Liv is the female-specific sub-brand of Giant, and as such the two bikes are close to identical. ElectricMeg and I (along with friends to make it even better) decided to take the review bikes on the Timber Trail, which is a magnificent forest trail west of Lake Taupo in the Pureora forest.

For model-year 2019 Giant announced a large range of ebikes with the highlight being eMTBs based on the Trance/Intrigue. They have great battery integration, 150mm suspension, 2.6″ tubeless-ready tyres and tweaked versions of Yamaha’s PW-X motors. As you’d expect from Giant/Liv, they are well engineered, well specced highly competent bikes that are good value.

In NZ we currently only get one spec level in the Liv and three in the Trance. Perhaps the greatest differentiator is the availability of a size XS (in both), so if you are a smaller rider who struggles with fit on most bikes, read no further: go straight to a Liv/Giant dealer and buy one. This is thanks to the compact Maestro suspension system that Giant have used since forever and allows for small frames and space for a water bottle. Note that the Liv has a lower stand-over height – the XS is 707mm compared to the smallest size Trek Powerfly 5 at 765mm (15.5″) and Specialized Levo Womens small at 760mm. Reach (the other critical sizing dimension is somewhere between the Trek and the Spesh.

The spec level of the Liv almost exactly matches the Trance E+ 3 that I rode. Each has 150mm Suntour Aion forks, a Fox Float DPS Performance shock, Tektro Orion 4-piston brakes, 500Wh battery and the same grunty Yamaha-derived motor shared across the range. Tyres are tubeless ready with a beefy Maxxis Minion DHF upfront and a Rekon out back. There is nothing I can fault with any of these components, indeed I was very impressed with the plushness and performance of the Aion fork.

Our unanimous complaint was the saddles – I’d suggest finding something you like better in the shop because the Giant saddles are quite flat and not really comfortable on a longer ride, especially in the upright stance you’ll mostly be in. It must suit someone so try before you buy. The other Giant/Liv bikes we saw on the trail had Selle Royale gel saddles which looked way better with a more rounded profile. If you follow my reviews you’ll see a recurring theme about unsuitable saddles on eMTBs. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think I have an unusual bum or unusual expectations. You also need to buy your own pedals. My favouries are the Shimano Saint or XT flat pedals along with some Five-Ten shoes.

Day 1 of the Timber Trail features a fair amount of climbing – it isn’t steep but it is still a bit of a grind. I had used the Giant RideControl app to tweak the power settings a bit to lower the assist levels on the first two settings – this is a nice feature as is the five separate assist levels. I only ever rode in 1 or 2 uphill and saved ‘boost’ for the flatter bits of the downhill run to the Timber Trail Lodge. A bit unnecessary you might say but it is a whole lot of fun. The bike handles superbly and never does anything to surprise you. It has heaps of traction and the suspension works overtime to keep you on the straight and level. There are some tight downhill corners, and the Tektro brakes showed great modulation and power.

At the Timber Trail Lodge they seem to have thought of everything. A bike maintenance shed, power points for ebikes, a great range of beers (and pizza served with the beers), comfortable beds and great food. We booked the full package that shuttled us from Ongarue to the start near Pureora Forest Park HQ (and moved our luggage both days), with full dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch. All with a smile and those thoughtful touches.

We chose to charge our batteries on the bike because it is easier. Removing the battery is a bit of an awkward operation involving a key, a button and a battery that wants to fall out onto the ground, assuming you can even figure out how to remove it [edit: ElectricMeg owns one and I properly adjusted it unlike the review samples, now it is actually quite easy to remove/replace the battery]. The charger is an industry-leading (fast) 6A affair that also has a “60%” mode, handy if you don’t need the range or want to charge the battery to be stored – either way it can improve battery longevity. . Giant does however recommend removing the battery for transportation. Not sure why given this is an eMTB designed to take the knocks, probably just a guideline.

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Day two is the more spectacular ride – it features long swing bridges, extensive rail cuttings, a view of Lake Taupo, and the Ongarue Spiral – a ‘marvellous feat of railway engineering’ a bit like the Raurimu Spiral (steady on trainspotters, I know this excites you). It doesn’t have the one big climb of day 1 but has two gentle climbs so overall similar difficulty. The lower half of the trail was quite muddy which was challenging at times – but having motor power and big wheels makes it easy peasy. What isn’t so easy is trying to “manual” (lift the front wheel) over puddles. The front of the bikes feels quite heavy and wants to stay flat. Once airborne though it handles nicely with no bad vices and lots of fun.

ElectricMeg rode the Liv Intrigue and a Trance E+ 1. Her impression was that the Liv felt more forgiving, and the Trance needed to be ridden more aggressively. That’s probably a function of the Fox 36 forks vs the Aions on the Liv and Trance E+ 3. For me, I would like to see a lower gear that the lowest on the 10speed SLX cassette on the Liv/Trance 3. The Trance 1 has a 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle cassette with a massive 50t low gear (36t up front). However the Yamaha motors have heaps of torque and I was comfortably able to climb some steep pitches when I was mucking around despite only 36t-36t (1:1) lowest ratio.

Battery life was better on day 2 – this tends to be the case with new batteries. Day 2 was 43km and we ended up with 37/47/52% battery remaining across the 3 bikes. So the average-weight rider could reasonably expect 60-80km assuming a moderate pace, low boost and moderate hills.

As unreasonable boost goes, there is lots on offer. It comes with a buzzy sound from the motor which we got used to (see the end of the video linked above). It tops out at 32km/h which is great.

RRP is $6299 for the Liv Intrigue E+ 2 Pro and for the Giant Trance E+ 3 Pro. The Trance E+ 1 is $7299.

Thanks to Giant NZ for supplying the review bikes.

Who should buy this bike?

  • Shorter women and men should not pass up the XS sizing. Just click Add to Basket.
  • Most people who are the typical target for an eMTB* . The entry-level (Liv 2/ Trance 3) is good buying.
  • Any non-commute riders who relish the comfort of big tyres and full suspension. Try before you say “Naah, I only need a hardtail”

(*) What I mean here is this: wants it to do some longer rides like this, can climb hills with ease, not face a bucking bronco that is trying to kill you, looks like $6k+ with nice integration, doesn’t have faults, will last a good number of years, can go anywhere with adequate range, probably doesn’t do big jumps and wheelies.

Who should not buy this bike?

  • Commuters. Maybe if you have a short commute, but I’d hate to see these nice grippy tyres being worn out on a tar road.
  • eMTB riders who prefer something more ‘poppy’. This is a wheels-on-the-ground style of bike (as are many main brand eMTBs). Levo or Wisper Wildcat might be a better choice for you.
  • You want a stepthrough and aren’t going to do anything too rough anyway. Try a Smartmotion X-City.

Another consideration:

  • eMTBs are heavy and awkward to carry and mostly you won’t be riding from home. You will want a low-carry rack like the EziGrip or ProUser.
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