Pro bike: Kaysee Armstrong's Liv Pique

Cape Epic 2022 bike check Giant
You won’t see many Cape Epic pro bikes, with a saddlebag, but Kaysee Armstrong knows the value of being prepared. (Image: Max Sullivan) (Image credit: Max Sullivan)

American Kaysee Armstrong is no Cape Epic novice. The Tennessean made her Cape Epic debut in 2018, with a 12th place finish.

Older, wiser and stronger, Kaysee’s ride for the 2022 Absa Cape Epic is Giant’s Liv Pique Advanced Pro – considered as one of the best women's mountain bikes. With a carbon frame front-to-rear and 100mm of wheel travel at both ends, the Liv Pique platform is ideally configured for an XCO race of the Cape Epic’s repute.

Like Liv premium spec customer builds, Kaysee’s Cape Epic Pique features Kashima-coated Fox suspension bits and the Californian brand’s lightweight Transfer dropper. Fox’s 32 SC Factory fork provides steering accuracy and front-wheel damping, while looking decidedly racy with its bright orange lowers.

Cape Epic 2022 bike check Giant

The very best Fox Factory specification suspension is a popular choice for Cape Epic riders (Image credit: Max Sullivan)

Lots of XTR – but no Shimano pedals 

Drivetrain and deceleration are managed by Shimano’s latest XTR groupset and brakes, although Kaysee doesn’t thread the Japanese company’s pedals into her XTR cranks. Taiwanese lightweight pedal specialist, HT, supplies her shoe contact points.

Rolling Kaysee’s Liv Pique along are Maxxis tires. Cape Epic tire choice is always a compromise, with riders balancing low rolling resistance with the need for robust puncture protection. Get one of those two requirements wrong, and you’ll either spend a lot of time pugging punctures or suffer from rolling-resistance fatigue in the last few miles of each stage.

A Maxxis Recon Race 29 x 2.4in helps Kaysee steer and control momentum on those long, loose, descents. 

Optimizing power transfer at the rear, is a Maxxis Aspen ST, with virtually no significant centre tread blocks. A rider of Kaysee’s skill can manage the lack of braking traction from that Aspen ST, through dusty switchbacks.

Cape Epic 2022 bike check Giant

Who said you can’t have a saddlebag on your dropper? (Image credit: Max Sullivan)

Something you won't see on many pro bikes 

As with all pro riders, Kaysee’s Cape Epic bike has some individual touches.

Once an oddity in the XCO scene, dropper posts have become a must-have at the Cape Epic but Kaysee makes her Fox Transfer Performance Elite earn its keep, but hanging a seat rail bag from it, with spares.

The Liv Pique front triangle only has room for a single water bottle and Fox Live valve suspension module, which Kaysee chose not to ride with at the Cape Epic. Space utilization is at a premium. As such, the only sensible place to stow additional spares and tools, is a saddlebag.

Cape Epic 2022 bike check Giant

You expect to see suspension lockout levers on a pro rider handlebar. But not a bike bell (Image credit: Max Sullivan)

Singletrack traffic can be an issue at the Cape Epic 

Being one of the stronger women’s category riders at a Cape Epic does not make you immune from punctures or mechanicals. 

When pro riders have to power themselves through mid-pack amateurs, after a mechanical, a voice of courtesy doesn’t always clear the trail ahead.

Kaysee rides with a bike bell fixed to her handlebar, making it much easier to alert slower riders ahead of her presence. Because trying to ask for a pass, in a field of riders where English is often a second language, doesn’t have nearly the effect of a good old bike bell’s chime.

Tech Specs: Kaysee Armstrong's Liv Pique 

  • Frame: Liv Pique 
  • Fork: Fox 32 SC Factory fork 
  • Handlebar: Giant Contact SLR XC
  • Drivetrain: Shimano XTR
  • Dropper post: Fox Transfer Performance Elite
  • Wheels: Giant XCR-0 29 WheelSystem
  • Tires: Maxxis Recon Race 29 x 2.4in (front), Maxxis Aspen ST (rear)
Lance Branquinho
Freelance writer

Lance Branquinho is a Namibian-born journalist who graduated to mountain biking after injuries curtailed his trail running. He has a weakness for British steel hardtails, especially those which only run a single gear. As well as Bike Perfect, Lance has written for, and Cycling News.