Liv Cycling has unveiled its new e-MTB hardtail, the Vall-E+. The new e-bike features a Yamaha SyncDrive motor, 120mm front suspension, plus-sized tyres and the women’s specific geometry that’s a hallmark of Liv’s approach to women’s bike design.
Europe is undoubtedly the spiritual home of the e-bike, so where better to test the capabilities of an e-mountain bike than on the mountain trails of the Italian Alps.
Two days of riding on long, hot and dusty climbs, plus forested singletrack descents, provided ample opportunity to put the Vall-E+ through its paces and get a good first impression of its performance.
Why a hardtail?
A hardtail might seem like an usual choice for Liv’s first e-MTB — why not go for a full suspension? Well, its justification lies with Liv’s understanding of its market.
Liv bases its bike design philosophy on women’s specific geometry. It feels that there are sufficient differences between the average male and female body that women will benefit from a bespoke frame design and finishing kit, while acknowledging that not all women need or will suit a women’s bike.
“We’re not trying to cater to 100 percent of women — that’s not possible — just to as many as possible,” commented Erin Lamb, global marketing representative for Liv Cycling.
Liv reports that its biggest selling bike is the Tempt, a 27.5 hardtail that sits around an entry-level price point: £475–£749 / $520–$750 / AU$749–AU$1249.
The popularity of the Tempt, plus the comparatively lower cost of an e-MTB hardtail over an e-MTB full suspension bike, formed the basis of the decision. The market is already familiar with Liv’s hardtails, and the price jump, which is still in the region of several grand, may not feel as prohibitive to the fledgling e-mountain bike market.
That said, given that Liv is the sister brand to Giant Bicycles who has both hardtail and full-sus e-MTBs in its lineup, a full-sus option can’t be too far away for Liv.
Liv Vall-E+ 0 Pro
I tested the top of the range Liv Vall-E+ 0 Pro, which comes with RockShox Revelation 35RL 120mm forks, a 1 x 11 Shimano SLX/RT drivetrain, Giant eXX 2 tubeless-ready 27.5 wheels with 35mm rims, and Maxxis Forekaster 2.6 plus tyres with Exo protect casing.
This version of the Vall-E+, like both models in the Pro lineup, features the top-of-the-line Giant SyncDrive Pro motor, which was developed collaboratively between Giant and Yamaha.
This system features an integrated battery called the EnergyPak 500, which slots into a cradle on the down tube and sits flush. While it’s not as bulky and obtrusive as other battery packs on the market, you still won’t quite get away with no-one noticing it as the bulky down tube gives the game away.
It can be removed to the side, locked in place, and charged in situ or off the bike.
The control unit, called the RideControl unit, is a small square of buttons placed on the bars. The main controls give you on/off and power up and down, which moves you through the five different assist settings.
Placed centrally on the bars is the display unit, which indicates remaining battery life as a graphic and percentage, tells you what assist mode you are currently in, and allows you to scroll through elements such as average speed, time on ride, distance travelled etc.
The two non-Pro versions of the bike come with a Sport version of the SyncDrive, which offers three rather than five modes.
The bike comes with Giant Connect Trail bars, which at 730mm were too narrow for my liking on the trails I rode, but for less technical terrain may be fine.
A 1 x 11 Shimano SLX/XT drivetrain offered more than enough range, given the power assistance, and despite the heaviness of the bike the Shimano MT500 hydraulic disc brakes offered sufficient stopping power in conjunction with the plus tyres.
In the interests of journalism (read: ill-advised long ride with incorrect cleat position on a recent ride), I tested the Vall-E+ with a dodgy knee. I get pain at the top of the pedal stroke, so putting a lot of force through my knee such as on hard climbs hurts right now.
For the e-MTB naysayers out there though, allowing injured or otherwise physically impaired mountain bikers to ride and keep up with other riders is one of the main plus points of the things.
Other benefits include equalising group rides by allowing riders of different fitness levels to ride together; being able to squeeze in more trail time as climbs are quicker; and being able to cover more ground.