Road Gear

Liv Thrive E+ EX Pro review

Liv's Thrive E+ EX Pro bike is fun to ride, but more importantly, it makes it possible for you to make lifestyle changes to ride more and drive less.

Review Rating


Basics

Liv’s Thrive hybrid goes electric with a 250 watt SyncDrive Pro motor. It also comes spec’d as a perfect commuter with full fenders, lights, and a rear rack.


Pros

Comfortable; natural-feeling assist; commuter-ready

Cons

Heavy, expensive


Size Reviewed

Small

Weight

48 pounds

Price

$3,500

Brand

Liv


The Liv Thrive E+ makes commuting and running errands quick and fun. Not only did I enjoy cruising around on the Thrive, but—more importantly to me—my mom, who only cares about cycling insofar as it involves me, loves riding it and now wants one. That’s about the biggest win I can think of.

Related:

The Build

Liv integrated its EnergyPak 6 lithium-ion battery into the down tube of the aluminum frame, while the Yamaha-Giant collaborated SyncDrive Pro motor is integrated into the bottom bracket. The battery is locked and secured to the frame but can be removed for charging or transport. You can also charge the battery without removing it.

The motor offers pedal assistance up to 28mph with six different power settings: Eco, Basic, Active, Sport, and Power. The settings control how much oomph you get with each pedal stroke. Unsurprisingly, as you increase power, you decrease battery life. All modes offer assistance up to that 28mph mark, it’s just a matter of how much assistance. Another way to look at it is that it changes how much you need to bring to the table to get the same speed.

Liv Thrive locking battery compartment. Photo: Brittany Jones

All your settings are controlled from the RideControl Evo display on the handlebars. It’s a simple, intuitive head unit with a power button, a button to turn the head and taillight on or off, and two buttons to scroll up or down through the power settings. The display unit also connects to the RideControl App. While there’s no need to control the power levels from your phone, the app allows you to upload routes to the display and sync incoming calls, texts, or emails to the display. It also allows you to adjust the support ratios at each power level.

The integrated Axa Blueline 50 lights fall more into the “be seen” category than “to see.”  My commute involves several miles of suburban river path with no lighting at all, so my go-to commuting light is 500 lumens. The 50 lumens of the Blueline provides straight-ahead and side visibility to traffic, but is inadequate for my late-night (or winter hours) ride home from the office. When you power on the bike from the display, it automatically turns on the motor, battery, and lights.

While I left the lights on when I was on roads during daylight hours, I could turn the lights off by simply pressing the light button. I didn’t feel the need to use the battery to power lights when I was on a bike path without cars. Turning the lights off also adjusts the brightness of the display, making it easier to read in the sun. I do wish those functions were separated though. If I was using the route functions of the RideApp and was on surface streets, I’d like the ability to run the lights so motorists are more likely to see me, while still having the display in daylight mode so I could more easily see the route.

The 27.5-inch tubeless-ready Giant wheels are paired with Kenda Kwick 2.4-inch tires. The wide, semi-slick tire is versatile enough to roll quickly on pavement and provide grip on gravel or dirt roads, all while offering stability. I appreciated the additional stability when I was using the rear rack to carry groceries or my work things. The Kwicks are utilitarian and practical, but not plush. A tubeless tire would improve the ride quality. If the Thrive was my personal bike, I’d ride the Kwicks until they wore out and then switch over to a tubeless setup.

Liv Thrive 1x Shimano Tiagra drivetrain. Photo: Brittany Jones

The 1×10-speed Shimano Tiagra drivetrain is the weak point on the Thrive’s build. Much like the tires, it does its job without needing much attention or tinkering, it just isn’t anything fun or fancy. I didn’t have any issues with the shifting or needing to make adjustments. The Shimano hydraulic brakes have just-okay modulation, but plenty of stopping power with a 180mm rotor in the front and a 160mm rotor in the back.

While many of the other top brands have, in recent years, concluded that there are not significant differences between men and women that require different geometries, Liv has maintained that there are. If you’d like to learn more about the history of women’s cycling gear, my colleague Berne wrote this great piece.

The Thrive follows Liv’s 3F fit principles to determine body position and contact points for Liv bikes. When comparing the geometry charts of Liv’s Thrive E+ to Giant’s FastRoad E+ (essentially, the men’s version), there are slight differences in the head tube angle, fork offset, and trail. The differences affect handling more than fit, but in either case, they are small enough that I’m not certain I’d notice if I didn’t look at the geometry and focus on that first.

