2014 has been another year of success in women's cycling and we're pretty chuffed to have been a part of it all.
And there are certainly a few special pieces that we believe have completely nailed it! These are the pieces of kit that have helped us to perform better, look the part, are practical and give us a sense of ease and, excitement when we're on the bike.
When you've found a product you love, you know you're in good hands and after having had a good long think, here are our top ten (and in no order) best reviewed mountain biking kit from 2014...
Polaris Trail Shorts
A weekend’s riding in Wales is a sure fire way of finding out if your kit works or not. With this in mind I arrived at Coed y Brenin with a bag stuffed with cycling shorts just in case of rain/wear and tear/getting really dirty issues. I started my weekend adventure wearing Polaris’s Trail Shorts – and am happy to report that they were the only pair I needed for the whole weekend.
Not that I didn’t put them to the test: a pedal strike against a protruding rock had me hitting the ground hard – hence the trip to the Minor Injuries Unit. I must admit that I don’t usually take garment testing to this extreme but, for the record, I am pleased to report that the shorts survived unscathed.
Back at Coed Y Brenin I had great fun on singletrack trails that have you riding in and out of the saddle as you climb and descend, splashing through puddles and negotiating craggy rocks and boulders. The Polaris Trail Shorts shorts were a dream to ride in: the four way stretch and cut of the panels allow for lots of free movement around the saddle. They don’t have a liner pad but you could easily wear a separate liner beneath if you needed to.
The Polaris Trail Shorts fabric features a water-resistant DWR coating that is shower proof and also resistant to spray and mud splattering. It worked really well – the photos of me wearing the shorts (in the rain: note my highly amused friend taking a picture through the window!) were taken after two days on the trails.
These shorts are cut for women and the stretch in the fabric allows them to offer movement without being baggy. They are quite long but easily fit over knee pads (or at least the skinny knee pads that I wear!). The turquoise design adds a little pizzazz without being too ‘out there’, and it is good to see that they are available in sizes up to 16.
The fit on the Polaris Trail Shorts is really good: the waistband features stretch as well as a chunky double stud fastening (no danger of it popping open!) and adjustable side panels with Velcro. It sits quite high at the back so there’s no gaping when you lean forward.
There are three front pockets, one of which has a handy zip (in turquoise – I do like a contrast zip!). On the downside, the wash label is positioned inside one of the pockets and kept flopping out mid ride – a minor problem and, I am pleased to report, the only one I could find with these shorts.
For: Practical, good looking, tough (and frankly, what more can you ask of a pair of mountain bike shorts?)
Against: Washing label could be elsewhere.
Price: £44.99, available from JeJamesCycles.
Zimtstern Starfade Jersey
Zimtstern is a Swiss brand set up by a pair of snowboarders in 1995, and is well know for their technical ski and snowboard clothing; they are also becoming an upcoming name for bike clothing. Their styles are fresh and young, with are no pastel shades or floral prints, but they still manage to keep things girly enough!
‘Loud’ and ‘bright’ are the key words when it comes to describing the Zimstern Starfade jersey. Personally I love the bright contrasting black and yellow of the jersey, and have absolutely loved wearing it.
Primarily designed for DH and free riding this relaxed fit jersey also works well riding enduro and at the BMX track. I have tested it at both and it performs well. On the first xc ride I was not a fan, the polyester fabric seemed to stick to me, making it uncomfortable to ride in and seemed to be full of static- I have put this down to the simple fact that it needed washing before wearing. The jersey features a sanitised coating that helps prevent unpleasant odours from developing and I think the initial layer of coating was stopping the jersey from being breathable. I washed and dried it as instructed that night and used it again the next day and it was perfect!
The seam around the back of the neck has a soft cover material sewn over it to prevent rubbing and all the other seams are flat-lock stitched, giving me no chafing problems. The Zimtstern Starfade jersey is one from their ‘relaxed fit’ range, which means it has a nice roomy cut to offer freedom to move whilst riding the trails, without it looking too boyish.
