I race road and track. I like to go fast on smooth surfaces. Off-camber sections, gravel, and anything muddy are not my forte. But as the fall approached this past year, I got ‘cross-curious. And when I was given the chance to ride the Liv Brava SLR 1—one of the only women’s cyclocross bikes available—I jumped at it, figuring that racing ‘cross in the cold and mud was better than sitting on the trainer for hours.
I wrangled some friends into teaching me the ins and outs, and over several weeks, I raced the Brava weekly in a local nighttime series and nearby women’s category 3/4 races. My first race was rough: New bike plus riding in the dark equals a very slow me (I got beat by a man dressed up like a woman on Halloween). Still, I fell in love with the sport, and once I got to ride in daylight, I found out I wasn’t so bad at it after all, riding to a bronze medal in the women’s 3/4 field at the Pennsylvania State Championships.
The Brava was designed using Liv’s 3F design philosophy, which stands for fit, form, and function. As the company does with all its bikes, Liv started from scratch—the Brava isn’t simply a sized-down men’s model with a different paint scheme, says Janette Sherman, Liv’s global communications manager. “We take each bike that we want to design and look at what its function will be,” she explains. “Then, using the data from global female dimension studies, we create a bike that puts a woman in the most comfortable and efficient positioning for the function of the bike.”
Even now that our local ‘cross season is over, I keep finding reasons to ride the Brava, including my commute to and from work, and to run errands. With its disc brakes and knobby tires, it’s fun to take the Brava out on wintry road rides when the road conditions are iffy—it definitely eliminated an excuse for staying inside when we had our first snowstorm. The bike also features two bottle cage mounts, making it suitable for long road or gravel rides. At £3,500, its race capabilities, versatility, and high-quality parts offer a good value for this performance-oriented ‘cross bike.
And though I’m enjoying riding the Brava as a winter training bike, I find myself looking forward to the next fall already. I guess this bike may have helped to turn me into a ‘cross racer after all.