Blister Brand Guide: Giant / Liv Mountain Bike Lineup, 2021

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 “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. 

And if you’re looking for more general advice on how to go about searching for a bike and what really sets different bikes apart (regardless of brand), we highly recommend checking out our Mountain Bike Buyer’s Guide.

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

Read our MTB Buyer’s Guide

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”)
  • 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 Mountain Bike Buyer’s Guide)

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 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

Giant’s most budget friendly hardtail.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 4: $520
  • 2: $650
  • 1: $880 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Rockhopper
  • Trek Marlin
  • Kona Hardtails
  • Cannondale Trail / Tango
  • Scott Aspect
  • Rocky Mountain Fusion & Soul
  • Norco Storm & Fluid HT
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

Giant’s hardtail XC race 29er. More like the Fathom 29 than the Talon.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • SLR 2: $1,380
  • Advanced 3: $2,200 – Best Budget Build
  • Advanced SL 1: $4,900 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Chisel & Epic Hardtail
  • Trek X-Caliber & Procaliber
  • Scott Aspect & Scale
  • Kona Kahuna
  • Pivot Les
  • Santa Cruz Highball
  • Canyon Exceed
  • Cannondale F-Si
  • Ibis DV9
  • Norco Revolver HT
  • Mondraker Chrono & Podium
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

Giant’s entry-level 29er hardtail with affordable builds but without high-end specs. Every model features a dropper post. More like the Fathom than the XTC 29.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $1,380
  • 1: $1,730 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Fuse 29”
  • Kona Honzo
  • Santa Cruz Chameleon
  • Nukeproof Scout 290
  • Norco Fluid HT
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2021 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 Anthem 29.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $1,380
  • 1: $1,730 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Fuze 27.5
  • 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 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

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

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $2,400 – Best Budget Build
  • Advanced Pro 1: $5,800 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Epic
  • Santa Cruz Blur
  • Scott Spark RC
  • Cannondale Scalpel
  • Pivot Mach 4 SL World Cup
  • Intense Sniper XC
  • Norco Revolver FS 100
  • Canyon Lux
  • Rocky Mountain Element XCO
  • Mondraker F-Podium
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2021 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 a longer reach. More like the Anthem 29 than the Stance 29.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 3: $2,350 – Best Budget Build
  • Advanced Pro 3: $3,600
  • Advanced Pro 1: $5,550 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Epic EVO
  • Trek Top Fuel
  • Santa Cruz Tallboy
  • Pivot Trail 429
  • Yeti SB115
  • Kona Hei Hei
  • Transition Spur
  • Banshee Phantom
  • Intense Sniper Trail
  • Norco Revolver FS 120
  • Cannondale Scalpel SE
  • Ibis Ripley 
  • Devinci Django 29
  • Scott Spark
  • Mondraker F-Podium DC
  • Banshee Phantom
  • Evil The Following
  • Canyon Neuron
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2021 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 29.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $1,650
  • 1: $2,100 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Trek Top Fuel & Fuel EX
  • Santa Cruz Tallboy
  • Norco Fluid FS
  • Cannondale Habit
  • Canyon Neuron
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

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

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • Stance: $1,650
  • Norco Fluid FS 27.5”
  • Salsa Spearfish 27.5”+
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

New for the 2021 lineup, the Trance X is Giant’s best Quiver Killer. This bike has the progressive geometry you’d expect from a modern Trail bike: a long reach, low bottom bracket, slack head tube angle, and steep seat tube angle. This bike has adjustable geometry with a low and high setting that are notably further apart than other bikes. “Advanced Pro 0” build kit features Fox’s Live Valve suspension. More like the Trance than the Stance.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 3: $2,500 – Best Budget Build
  • 2: $3,300
  • Advanced Pro 2: $4,700
  • Advanced Pro 1: $5,700 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Advanced Pro 0: $8,900
  • Specialized Stumpjumper
  • Trek Fuel Ex
  • Kona Process 134 29
  • Yeti SB130
  • Santa Cruz Hightower
  • Commencal Meta TR
  • Rocky Mountain Instinct
  • Intense Primer 29
  • YT Jeffsy 29
  • Norco Sight 29
  • Devinci Troy 29
  • Evil The Offering
  • Scott Genius 
  • Cannondale Habit
  • Revel Rascal
  • Canyon Strive
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

Designed for a bit of everything, this is a versatile 27.5”-wheeled Trail option. Notably less modern, less aggressive geometry than the Trance X 29. More like the Trance X 29 than the Reign 29.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • Trance: $2,350 – Best Budget Build
  • Advanced: $3,400 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Trek Remedy
  • Santa Cruz Bronson
  • Pivot Mach 5.5
  • Yeti SB140
  • Kona Process 153 27.5
  • Norco Sight 27.5”
  • Transition Scout
  • Intense Primer 27.5
  • YT Jeffsy 27
  • Canyon Spectral
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup

The Reign 29 is an aggressive Trail / Enduro bike with long, low, & slack geometry and a more downhill-oriented design than the Trance and Trance X.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $3,300 – Best Budget Build
  • SX: $4,200
  • Advanced Pro 2: $4,650
  • Advanced Pro 1: $5,750 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Santa Cruz Megatower
  • Trek Slash
  • Specialized Enduro
  • Rocky Mountain Altitude 29”
  • Intense Carbine
  • Transition Sentinel
  • Nukeproof Mega 290
  • Evil The Wreckoning LB
  • YT Capra 29
  • Norco Sight 29”
  • Devinci Spartan 29
  • Scott Ransom
  • Canyon Strive
  • Ibis Ripmo & Ripmo AF
  • Mondraker SuperFoxy

Liv Mountain Bikes

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

Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

Liv’s entry-level hardtail. 

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 4: $520
  • 2: $650
  • 1: $880
  • 0: $1,270 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Scott Contessa Active
  • Cannondale Tango
  • Diamondback Lux
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

Liv’s XC-race-style, full-suspension 29er. Features a dropper post on every model. More like the Embolden than the Tempt

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $2,400 – Best Budget Build
  • Advanced Pro 2: $4,150 
  • Advanced Pro 1: $5,900 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Advanced Pro 0: $12,300
  • Scott Contessa Spark RC
  • Cannondale Scalpel Women’s
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup

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

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 2: $1,650 
  • 1: $2,100 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

New for 2021, the Intrigue 29 is a versatile option designed to handle a mix of terrain. This bike has adjustable geometry with a low and high setting that are notably further apart (i.e., offer more significant adjustment) than other bikes. Although this bike is new, it does not have the very long and slack geometry you’d expect (e.g., like the Giant Trance X).More like the Intrigue than the Embolden.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • Intrigue 29: $3,300 – Best Budget Build
  • Advanced Pro 2: $4,700
  • Advanced Pro 1: $5,700 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Juliana Joplin
  • Cannondale Habit Women’s
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Giant & Liv's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup
Liv’s best Quiver Killer, designed to handle a bit of everything.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • Intrigue: $2,350 – Best Budget Build
  • Advanced: $3,400 – Most Performance for the Price

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