Blister Brand Guide: Giant / Liv Mountain Bike Lineup, 2020

Intro

When considering a new mountain bike, there are so many similar-looking bikes on the market being made by so many different companies, it is virtually impossible to (1) know where to begin; (2) quickly figure out which one or two products from a given brand might work well for you; and (3) determine what products from other brands might be the most similar and also worth considering.

So in our new “Blister Brand Guide” series, we provide an overview of the entire product lineup of a brand; highlight how each product stands out from the rest of that brand’s lineup; and help you figure out quickly and easily which bike might work best for you.

In our individual product reviews, we go very deep into the details of particular products. With these Brand Guides, the goal is not Depth, but Breadth. Our Brand Guides and full reviews are designed to complement each other — provide a broad overview of entire company lineups, and then also very detailed reviews of individual products. 

Our mountain bike Brand Guides are presented by CBGTrails. Learn more and start planning your trip today at cbgtrails.com, then download the CBG Trails app for info on the 750+ miles of singletrack and 150+ trails in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley, Colorado.

See our other MTB Brand Guides

About Giant

Giant was started way back in 1972, making them one of the oldest mountain bike companies. They are also the largest bike manufacturer in the world, making road bikes, off-road bikes, and everything in between. They produce bikes at almost all price points as well, so there’s a Giant bike for almost any budget. Giant makes carbon and aluminum frames, and bikes and builds with “advanced” in the title refer to bikes and builds with Giant’s carbon frames.

About Liv

In 2008, Liv/Giant was launched as a sub-brand of Giant that is dedicated solely to female riders. Then, for model year 2015, they rebranded themselves just as Liv. Liv designs bikes specifically for women from the ground up, with frames and components that differ from Giant bikes (i.e., they’re not just Giant bikes with different colors and sizes).

Giant & Liv are currently headquartered in Taichung City, Taiwan.

Current Warranty (for the original owner)

  • Lifetime on all frames (except for “models intended for downhill purposes”)
  • Ten years on rigid forks
  • Three years on frames on “models intended for downhill purposes”
  • One year on paint finish and decals, and all other original Giant parts
  • For more information, visit: this website for Giant and this website for Liv.

Suspension design: Maestro

(For more on different suspension designs, see our Suspension 101 article)

Before we get into their specific models and build options, here are some things to keep in mind when deciding on which build level to go with, and why.

First, when looking at complete bikes, suspension and wheels are going to make the biggest difference in how a bike really rides. Spend money on those before other things like higher-end drivetrain parts, cockpit parts (e.g., stem, handlebars, etc.), cranks, etc.

Tires make an enormous difference in performance, but are cheaper and easier to upgrade, especially since they tend to wear down quicker than other components. Upgrading a lower-end front tire to something better — and saving the original for rear-tire use — can be a good way to improve a bike while still making use of the originals, since front tires are generally a lot more important than rear tires when it comes to traction.

Drivetrain parts can be upgraded piecemeal as they wear out, or if you just want to upgrade down the line. Higher-end cassettes are mostly just lighter, while higher-end shifters and derailleurs get lighter, smoother, and sometimes last a bit longer as you go up in price.

We’ll outline here the different models in Giant & Liv’s MTB lineups, organized from most cross-country-oriented (XC) to downhill-oriented (DH). In other words, the bikes at the top of the list are optimized to pedal and climb uphill very well, while the bikes at the bottom are optimized to handle very rough, steep, and challenging descents very well. We’ve included some notable information for each model: Available build kits & their MSRP
  • Best Budget Build: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people trying to spend the least amount without ending up with a build that’s going to immediately break or need to be upgraded.
  • Most Performance for the Price: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people seeking the best balance of performance and cost. I.e., if you don’t need to get the cheapest bike, but you also don’t need the absolute lightest bike or all the newest bling, this is the build we think makes sense for you.
  • Suspension travel (e.g., 100 mm of travel, 130 mm of travel, etc.)
  • Wheel size (e.g., 27.5”, 27.5+, 29”)
  • Frame material options (e.g., alloy vs. carbon)
  • A brief description of what the bike was designed for and any notable design details.
  • Some of the bike’s most direct competitors from other brands
  • Which Giant / Liv bike it’s most similar to
  • Reasons why you should buy it
  • Reasons why you should not buy it

Giant Mountain Bikes

(Most Cross-Country-Oriented to Most Downhill-Oriented)

Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup

Giant’s entry-level hardtail with affordable builds but without high-end specs.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $1,200
  • 1: $1,500 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Chisel
  • Trek X-Caliber
  • Kona Kahuna
  • Scott Aspect
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup

A great confidence-inspiring option for beginners thanks to budget-friendly builds and grippy, high-volume tires. More like the Fathom 29 than the XTC Advanced 29.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $1,200
  • 1: $1,500 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Trek Roscoe
  • Santa Cruz Chameleon 27.5”+
  • Kona Big Honzo
  • Rocky Mountain Growler
  • Devinci Kobain HT
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup

Giant’s hardtail XC race 29er. Redesigned for 2020, the frame lost some weight and got updated geometry. More like the XTC Advanced + than the Fathom.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $2,500 – Best Budget Build
  • SL 1: $5,000 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Epic
  • Trek Procaliber
  • Scott Scale
  • Pivot Les
  • Santa Cruz Highball
  • Canyon Exceed
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup

Can fit 29” wheels & tires as well as the stock 27.5”+ wheels & tires. Features horizontal dropouts for wheel size and drivetrain customization. Longer fork than the XTC Advanced. More like the XTC Advanced than the Anthem 29.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • XTC Advanced +: $2,300
  • Trek Roscoe
  • Santa Cruz Chameleon
  • Kona Big Honzo
  • Rocky Mountain Growler
  • Devinci Kobain HT
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup

Giant’s full-suspension 29” XC race bike. More like the Trance 29 than the XTC Advanced +

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $3,000 – Best Budget Build
  • Advanced Pro 1: $5,350 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Advanced Pro 0: $12,300
  • Specialized Epic
  • Santa Cruz Blur
  • Scott Spark RC
  • Cannondale Scalpel-Si
  • Pivot Mach 4 SL (World Cup Builds)
  • Intense Sniper XC
  • Norco Revolver FS 100
  • Canyon Lux
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup

The Trance 29 is less of a XC race bike, and more of a “fun” or casual XC bike. Features progressive head tube and seat tube angles, shorter chainstays, and longer top tube. More like the Anthem 29 than the Stance.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 3: $2,100
  • 2: $2,900 – Best Budget Build
  • Advanced Pro 3: $3,350
  • Advanced Pro 2: $4,500
  • Advanced Pro 1: $5,200 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Advanced Pro 0: $10,500
  • Advanced Pro Frameset: $2,950
  • Specialized Stumpjumper ST 29”
  • Santa Cruz Tallboy Version 4
  • Pivot Trail 429
  • Transition Smuggler
  • Ibis Ripley 
  • Devinci Django 29
  • Scott Spark
  • Canyon Neuron
  • YT Izzo
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup

Entry-level Trail option for riders looking for the improved traction provided by plus-sized tires. More like the Stance 29 than the Trance 29.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $1,550 
  • 1: $1,800 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Santa Cruz 5010 27.5”+
  • Pivot Trail 429 27.5”+
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup

Entry-level option for riders looking to get on a versatile bike with fast-rolling 29” wheels. More like the Stance than the Trance.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $1,550
  • 1: $1,800 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Stumpjumper ST 29”
  • Trek Fuel EX
  • Santa Cruz Tallboy Version 3
  • Kona Satori
  • Norco Fluid FS
  • Cannondale Habit
  • Canyon Neuron
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup

