Studio Photos: Anthony Smith; Action Photos: Margus Riga
The Up Side
When you see a bike with 130 millimeters of travel and a fairly slack geometry, you expect it to be a decent enough climber to make the downhills worth it. The Furtado broke the mold here with its ubiquitous climbing ability which routinely saw testers flying over rocky-strewn ascents that required redos on other bikes.
The balanced suspension combined with the Fox 34 up front resulted in a bike that could absorb chunky terrain at speed while providing the precise handling that lets you dig a little deeper into the corners and slowly pick your way through rock gardens.
Dollar for Dollar
Though the carbon X01 model we tested rang in at $8,000 including a carbon wheel upgrade, a complete Furtado build on an aluminum frame runs for $2,700. While Juliana still falls into the boutique-ish brand category, the line seems built around the idea of letting riders choose their experience, from price point to tire size.
Calling a bike a ‘quiver killer’ is about as clichéd as calling it ‘vertically compliant and laterally stiff.’ So you’re not going to see that phrase here, but it’s going to take a metric crap-ton of effort not to use it.
With 130 millimeters of front-and-rear travel and a slack-enough 66.5-degree headtube angle, this bike is the kid on the playground trying to make nice between the scrawny cross-country runners and the brawny hockey players. The Furtado is light enough, especially as you go up the build ladder, but it’s not emaciated to the point where you’re afraid of riding it too hard or indulging your penchant for choosing especially crappy lines. It’s tough enough to hang with bigger bikes, but opts for an acquiescent Fox 34 Performance Elite over the bigger, beefier and at times, more mulish 36.
After our rides, we dutifully scribbled down our impressions, careful not to peek at each other’s homework. But if a teacher was going through our forms, we’d all end up in detention as we each had exactly the same comment about how the bike climbed over technical terrain—“Wow!” We anticipated a balanced skillset from a bike like this, but we were all pleasantly surprised to discover that it was one of the most capable technical climbers of the test fleet.
The XC loop is filled with IHOP-worthy stacks of ledgy climbs mixed in with rock gardens turned upward. It was in this terrain that the Furtado left us speechless (and by speechless, naturally we mean inadvertently shouting expletives after cleaning sections that stymied us on previous runs). As one tester summed it up, “This bike has the magic mix of numbers that let you turn your brain off and just focus on riding.” The steep 75-degree (in low setting) seat tube angle, short chainstays, grippy 2.3-inch Maxxis DHF and DHR II tire combo, and myriad other details result in an unquantifiable X factor that surges over damn near everything.
While descending, the classic VPP suspension stiffened up nicely when punching it from a slow start, though on high-speed descents testers ran the gamut between finding it to be a dependable, but middle-of-the-pack descender to feeling like it was a railable, mind-reading machine. Descending dissent aside, testers once again aligned on the Furtado’s maneuverability. Some were able to do extra laps on trails reserved for bigger bikes to see how far the Furtado could be pushed, and though the 130 millimeters of rear travel couldn’t quite keep up with its beefier counterparts, the nimbleness created a consistent and trustworthy feel even over the hairiest chunder.
Versatility is the name of the Furtado’s game, which can be seen with 12 build options that start at $2,600 and top out at a “Go ahead, take my firstborn” $9,500. Those who prioritize traction over all else can choose plus builds spec’d with 2.6-inch tires atop wider 35-millimeter rims, or may even opt for Reserve 37-millimeter carbon rims. The Furtado frame can clear up to a 2.8-inch tire and was designed with an integrated flip chip, allowing for a consistent bottom-bracket position across tire sizes. From the balanced geometry to the build versatility, the Furtado is ready to go wherever you want to take it.
If you had a some sort of satchel capable of holding arrows, but instead of arrows it held bikes, this would be the arrow you’d choose time and time again. One could almost say that it could kill the need for an entire quiver.
But we’d never say something as cliché as that.
Q&A With Katie Zaffke, Juliana brand manager and Josh Kissner, product manager
The Furtado has been Juliana’s best-selling bike for a few years, so what was the impetus behind changing up the geometry this year?
Josh: The Furtado still has the same purpose and intended use, but bikes and the riders who ride them have changed a bit in the last few years. We wanted to update the geometry to reflect that. Now it’s slacker and longer, which provides more stability and a better fit with short stems. We also steepened the seat tube for a better climbing position, and shortened it to accommodate longer dropper posts. All good things.
Women’s bikes have been a point of (sometimes heated) discussion for many years. As more companies move away from gender-specific designs in lieu of expanded size ranges, colorways, and inclusive marketing and sponsorship, what do you see as the role of women’s-specific lines in the bike industry?
Katie: Juliana’s main goal is to build a stronger identity for women in mountain biking … both within the company at Santa Cruz Bicycles, and hopefully within the mountain biking community as a whole. It would be disingenuous to suggest that selling bikes isn’t part of the goal too. But it’s not been the primary objective. If it were, we wouldn’t have chosen to make such a concise performance-focused model line aimed at such a niche segment.
Pre-Juliana, Santa Cruz Bicycles was reflective of much of the bike industry as a whole. Very male orientated. What the Juliana brand brought to the company was an entire change in approach. For example, instead of saying “We need to get more women on Bronsons”, we said “We should find out what female riders of Bronsons would do differently, given a choice.” And so the Roubion was born, which then led on to the company fielding its first Enduro World Series team.
That kind of attitude and independence was a paradigm shift for the company internally. Juliana became a banner to rally under, clearly defined from the activities of the Santa Cruz brand. It also seemed to have a positive “halo” effect on attracting more female talent into open positions here too. I don’t believe it’s just coincidence that (since Juliana launched) more women have joined the company across the board in product management, sales, demo, planning, marketing, finance, production etc than ever before, making Santa Cruz Bicycles a much more diverse and creative place to work these days.
Are there any easily overlooked aspects of this bike that significantly contribute to the Furtado’s ride quality?
Josh: Its stiffness. Regardless of whether you’re pedaling hard, smashing a corner or landing sideways off a drop, the frame will always be stiff, stable and keep you pointed in the right direction.
What type of rider was this bike designed for?
Katie: Women who relate to what we’re doing, like our products and like that the Furtado is suitable for almost all types trails.