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Hello! It’s me, your trusty source for ‘taking bikes and gear on epic adventures before testing them on reasonable terrain in normal conditions.’ Last weekend, I took advantage of the longest day of the year to do my longest ride of the year. Some call it the Boulder Grand Loop, others just call it crazy. I had a feeling the Liv Langma Advanced Pro 1 Disc would be up for the adventure, and it turns out that this “featherweight racing bike” can also hang on a 195-mile, 17,000 foot, fourteen and a half hour ride.
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Normally, I would take a gravel bike on a ride like this one; although there’s certainly a time penalty for the weight, aerodynamics, and larger gear ratio, those things — as well as disc brakes and fat tires — also make gravel bikes a more pleasurable ride. Why not ask a modern road bike to do on gravel what I ask gravel bikes to do on the road, then? In addition to the 100+ miles of variable paved surface, how well could the Langma handle 50 miles of legit gravel, some of it in Rocky Mountain National Park and other bits that wind through abandoned mine sites?
That said, I did not set out to test a road bike on gravel. It just so happens when you ride 195 miles around the Front Range of Colorado, you’re likely to encounter dirt roads (and let’s be honest, you should look for them anyway). The Langma simply reinforced the fact that nowadays, bikes with modern geometry, disc brakes, and the right balance of stiffness and flex can take you just about anywhere.
Built for comfort
Liv stands out in the industry in its dedication to producing women’s-specific bikes through research, women’s body-dimension databases, and pro-rider and athlete feedback. Using its incredibly thorough geometry chart, I determined that I would ride a Medium, and, minus a saddle height adjustment, the Langma fit like a glove (I’m 5’6 with a long torso, for the record).
Although the Langma is a race-focused bike, it’s designed more toward comfort and high performance rather than sprinting and pure speed. Thank goodness, because fourteen and a half hours is a long time in the saddle. Features that are meant to make you go fast (like the Giant SLR 1 Disc 30 Composite WheelSystem, for one) are integrated with others meant to not make you miserable (a slightly more forgiving body position). On my ride, this marriage of attributes was welcome and probably meant the difference between finishing and phoning home.
Speaking of the saddle, I loved it. The bike comes stock with a Liv Contact SL. Going on a ride of any distance on a never-before-tested saddle is a risky proposition, but much like my experience with the Machines for Freedom Essential Short a few weeks ago, I trusted Liv’s ample R&D into this female-specific component.
(Not quite like) climbing Langma
In Tibet, the locals refer to Mt. Everest as Langma. Liv designed the bike with that pinnacle in mind as a road bike for aggressive riders that shines in mountain stages and dominates as an all-around performance race bike. After my experience with it — decidedly not in a race-like setting — I concur with two of those three points.
For starters, this is a bike for strong riders. In fact, it made me realize that I am a strong rider. It’s stiff, nimble, and agile, all great characteristics but also all things that can get the best of a rider who doesn’t handle the bike with confidence. My solstice ride had many ‘crux’ moments, from the gravel ascent to the Alpine Visitor’s Center at Rocky Mountain National Park to 40 terrifying miles of sand-covered highway shoulder riding to the twisty descent of Berthoud Pass, but the Langma felt solid and responsive on whatever terrain I threw at it.
Were I the Everesting type (which I am not; Project 14er is enough, thank you very much) I would definitely have to make some changes to the groupset. The Advanced Pro 1 Disc comes stock with a Shimano Ultegra crankset with a 52/36t chainring and an 11-30t cassette. On the steepest pitches on the ride, muscle memory had my right hand reaching for the paddle to shift into an easier gear (or three). As a strong climber, I was surprised that I had run out of gears so quickly. Obviously, the range covered gentle climbs and flats just fine, but I would have expected another easy gear or two on a performance bike. Perhaps this is why I am not a performance racer.
The Langma also comes in the Pro O Disc Force model; that one is set up with the SRAM Force eTap AXS group with a 35/48t chainring and 10-28t cassette.
Descending was fun and fast. The Ultegra hydraulic brakes were strong, smooth, and powerful; in fact, I felt much safer descending the south side of Berthoud Pass on the Langma than I do in my Toyota truck (the views are better from the bike, too).
Liv Langma verdict
Other than singletrack, I can’t think of much else that I didn’t take the Langma on during our first ride. It was a lot (and not always the right thing) to ask, but the bike stubbornly complied with almost type of terrain I took it on. Obviously, the areas where it shined were flat stretches of tarmac and moderate, hilly climbs. But, I was also amazed at how well it rode on gravel, despite the itty-bitty 25mm tires. I never once felt my tires slide out from under me on a climb; rather it was the gearing that made going up the 7-10 percent grade of Old Fall River Road a bit more grueling than it is on a gravel bike.
As you may have already guessed, I tend more toward gravel for my road riding, but the Langma has me jonesing for more tarmac. I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud, but at one point on my epic ride I wondered how I’d fare in an actual road race. It might have been the lack of oxygen talking, but I’m pretty sure it was the bike.
Fourteen and half hours is a long first date, but it went so well I can’t wait for the next one. Anyone have any route suggestions?