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Liv Embolden Mountain Bike Review: Affordable Women’s 29er for Moderately Technical Trails

Liv Embolden 1(Photo/Liv)
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The ladies’ Liv Embolden 1 is a competent, full-suspension mountain bike for beginner and intermediate riders to explore technical trails, mountainous terrain, and bike parks with dependable comfort at a wildly low price.

Liv Cycling launched the Embolden series in 2016, and it recently got a makeover. This includes the launch of models with 29-inch wheels to equip riders with a larger wheel option on a women’s-specific frame.

If you’re not yet familiar with Liv, the Giant-owned brand is one of the only ones dedicated to developing women’s bike products. The company was founded by Giant executive Bonnie Tu in 2008.

A few groundbreaking MTB brands have female designers and tester input, and many bike designs are preferred across genders. But Liv frames are unique because the geometry is engineered according to female anatomy. The brand doesn’t skimp on small and extra-small frame options. Liv also has an in-house team of lady bosses.

Beyond the updated wheel option, the Embolden 1 has a freshly designed rear triangle with 148mm Boost hub spacing. This allows wider tires, better stiffness, greater tire clearance, and improved handling. The new 29ers have updated cable ports and a 55mm chain line to help with stiffness, frame strength, and tire clearance.

In short: The new Embolden 1 ($2,300) is a super fun, well-built, comfortable mountain bike for ambitious and greener riders. It supports long ascents, rocky descents, and honing trail skills — without breaking the bank.

Liv Embolden 1
Senior Editor Morgan Tilton mountain biking on the Liv Embolden 1; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Liv Embolden 1 Specs

  • Sizes: S, M, L (the 27.5er comes in XS, S, M)
  • Wheel size: 29″ (or 27.5″)
  • Tires: Maxxis Forekaster 29 x 2.5 WT (wide trail), EXO (lightest sidewall casing), tubeless
  • Travel: 120mm rear, 130mm front
  • Frame: Aluxx-grade aluminum
  • Seat Tube Angle: 76 degrees (M, 29er)
  • Top Tube Length: 23″ (M, 29er)
  • Reach: 16.9″ (M, 29er)
  • Stand Over Height: 28.9″ (M, 29er)
  • Fork: 130mm Giant Crest 34 with 15 x 110mm Boost thru-axle
  • Rear Shock: RockShox Monarch R, 184.15mm long/44.45mm stroke (customized for Liv)
  • Brakes: TEKTRO hydraulic 180mm front, 160mm rear
  • Seatpost: 125mm travel (M, 29er)
  • Shifters and Rear Derailleur: SRAM SX Eagle, 1×12 (entry level)
  • Saddle: Liv Sylvia
  • Price: $2,300

Stock photo of Liv Embolden 1

Liv Embolden 1 Review

I rode the new Embolden 1 from May to November, covering nearly 500 miles. I rode thousands of feet of steep terrain in Crested Butte and Gunnison Valley in Colorado, on advanced and intermediate technical routes, plus a few cruisy beginner staples.

Nearby, I steered the bike at Fruita’s 18 Road. I also went to Palisade to experience the fully launched 32-mile Palisade Plunge trail. It meanders from the Grand Mesa at 10,700 feet to town at an elevation of 4,700, dropping nearly 6,000 feet along the way. The biggest day was a 43-miler with 6,287 feet of gain across multiple climbs. My backside felt that final leg, but the bike met the day’s demands.


First off, I typically ride a small frame with 27.5-inch wheels. Years ago, when I first demoed a 29er, I felt too far off the ground. And I preferred the nimble character of a 27.5, especially on tight corners. But Liv changed my mind — I loved this 29er.

The frame’s geometry placed me exactly where I needed to be on long, steep climbs, which saved my energy. I didn’t need to work as hard to keep the front tire planted. This bike helped me power up 2,300-foot continuous ascents with no problem. The 29-inch wheels chomped away at rocky trails and logs on the ascent and descent. And the Embolden 1 felt plush on rowdy downhills.

Based on my height, I was square between a size small or medium frame. I’m glad I opted for the medium, so my torso didn’t feel crunched. The standover height could’ve been a teeny-tiny bit lower for my comfort, but overall, the fit was great.

A panoramic of Morgan Tilton descending a sharp turn on the Liv Embolden 1; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Liv Embolden 1 Suspension

The Embolden has 130 mm of travel with the air-sprung Giant Crest 34 fork, which the company first debuted in 2019. The design provides entry- to mid-level suspension for trail riders but doesn’t skimp on quality. Liv uses a dual-air system. This lets riders adjust the air volume, which affects the amount of ramp at the end of the travel.

The fork’s compression can be adjusted too. Riders can fully open it on rough descents or lock out on climbs; plus, there are three other modes selected via the on-the-go dial. Riders can also customize the speed of the fork rebound. The rebound is adjusted via a knob through 24 clicks, with wide open at 24 being the fastest and zero being the slowest.

The RockShox Monarch R — custom-tuned for Liv’s Embolden — provides 120 mm of suspension in the back.

Women’s-Specific Design

Liv’s women’s-specific bikes are built based on body dimension data and direct input from riding experiences. This puts the brand well ahead in delivering bikes that support female riders.

The product developers team up with suspension manufacturers for tailored tunes and specific components that can be paired with each frame size. These steps ultimately support the targeted applications of each women’s specific design.

Another important detail: The stock women’s seat on this mountain bike was excellent. In the past, I’ve had issues with going numb in the nether regions while riding, particularly in the Elk Mountains — where there are a lot of big, ongoing climbs. According to interviews with many bike experts, having a correct seat is one variable that helps prevent pain (in addition to a proper bike fit and body positioning).

