The Joplin is essentially the Santa Cruz Tallboy dressed in an eye-catching hue called 'Ultraviolet.' It's the same frame and geometry you'd get in the unisex version of the short-travel trail bike, with a few key parts tailored for women. The Fox Float Evol DPS shock has been given a lighter tune for better small-bump compliance and a more progressive overall feel. The 120-millimeter-travel Fox 34 fork handles speed and chunder well, and it's a nice upgrade from the previous Joplin's 100-mil Fox 32.
Testers loved the Joplin's minimalistic cockpit, clean lines and intelligent spec. An interesting tire combo of a Maxxis Minion DHF on the front and an Ardent Race in the rear provides sturdy, grippy shoes for the ride. The RockShox Reverb is reliable and customized for varying frame sizes–smalls use a 125-millimeter post, while the mediums and larges jump to 150-mil–a feature testers appreciated. A slacker headtube angle (68 degrees versus 70.2) from the previous Joplin helps the bike point downhill with more confidence, and a longer reach, matched with shorter chainstays, provides a roomier front half of the ride, while the back end remains playful. Juliana also dropped the standover height on this year's models to allow for better overall handling. While we tested the bike as a 29er, it can also support 27.5+ wheels (although Juliana recommends a 130-mil fork for that setup), which is perfect for someone looking for a plusher ride.
We struggled to find anything we didn't like about the Joplin, but if we had to land on something it would be price. Our test bike rolled in at $4,600, but considering its high-end build, the price is actually good value. Plus, you can score the same carbon-fiber frame with lower-cost parts for $3,600.
Being a person of short stature, I've long been intimidated by 29ers. They seem tall and unwieldy. Faced with the Juliana Joplin and Northwest Arkansas' terrain, I swallowed my preconceived notions and launched into the woods like a bat out of hell. Discovery? The Joplin is everything you want your bike to be: nimble, beautiful, fast uphill, ripping downhill and unequivocally fun. I might just be a convert.
Q&A with Juliana Cycles
Do you think the market is good for selling 29ers to women? Have you seen it improving or declining over the last few years?
Katie Zaffke, Brand Manager: I do think the market is good for selling 29ers. The Joplin keeps gaining more and more momentum with our dealers and customers, and is hot on the heels of our best-selling bike, the Furtado.
In a perfect world who is this bike truly designed for?
Zaffke: The Joplin is the most versatile model in our line-up because it’s part endurance racer and part raucous trail bike. So it’s perfect for those all day adventures or multi day trips that are becoming more and more popular amongst Juliana riders. Anka Martin for example got a Joplin about a month ago. She’s now taking it on trips where she originally would have thought to grab her Furtado or Roubion. But, the Joplin is so quick and nimble, while also being able to handle most technical terrain for the average adventure trip, that it’s becoming the go to choice, not only for Anka, but for many of our other global wanderers such as Rachael Walker (Hope Tech), Julia Hobson (Guide for Trans Provence), and Aneela McKenna (Guide for GoWhere Scotland), as well as many of our local Juliana staffers.
You guys made some key changes in the Joplin this year (slacker, longer, lower, wide bars, Fox 34)- all of which we REALLY liked. What prompted these changes and why didn’t you make them sooner?
Andrea Turner, Product Manager: Glad you liked the changes. We really wanted a 29’r that could do everything, including accommodate plus tires. The new geo did that, and it really begged for a more “trail” spec with the beefier fork, wider bars, burlier tires and just a little more travel. We think it was worth the wait to get everything that we wanted in one bike.