With a dipped hem at the back, this prevented me from getting a cold back whilst riding and the jersey didn’t ride up or get pulled up my back with my rucksack. I have a very long body for my overall size, but the Zimtstern Starfade jersey was a perfect fit.
The website says to get a size up if you are wearing armour underneath, I tried it with my back protector and arm pads and it was still the right size choice, but if you have a bulky armour jacket then yes, I would suggest going up one size. The arms are tapered and are a perfect length. Although the cuffs have no stretch, when I did get too hot at the BMX track I pulled them up and they sat nicely below my elbows without falling down or cutting into me.
The Zimtstern Starfade jersey has washed well, with no bobbling or colour fading and the sanitized coating also seems to be doing the job, keeping me smelling as fresh as a daisy. I find a lot that the velcro on my Evoc rucksack pulls my jerseys around the waist, but this one seems to have escaped, snag free!
Relaxed fit without being baggy or boyish
Extra protection on the elbows
Stretchy breathable mesh fabric
Needs a wash before wearing
No pockets or goggle wipe which seems to be a key feature of many jerseys now
I think I need to buy a pair of Zimstern Loft shorts in yellow to complete the look!
Price: £55 available from Zimtstern.
By Nicole Mallet.
Specialized 2FO Women’s Flat Pedal MTB Shoes
Fans of flat pedals of the female persuasion looking for shoes have usually had to settle for unisex models and minimal choice. Happily, Specialized have recognised the need and entered the market with the women’s specific 2FO shoe.
‘2FO’ stands for ‘Foot Out, Flat Out’, a phrase that’s used a lot within mountain biking. It comes from the added security a lot of riders feel being able to throw a foot out to the side when traveling fast on rough, steep or muddy terrain.
As a dedicated flat pedal rider, I’ve tried a lot of different shoes from a variety of brands and I have to say I’m pretty impressed with these beauties. They are the most comfortable flat pedal shoes I’ve tried to date.
The Specialized 2FO women’s MTB shoes have a stiffer sole than a lot of the other flat pedal MTB shoes I’ve used in the past, and I was surprised at how big a difference that made on long rides. I tend to go out for 3 to 5 hours, and normally by the end I have achy feet, and my plantar fasciitis (an inflammation of cartilage in the heel) is playing up and causing me pain.
The stiffer sole supported my foot better, provided a noticeably better transference of power when climbing, and a sturdier platforms when descending. No heel pain, no stiff toes or ankles – result! The stiffness in the sole is produced by a nylon plate inserted into the sole in the zone which makes contact with the pedal. It’s called a ‘lollipop’ and it’s shaped to allow more flexibility in the toe and heel area, which allows you to flex the foot for walking and gripping the pedal.
Exceptional fit also plays a large part in how comfy these shoes are. Feet are obviously different person to person, but for me the Specialized 2FO were snug and very supportive about the midfoot, meaning very little movement of the foot and no heel lift when walking or pedalling.
The 2FO shoes are cut quite high on the ankle, which provided more support, plus protection from pedal strikes, rocks and general bumps. Specialized have also opted for an injection moulded rubber cover patch over the the toe area to protect the shoes and of course your toes. So far, so effective, and no signs of peeling or separation from the shoe either.
Of course, when it comes to MTB shoes for flat pedals, the biggest question has got to be ‘does it grip?’. The Specialized 2FO shoes come with a new proprietary rubber called ‘SlipNot’ which as a metal music fan pleased me greatly.
It doesn’t have that instant tackiness or stickiness that FiveTens have, but that also does mean it’s slightly easier to reposition your foot on the go. When it comes to technical descents, I had no problem with grip. The tread pattern, which is different in the pedal contact zone of the shoe to the heel and toe, gripped tightly onto the pins in my pedals (Hope F20, in case you’re wondering). The SlipNot rubber itself is designed with a directional pattern inspired by sharkskin that increases traction when your feet are in that dropped heel position you should be in when descending. It took it down various rocky trails in Afan and the Mendip hills, and didn’t lose contact once. Impressive!
The sole is also supposed to give you grip when walking, and although I wouldn’t want to try climbing anything extremely muddy, they did okay for general scrambling about on the trail and push ups.