The contact points seem to be the bigger differences—shorter cranks, a women’s saddle, narrower handlebars, and smaller grips, all of which I found to be comfortable and well suited for the purposes of the bike. The saddle is a little plusher than I typically use, but it was comfortable for 1.5hr rides in a chamois as well as a quick run for take-out sans chamois. The grips and the handlebars were equally as comfortable.

Thrive E+ Ride

I received the Thrive shortly before the pandemic had many of us working from home, so I was able to get a few actual ride-to-the-office commutes on it (I miss those). It was also early spring in Colorado, so I had the pleasure of riding through snowstorms, across the ice, and I even got in a couple of dry, sunny days, all on a paved, multi-use path. Once my commute to work disappeared, the Thrive became my errand bike—covering the crushed gravel hills between my house and the store in my search for toilet paper, to the coffee shop for beans, and my favorite local restaurants for take-out.

Liv Thrive Yamaha motor. Photo: Brittany Jones

What I immediately noticed and appreciated was the quick and natural engagement of the assist. I have yet to have an awkward feeling of on/off or of the motor picking up halfway through a pedal stroke. It matches the effort I put forth in a way that feels fluid. It’s silent, and I would liken the feeling of the assist to the engagement of a high-end hub. There wasn’t a delay or gap between my pedal stroke and the assistance. I could coast, switch to a relatively high cadence, or get out of the saddle to push up a hill and the bike matched my effort seamlessly throughout.

That’s what left my mom so amazed. She doesn’t ride bikes and she was visibly uncomfortable with me insisting that she try it. My street is a hill, so she started her ride going downhill and was a bit wobbly as she got situated. By the time she circled the block and came back up the hill, she had the biggest smile on her face.

It was the pedaling uphill that blew her away. Hills are hard, we all know that, and having the assist (in Eco mode, but still) gave her the ability to get up the hill and enjoy riding a bike. She lives in an area where directions are given by the names of the mesas you’ll encounter, not street names, and the Thrive immediately had her talking about being able to ride there — she’s still talking about it.

My commute to work is typically about an hour each way. When I rode the Thrive in power-mode with my normal “I’m late!” time trial effort, I cut that time down to just under 40 minutes (and got to work early!), but it also used enough juice that I had a bit of range anxiety about getting home. I played around with the Sport, Active, and Basic modes on my way home that night, and the roundtrip of about 30 miles left me with 35 percent of battery life remaining.

Liv Thrive RideControl Evo display. Photo: Brittany Jones

After that first day, I nearly always ran the Thrive in Eco mode. For me, that was the sweet spot for the flat path into the office and back home. While I always commute with a rack and panniers, Eco mode took away the feeling of drudgery from hauling my laptop, lunch, work clothes, and books for night school. Although I’d established there was plenty of battery life to ride with higher levels of assist, I’m lazy, so if I can get multiple days of riding out of one charge, I will.

I did, however, up the power level on my errand runs on gravel. Specifically, on that one hill. It’s a short one, but it comes after a sharp turn on deep, loose sand. The hill itself is about 9 percent and is also covered in loose gravel. Upping the power and shifting normally, I was able to maintain my effort, maintain traction, and get up the hill with my groceries without issue.

I would never get groceries with a non-assist bike because of the added challenges and effort of both the hill and the deep loose sand and gravel. And again, I was impressed with the natural feel of the assist throughout.

Drawbacks

The only issue I have with the Thrive E+ is the same issue I have with e-bikes more generally: weight. My issue with the weight is one of practicality: Picking the bike up ranges from a struggle to practically impossible. Admittedly, my upper body looks far more like T-Rex than The Rock, so your mileage may vary.

I can get the bike on and off my hitch rack (albeit, awkwardly), but I cannot lift it into the work stand to clean the chain. I can’t imagine carrying it up a flight of stairs. That’s with the battery on. The locked, integrated battery can be removed, which will reduce the weight of the bike frame by several pounds and can be helpful depending on what you’re doing. But again, this isn’t specific to the Thrive but rather a challenge of all e-bikes.

Liv Thrive in its element. Photo: Brittany Jones

Thrive E+ Verdict

As long as you don’t live in a three-story walk-up, I think the Thrive E+ is a great bike if you can afford it. The bike is fun to ride and makes it possible for you to make lifestyle changes to ride more and drive less. The price is going to be a barrier to entry for a lot of folks, but if you’re looking for something that can do double duty as a fun way to get exercise and run errands, it’s definitely worth it.