Photos: Gary Perkin
Juliana Bicycles officially launches its burliest bike yet today with the Roubion, the women's-specific version of the 150-millimeter-travel Santa Cruz Bronson.
The Roubion uses the identical carbon-fiber frame and geometry as the wildly popular Bronson, but offers a different parts package hung on an eye-catching matte teal frame that is specific to Juliana.
This formula mirrors Juliana's approach since it spun off from Santa Cruz Bicycles last year: Take a successful Santa Cruz frame such as the Tallboy, 5010 (Solo) or Bantam and repackage the complete bike under the Juliana name to better attract female riders. It's a different approach than brands like Giant, Trek and Specialized have taken, which have all developed bikes with more compact geometry to try to sell women a better-fitting bike.
Does it matter? Do women actually need shorter toptubes, steeper head angles, shorter cranks, narrower handlebars and smaller grips? Depends on who you ask, and it likely comes down to the size of each individual rider. This much I do know: The Roubion is the raddest bike to come from Juliana to date, and the highest spec'd women's trail/all-mountain bike on the market. By a long shot. Aside from Liv/giant with its cross-country Lust Advanced, no company has been willing to take the financial risk to outfit a women's bike with a top-level kit. It is refreshing to see this start to change, even in small doses.
At the highest level, the Roubion is decked out with a RockShox Pike RCT3 fork, SRAM XX1 drivetrain, Shimano XTR brakes, Cane Creek Double Barrel Air rear shock and 27.5-inch Enve M60 wheels wrapped in the versatile Maxxis High Roller 2.3-inch tires. Swoon. It also comes with a 720-millimeter-wide Juliana branded carbon fiber handlebar. This year, Juliana mostly moves away from the narrow-gauge bars and compact grips it spec'd last year, which is a great decision, especially for the Roubion, an aggressive bike that warrants a stout cockpit. The single-ring drivetrain comes with a 32-tooth chainring up front, which, paired with the 10-42 cassette in the rear, should provide enough gearing for the majority of climbs. If you ride mostly in big mountains, and spend long hours in the saddle, you might consider dropping to a 28- or 30-tooth ring, but that's an easy adjustment.
Retail at the top level is a jaw-dropping $10,500, which ranks the Roubion among the most expensive mountain bikes on the market. Period. Framesets start at $2,900, and the X01 build comes in at $6,600 with a $2,000 upcharge option for Enve wheels and a $300 add-on for the Cane Creek DB Air. The bike normally ships with a Fox CTD Adjust rear shock.
It is nearly unheard of for a company to offer a women's bike at these top-shelf prices. The market is limited so the potential to lose money is greater than with a similarly priced bike for men.
So why is Juliana taking the risk?
They believe that selling female mountain bikers a product that is truly capable will inspire them, help them advance their skills, allow for a better time on the trails and ultimately get more women riding.
"By offering a bike that's actually just a good bike to begin with will draw certain women that are looking for that. You're attracting a market that's already knowledgeable in what they like to do and what they want out of a bike and that hopefully will trickle down to influence other women to also start looking at bikes in another way," said Anka Martin, Juliana ambassador and pro whose win on the bike at last year's Trans-Provence inspired the decision to offer the Roubion to the masses.
We spent four days riding the Roubion on a variety of terrain in the Maritime Alps in Southern France last week, and, of course, came away very impressed. This is a great bike. That's already been proven by the success of the Bronson. It's everything you want in a do-it-all bike–a strong, steady climber and ultra-capable on descents–with a parts package that, for once, doesn't leave me wanting for any changes. Chunky rock gardens, steep climbs, tight switchbacks–nothing seemed to faze the Roubion.
But most of all, riding the Roubion left me inspired and excited to improve upon my skills. I was compelled to spend the day hiking that loose rock garden that has been my longtime nemesis until I cleaned it or re-riding a tricky technical section over and over because I know the bike is capable of mastering it, and it left me feeling like I am too.
If you do decide to splurge on the Roubion, rest-assured it will be a sound long-term investment. The bike comes with a 5-year warranty and a lifetime bearings and crash replacement warranty. It will be available at retail in early July.