Mountain biking in the UK is almost synonymous with riding in wet muddy conditions, so in my opinion a good MTB shoes doesn’t just need to be comfortable, it needs to be good at resisting weather and drying out quickly so you don’t have to put cold, wet, soggy shoes on the next day. The Specialized 2FO have a mesh toe reinforced with a PU plastic. This did let in puddle water and rain, but not as much as I’d been expecting, and the holes on the side allow water to drain out quickly. They dry surprisingly fast, too!
Less important for riding, but still important for me, is how these look. I liked the casual style, and the great fit means they look neat and compact on the foot. I love the distinctive look, a metallic purple body with bright yellow accents and laces. You can swap the laces out for the included plain black pair, but I like my kit loud. The ‘Lacelock’ is a little well-thought-out detail that’s so simple and handy I don’t know why it’s not on more shoes. It’s a little elastic loop on the tongue that holds your laces in place, so you don’t catch them in the chain when riding.
Another bonus of the purple outer, apart from it’s robustness, is that it cleans up easily so a splash of water post-ride will get most of the muck off. I did find that the ventilation in the toe area meant I got cold feet when riding in chilly weather, so it’s worth adding extra insulation for winter rides. The flip side is the ventilation will be great when the weather warms up.
When it comes to sizing, I did get a little confused. I’m a UK 7, which is usually a European 40, but the Specialized size 41 fitted me perfectly. They do go down to small sizes; a 36, which is the equivalent of a UK 2.
Sizes: 36 – 42
Price: £90, available from Evans.
More info: Specialized.
By Aoife Glass.
dhb Women’s Verve XC MTB Jacket
I love a full-length contrast zip, so the dhb Women’s Verve XC MTB Jacket immediately grabbed my attention: the bold pink/dark grey colour combination is bang on trend. I also love the high, close fitting collar, designed to keep the wind out and stylish at the same time. First impressions? I think this jacket would be quite at home on the rails in Sweaty Betty (though possibly with a heftier price tag attached).
But what’s it like to ride in? As well as being ultra light, windproof and shower resistant, I really like that this jacket is designed with XC mountain biking in mind. Adjustable cuffs and lengthy sleeves allow your gloves to fit beneath and cuts out drafts. Elasticated panels and a silicone gripper help stop the waistband from riding up. The dhb Women’s Verve XC MTB Jacket sleeves are cut to allow for lots of flexibility so you can move freely whilst riding, and there are mesh-lined air vents and perforated panels to help keep you cool.
I tried this jacket on a cool evening in August and, whilst being comfortable most of the time I did start to overheat on the climbs. However come autumn time, or on flatter rides, it would be a real asset: slip it on over a merino top and you’d be sorted. It’s also very light and rolls down small so you can always stuff it into your backpack should you want to tackle a very big hill!
The dhb Women’s Verve XC MTB Jacket comes replete with three pockets – a zip Napoleon breast pocket with a media port (there’s also a small elastic loop on the internal collar seam to feed your earphone cable through), a contrast zip horizontal pocket at the rear and a hidden and very small zip pocket on the inside of the front panel which will carry a key and a bit of cash. This pocket is so secret that it isn’t even mentioned on the product details. So don’t tell anyone.
I’ve not had the opportunity to test its durability vs a branch, bramble or smack on the ground as, on this particular ride, I managed to steer clear of bushes and stay upright all the way round.
The jacket looks fantastic when you’re riding, and my only real criticism is that it creases very easily. This isn’t a problem as you speed past the squirrels in a blur, but might make you think twice about wearing it to the shops.
For: The contrast zip, easy to move in when riding, affordable.
Against: Creases easily.
Conclusion: This and a merino top will see you through autumn in style.
Price: £37.99, available from Wiggle.
By Adele Mitchell.
By Adele Mitchell.
MET Parachute HES Full Face Helmet
To say I was quite excited to be asked to test the MET Parachute helmet would probably be an understatement. I received the email on my return from the last round of the UK Gravity enduro series, where for four out of the five races, I had ridden the transitions in my open face Mavic Notch helmet (310g) and the stages in my full face FOX Rampage Pro Carbon (1.1kg).
