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 Liv Brava SLR 1 weekly in a local night-time 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.
Liv Brava SLR 1:
The Liv Brava SLR 1 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.”
That approach seemed to work for me. Although it was my first ‘cross experience, I felt that the Liv Brava SLR 1 handled well. As I gained skills and confidence, I became more comfortable on the bike and found myself able to ride through technical sections that I would have had to dismount for in the beginning of the season. The front end felt particularly stable and accurate, making technical descents less intimidating.
I’m also five-foot-three with baby hands and always struggle to reach brakes. But I found the light-action Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc brakes (which are also adjustable for reach) to be easy to grab, even at the last second. In the drops, the brakes were a bit harder to reach, but swapping in bars with a different curvature might help.
The disc brakes were a total lifesaver, too. During one muddy race, I had so much faith in their stopping power that I was able to ride a steep descent that other riders had to dismount and run. The mechanical Ultegra drivetrain never let me down either. I enjoyed quick and precise shifting as I climbed short and sudden grassy ascents.
Even now that our local ‘cross season is over, I keep finding reasons to ride the Liv Brava SLR 1, 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 Liv Brava SLR 1 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.