Road Test: Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc and Advanced Pro 0
Emily Chappell is possessed by the Liv Langma Advanced. Here, we discover whether that’s a good thing…
The Langma, released last year and now available in three series (Advanced, Advanced Pro and Advanced SL), was designed by Liv’s engineers “without any sacrifices in aerodynamics, stiffness [or] weight”.
Beyond that engineering deliciousness, what really swung it for me – even before I’d laid eyes on it – is that it’s designed “for the aggressive female rider.”
It’s not something any of us talk about very much – and maybe it’s only me – but when I’m on the bike and the blood, oxygen and caffeine are flowing as they should, I become a wild snarling beast and I don’t want ‘comfort’, ‘endurance fit’ or a ‘relaxed geometry’. I want a bike that will elevate me, conspire with me, and maybe even frighten me a bit. A bike on which I might get carried away.
I tested the Langma Advanced Pro Disc and the Langma Advanced Pro 0 this spring, and very quickly discovered that this was the bike my inner speed demon had been waiting for.
As soon as I swung my leg over the Langma Advanced Pro Disc outside a hotel near Pollença, something happened to me. What was supposed to be a gentle spin out to the lighthouse at Formentor to take some photos and warm up our legs for the Mallorca 312, turned into a smashfest. Quite simply, the Langma wants to turn every ride into a race, and I was happy to oblige.
So, just how does it do this? Well, for starters, it’s absurdly light – the lightest bike Giant has ever produced, with the smallest Advanced SL 0 weighing in at just 6.05kg, fully built. I’d spent the winter pedalling a steel-framed, thick-tyred bike up muddy Welsh hills, and now it felt like I was riding a twig.
There’s so much more to speed than weight alone, with the Langma designed to optimise power transfer (and the engineers aiming for a balance between stiffness and compliance). In plain riding terms, this means that the strength of your legs is turned into forward (and upward) motion without the slightest wobble in between, but also that the frame flexes where it needs to, so you don’t lose any momentum (or comfort).
To ensure this happens, EVERY detail is considered, which means that the Langma has seat stays the thickness of a biro and slender tubing that corresponds to its minimal weight. Yet, it bulks out where it needs to, with a surprisingly chunky PowerCore bottom bracket to maximise the efficiency of your pedal stroke.
Then there are the speed gains from aerodynamics. Wow! The Langma comes with a Contact SLR Flux stem, which is hollow (and thus far lighter than its chunky appearance would suggest), and incorporates special air channels to reduce drag. You’ll also notice that the top tube tapers towards the seat tube cluster, and that the frame is made up of a combination of round and D-shaped tubing – all in order to reduce turbulence and help you slice through the air.
My first big test for the Langma was the Mallorca 312 (read my ride report here), and I was excited to see how a bike designed for climbing (my favourite part of cycling) would handle the 5,000m of ascent.
My expectations were exceeded within about half an hour. The Langma whisks you away as soon as you put foot to pedal, and I rolled out along the coast with the fast guys, jostling for position in the pack, and putting the bike’s quick acceleration to good use as I darted into tiny gaps milliseconds before they closed. The peloton slowed and spread out as we turned right and began the first of the day’s climbs – and the Langma just kept on going.
It was the first time I’d ridden a bike that felt as natural going uphill as it did on the flat, and I barely had to adjust my position as I soared upwards, effortlessly wending my way through the pack thanks to the Langma’s nimbly responsive steering. This really came into its own on the long descents, where I slid round the hairpins like a water down a spout.
Liv’s talk of balancing stiffness with compliance isn’t just lip service. The Langma’s stability on twisting descents owes a lot to the flexibility built into the frame (those tiny seat stays, that tapering top tube), enabling bike and rider to glide over rough bits of road that might otherwise have thrown me off my curve.
A few hours later, as the perfect tarmac of the Tramuntana mountains gave way to the gravel and potholes of Mallorca’s agricultural heartland, I found that we continued to soar along in harmony. I’d spot a patch of uneven road, brace myself to be rattled, and then feel so little vibration that I’d wonder if I'd inadvertently taken flight.
“That’s all very well,” I thought to myself, “but anyone can ride like a superhero on Mallorcan tarmac in 25-degree sunshine. How would this bike cope with Welsh hills?” Let me tell you…
The Langma’s second test was on the Dragon Devil (read my review here); a sportive similar to the Mallorca 312 in that it’s more than 300km long, but different in that Mallorca’s climbs tend to be long and gentle (mostly averaging around 5%), whereas Welsh roads will quite happily ramp up to 25% and feature gravel, potholes, grass, sheep poo and unexpected tractors.
This would be a PROPER test and I was interested to see if the 11x30 cassette would cope with the Devil’s Staircase!
As the road steepened towards that lethal 30% hairpin, I wrenched myself out of the saddle for the first time, pushing both bike and body towards their limits as I fought to keep my front wheel on the ground.
This would be my only small complaint about the Langma – of all the bikes I’ve ridden up the Devil’s Staircase over the years, it displayed the strongest inclination to flip me over backwards, simply because it weighs so little that it relies almost entirely on the rider’s bodyweight to keep it planted. Thankfully, we managed to stay upright until the top, and I was rewarded with an event QOM (I fully intend to go back and bag the overall record), which suggests that the Langma is far and away the best climbing bike on the market.
Now, for the big question – would I recommend the Langma family? Very heartily… if you love speed.
I wouldn’t use the Langma for commuting or touring, and even self-supported races like the Transcontinental are out (you could put a small amount of luggage on it, but would you want to?). But if you’re into pure speed, sportives, supported events, road racing, seeing how hard you can push it, chasing QOMs, mercilessly dropping your riding buddies on the climbs, and whooping with sheer joy as you swoop down the descents, this is the bike for you.
With prices starting well into four figures, the Langma is an investment, no matter which model you go for.
Of the two models I tested, the Advanced Pro Disc seemed better value, with the extra cost of the Advanced Pro 0 covering electronic shifting (which is nice, but I can manage without) and a slightly higher spec crankset and stem.
At the top end, you’ll enjoy an integrated seatpost, a top-of-the-range Giant SLR 0 Wheelsystem and a Sram Red E-Tap groupset, and further down the scale you’ll benefit from the same go-faster geometry, albeit with a slightly heavier frame and fewer gears (though the Advanced 3 comes with an 11x32 cassette, to make those climbs even less of a struggle).
No matter which model you go for, the Langma will take your joy of cycling to another level, and you’ll be the envy of all who behold you – if they can keep up.