Although they’re both highly rated helmets, carrying the full face attached to my rucksack, with three litres of water and snacks to get me through, often felt like I was carrying a small child around with me. Not to mention the hassle of having to change helmets at the beginning and end of each stage.
With ‘Enduro‘ on the rise, manufacturers seem to be jumping on the bandwagon and launching “enduro specific" products. The Parachute helmet is one of them, obviously manufacturers see that over 50% of enduro racers use two helmets in a race, with next year it being mandatory, in the UK at least. MET combine the looks and features of a classic open face helmet and integrate that with the safety features of a full face.
The helmet looks great in my opinion and feels incredibly light, weighing in at just 700 grams. The HES construction spreads the pressure upon impact point, and dissipates the force of impact over the whole shell.
Most full faces are super hot and uncomfortable to ride a whole enduro race in. However on test rides in 20 degrees plus, on three to four hour rides, I was extremely comfortable with the MET Parachute on. The GEL O2 front pad, an exclusive piece of technology to MET, channels the sweat to the sides of your face. This was a little strange to have beads of sweat rolling down the side of my face, but it was doing what it’s designed to do. A great idea once you have got used to it. Unlike traditional foam pads it doesn’t wick the sweat, so it’s more hygienic and adapts easily to fit your head.
The vents are plentiful and work really well to keep you cool. My test rides have been fairly airless days, but as soon as a breeze appears you can feel it straight away. The visor helps to channel the air to the centre of the helmet keeping it nice and cool inside. There are also large vents around the ears so in the event of being caught up and asked to let the rider behind pass, you can easily hear them.
The “safe T-smart" system at the back makes you feel so secure, I’ve never experienced a full face helmet with such a feature, with no head wobble even on the roughest of terrain.
Price wise, at £152.99, the MET Parachute is very reasonable considering the fact that a second helmet is now surplus to requirements. Take for example my last season racing, the Mavic Notch was £80 and the Fox Carbon Rampage was around £300.
I won’t just be saving it for races, the MET Parachute is such a comfortable and well fitting product that I’m already thinking it will be my main helmet. Especially on weekends hunting out new trails in the rocky Lake District, I’m even dreaming about how nice and cosy I could make it in the winter with a buff underneath!
- As much protection as a traditional full face
- Well vented
- Well priced
- Precise fit
- I honestly don’t have a bad thing to say
Price: £152.99, available from Tredz.
By Nicole Mallet.
Troy Lee Designs Air Gloves
Troy Lee Designs are well known for designing great looking biking clothing and helmets; with riders like Aaron Gwin and Brandon Semenuk they are guaranteed cool status. All TLD products are thoroughly researched and meticulously tested before they get to market to make sure that not only do they look great, they also protect and are comfortable to ride in.
These Air Gloves are sure to get noticed in eye catching fluorescent yellow. They are made from fairly lightweight, breathable Lycra in fluorescent yellow and black mesh.The palm is a single layer synthetic leather with screen printed fluro yellow TLD logo graphics, which provide added traction and improve grip. There is also a Velcro wrist closure to adjust the fit.
I loved these gloves as soon as I saw them – the colour and the styling is just up my street! I have to admit that the medium was on the big side for my slim fingers. I usually wear small gloves so I think it’s my hands that were the issue, not the sizing of the gloves!
The graphics on the palms really do add grip and the fabric on the top of the gloves is nice and stretchy, making for a very comfortable fit. The TLD logo on the top of each glove and Troy Lee Designs wording down each index finger add to the look of the gloves. There’s no padding on the palms, which I liked as it made me feel like I was more in contact with my bike, but this is a personal preference and might not suit everyone.
Not designed to be warm enough for long winter rides, the Air gloves are ideal for summer and warmer autumn days. I’ve worn them on pretty much every ride for the last month or so and they are holding up really well; through mud, rain, sunshine and a couple of crashes, with the exception of a small patch of the palm graphics, which has worn away they are still like new. They have also washed very well; the bright yellow hasn’t faded or gone dull.
