Feels fast, looks fast, is fast; Light as a feather, stiff as a board; Cadex carbon spokes can be trued easily
Stock tires don’t measure up to the build; stiff negates comfy
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Do you enjoy bombing hills so fast you have to clamp your mouth shut to keep your lips from flapping like a cartoon character in high winds? I do, and that’s why I enjoyed testing the Liv Langma Advanced SL Disc Red 2022. It’s a race bike that doesn’t just look like one, but rides like one; the power transfer is immediate and the handling is so sharp it could cut glass. The design is uncompromising in its focus on speed, from its stiff carbon build to the Cadex wheels.
The Langma Advanced SL Disc I tested came with the new Cadex 36 wheels, 25mm tubeless Cadex tires, and SRAM Red eTap AXS, including a Quarq DZero power meter. The bike’s new Liv Contact SLR handlebars are designed with a shallow drop and reach.
The earth tone paint is a multi-layered, rich and metallic nod to our environment that is very current, but frankly, with its aggressive profile, the Langma could be almost any color and still look cool. It is in keeping with Giant’s understated nature-based palette, but I would love to see this bike in a wild, eye-catching paint-job that matches the fiery quality of the ride. An amazing bike deserves amazing paint that makes even non-cyclists raise their eyebrows.
The one overused modern thing the Langma rightfully ignored was the entirely internal cockpit. Visible cables on a top-of-the-line bike that touts aero improvements is rare these days, but it makes this bike easier to service and travel with. Also, this is an all-rounder or climber, not an “aero” bike, strictly speaking, and the main benefit of the Langma is the stiffness of the frame, fork, and wheels, not the aerodynamic nature of the design.
I tested the Langma on the traditional New York City race spots and ride routes: Central and Prospect Parks – both locations of circuit races – and on River Road, technically Henry Hudson Drive through Palisades Park, the infamous little local climb. I brought the Langma out for a race clinic and an annual spirited 70mi/4,000ft club ride. And I took it down Arden Valley Road’s switchbacks, and up Bear Mountain and the Minnewaska Ridge.
The Langma met its design targets as an all-rounder that excels as a climbing bike, and I love to climb. Riding fast uphill felt effortless compared to my other bikes. Did it help that the Langma weighs 15 pounds without bottles? Yes, at least mentally. Did it help more that the 12-speed drivetrain has 48/35 rings with a 10-33 cassette? Yes, definitely.
Besides the ease of the gearing, it seemed like every watt went straight through to the carbon-spoked Cadex wheels. Liv claims the longer carbon pieces used in the frame lay-up help transfer power 21 percent better than the previous Langma, and the fork is 50 percent stiffer. The Langma Advanced SL Disc is “light as a feather, stiff as a board” in bike form.
By the end of my first Central Park lap, I noticed the snappy response in the ease with which it handled the curve on the hill. I have to work harder to climb with my other bikes, which range from a classic Klein Quantum Race XV through to a Domane SLR9, than I do with the Langma. And with other bikes, descending feels like work compared to coasting down on the Langma. Descending or riding the flat on my Domane SLR on with 37mm deep wheels and 32mm tires feels slower than the Langma’s 36mm wheels rims with 25mm tires.
Granted, these two bikes are very different beasts, but that is just an example of the extreme differences frame and wheel/tire design creates, and why bicycle engineering is so important. One is designed for comfort, the other for speed. Both bikes are absolutely fantastic for their intended purposes but my Domane SLR climbs like an open parachute, while the Langma is a mountain goat. The Cadex wheels pick up speed quickly and I didn’t suffer in the crosswinds when I took it out to the beach. While part of me misses deeper wheels on the descents, the Langma still goes downhill like a boulder on roller skates.
My one critique here is the tires. For more cornering confidence, Liv could mount a more supple tire. If I were keeping this bike, the tires would be the first thing I swapped. The Cadex aren’t bad overall, and I will admit to their superior durability: they’re tough enough that I saw no flats and few cuts even after riding NYC streets regularly. But I missed my supple Vittoria Corsas.
Still, I descended fast and pushed the limits, leaned into the curves and trusted the tires to stick and disc brakes to work. If you’re not inclined to bomb hills because you live in fear of being unable to stop, fear not. The hydraulic SRAM Red disc brakes serve their purpose and deliver better than would a mechanical disc, or carbon rim brake.
As for the rest of the eTap, it does the job, despite the shifting delay compared to Shimano Di2. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand the choice to go eTap on a race bike where shifting delays really matter, but for the everyday user like myself, it is nice to have an electronic shifting system that allows for use of a spare charged battery should a derailleur run out of juice while on a long ride, and is easier to charge like the rest of our digital accessories when at home, whereas my Di2 requires plugging the bike in like a lamp. The individual shifter paddles are also something to consider if you ride outside in winter as they’re easier to use with heavy gloves than Di2.
The dual-sided Quark power meter takes a coin battery. I set a calendar reminder to swap the battery whenever I have gear that takes a 2032.
Speaking of long rides: the Langma may not be the bike everyone wants to choose for endurance rides, those long but low intensity days on the bike. The Langma takes up to 32mm tires, but that is not ideal for the Cadex rims’ 25mm external width if aero is the objective. However, upping the tire width would cushion what could otherwise be a hard ride. One of the downsides of a stiff, responsive bike is that the vibration from every pothole transfers right through the bars and the saddle. It may be possible to have a sprightly, nimble bike that doesn’t transfer every bump from the road to the rider, but the possibilities decrease the stiffer the frame.
Even with the fantastic Alacra SLR saddle, I initially felt a bit fatigued in my lower back after riding the Langma. Once I dialed in my fit, the fatigue eased, but I still don’t ride over rough pavement as easily as I do on an endurance bike with fatter tires. If the Langma took 38mm tires, it would be a quiver-killer.
So I ride the 25mm tires on the cutting-edge rims, and am grateful. After a few days, I got used to the stiff ride and my back felt fine. Momentary soreness is the price we sometimes must pay for perfection; and yes, I do fully believe the Langma is a perfect race bike. The Langma frame and fork, combined with the Contact SLR bars and stem on the Cadex wheelset with the truable bladed carbon spokes are Liv’s layup masterpieces, and the engineers should be proud.
Granted the chance, I would continue to take the beating that the Langma Advanced SL Disc dishes out with a smile, though I have to point out, not everyone may be into that. The Langma is not uncomfortable, it’s just stiff and nimble, which can result in a tense ride depending on road conditions.
If you want pure comfort in road bike form, look elsewhere. The Langma is a true race bike; the kind of weapon that makes you ignore your training plan as you revel in the pure speed your own legs can produce, even if you know it’s going to hurt tomorrow. The speed from your legs is seemingly amplified by the Liv Langma.