It's been nearly three years since Juliana's flagship Furtado and its longer-travel counterpart, the Roubion, underwent a refresh. That's practically eons in 'geometry' years, so it was time. The new versions of both 27.5-inch-wheeled bikes, available today, aptly reflect the how much has changed in that three-year timespan, each with longer reaches, steeper seat tube angles, slacker headtube angles and added clearance for wide tires. But the development that will likely have the most impact is related to numbers of a different kind: Both bikes are now available in aluminum frames, bringing the entry price for a complete bike down to a reasonable $2,700.
The 150-millimeter-travel Roubion underwent the most significant changes this time around. Aside from modernized geometry, Juliana made good use of what it learned while designing the Strega all-mountain brawler and adapted it to the Roubion.
When the 170-millimeter-travel Strega came out last year (also known as the Nomad in Santa Cruz parlance) if you thought, "That bike looks sweet, but it has way too much travel for my local trails," you weren't alone. And while the Strega's pedaling efficiency surpassed many riders' expectations, it is a lot of bike. So Juliana took the lower link shock configuration from the Strega and implemented it on the Roubion, bringing the suspension performance benefits of the Strega--namely a more linear and progressive leverage ratio and aggressive shock tune--to its shorter-travel sister.
The new Roubion shaves an inch off the seat tube from its predecessor to accommodate longer dropper posts, a seemingly small touch that shows the brand is paying attention to its market. A common frustration for short riders is that smaller frames mean shorter seat tubes and shorter dropper posts, which can be a real drag on a bike that's made to rally descents. The new frame also has a lower standover (15 millimeters lower on a size medium and 30 millimeters on a size small); longer reach (15 millimeters on each frame size); and clearance to fit up to 2.8-inch tires. The latter is the primary reason for the Roubion’s geometry flip chip. Putting the chip in the 'Low' setting is meant to adjust the angles to keep ride quality consistent when additional tire girth is a factor. Shifting from 'High' to 'Low,' slackens the headtube angle from 65.4 degrees to 65.1.
And, as with any all-mountain whip worth its salt these days, the seat tube angle also got re-tuned--at 75 degrees, it's now a full degree steeper than the previous Roubion generation, and a half-degree steeper than the Strega. If there was any doubt about the Roubion's rowdy intentions, Juliana slapped on a 160-millimeter-travel Fox 36 fork, SRAM Code brakes, a piggyback shock and a 200-millimeter front rotor, to send a clear message: This bike is built to party. Perhaps it’s not a full-on rager like the Strega, but it’ll do a keg stand and close down the bar.
My introduction to the Roubion was outside East Burke, Vermont, at the new-ish Victory Hill network, a tangle of a dozen-and-a-half trails about 30 minutes out of town on a dirt road. Built on private land by the skillful hands of East Burke's prolific Knight Ide, Victory Hill is very much made for riders by riders. The bang for your buck is spot-on--hump up a steep doubletrack and you're rewarded with long, uninterrupted descents that feature wide berms, jumps, fast flow sections and plenty of techy, rock and rooty bits. We capped off the day at Upper J Bar, Q Burke Mountain's rowdy summit trail, which features chunky rock gardens, unwieldy roots, rock rollers, then drops into the smooth flow of J-Bar, where you can open it up and go flat-out fast for 2 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation loss through the ski resort glades.
I was also able to tack on a few days at the Killington Bike Park, where the Roubion absolutely came alive. Over five days, I descended the Roubion in pretty much every condition Vermont offers and it tracked well everywhere--I never felt like the bike was getting away from me, or that it was riding me instead of the other way around. This is where the similarities to the Strega’s ride qualities surfaced. As with that bike, the more time I spent on the Roubion, the more confidence I felt to charge harder and faster because the VPP suspension performance is so drastically improved.
Admittedly, I need to spend more time pedaling uphill on the Roubion, but initially, it’s clear that it strikes a nice balance between the Strega and the Furtado--while it may be not as snappy and lively on climbs as the Furtado, it is more nimble than the uber-beefy Strega. And once you get to the top of the descent, there’s little the Roubion will shy away from.
Since its inception five years ago with the launch of Juliana Bicycles--and, really well before, given its Santa Cruz Blur heritage--the 130-millimeter-travel, 27.5-wheeled Furtado has been one of those instantly comfortable, versatile, always-up-for-good-times bikes. I hop on, and feel immediately at home, very little tinkering required. It's a bike that moves around so easily on the trails, and feels so natural that it makes me question my devotion to 29ers every time I ride one.
The same holds true for this new iteration. Juliana modernized the Furtado's geometry, but didn't strip away any of its playful DNA. It features a slackened headtube angle, a steeper seat tube angle and a reach that is 15 millimeters longer than its predecessor. It also incorporates flip-chip geometry to accommodate for plus-size tires and, unlike the Roubion, the Furtado is available with 2.6-inch tires fitted to the new Santa Cruz Reserve 37-millimeter rims. It sports 180-millimeter brake rotors front and back, is available with a piggyback shock and comes in an astounding 16 different build kits.
One thing Juliana didn’t change on the Furtado is fork travel, resisting the reverse mullet trend that’s permeating trail bikes in order to preserve the agility offered by a short-travel fork. The Furtado isn’t trying to be a short-travel enduro bike (is that a thing?), it’s aimed squarely at the all-things-for-almost-all-riders market, and it perfectly hits that target.
I rode the Furtado on the Kingdom Trails, Vermont's vast network of cross-country trails, which weave in and out of some 90 private landowners’ property around East Burke (actually, how the Kingdom Trails came to be is an incredible story of community and cooperation, one we told here if you’re into some extra-credit reading). Most of the trails consist of punchy ups and downs along narrow, hand-manicured singletrack. The turns are fast and sometimes unexpected, as you dip and dive through the forest, passing sugar tap lines for maple syrup production and pedaling through open meadows, offering plenty of opportunity to for the Furtado to prove its quick acceleration on out-of-the-saddle climbs. We spiced it up with a descent down Dead Moose Alley off of Q Burke Mountain, which allowed for greater speeds and a few more trail-side features than the Kingdom Trails.
The Furtado’s agility, helped along by the frame’s short chainstays and low BB, made for easy maneuvering on the cobweb of fast, smooth trails at Kingdom, while the aggressive XC nature of Moose Alley tested its responsiveness to more technical terrain, and in both scenarios the Furtado thrived. The 2.6 tires offer a noticeable traction advantage without adding the sluggishness on climbs that can be a side effect of true plus-size set-ups. I personally wouldn’t go wider than 2.6, but the Furtado can fit up to a 2.8.
Both the Furtado and the Roubion come in XS-M sizing and are offered in a variety of build kits and price ranges. Find more details at julianabicycles.com.