If the fluorescent yellow doesn’t take your fancy, plenty of other colours are available.
A great lightweight glove that is comfortable to ride in. Good value too.
Stylish and practical
I could have done with a smaller size, I don’t think this is an issue with the TLD glove sizing but it might be worth double checking.
By Laura Honeywill.
dhb Zeta Freeride MTB Jersey
It has to be said: the thing I loved most about wearing this top was that I managed to bag three Strava QOMs in the hour I spent testing it. Read on for a description of its trail-slaying specialness*:
1. It’s designed for performance:
Despite my initial endorphin-fuelled assumption that the Zeta Freeride is made of magic, it turns out that its actually made of quick dry polyester.
This means that while it doesn’t actually make you go faster (really?), it is highly breathable and wicks moisture away from the skin to keep you comfortable.
I wore it on a warm evening in August and it worked really well both going up hill (when it’s easy to overheat) and down (when the wind tends to cool you off).
It is also remarkably silky-light to wear and feels lovely.
Mesh panels at the underarms and back yoke aid ventilation and the fabric has an added anti-bacterial treatment to prevent odour issues (although I think I ‘freshness situations’ tend to be a bigger problem for male riders!).
2. It’s designed for mountain biking:
The Zeta Freeride is a longer length than a road jersey, and has a small drop tail at the rear, which allows you to move around on the bike without it rising or bunching up around your midriff.
I loved the relaxed fit ¾ length sleeves that protect your arms from bramble attacks (without snagging!) but let you flex your elbows. The air-flow round your wrists helps prevent over heating – no matter how hard I rode I never felt the need to push the sleeves up!
There’s a handy little zip pocket to the side, which is great for a gel or tissues (it was more comfortable to keep anything heavier – such as a phone – in the central position offered by a backpack).
There’s an optics wipe on the inside of the top to rid your eyewear of mud splatters. This is a nice touch but I do feel that the spectacles graphic on the front of the jersey looks a bit out of place.
3. It’s designed for women:
Despite being a mountain bike top for women, the Zeta Freeride is in no way an old-school baggy, shapeless sack that makes you look like a 12-year old boy. Hurrah! In fact, it has a relaxed cut that skims the figure but it is also flattering and feminine. The feather light silky fabric looks soft and fluid as you ride (I just wish I did too!), which is a nice, sporty touch.
Despite not actually been made of magic, this is a great value top that feels fantastic to wear.
Designed to keep you comfortable on warmer days.
The spectacles logo.
* Perhaps I should mention here that the trail conditions were also perfect :0)
Price: £34.99, available from Wiggle.
By Adele Mitchell.
Sweet Protection Bearsuit Pro Shirt
Sweet Protection have been developing helmets, protection equipment and technical clothing from a village called Trysil in the Norwegian wilderness since 2000. With skiing and snowboarding at their roots, their product range has naturally expanded in to mountain biking and kayaking for the summer months.
Their products tend to be technical and practical, but they are also high quality and look great. I’ve done a bit of Enduro racing this year and have seen more and more people wearing Sweet Protection kit so I knew it must do a good job, and be hard wearing.
I’ve done some downhill riding – a few uplift days, nothing serious – but have always shied away from full on body armour as it’s generally bulky and uncomfortable. So does the Bearsuit Pro Shirt from Sweet Protection offer the perfect compromise – reassurance and protection without making me look like the Incredible Hulk?!
The Bearsuit Pro Shirt is made from a super-stretchy Lycra fabric with breathable mesh panels – nice and lightweight for all day riding. The Bearsuit Pro Shirt has chest, back and shoulder protection by way of the shock absorbing Polymer Foam SAS-TEC SC-1 material.
Each of the protective pads can be easily removed if a lesser level of protection is needed, to lighten the suit or for washing – just undo the low profile Velcro closures and take the pad out.
The zip front on the Bearsuit Pro Shirt is to the left hand side of the chest plate so as not to interfere with the protection. It has a wide Velcro waist strap to keep the suit in place and adjustable straps to ensure the perfect fit on the torso.