Giant’s best Quiver Killer, designed for a bit of everything. More like the Reign 29 than the Stance 29.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 3: $2,100 – Best Budget Build
  • Advanced 2: $3,150
  • Advanced 1: $5,600 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Stumpjumper 27.5”
  • Trek Remedy
  • Santa Cruz Bronson
  • Pivot Mach 5.5
  • Yeti SB140
  • Kona Process 153 27.5
  • Rocky Mountain Altitude
  • Norco Sight 27.5”
  • Canyon Spectral
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
The new Reign 29 is an aggressive Trail / Enduro bike with long, low, & slack geometry. More like the Reign SX 29 than the Trance.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $3,000 – Best Budget Build
  • Advanced Pro 2: $4,000
  • Advanced Pro 1: $5,000 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Advanced Pro 0: $9,000
  • Frameset: $2,950
  • Santa Cruz Megatower
  • Rocky Mountain Instinct BC Edition
  • Intense Carbine
  • Nukeproof Mega 290
  • Evil The Wreckoning LB
  • Scott Ransom
  • Canyon Strive
  • Ibis Ripmo AF
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
The “SX” version of the Reign 29 features a longer fork than the regular Reign 29. More like the Reign 29 than the Reign.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • Reign SX 29: $4,000
  • Specialized Enduro (2020)
  • Santa Cruz Megatower
  • Pivot Firebird 29
  • Yeti SB150
  • Nukeproof Mega 290
  • YT Capra 29
  • Norco Range 29
  • Devinci Spartan 29
  • Scott Ransom
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
27.5” Enduro bike with long, low, & slack modern geometry. More like the Reign SX than the Reign SX 29.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $2,700
  • Santa Cruz Nomad
  • Pivot Firebird
  • Transition Patrol
  • Rocky Mountain Slayer
  • Nukeproof Mega 275
  • Norco Range 27.5”
  • Devinci Spartan 27
  • Cannondale Jekyll
  • Ibis Mojo HD5
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
This bike features the same frame as the Reign but with a longer fork.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • Reign SX: $2,700
  • Santa Cruz Nomad
  • Pivot Firebird
  • Yeti SB165
  • Kona Process 165
  • Commencal Clash
  • Transition Patrol
  • Rocky Mountain Slayer
  • Nukeproof Mega 275
  • YT Capra 27
  • Norco Range 27.5”
  • Devinci Spartan 27
  • Cannondale Jekyll
  • Canyon Torque

Liv Mountain Bikes

(Most Cross-Country-Oriented to Most Downhill-Oriented)

Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
Liv’s XC-race-style, full-suspension 29er. Features a dropper post.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 3: $2,050
  • 2: $3,000 – Best Budget Build
  • Advanced Pro 1: $5,350 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Advanced Pro 0: $12,300
  • Pivot Mach 4 Carbon (Race Builds)
  • Juliana Joplin Version 3
  • Scott Contessa Spark RC
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup

Entry-level, shorter-travel Trail bike. Features wide 2.6” tires for confidence-inspiring traction. More like the Intrigue than the Pique 29.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $1,550 
  • 1: $1,800 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Juliana Furtado  27.5”+
  • Pivot Trail 429 27.5”+
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
Liv’s best Quiver Killer, designed to handle a bit of everything.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 3: $2,100
  • 2: $2,900 – Best Budget Build
  • Advanced 2: $3,150
  • Advanced 1: $5,600 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Stumpjumper 27.5”
  • Trek Remedy
  • Juliana Roubion
  • Pivot Mach 5.5

4 comments on “Blister Brand Guide: Giant / Liv Mountain Bike Lineup, 2020”

  1. This Brand Guide (the only bike one I’ve looked at so far) is missing something critical: whether a particular bike is suitable for smaller or larger riders. Many bikes are not available in the “extreme” sizes and this is particularly important for small women since VERY few full-suspension mountain bikes are available for them. It would be nice if such guides pointed out which bikes come is very small (or very large) sizes.

    Why, you ask? Well, find some beginner mountain bikers and take them down a moderately challenging trail on a bike they cannot stand over and ask them.

    • Jacquie,

      Thank you for your thoughts.
      Fit on a mountain bike is very subjective. Each person’s body is unique and two persons of the same height may find that the same bike fits differently. Personal preference has a big role here, too. Many bike manufacturers will recommend each size for a range of heights, but ultimately the best way of understanding which size is best for you is by throwing a leg over the bike.
      We will note when a bike has an exceptionally low standover height; but other than that, it is difficult to generalize which bikes will fit shorter or taller riders well. Adding which sizes each bike is produced in could be a helpful starting point, and we appreciate your feedback.

      Thank you!
      Dylan

  2. I can’t agree on your Trance 29 assesment. Having ridden various bikes over the past, including Trance 27.5, I’d say T29 is more capable and aggressive bike when things get steep and point down. It’s got slacker head tube, more reach and longer wheelbase than it’s 27.5 variant. The difference in travel isn’t really noticable due to geometry and and better suspension.

    By your description, you made it look like a beefier Anthem 29 which it definitely isn’t.

    Having owned Pivot Switchblade before it, Trance 29 is definitely just as capable on the downs, but quicker uphill and on the flats since it’s lighter.

    • The Trance 29 is certainly capable for the amount of travel it has, but it is not by any means a Reign 29. I believe riders who constantly ride very steep, technical, and fast terrain will prefer more suspension and more aggressive DH-oriented geometry.

      While we would love to go in-depth in the comparison of all these bikes, these Brand Guides are supposed to be general, objective, and just a starting point.

Leave a Comment