Queen of rocks and rolling.
Not a one-hit wonder, the Juliana Joplin Carbon R Complete Mountain Bike takes on hits way bigger than we'd ever throw at the first several generations of wagon-wheel bikes. That's because, like the queen of rock for which it's named, the Joplin effectively revolutionized its genre. It proved that 29ers aren't limited to cross country riding on smooth ribbons of serene hardpack. The latest model is even more aggressive, leading into terrain with a slacker head tube and the increased efficiency and tracking of Boost axles. It's built here with a kit that encourages aggression: SRAM's NX Eagle drivetrain combines the Eagle line's ultimate bailout gear to the workhorse, fear-no-trail-furniture functionality of NX.
Boost spacing, a slacker profile, enduro-inspired suspension links, and the protean flip chip are some of the modern features that cap off its developmental arc, following that of the Tallboy. The key difference between the Joplin and the Tallboy is in the shock tune, with the former lightening up a bit for lighter riders. Juliana calculates that typical women cyclists are around 30lb lighter than men, so the Joplin's lighter shock tune allows lighter riders to take full advantage of the bike's 4.5in of VPP travel. In the end, it's a tale of suspension and geometry that's dramatic enough to rival the biography of fast-living young rock stars.
Compared to the previous Joplins, the newest model takes just a bit off the top of the head tube, dropping 2.2 degrees to fall from the standard 70.2 to a moderately slack 68 degrees. The Virtual Pivot Point travel has also taken a turn for the crunchier, gaining an additional 10mm, which aligns the Joplin perfectly with the emerging crop of 4.5in, do-it-all 29ers. The VPP design is a carry-over from Santa Cruz's re-worked frames like the Bronson 2.0 and 5010 2.0. It's inspired by the enduro-minded Nomad, and the result is that the links stay out of the way, which lets the Joplin accommodate a piggyback shock's external can without giving up the bottle cage. The repositioned links also make for more ground clearance, lower standover, and an additional boost in stiffness to the already stiff Boost back end.
The latest VPP's changes aren't limited to wandering links, though; the system's tuning has also been tweaked. Where the old suspension curve described a deep "U," the new VPP's curve resembles a flattened check mark, with less dramatic ramping on either end of the arc and, as mentioned above, a lighter tune to give lighter riders access to the deep end. The results are that, during the initial and mid stroke, it boasts increased bump compliance to keep the tires glued to the trail for more traction across lumpy trails and root latticed climbs. It also maintains its predecessor's firm feel during accelerations, so it won't dampen the Joplin's spirited kick while jockeying for position in a mass start or a finishing sprint. The shock's ramp-up arc doesn't dramatically alter as the shock compresses, so the pedaling platform stays consistent across travel, with less wallowing, bob, and bottom-outs, even while the Boost axle's path turns rearward to absorb bigger hits deep in its travel.
Juliana's industry-leading carbon fiber construction makes its way to the Joplin, although this version uses a slightly lower grade of carbon fiber than the top-tier Carbon CC frame. This requires more material to achieve the same strength, so it does carry a bit more weight, but in every other aspect it's held to the same uncompromising standards as Juliana's Carbon CC frames. The upshot is that you get a frame that's every bit as stiff and strong at much more palatable price point.
The frame's two carbon triangles are built as whole pieces rather than glued together from disparate bits, a method that saves weight and increases structural integrity by allowing Santa Cruz to wrap carbon continuously through and around key junctures. This process reinforces the frame with less material while eliminating the artificial stress points that result from bonded construction methods. Finally, the carbon is also compacted from the inside and the outside for a more even finish that avoids any structural defects, excess material build-up, and resin pooling for (you guessed it) even more weight savings.
The Joplin's reworked linkage means it's one-by only, but it still comes equipped with ISCG 05 tabs. The threaded bottom bracket is another feature that we've come to just expect from the California-based brand, and it's a strong selling point for those who don't like dealing with the tricky tolerances and creaky interface of press-fit models. Understandably, the frame's clearance decreases as a 29er, but it still accommodates most 2.35in tires, which we think occupy the sweet spot of plush traction without getting top floppy and muddying trail feel.
- Cross-country race bike that moonlights as a trail machine
- 110mm of VPP travel pedals like XC but drops in like all-mountain
- Longer, slacker geometry is more stable through big lines
- Carbon construction balances weight and price
- SRAM's Eagle drivetrain includes the ultimate bailout gear
- 29er wheels conquer trail obstacles without sacrificing speed
- Juliana Bicycles sets the standard for women's race bikes