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A tall drink of water.
We've had a deep and loving relationship with the Juliana Joplin, and this year the 2018 Juliana Joplin 2.0 Carbon 27.5+ S Complete Mountain Bike hits the trails with the speed and power of the XC race rocket we've been enamored with for years, but with some big updates that boost it into the modern world. Boost rear spacing, and new geometry push the Joplin's boundaries from smooth and rolling singletrack to all-mountain trail riding, thanks to a slacker head tube that tracks with control through rocky sections, and a stiffer rear end that allows for flickable maneuverability. Top it all off with an extra 10mm of travel, and the ability to change up your wheel sizes, and we're pleased as punch to tackle terrain from the chunky rock gardens to long climbs loaded with tight switchbacks on this more-capable-than-ever XC and trail machine.
The Joplin may have seemed like it sat in a lull for a while there, while bike technology buzzed forward, but this 2.0 model zoomed it back into the spotlight with modern touches, like Boost spacing, a slacker head tube, steeper seat tube, enduro-inspired suspension links, and the all-important flip chip. The flip chip, added to the Joplin and Tallboy, sits in the upper link, and can be rotated to allow the shock mount to migrate. This enables you to reposition the shock attachment point, accounting for the 9mm difference in radius between the 27.5+ and 29er setups. The big key here is that it keeps the geometry nearly identical when you swap wheel sizes, unlike other bikes like the Hightower, which changes when you swap wheels. A key factor in keeping the geometry the same is not just the flip chip, though, it also lies in the fork. When running a 27.5+ setup its recommended that you run a 130mm fork, as comes on this build, to raise the front end 10mm, again accounting for the change of wheel radius — and landing you with a little extra squish to soak up the bumps.
The Joplin 2.0 shifts a bit away from its XC race dedicated roots, and slides into a versatile all-mountain spot. By dropping the head tube angle a full 2.2-degrees, landing at the moderately slack 68-degrees, the Joplin feels more stable on descents than before, and with the addition of Boost spacing in the rear, you won't find that agility is sacrificed for this stability. Boost spacing stretched the rear hub outward to 148mm, allowing for the rear end to be tucked up underneath the bike, shaving 13.3mm off of the chainstays, which keeps the bike's lively and snappy feel when putting down power, or getting playful on rollers and roots. This wide hub also creates the spacing needed in the rear triangle for changing wheel sizes, with a wider area that allows a maximum tire size of 3-inches when run on a 27.5+ wheel. With the updated geometry the Joplin now enjoys its ability to bounce back and forth from XC race day on rolling singletrack, to chunkier trails up higher on the mountain.
The Virtual Pivot Point suspension has also taken queues from all-mountain trail bikes, gaining an additional 10mm, which aligns the Joplin perfectly with the emerging crop of 4.5in, do-it-all bikes. Suspension also happens to be where we find the key difference between the Joplin and the Tallboy —the shock tune. Juliana's market research finds that the typical women cyclist weighs in about 30lb lighter than men, and the shock was adjusted so that we can enjoy the same plush benefits of VPP as the guys. This model features a FOX Float Performance DPS shock, with a light shock tune that allows us to take full advantage of the 4.5-inches of travel. Despite the changes in tune, the VPP design is a carry-over from Santa Cruz's re-worked frames like the Bronson 2.0 and 5010 2.0. It's inspired by the enduro-roots of the Nomad, and as a result, the links stay out of the way, which allows the shock to nestle in its spot with room for bottle cages, and enabling more ground clearance with lower standover height.
The latest VPP's changes aren't limited to wandering links, though; the system's tuning has also been tweaked. Where the old suspension curve described a deep "U," the new VPP's curve resembles a flattened check mark, with less dramatic ramping on either end of the arc and, as mentioned above, a lighter tune to give lighter riders access to the deep end. The results are that, during the initial and mid stroke, it boasts improved square edge bump compliance to keep the tires glued to the trail for more traction across lumpy trails and root latticed climbs. It also maintains its predecessor's firm feel during accelerations, so it won't dampen the Joplin's spirited kick while rallying for position in a mass start or a finishing sprint. The shock's ramp-up arc doesn't dramatically alter as the shock compresses, so the pedaling platform stays consistent across travel, with less wallowing, bob, and bottom-outs — even while the Boost axle's path turns rearward to absorb bigger hits deep in its travel.Juliana’s industry-leading carbon fiber construction makes its way to the Joplin, although this version uses a slightly lower grade of carbon fiber than the top-tier Carbon CC frame. This requires more material to achieve the same strength, so it does carry a bit more weight, but in every other aspect it’s held to the same uncompromising standards as Juliana’s Carbon CC frames. The upshot is that you get a frame that’s every bit as stiff and strong at much more palatable price point. The frame's two carbon triangles are built as whole pieces rather than glued together from disparate bits, a method that saves weight and increases structural integrity by allowing Santa Cruz to wrap carbon continuously through and around key junctures. This process reinforces the frame with less material while eliminating the artificial stress points that result from bonded construction methods. Finally, the carbon is also compacted from the inside and the outside for a more even finish that avoids any structural defects, excess material build-up, and resin pooling for — you guessed it — even more weight savings.
