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Rock and rolling.
When it comes to rolling over rocks, the name Joplin is a big one to live up to. Juliana's latest effort on that front, the Joplin Carbon CC 29 XX1 ENVE Complete Mountain Bike, meets expectations with an impressive list of hits. These include a set of ENVE M60 Forty wheels, a SRAM XX1 and Race Face drivetrain, Boost thru-axles, and the ability to switch between 29in wheels and 27.5+ without altering its geometry. It also benefits from the reworked linkage and the third generation VPP suspension that we've been seeing on the latest models from Juliana's brother company, Santa Cruz Bicycles. The Joplin is the first Juliana to incorporate all of these features, and it's all-in on the aggression front — a fact made all the more apparent with the inclusion of beefier M60 Forty wheels instead of the previous Joplin's XC-specific M50 Fifty.
The Joplin's developmental arc has been the same as Santa Cruz's Tallboy, and it culminates today in some modern touches like Boost spacing, 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 rain-slicked root lattices. 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.
We're happy to report that Juliana's Carbon CC frame construction also remains unchanged. For the top-tier CC frame designation, the engineers use a higher modulus carbon than the standard Carbon C model, so less material is required to hit the same strength and stiffness numbers. Less material equates to less weight, and, well, you can see where we're going with this. Climbing and pure speed both benefit when there's less mass for your engine to propel and a stiffer chassis makes for more efficient power transfer and cat-on-carpet tracking through techy trail furniture.
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.
- Item #JLI002Q