Named for the queen of rock and roll herself, the Juliana Joplin is a bad ass bike that will motor up hills, make short work of rough terrain, and give you a smile a mile wide as you ride. It’s a versatile trail bike that can handle more technical trails than the suspension travel might lead you to believe.
The Juliana Joplin is the 29er in the Juliana Bicycles women’s specific range of mountain bikes. Based around the high quality, lightweight and stiff frame of the Tallboy by cult Californian bike brand Santa Cruz, this bike already comes with a raft of accolades.
Santa Cruz are famed for their Virtual Pivot Point technology. In practice, on the Joplin, this means you get brilliant power transference and minimal pedal bob when riding. In conjunction with the stiff frame, this means once you get your speed up you fly along the trails, and just keep flying.
The 29er wheels also help here, which once you built up the momentum keep rolling, rolling, rolling. If you haven’t ridden a 29er (the largest of the 3 MTB wheel sizes now available) then it’s worth mentioning some of the benefits. The large wheels make light work of obstacles, rolling over them more easily and smoothing out the ride. They climb exceptionally well, and are fast on open, flowing trails. In berms, they find a line, hold it and just fly – it’s quite a ride!
The larger size also means that 29er wheels are often heavy, but Juliana have specc’d the Joplin with high quality Sram MTH hubs, DT Champion spokes and WTB STi19 TCS rims, which gives you a light, strong wheels you’ll want to keep.
29er bikes are often a bit awkward on tighter, twisting trails, but I found the Joplin was agile and wonderfully maneuverable on a local, tree festooned trail. It cornered well even when the going got tight, and the larger wheels meant powering up a technical climb with roots and step-ups became light work.
This is also partly due to the suspension set-up; 120mm Fox 32 Float forks at the front, and 100mm Fox Float shock at the back work well together, and despite taking the Joplin over some beefy rocks and drops, it didn’t miss a mark. The Fox 32’s aren’t the plushest of forks however, and I’m pretty happy to see that the 2015 model comes with Rockshox Recons, as I prefer the feel.
In terms of gearing and brakes, it’s high quality and great-performing Shimano XT throughout. The hydralic brakes are smooth and effective, giving great control. The gear changes likewise are quick, easy and dependable, even when riding up and down hill.
Again, one of the issues for the 2014 model I didn’t like was the 3-speed gearing at the front. I just didn’t need or use them all, and found that it sometimes meant I was in awkward, chain-stretching set ups. Thankfully, Juliana have listened and for 2015 the Juliana Joplin comes with a 2×10 speed set up, which is much better suited to it’s intended purpose.
The female specific elements of this bike are focussed on the contact point, and the bikes comes with Juliana Bicycles saddle (which I found plenty comfy) and Juliana handlebars and grips. These latter two nod towards female specific design in that they come in a narrower guage. This feels weird at first, but as I’ve got quite small hands I liked the better grip and control they gave me. The bars are also quite narrow, and too narrow for me, coming in a 690mm, but for the 2015 version they’ve upped this to 720mm.
There are a few points on the negative side. The tyres the Juliana Joplin came with are the Maxxis Crossmarks 2.1 Tubeless Ready, and we did not get on. I found them to light and flimsy, to the extent I couldn’t even get them to seat on the rims properly, and had to swap them out for a more robust tyre to ride on.
The Juliana Joplin Primiero also doesn’t come with a dropper seat post, which for trail bikes is pretty much standard these days. Having got used to one, I wasn’t a fan of having to dismount and drop the seat for descents, then get back off again and raise it for climbs. It took the edge off the flow, and this is the first thing I would invest in if purchasing the Joplin.
I also wasn’t a fan of the long stem, though this may be a personal thing to me, as I prefer the controlled feel you get with a short stem.
Size-wise, the Juliana Joplin comes up a little small in my opinion. At 5’9 I’m within the top end of the medium size range for the bike, but as I have quite a long body, I actually found the large was a better fit. I’d recommend taking one out for test ride if you can, particularly if you are at either end of the size ranges.
The Juliana Joplin start price is £2999, which is a reasonable price when compared to other bikes on the market at that price point. The quality carbon frame places it above average, and the Lifetime Crash Replacement and Pivot Bearing Warranty help elevate it further.
Overall, this is a brilliant bike for those women who love 29ers, want a ride that’s versatile, a steed that will perform whatever the conditions, and are happy to invest. It’ll ride sweetly for years to come, though you may want to upgrade a few components as you go. Ride it hard, ride it everywhere and an enjoy it!
UK Distributor: Jungle Products