[Interview] Amanda Schaper – LIV Cycling

[Interview] Amanda Schaper – LIV Cycling

08/08/2014
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08/08/2014

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We recently took a trip up to Newbury Park, California to have a chat with Amanda Schaper. Amanda is the Global Product Marketing Specialist at Liv Cycling. We knew Liv is women’s specific brand that’s part of the Giant family, but wanted to see if Amanda could shed some more light on their history and Liv’s latest direction as a brand.

MTB-MAG – So, Liv has been around in various forms for a little while now. Can you tell us a bit about its inception?

AS – The idea for Giant to create a dedicated women’s cycling brand came from a woman named Bonnie Tu. She is the CFO of Giant, and in 2007, she and the other Giant executives participated in the Tour of Taiwan, which is a bike tour around the island of Taiwan. I believe she was the only woman on the tour, and when she tried to find a kit for the ride, all she could find was men’s sizing. This is a woman who wears Gucci and is into high fashion—needless to say, she was frustrated at the lack of women’s cycling apparel available. That set her into motion to say: OK, Giant needs to offer a full range of women’s product that’s tailored to females without compromising fit and comfort.

That started her drive to build Liv/giant. For a while we maintained that tie with Giant because of the brand equity, but ultimately we wanted to break away and be our own brand because it allows us to speak a lot more authentically. This year we re-introduced Liv with the new logo and new branding. Everything is new, and it’s a big deal to us.
It’s a huge advantage that we still get to utilize Giant’s technologies and manufacturing capabilities, but we’re doing all of the women’s-specific design and engineering independently.

It’s all about authenticity with Liv. Our entire brand is run completely by women—all of our designers, engineers, category managers, the whole marketing team, the brand team, etc. We are all women, and we understand the needs of female cyclists.

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MTB-MAG – We noticed Liv has been working with Leigh Donovan a bit, and you have an ambassador program. It’s cool to see Liv teaming up with a cycling advocate like herself.

AS – Absolutely! We are excited to be working closely with a group of ladies who represent Liv. Not all of them are racers or ex racers like Leigh, but they are people who are just great supporters of cycling in their communities. These are ladies who are out leading rides, teaching clinics, and providing a welcoming atmosphere to get more women on bikes. We have different tiers within those ambassadors.

We have everyone from people like Leigh who are ex world champions, to casual riders who are active in their community and are great brand advocates. These regional ambassadors create local events to build community, such us arranging ladies group rides or clinics showing them how to change a flat tire. We want to remove some of the barriers that prevent women from getting into the sport by building a welcoming community of passionate female cyclists.

MTB-MAG – Speaking of barriers, what do you think are some of the factors that prevent women from diving into cycling? Bad experiences at bike shops? Or out on the trails and roads?

AS – Bad experiences might be part of it, but I don’t think that’s all of it. Up until now, 100% of the marketing has been really male centric—big air, jumps, and things that most women don’t really respond to. Or, when women were marketed to, it was done in a really cheesy, inauthentic way. I think women typically respond better to things that are
more aspirational. They might think: I want to be that person, or I want to ride in the spot where that photo was taken. I don’t believe it’s necessarily about fear or a bad experience, but the way cycling was conveyed to women in the past wasn’t something they responded to. I think that the industry simply hasn’t spoken to women in a way that gets them excited about riding bikes. If you look at surfing, when Roxy launched their brand they did it in a way that made surfing a part of a woman’s lifestyle, and it was authentic.

I do think there is a barrier in retail, and we are addressing that head-on. One amazing thing we are doing is opening dedicated Liv stores all over the world, and we also have devoted Liv branded sections in preexisting Giant stores. We think about the female consumer as we design every aspect of our Liv stores—from the displays to the dressing rooms—and we want them to have more of a boutique feel. This atmosphere makes it more fun to shop for cycling gear, and it’s simply more welcoming to women.

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Mid ride selfies with Kelli Emmett

MTB-MAG – LIV has already been prevalent in Road and XC on the race scene – do you think there will be a time when you jump into the gravity market?

AS – We have Kelli Emmett doing the whole Enduro World Series (EWS) at the moment, and she has been loving her Liv Intrigue. Essentially this is our first season as a standalone brand, so we are constantly looking at how we can improve our product offering. Anything is on the table. As a brand, our end goal is to make a full commitment to the women’s marke and provide anything that a female cyclist could possibly need.
And women ride gravity too. We are always listening to rider feedback and demand, so if the demand is there for women’ specific gravity bikes, I’m sure that’s something we’ll consider in the future.