I wore the Bearsuit Pro Shirt with a lightweight long sleeved base layer underneath and as it’s not too bulky, my normal jersey on the top. I was also able to wear elbow pads with the body armour for maximum protection.
The Bearsuit Pro Shirt is comfortable to ride in, thankfully I haven’t yet had to test how well it works but I do feel a lot safer for wearing it. On less hardcore days I have taken the chest pad out and just ridden with the back and shoulder protectors.
I’m about 5’8" and a size 10 – the small fitted me perfectly on the torso and shoulders. I do have a fairly small chest though, I’m not sure whether it would fit quite so well if I had a more ample bosom! The back protector could have done with being slightly longer but this is only a minor point.
All in all I am really impressed with the Bearsuit Pro Shirt– Sweet Protection have lived up to their reputation. It is made of high quality and high performance materials and the overall fit is surprisingly good.
High quality, low profile material.
Comfortable to ride in
With an RRP of £199 it is on the expensive side
Price: £199, available from Sweet Protection.
By Laura Honeywill.
Race Face Khyber Women’s Jersey
The Race Face Khyber Women’s Jersey is a funky, comfortable and flattering lightweight top that is the perfect compromise between racy and baggy.
As someone who prefers close-fitting, functional Lycra I wasn’t sure if I was ready to go hip and baggy. The Khyber Jersey was enough to convert me and kept me cool and comfortable on a summer evening thrash around the forest. The Repreve® moisture wicking fabric does its job, and the slim fit allows a free flow of air to your skin — while still being flattering and aerodynamic.
The three-quarter length sleaves are just the right length – so don’t snag on your gloves or cover your watch — and flair out to allow room for elbow pads. Stretch mesh side panels offer additional venting, as well as a ‘body con’ effect of making you look slimmer round the middle.
Nice touches include a hidden stash pocket with a faux suede pocket bag that doubles as a goggle wipe, and ‘go-faster’ stripes down your spine and around the top of your right arm — handy if you get caught out cycling back in the gloom. They also look cool.
As if this wasn’t good enough, you will feel even better knowing that the jersey incorporates recycled fibre, supplied by Unifi USA, derived from post-consumer and post-industrial waste — as well as being quick-drying and SPF 50.
Can’t really think of any
Verdict: Cool in both senses, flattering and practical — my new favourite MTB top.
Price: £44.95 (RRP £49.95), available from Chain Reaction Cycles.
By Jennifer Stuart-Smith.
Juliana Roubion All-Mountain Women's Mountain Bike
The new Juliana Roubion mountain bike has already caused a stir in the world of women’s mountain biking. With 150mm of travel and 27.5’ wheels, it’s a welcome addition to the thin ranks of women’s specific all-mountain bikes.
In a luscious Evergreen colour with matching decals on the forks and wheels, it’s a beauty of a bike, but rest assured it’s got the brawn and brains to match.
Developed to satisfy the needs of mountain shredder Anka Martin, downhiller turned enduro rider, guide and adventurer. She needed a steed to suit long days in the saddle, epic climbs, technical descents and all kinds of terrain. The Juliana Roubion is truly a bike for women who push themselves, ride challenging terrain, and want to have a whole load of fun doing it.
Available with a number of build options, with optional upgrades, the Roubion is also available as a frame or frameset only option.
You’ve got to take an all-mountain bike to the mountains to test it, so I put the full-on top spec Juliana Roubion through two weeks of riding and racing in the Alps, culminating in the Megavalanche MTB race. It’s about as ultimate a test as you could give a bike.
First things first. Juliana Bicycles are the sister company of Santa Cruz, and their bikes are based around Santa Cruz frames. In the case of the Roubion, it’s the highly regarded Bronson frame. Juliana don’t hide this fact: they celebrate it.
Santa Cruz have a long history of producing great bikes and their suspension system comes well reviewed. This also means that Juliana Bicycles benefit from the lifetime crash replacement and pivot bearing warranty that Santa Cruz frames come with.
After it’s good looks, the next thing I noticed about the Juliana Roubion was how light it is. The top spec model comes in at only 25.8lbs (medium size), due in large part to the stiff and strong carbon frame, and the unfeasibly light carbon Enve M60/40 wheels.
