How Liv Makes Triathlon Bikes for Small Women
Why it is Important for Every Rider to Find the Correct Bike Geometry, Regardless of her Size
This year, Liv released the Avow, the first truly women’s-specific triathlon bike. The Avow joined the Avail and Envie in Liv’s on-road performance bike range and also joined those bikes as one of the few models to be offered in a special EXTRA EXTRA small size (XXS). Read below to discover the struggles of small female riders, why Liv believes so strongly in offering bikes solutions to fit riders of all sizes and how these amazing bikes are created.
The Bike Fit Struggle for Petite Women
For short women, finding a bike that fits is a constant struggle. It is about more than being able to stand over the top tube. Women below 158 cm (5’2”) tend to have trouble finding a bike that allows them to be both comfortable and efficient. Most small women are too stretched out on their bike, not low enough on their bike or in a compromised position on current options. For triathlon, these problems are highlighted when a short women goes from the bike portion of the triathlon to the run. If the bike does not fit her correctly, she will not be as efficient during the run.
Currently, XXS female triathletes are forced to purchase one of three options:
- A triathlon bike that is too big. The result of a top tube that is too long is a riding position that is too stretched out. This can cause pain and discomfort in the lower back, shoulders and overall rider fatigue.
- A bike that is not triathlon specific. Small women may be able to find a bike that fits them, especially with Liv’s other on-road options, like the Envie and Avail. However, the riding position on these bikes is not made specifically for triathlon. It is likely the rider position will be too upright on these bikes and not ideal for efficiency.
- A triathlon bike with 650 C wheels. Triathlon bikes are currently made with 650 C (wheels that are smaller than the average 700 C wheel size). While these bikes do get closer to fitting smaller women, they are not women’s specific and also compromise on speed.
Since fit is so important to a triathlete’s success, Liv set out to create a bike for smaller women. To learn more about bike fit, read our article on how to fit a triathlon bike.
How Liv Created the XXS Avow
Why did Liv create an XXS triathlon bike? The answer is simple: no compromise. Liv wants all women to be excited about triathlon. Having a bike in this small size provides an opportunity for short women to find a product that truly is built with all their needs in mind.
Cassandra Chou is a Liv Global Category Manager, which means she designs Liv’s bikes from the ground up for women. Cassandra is also very petite, at 155 cm (about 5’1”). Four years ago, she began racing triathlon for fun and gradually became more interested in the sport. However, she has always had to compromise when it comes to bike fit for her races. But when she began the process of creating the first women’s specific triathlon bike, she was blown away by how many women shared her struggle. “When I got the chance to create a women’s specific bike (Avow), I promised myself that I wouldn’t compromise with my height. After research, I was surprised to find that about 20% of women in the world are shorter than me. They shouldn’t have to compromise either,” said Cassandra.
Goals for the Bike
When Cassandra and Abby Santurbane, another Category Manager for Liv, set out to design the Avow, they had three specific goals for the bike, regardless of size.
- Adjustability. Abby and Cassandra wanted women to have the ability to grow into the Avow. Not all triathletes can immediately become flexible enough to comfortably assume the low, forward position of a triathlon bike. So, with the Avow, women have the opportunity to start with a more upright geometry and slowly progress into a lower position when they are ready.
- Comfort. When a woman is comfortable on the bike, it will help her perform more efficiently during the rest of the race. But it is not just about speed, it is about enjoying the ride. If your bike fits better and is more comfortable, you can actually have fun!
- Outlook. Abby and Cassandra wanted the design of the Avow to appeal to women. This bike is fast and powerful, but it also needed to be beautiful.
How it Works
Liv wanted to create the most comfortable triathlon bike possible, which means extreme adjustability. Being able to move the saddle, armrest, stem and arm pads allows the rider to go from a 34.8-degree body angle (upright position) to a 21-degree body angle (aggressive and aerodynamic position). This customizable fit makes the Avow the ideal bike for all levels of triathletes.
When Abby and Cassandra were designing the bike, they were literally building the bike around the rider. After research, they determined that the ideal body angle for triathletes is around 24 degrees. However, when Abby and Cassandra were designing the XXS triathlon bike, they noticed they were unable to achieve the ideal body angle with the other stipulations that needed to be met. Since the head tube (or the front part of the bike frame) needed to be a certain height, the end result would be a riding position that is much too upright to be efficient for triathlon. But, they refused to compromise. The solution was placing a 650 C wheel in the front and a 700 C wheel in the back of the bike. Keeping a larger wheel in the rear of the bike, neither power or body position is compromised.
According to Abby, this meant that the whole bike had to be redesigned for the smaller female rider. “We developed all separate components: New fork, new carbon wheels. This is proof that the XXS size is something we are committed to.”