I’ve been riding mountain bikes for most of my adult life, having started spinning wheels on fully rigid setups over big-mountain dirt and rocks in the days when suspension was but a wishful dream. Times have changed, and there is such a vast array of mountain bikes to choose from now, with super light frames and componentry, as well as a variety of suspension options and wheel sizes.
Unfortunately, the one thing that has taken a long time to perfect is a women’s specific mountain bike. But those days are over, thanks to Santa Cruz Bicycles and Mountain Bike Hall of Famer, World Champion and former Olympian Juliana Furtado. This spring, the company launched the brand new Juliana line, with four models designed by Furtado, the “Queen of Dirt,” herself. These new women’s mountain bikes are tailored specifically for the lady rider, whether she is a casual weekend warrior or a serious rider and occasional racer, like me. And although the first Juliana hit bike shops in 1999, and has been part of Santa Cruz’s product offering for years, these new bikes are the hottest thing on the market since the bikini. Very girly, yet brilliantly functional. Read on to see my review of the Joplin Primeiro, with a nod to the other siblings in the Juliana fleet.
Named for the “Queen of Rock and Roll,” this is my new ride. Weighing in at just over 25 pounds locked and loaded, the top of the line Joplin Primeiro sports a carbon frame and 100 mm of travel. This powder blue 29er looks like a princess, but don’t let its looks fool you.
The Joplin is lethal on a cross country ride. Just ask my riding buddies -all hardcore guys whom I now thrash regularly. This women’s specific 29er climbs like a mountain goat crossed with a cheetah. On my first big ascent, I dusted my boys aboard their Santa Cruz carbon Bronsons and casually sipped half a bottle of water at the top of Pine Cone Ridge towering over Park City while waiting for them.
The best thing of all is that someone finally built a women-specific mountain bike for those of us with higher standards. Geared up with Shimano Deore XT drivetrain and XT disc brakes, and topped off with Fox 32 Float 120 mm front and Fox Float rear shocks, this bike is made for a serious female rider. The smaller frame sizes utilize Santa Cruz’s exceptional frame geometry to create the utmost comfort for a small woman like myself, standing 5’4” and weighing in at 115 pounds. The bars and super narrow grips fit my small hands like a glove, adding control and safety to a downhill shred.
Honestly, I’ve never felt so comfortable on any bike I’ve ever ridden. As a former competitive cross country racer who has stood on the podium at USA Cycling Nationals, I’ve ridded a LOT of bikes. While I love my Primeiro, the Joplin is more affordable in the Segundo version, with an aluminum frame and Shimano SLX Deore, or the alloy framed Joplin Terco.
This is the flagship bike in the Juliana line, and is burlier than the Joplin. Although the Primeiro carbon version of the Furtado weighs a couple more pounds than its sister the Joplin, its geometry is designed for rockier and more challenging downhills, and it cleverly features internal cable routing for the dropper post.
Rolling on fat 27.5-inch wheels, this trail bike has 125 mm of Virtual Pivot Point travel and a slightly lower center of gravity. The result is a women’s specific mountain bike that feels a bit more stable launching off rock drops, eating up tight corners, and getting air time. But again, the Furtado Primeiro climbs like a rocket, despite its beefier setup, and offers the same smaller handlebars and grips to make braking less taxing on ladies fingers. The Furtado is also available in the Segundo kit, with an aluminum frame and corresponding lower price point.
Aptly named, this bike is where it all started. It’s an updated version of the original Santa Cruz Juliana mountain bike. The Primeiro version of the Origin features an aluminum frame and the original single pivot 100 mm design. Also available in a Segundo model, the Origin offers 26-inch wheels in the extra small frame size and 29-inch wheels on all other sizes.
The Nevis is a hardtail version of the Juliana with a lightweight aluminum frame. Designed for lady riders looking for smaller frame sizes, the Nevis comes with 26-inch wheels in the smallest size and 29-inch wheels for taller girls. It is also available in a Segundo model.
All models offer Juli Furtado’s personal design touch. Feminine enough, but not over the top. Especially inspiring are the icons that gently grace the top tube, and which I can gaze down upon to remind myself why I can beat the boys up the most lung-busting climb. They are a flame, a lotus flower, and a wolf, to symbolize the concepts of powerful, beautiful and natural. Come see them for yourself at Jans flagship store on Park Avenue in Park City, Utah.
Val Geist, Former Professional Mountain Bike Racer