I loved the stiffness and responsiveness of the wheels when riding, but they do bump up the cost of the bike build significantly. The less luxury wheel option won’t add a huge amount of weight to the bike and will do the job if you want to save some pennies.
As for how it rides, the watchwords are fun, traction and agility. The brains of the bike come into play in the suspension design, with the VPP suspension technology giving the Roubion the ability to climb amazingly well. On fire road climbs, lock off the suspension and power on up. On technical climbs, leave the suspension on and the Roubion will eat up the little bumps and keep its grip without sacrificing that all important pedal-stroke power.
You can thank the Cane Creek DB (Double Barrel) Air rear shock for this as well. It adjusts its damping to adapt to the climbs. If you go for the Fox shock option, you’ve got a lockout to help with the hills.
On the gnarly, steep and seemingly endless descents in the Alps, the Roubion really came into its own. Wow what a ride! The low bottom bracket keeps your centre of gravity low, below the axles of the 27.5’ wheels. In practice, this means the Roubion feels very stable at speed and is glued into those corners. It’s a confidence-inspiring ride.
Small lumps and braking bumps were simply eaten up, a combination of the smooth responsiveness of the suspension and the vibration absorbing properties of the carbon handlebars. After several 40-minute descents, I had zero arm-pump going on.
For the larger stuff, of which there was plenty in the test, I found the Rockshox Pike forks a dream. The plush feel of the suspension sent me soaring smoothly over drops, jumps and rooty sections. The Cane Creek DB Air shock, which is an added extra for top of the range bikes, is tuneable to suit the terrain. Adapting the suspension to an optimal setting for the terrain I was riding was fairly easy to do, and helpfully Cane Creek have lots of set-up options listed on their website.
Being a rider who likes to stay in control, I also fell a little bit in love with the smooth action of the Shimano XTR brakes. Subtle but powerful braking with just a light touch is exactly what you need for long Alpine descents, and the levers have a good range of adjustment so you can adapt them to suit big and small hands alike. The brake pad have cooling fins, which helps avoid the brakes overheating, and increases their longevity.
Despite initial misgivings (‘only one chainring? I’ll never have enough gears to get up a mountain on that!’) I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved the Sram XX1 groupset. With a 34 tooth chainring at the front – the retail model comes with 32-tooth chainring – and an 11-speed cassette at the back, the range of gears was almost equivalent to the double chainring set-ups I usually ride.
The relaxed geometry, with a head angle of 67degrees, gives confidence on steep descents without sacrificing uphill riding ability. The stand over isn’t as low as I’d like, but in my case that’s most likely because I’d gone up a size and was on the lower cusp of the height range for the bike.
It’s good to see wider handlebars on a women’s specific bike; 720mm in this case, and they give much greater steering control and stability. Personally, I’d like to see slightly wider bars, especially for the type of terrain and riding the Roubion is aimed at.
I like to throw bikes around the trail a bit, more so after two weeks in the Alps, and I was in heaven, as the Roubion clearly loves this. It went where I put it, and the harder you ride it the more you’ll get out of it. Even the tyres are mountain-ready; tubeless-ready and rugged Maxxis High Rollers EXO, that meant I didn’t once puncture over two weeks of Alpine Riding. Win!
At 5’8" and a bit, I sit within the medium range for Juliana bicycles, according to their sizing chart. However, I find that they size up a bit on the short side in terms of reach so I opted for a large, switched the Easton Haven stem out for a slightly shorter length, and the fit was pretty much spot on. If you are between sizes, I’d highly recommend trying both out.
The Juliana Roubion is the perfect bike for all-mountain shralping. It loves the rough, it loves the steep, and it’s not afraid to work hard to get you up the mountain to access the good stuff. Above all, it’s a fun, confidence-inspiring ride.
Price: There are lots of complete bike options, ranging from £5,699 (with XT gearset and Rockshox Pike) up to the full-on bells and whistles build I tested which comes in at £7,999.
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large
Available from: Jungle Products and Santa Cruz dealers.
By Aoife Glass.