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Rocks and Rolling.
When it comes to rocks and rolling, the name Joplin is a big one to live up to. Juliana's latest effort on that front, the Joplin 2.0 Carbon 29 S Complete Mountain Bike, meets expectations with an impressive list of hits. Big hits. Hits way bigger than we'd ever throw at the first several generations of wagon-wheel bikes. That's because—like the queen of rock for which it's named—the Joplin effectively revolutionized its genre. It proved that 29ers aren't limited to cross country riding on smooth ribbons of serene hardpack. The latest model, the Joplin 2.0, is even more aggressive, leading into terrain with a slacker head tube and the increased efficiency and tracking of Boost axles. It's built here with a kit that encourages aggression: SRAM's GX Eagle drivetrain combines the Eagle line's ultimate bailout gear to the workhorse, fear-no-trail-furniture functionality of GX.
The Joplin's developmental arc has been the same as Santa Cruz's Tallboy, and it culminates with the 2.0 model's modern touches: Boost spacing, a slacker profile, enduro-inspired suspension links, and the protean flip chip. The key difference between the Joplin and the Tallboy is in the shock tune, with the former lightening up a bit for lighter riders. Juliana calculates that typical women cyclists are around 30lb lighter than men, so the Joplin's lighter shock tune allows lighter riders to take full advantage of the bike's 4.5in of VPP travel. In the end, it's a tale of suspension and geometry that's dramatic enough to rival the biography of fast-living young rock stars; however, like any good story, it has an O. Henry twist. In this case, that surprise ending is the flip chip.
The flip chip sits in the upper link and can be rotated to allow the shock mount to migrate. Being able to reposition the shock attachment point effectively accounts for the 9mm difference in radii between 27.5+ and 29in setups, keeping the geometry as static as possible across wheel sizes. The latest Joplin is Juliana's first use of Santa Cruz's flip chip, which originally debuted on the Hightower. If that model was its testing ground, then the flip chip has moved one step closer to perfect with the Joplin. Changing the Hightower results in a slight change in head tube angle, but the Joplin's head tube stays the same for 27.5+ and 29in wheels.
Compared to the previous Joplin, the newest model takes just a bit off the top of the head tube, dropping 2.2 degrees to fall from the standard 70.2 to a moderately slack 68 degrees. Courtesy of the Flip Chip's slight geometry alteration, that number stays the same whether you're running a 29in wheels with a 120mm fork or 27.5+ with 130mm. The frame's chainstays and reach also join the modern geometry movement; the stays are shorter by 13.3mm and the reach bumps up dramatically, resulting in a chassis that's far more capable in virtually every trail situation than its predecessor.
The Virtual Pivot Point travel has also taken a turn for the crunchier, gaining an additional 10mm, which aligns the Joplin perfectly with the emerging crop of 4.5in, do-it-all 29ers. That's not to say it's just rolling off the press as one faceless frame in a sea of similar models, as the flip chip means the Joplin is essentially two frames: a race rocket 29er with a long, stable geometry and a 27.5+ barge for floaty traction on surfaces ranging from off-trail snowscapes to baby head gardens. The beauty is that, instead of shelling out for two separate premium machines, you just need the flip chip, two wheelsets, and two forks.
Despite all the tweaks to geometry, the inclusion of a Flip Chip, and the centimeter of additional travel, 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-minded Nomad, and the result is that the links stay out of the way, which lets the Joplin accommodate a piggyback shock's external can without giving up the bottle cage. The repositioned links also make for more ground clearance, lower standover, and an additional boost in stiffness to the already stiff Boost back end.
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 increased 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 jockeying 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 it still comes equipped with ISCG 05 tabs. 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. The Joplin's 27.5+ mode accommodates every manufacturer's 2.8in tires, but some 3in models may have clearance issues depending on how the tire manufacturer takes its measurements. Understandably, the frame's clearance decreases as a 29er, but it still accommodates most 2.35in tires, which we think occupy the sweet spot of plush traction without getting top floppy and muddying trail feel.
- A cross-country race bike that moonlights as a trail machine
- 4.5in of VPP travel pedals like XC but drops in like all-mountain
- Longer, slacker geometry is more stable through big lines
- Carbon construction balances weight and price
- SRAM's Eagle drivetrain includes the ultimate bailout gear
- 29er wheels conquer trail obstacles without sacrificing speed
- Juliana Bicycles sets the standard for women's race bikes
- Item #JLI0043
- Q & A
This is probably the right 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.