When Bonnie Tu couldn’t find women’s cycling kit or bikes to suit her needs ahead of the Tour of Taiwan more than a decade ago, the-then CFO of Giant was inspired to launch Liv Cycling, the first cycling brand dedicated to female cyclists.
A change-maker in cycling, I put some questions to Bonnie (who, incidentally, employs an entirely female team at Liv, from design right through to marketing) about her career and passion for cycling. We also cover her love of challenging herself, which includes doing her first triathlon at the age of 68!
Bonnie, can you tell us a bit about your background. Were you a keen cyclist before you rode the Tour of Taiwan in 2007?
I used to be a savvy golfer. However, when I was in Junior High, my home and school were quite far away so I had to ride more than 10km to and from school every day. You know, for a Junior High schooler that is quite far. I have so many happy memories on the bike from that time that whenever I am on a bike I ride now, I am brought back into the age when I was a teenager and I feel I can fly, I can do anything.
How did you come to ride 900km of the Tour of Taiwan 12 years ago?
King Liu, our (Giant’s) Ex-Chairman was going to ride his first Tour de Taiwan. I thought – ‘Wow, King is going, he will stay in a very good hotel and somebody will do good mechanic work, and somebody will carry the luggage’, so I thought I should go with him! I completed one quarter of the Tour of Taiwan, covering 900km over 15 days; my passion for cycling from days gone by reignited.
I think that the Tour of Taiwan is not only for men, women can do it. So after the Tour of Taiwan, I returned to the office, where my colleague trained me – I learned how to change my gears and how to climb a hill and started to ride over 50km every week. We organised an event called ‘Rolling Rose’ and invited some female celebrities, including business executives, writers and journalists etc, who would love to challenge the Tour of Taiwan.
Tell us how your experience at the Tour of Taiwan led you to create Liv?
This was a pivotal moment. I was working as CFO at Giant and could not find a bike or gear I was comfortable using for the Tour. This led me to the question, ‘If I can’t find the right gear and bikes for myself, how do we expect other women to?’
From this question, Liv was born, a brand made for women to encourage them to find cycling with products and a message specifically for them. In 2007, a small, three-person project team began working together in Taiwan, and the Liv brand was launched on April 22nd 2008 with media cycling the Tour of Taiwan and the launch of our very first retail shop in Taipei.
How have you seen the women’s market change since then?
When we first began, we saw a huge gap in the market for women’s products. You would walk into a retail shop, like I did, and have a difficult time finding what you needed or wanted. It has evolved significantly these past 10 years. More brands are offering more bikes and gear for women, more women are riding and competing – it’s exciting.
You have some incredible athlete ambassadors across all cycling disciplines. Do you involve them in your research and development?
Yes. Testing prototypes with our professional athletes and select riders is a big part of our design process at Liv. With multiple rounds of testing, we are able to fine tune geometry, adjust the stiffness and compliance on our composite frames, and choose the best components for each bike. Last year we introduced the Liv Intrigue Advanced mountain bikes. Earlier in the year, global team athlete Rae Morrison tested it at Sea Otter – she loved the performance, fit and handling on the mixed terrain at the race, and provided feedback on one of the final protos.
You’ve cycled up Mt. Fuji, which is an incredible 3776m! Was it as difficult as it sounds?
Riding Mt. Fuji was incredible! Although the summit is 3776m, you can only ride to 1255m. I’ve also ridden the Wuling KOM (King of the Mountain) race in Taiwan which actually is a tougher ride. Wuling is 100 kilometers of mountain roads to reach Taiwan’s highest elevation of 3275m.
You’ve also completed a triathlon – do you enjoy pushing yourself when it comes to your fitness and sporting achievements?
Yes, I love to challenge myself and push the boundaries on what I think is possible. I participated in my first sprint triathlon in 2017 when I was 68-years-old. I really enjoy triathlons and wish that I started when I was younger, but it was a great experience. I believe it is important to try something different and step out of your comfort zone. I enjoy inspiring others and encouraging women to push their personal boundaries because you often find you will achieve something you were not expecting.
You have a very busy job. Do you still get out on a bike as much as you’d like?
Yes! If I don’t have time to get outside on the bike, I’ll ride Wattbike indoors or use an app like Zwift.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
I usually wake up at 5:30 in the morning, have an early breakfast and head into the office. Most working days are filled with meetings, planning and correspondence. At the end of the day, I will go home, have dinner and relax. Then try to fit in a workout like swimming, running or riding.
Why do you believe that female-specific bike geometry is important, and what data goes into creating the female-specific geometry for Liv bikes?
According to our research, the majority of women are more comfortable and efficient on a bike designed for them. When we look at data, average anatomical and physiological differences between women and men lead us to the conclusion that most women need options other than men’s or unisex bikes. We have a team of designers and engineers who carefully craft everything specifically for women’s physiology – from frame design and stiffness, component design and selection, and positioning, the entire bike build maximises women’s power. At Liv, we are focused on intentional and thoughtful product design.
We approach this through our 3F Design Philosophy: Fit, Form, Function which manifests from more than 15 sources, including NASA published research, a Global Body Dimension Database and Aerospace Medical Research laboratory published research. This research informs thousands of data points about women’s anatomy, sizing variations, muscle energy and outputs. These extensive studies areanalysedby Liv design teams and segmented into three significant layers of data: Body Dimensions, Muscular Activity, and Strength Patterns.
Liv sponsors the women’s pro racing team, CCC-Liv, is that right?
Yes, our sponsorship includes this elite women’s team (CCC-Liv Team) which we are really excited about. This partnership also plays a big role in helping Liv develop better products for cyclists of all levels. 11-time world champion and two-time Olympic champion, Marianne Vos, leads the CCC-Liv Team. The team races with the Liv Langma, along with the all-new EnviLiv aero bike.
Liv bikes are ridden by the Mountain to Mountain riders in Afghanistan. Does it make you proud seeing Liv enabling women around the world?
This is a huge honour. I would say we feel more like we are empowering women around the world than enabling them. We love seeing women rise up and hope that the cycling revolution continues.
Where are your favourite places in the world to ride?
There are so many wonderful places in the world to ride. Recently, the most exciting place for me is Angkor Wat (Cambodia). We rode mountain bikes through the jungle and never knew where the road would take us. It was quite an adventure!
What have you got coming up with Liv that you’re excited about in 2019?
We have just announced our 2019 global cycling team, Liv Racing. It is the evolution of our sports marketing program, the very first time all of our global riders were under one banner in the same uniform across disciplines around the world. For 2019, we are thrilled to have some new teammates: road cyclist Ayesha McGowan, enduro racer Rae Morrison and cross country (XC) specialist Sandra Walter. This brings the Liv Racing team to 14 women hailing from six countries around the world.
As you know, Liv Racing teammates not only compete at the top of their disciplines, they are involved in communities around the globe, encouraging women of all levels to get out and ride. They are also looked to for Liv product prototype feedback and development.
And, keep looking out for the new bikes and gear for 2019, I am excited about those too, but cannot talk about them yet.
What are your favourite Liv products?
I love the feeling of speed and excitement when riding. So, I would have to say that my favourite Liv bike is the EnviLiv. It is a speed machine!