Blurring the boundaries.
Not content to be a one-trick pony, the Juliana Joplin 2.1 AL Mountain Bike Frame seamlessly transitions from grueling cross-country races to trail rides where sweeping berms, rock rolls, and elevated bridges pose a challenge to your skills. Although it could be categorized as a fast-rolling XC machine in 29er form, the Joplin 2.0 doesn't like to be pigeonholed, defying its short-travel genre with progressive trail geometry, plus the ability to switch between 29-inch and 27.5+ wheels with its flip-chip linkage. This particular frame has aluminum construction for reliable strength without the higher price of its carbon brethren.
Taking design cues from Santa Cruz's iconic Tallboy, the Joplin 2.1 blurs the line between razor-sharp XC scalpel and spirited trail bike with its 110-millimeters of VPP suspension paired with Juliana's recommendation for running either a 120 or 130-millimeter fork (for 29ers or 27.5+). This combination of shorter travel out back with extra plushness out front makes it pedal with resounding efficiency, but with a bit more margin for error when you're dropping into rocky descents and sending side-hits along the trail. Where the Joplin differs from the Tallboy lies within its female-specific shock tune. By tuning the Fox Float Performance DPS shock for lighter riders, it feels more active tracking over speed-sapping rocks and roots.
The VPP suspension gets 10-millimeters of extra travel over the previous Joplin 1.0, aligning the newest Joplin with the current crop of do-it-all trail rigs with approximately 4.5-inches of travel. Not only is the travel a bit more substantial at 4.5 inches/110 millimeters, but the revised VPP platform makes it perform better, so you can squeeze every last drop of bump-compliance out of the suspension. Juliana engineered it to be more supple off-the-top, meaning you'll gain better traction when you're riding over bumpy rock and root sections. The shock's ramp-up arc remains more consistent until the end for a smooth, consistent feel, at which point it becomes progressive to resist bottom-outs on bigger hits and large rocks. This shock progression is especially important, as it allows you to use a 110-millimeter travel bike on bigger terrain where you'd normally blow through all your travel.
One of the Joplin's best features lies in the ability to switch between high and low geometry settings, and in doing so, change the fast-rolling 29-inch wheels for the voluminous traction of 27.5+ wheels. The flip-chip rotates along the upper link, allowing the shock mount to migrate between high (29er) and low (27.5+) settings, but without a drastic change in the bike's geometry. In fact, Juliana preserved the 68-degree head tube angle between both wheel sizes for confident descending when the trail turns steep and rocky, as well as keeping the short 17-inch chainstays and low-slung bottom bracket of 13 inches for nimble turning and stable handling.
- Blurring the line between trail chops and XC speed
- Aluminum frame for reliable performance at affordable price
- Flip-chip offers ability to switch 29in for 27.5+ wheels
- 110mm of efficient VPP travel with a progressive feel
- Fox Float Performance DPS with a female-specific tune
- Boost rear axle spacing increases wheel stiffness
- Removable front derailleur mount for 2x drivetrains
- Threaded bottom bracket remains creak-free
- 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.