This bike’s high-performance Sylvia saddle worked well for aggressive rides with extra-soft foam in the center to help protect sensitive tissues and padded edges. A downward tilt helped provide clearance on climbs, and the slightly longer length allowed for better control on descents.

Liv Embolden 1 on the Palisade Plunge route in Southwest Colorado.
The Liv Embolden 1 on the Palisade Plunge route in southwest Colorado; (photo/Morgan Tilton)

Liv Embolden 1 Sizes

Liv designs frames with specific geometries across rider heights for every angle and part. Beyond the improved bike fit, the result was less fatigue or discomfort and better handling overall.

The brand also offers smaller frame sizes compared to the majority of manufacturers, so if you’re petite or short, look no further. This is especially true for this small 29er, which is harder to find on the market.

Here’s the size rundown for the Embolden series (bike frame, wheel size, and rider height):

  • XS, 27.5″: 150-163 cm
  • S, 27.5″: 158-169 cm
  • M, 27.5″: 164-175 cm
  • S, 29″: 158-169 cm
  • M, 29″: 164-175 cm
  • L, 29″: 170-181 cm
Woman standing with Liv Embolden 1
Senior Editor Morgan Tilton with the Liv Embolden 1 on an overlook of the Palisade Plunge route; (photo/Morgan Tilton)

Liv Embolden 1: Everything Else

The Embolden 1’s frame is made of Aluxx-grade aluminum, which is proprietary to this series. While carbon is the lighter (and pricier) option for a mountain bike, this alloy is 30% stiffer than traditional 6061-series aluminum. Yet, it weighs less overall. Not bad for an entry-level bike.

The Liv Embolden 1 has a dropper seat post, which was vital for descents. I could stand on the pedals and easily move the bike beneath me.

This drivetrain is a 1×12. There’s one chainring in the front and 12 cogs on the back cassette, providing 12 gears. Compared to other drivetrains — there are also 2x and 3x drivetrains — this setup simplifies shifting, decreases weight, and streamlines mechanics. These are all bonuses when you’re riding in the middle of nowhere.

The gear range is the span between the lowest and highest gears. This is based on the diameter and number of teeth on the chainrings and cassette cogs. The SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed cassette has a reasonably broad 11-50 tooth range. This allows climbers to access a pretty low lowest gear and a high highest gear. That range was advantageous for enjoying rides through the mountains.

There was plenty of opportunity to use the TEKTRO hydraulic brakes on long descents with sections through dense aspen and pine. Trails were decorated with potholes of mud and water (as I said, it was an intense monsoon season), hairpin turns, and lead-ins to technical features. These solid and confidence-inspiring brakes provided excellent power delivery and allowed for abrupt halts when needed. Despite extensive and hard use, the braking quality never dropped over time. And they never squeaked nor needed any short-term maintenance.


Generally speaking, a trail bike like the Liv Embolden 1, with 120-140 mm of travel, suits most riders.

While this mountain bike offers plenty of bells and whistles for an entry-level rider, the relatively short travel might limit to aggressive riders, quick progression, or steep, fast, and rough downhill segments.

Plenty of singletrack in the Gunnison Valley area has chunky decor, big drops, and steep grades. I bottomed out on more than a few rides while keeping pace with ride partners. If your goal is to ride steep, big climbs and descents, or that’s what you have access to, consider demoing an Enduro bike that offers a larger amount of travel from 140-180 mm. The suspension travel you need depends on your riding style, so don’t be afraid to try out different options until you find the right fit.

Our trails often have loose dirt — but this year was an exception with a consistent monsoon season — and the tubeless-ready stock Maxxis Forekaster tires served all conditions. But the sidewall protection is EXO, which provides the least burly, lightest casing out of the four sidewall options from Maxxis.

This tire is super popular and serves the majority of riders. It had a playfully poppy character. But if you are riding aggressively or in rocky terrain, you’ll likely need more puncture resistance and support. While racing down with a group of ladies, I rode off a drop smattered with rocks and pinched the EXO, rendering a flat even with my tubeless setup.

Lastly, the fork is built with a rubber spring that reduces noise and the impact from top-out — but it was squeaky. Nothing seemed like it had malfunctioned. Halfway through the riding season, I took the bike to a shop to ensure everything was still in working order and safe. They gave me a thumbs-up, but the noise persisted.

Liv Embolden 1 MTB: Closing Thoughts

The Embolden 1 delivers precisely what Liv sought: to give women more options and get more ladies on bikes. This bike offers all the best features to help newer and advancing riders excel at mountain biking by making the ride more comfortable and efficient.

The brand balances the budget and high-end details by checking off the most important boxes for energy savings, like full suspension and a dropper post. But Liv opts for entry-level components like the 1×12 SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain, which helps keep the price relatively low.

Beginner and many intermediate riders would find that the Embolden 1 is fully capable across easy, moderate, and advanced trail rides. More competitive or goal-oriented riders pushing through rugged terrain might reach their ceiling with this bike. But at the price point, there’s much to be gained for both beginner and intermediate riders through a couple of seasons on this bike before investing in a premium package. It’s a stepping stone, if not a best friend.

Overall, the Liv Embolden 1 was an extremely fun, robust, easy-to-steer 29er that was a blast to ride across alpine and desert terrain. It’s an excellent fit for moderate or less aggressive trails and riders, especially in steep, rocky terrain.

Check Price at Liv Cycling
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