Photos by Gary Perkin and Mike Thomas
The Furtado is Juliana's best-selling bike-perhaps it's the affiliation with one of the most badass female racers of all-time, but it's also likely equal in part to its versatility. The 27.5-wheeled beauty truly is a single bike that is capable of adapting to its surroundings and leading you on adventures in the backcountry or right out of the garage.
But after two years on the market, it needed a little sprucing up and Santa Cruz Bicycles (parent company of Juliana Bicycles) designed one hell of a fun whip.
For its makeover, the Furtado (and the corresponding 5010 under the Santa Cruz moniker) got 5 millimeters more travel in the rear to match the bike's 130-millimeter front suspension, a 67-degree headtube angle, which is 1 degree slacker than its previous version, snappy 16.7-inch chainstays-shortened from 17.1 inches-a .8-millimeter steeper seat tube angle to create a better pedaling position and a shorter seat tube to accommodate a 150-millimeter dropper post. The already-low 13.1-inch bottom bracket height remained as-is. Aside from the geometry, the Furtado's VPP suspension was overhauled. Engineers shifted the upper link up and forward for improved standover, and raised the lower link to allow for the shorter chainstays. The lower link is now tucked into the frame, making for a much cleaner aesthetic. The suspension tune was also revamped, resulting in a higher initial leverage to increase small-bump sensitivity and traction. The flatter overall shock-rate curve should create a more consistent feel throughout the travel and reduce wallow when paired with the new high-volume Fox Evol air can. It took me a bit of fiddling to get the suspension dialed, as the recommended pressure of 145 PSI was far too firm for me. After ping-ponging through the first rocky section, I took about 10 PSI out of the rear shock, and ended up using almost all the travel by the end of the trail.
Another big change is the 148×12 rear-axle spacing, making the Furtado one of the first non-plus-sized bikes to incorporate the wider spacing that will inevitably become standard. This essentially allows for a stronger, stiffer rear end, and overall improved ride quality. If you want to read more about the design, this video breaks it down.
The Furtado was one of my favorite bikes of the last couple of years because it is ridiculously fun and playful on the trail. It's so quick and easy to maneuver that it gives boost potential to every trailside feature, no matter how small. And there's so much you can do with it-slap on wide wheels and tires and a longer-travel fork and shock if your local trails are on the burlier side and shred away.
Naturally then, my concern when getting on the new Furtado was that it would lose its carefree personality. It didn’t, but it also took me a while to feel in tune with the bike. It may have been because I was coming off the more-plush Roubion, but the ride felt somewhat unforgiving until I figured out how to handle the bike. When I did, though, I never wanted the ride to end. Our test trail was Mills Peak, a fast 9-mile descent from a fire lookout 7, 300 feet above sea level. The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship built the trail specifically for mountain bikes five years ago, but did so in a way that kept a rugged, primitive feel as opposed to a cookie-cutter flow trail. It starts out with chunky rocks at the top before rollicking through evergreen and cedar forests where you can pick up as much speed as you dare. It was in this middle section that the Furtado was in its element, whipping around corners, boosting off rocks and slicing through the trees-I was always on the edge of simultaneously scaring and exhilarating myself. The ride finished in an open forest littered with baby-head rock gardens and as we tore into the parking lot out of breathe, I immediately thought, "I want more."
The changes suit the Furtado well and it begs to get out and explore even more now than before. Luckily, Juliana has made it so that even more women can do that by adding an extra small frame to the mix, which will be available next April. The rest of the bikes will be at retailers next week. Complete bikes start at $3,600 and go to $8,100 for the fully loaded SRAM XX1 model. You can get into a high-grade carbon-fiber frame with Fox Float fork for $3,000. For complete specs, go to Julianabicycles.com.