huge improvements to the function of the Giant-branded dropper post, though Liv chose to spec a short 125mm post on a bike that, for our testers, a 150 fit fine.
The top build comes with SRAM GX (a nod to the more trail-oriented spirit of this bike) and the second-tier model we tested comes with NX. Notably, the $5,700 Pro 1 model and the $4,700 Pro 2 model both sport wheels with carbon rims—arguably one of the most important factors in ride quality, and one that often is reserved for price points a couple thousand dollars north of either model Intrigue 29.
Sure, it would be cool to see this bike blinged out with a top-end spec, but it’s almost more impressive what the Intrigue does on a reasonable budget. Liv upgraded where it counts the most, and kept things affordable everywhere else, assembling a bike that punches well above its tax bracket.
It always feels weird to recommend a bike that costs more than a car—like duh, it better be awesome. But when a bike is actually decently affordable, and rides like this one does, it’s a no-brainer. Despite being one of the last bikes keeping the women’s-specific dream alive, the Liv Intrigue continues to get better with each evolution—and this one is the best yet.
There’s only one aluminum Intrigue 29, the $3,300 Intrigue 29 2. It is the perfect example of how much you can get for your money if a brand makes the right choices. The Fox DPS 2 rear shock with a lockout lever and the Fox Rhythm 34 fork offer far better performance than their price points would indicate, and Liv has them specially tuned for lighter riders. The SLX drivetrain has the consistency and durability we’ve come to expect from Shimano. And though we excuse Liv for speccing a Deore-level crank (not the SLX pictured in this image) we do take marks off for the KMC chain. But that’s a cheap fix. The dropper post, on the other hand, will likely leave you bartering with the shop for a longer one. It works well, but across the Liv lineup, it is undersized. But those are two small nitpicks for what is an incredibly good value.
Find the Liv Intrigue Advanced Pro 2 at liv-cycling.com/intrigue-advanced-pro-29-2
Photos: Anthony Smith