The Joplin's reworked linkage means it's one-by only, but with the huge gear range of SRAM Eagle, this built still offers you some easy-pedaling bailout cogs that might be missed in other one-by drivetrains. The threaded bottom bracket is another feature that we've come to just expect from the California-based brand, and it's a strong selling point for those who don't like dealing with the tricky tolerances and creaky interface of press-fit models.
- Race ready and capable ride for XC and trail endeavors
- 4.5in of supple VPP suspension soaks up roots and rocks
- Women's-specific shock tune for lighter weight riders
- Slacker head tube elevates stability descending
- Roomy reach shifts weight forward for better traction
- C level carbon construction balances weight and price
- 27.5+ wheels offer tacky traction and plush handling
- SRAM Eagle drivetrain includes huge bailout gear
- Item #JLI0044
- Q & A
This is probably the bike for you.
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
If you're strapped for time, here's the 5-second summary. The Joplin rocks. It's fast, efficient, incredibly capable, and very pretty. Buy it.
If you're not quite convinced, let me present my case. I've observed a trend in the world of mountain bikes; hear me out. It seems like the knee-jerk reaction of 90% of prospective bike buyers is to crank it up to 11 in the travel department. Much like the jets in a hot tub, the wood in a bonfire, or the air conditioning in your car, the 'go all the way' mindset pervades. Let me explain.
Let's stick with Santa Cruz/Juliana for this example. The Nomad (Strega) is a really, REALLY good bike. It's incredibly capable and confidence inspiring, but there's a good chance that it's not quite the right bike for you. Unless you're constantly hitting up chairlifts at the bike part, you're going to be doing a good amount of climbing whenever you ride. Even with the incredible efficiency of VPP suspension, most Nomad builds weigh well in excess of 30 lbs. Getting a bike that heavy up a hill is a serious chore.
I hear you. If you're new, it's totally reasonable to want something that will eat up all the nasty bumps and help you down the descents that are still a little intimidating. The problem is that long travel bikes are designed to go really fast. If you're a beginner or intermediate rider, you receive a diminishing benefit as you move farther down the travel spectrum. If you're not quite ready to throw your body down a hill at Mach speed, you probably don't want a bike that caters to that exclusively. Essentially, your dollars are going towards capability that you can't take advantage of. Most people don't ride competitively. They like to ride with friends and cover ground. Most of the trails they ride are 'blue-square'. They negotiate some switchbacks, roots, rocks, and the occasional jump. They spend a little over half of the ride climbing, and would probably be better off saving a few pounds than adding a few millimeters of travel.
So, back to the Joplin.
Santa Cruz nailed it. Honestly. They borrowed equally from the worlds of enduro and XC to create the perfect bike for almost everyone. Courtesy of the VPP linkage, the Joplin climbs like a mountain goat. A suspension system that feels as good as the VPP does on the descents has no business climbing this well. It's light too. Santa Cruz claims that the CC level frames weigh in at 2.53 kg (that's really light for a trail bike) and the C level are only 230 grams more. They didn't stop at making the Joplin light though; Santa Cruz decided (wisely) to rake out the headtube angle to make the bike feel more planted at speed.
Now, this is not a bike for the real dare-devils. You don't wanna chuck yourself down an EDW stage on a Joplin. It's also probably not the ideal rig for the skinsuit wearing, KOM-chasing crowd. It's a bike that sits comfortably in the realm of trail bikes, with some influence (when appropriate) from the leg-shaving side of the sport. It's a collection of the best of the middle. The result? This is probably the bike for you.