By Nicole Formosa
Photos by Gary Perkin
Juliana Bicycles is launching its new Roubion all-mountain bike this week in the region of Southern France near the Maritime Alps that serves as the bike's namesake. A group of journalists from Europe and North America, as well as Juliana pro riders and staff, are breaking in the 6-inch-travel bike on the same trails that host the Trans-Provence stage race each year. The Roubion is named after Juliana rider Anka Martin's favorite day in the notoriously challenging stage race.
Here's the catch: We can't actually talk about the bike's spec options, price or show close-up pictures of it until June 16 when the global embargo is up.
That aside, I can say that the bike uses the same frame as the extremely popular Santa Cruz Bronson, following Juliana's approach of repurposing frames from its parent company to better appeal to women. Many of the Santa Cruz bicycles also come in Juliana versions including the Tallboy (Joplin), 5010 (Furtado) and the Bantam (Juno). In its first year, Juliana selected narrower bars and more compact grips and a women-specific saddles to help differentiate the bikes, but they plan to slightly tweak that formula with model 2015 bikes. The spec options on the Roubion are high-end, a refreshing change in the world of women's mountain bikes, which are generally outfitted with lower level components than their male counterparts. This is not the case with the Roubion. When it hits retailers this summer, it will undoubtedly be the highest-end women's mountain bike on the market. It's designed around females who are aggressive riders, or who aspire to be.
"The bikes are not dumbed down for girls," said Kathy Pruitt, demo tour event coordinator for Juliana Bicycles, and the first female ever to race pro for Santa Cruz Bicycles. "We're creating a culture where people realize they have more to offer, that they can get on a bike and go do something awesome."
Juliana demonstrated that philosophy by taking us on some truly awesome trails in the Alps on Wednesday. We started at 2,100 meters (about 7,000 feet) in the southern end of the Maritime Alps, which tower above the southeast corner of the country. After starting in the high alpine, above-treeline terrain, where the trail was still snow covered in spots, we descended 1,500 meters (4,950 feet) on narrow, rocky singletrack that's probably been around as hiking trails for thousands of years. The bike's 27.5-inch wheels cornered well around numerous successions of steep, tight switchbacks and picked up speed quickly in the flat sections. We also had the opportunity to test the bike's climbing prowess during several short, steep pitches. Initial impressions are that the Roubion has successfully created what it is designed to be: a race-ready, confidence-inspiring and fun trail bike.
Keep an eye out for more details next month.