MTB – MAG – So, most companies that offer “women’s specific” bikes don’t actually do much more than change the colo and simply offer scaled down versions of the men’s bike models. What does Liv do differently to enhance the experience for female cyclists?

AS – This is probably the most exciting thing about Liv and the bikes we offer. We truly design custom frames tailored specifically to women. This doesn’t mean taking a Giant frame and simply tweaking the geometry. We start with a blank sheet of paper and design a frame that addresses a woman’s unique needs. People always ask: How are Liv bikes different than Giant bikes? It’s a tough question to answer because it isn’t as simple as this tube is a little shorter and that tube is  little longer. The Liv frames are created by a separate team of female designers and engineers, so they’re completel different frames than what the Giant team designs. We focus on developing women’s-specific geometry, in addition to a custom carbon layup tuned for female riders.

There are four main components we consider when designing women’s-specific geometry: Global Body Dimension Database, Intended Usage, Pro Rider Feedback, and Target Consumer Feedback. I’ll explain each of those in a bit more detail.

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Photo : Cameron Baird

The first thing we look at is the Global Body Dimension Database, and this is exactly what it sounds like. The databas provides average body dimensions of women all over the world—things like arm, torso, and leg length, and overall bod proportions. This helps us identify trends when comparing the male and female bodies. However, all women are different, so this of course isn’t the only driving factor. What tends to be true, however, is that most women carry their body weigh lower, and we get our strength from our lower body. This impacts geometry because our entire goal is to properly balance women over the bottom bracket for optimized control.

The next thing we focus on is the intended usage of each bike. That helps us determine the rider’s ideal body angle on tha bike, meaning how far forward or back the rider is sitting, or if they are sitting more upright or in a more aggressiv position. Most of these factors are all pretty obvious with each given discipline; for example, road sits forward more, MT sits more upright. We get more specific than that though to look at the specific discipline and riding style of that bike, an once we have the ideal body angle, we can start to fine-tune the geometry to achieve that.

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Holding down “Beer Loop” with the boys at Giant

After that we start to get into rider feedback. We send out bikes to our pro riders like Kelli Emmett, Katie Holden, and al the girls on the Liv Pro XC Team. These are savvy riders who can tell one half of a degree difference in a headtube and giv us really good testing notes. Then, we go one step further and get real world feedback by gathering info from our target consumer base after they ride test our frames as well. In addition to pro rider feedback, we value real-world feedbac because these are the women who are ultimately buying the bikes.

In addition to what I already mentioned about geometry, we also do a custom carbon layup for our frames to achiev different levels of compliance and stiffness based on a woman’s riding style and characteristics. This is where working with Giant gives us a huge advantage. If Liv were an independent startup, we wouldn’t have Giant’s industry leading manufacturing and composite engineering capabilities at our fingertips, which allows us to make the best women’s-specific frames in the industry.

Between our women’s-specific geometry and custom carbon layup, we are able to create a women’s-specific bike that is comfortable, handles with confidence, and is capable of winning world championships, too.

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Photo : Jake Orness

MTB-MAG – We noticed that you guys have colorways that crossover from riding gear to frame color. Can you shed some light on the inspiration behind that?

AS – We have a 3F Philosophy—Fit, Form, Function. It guides all of our product design, from bikes to apparel. We alread discussed fit and function a bit with how frames are designed, and now form describes how the products look. Something unique we do is develop an annual color palette, and this palette gets creatively applied across all of our products. That way we have a very interesting and cohesive color story. Women like to match, and we want everything to look good together It’s not just color, but also prints and graphics. The fact that we do everything in-house helps us solidify a complete look that ties in nicely, but also lets us offer a good variety in apparel in terms of usage and price point. We have everything from casual ride gear to really high-end race kits.

MTB-MAG – Very cool. Where can we find more information?

AS – Check out our website: www.liv-cycling.com. Also follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/livcycling) and Instagram (@livcycling) to keep up with the latest and greatest. #livbeyond!

MTB-MAG – Thanks for taking the time Amanda, we’ll see you at Crankworx!