2020 PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Juliana Joplin / Santa Cruz Tallboy
A competent climber, but the descents are where the Joplin really shines.
Words by Sarah Moore, Photography by Trevor Lyden
Santa Cruz Bicycles debuted the original Tallboy in 2009 and Juliana Bicycles debuted its counterpart, the Joplin, when the brand debuted in 2013. They launched the second generation in 2016, so depending on how you look at it, this is either the third generation of the short-travel 29er to hit the trails, or the fourth.
Like the last time around, this bike gets 10mm more travel front and rear, a slacker head tube angle and a longer reach. In addition, the new Joplin uses the lower-link mounted shock VPP design that the Hightower, Bronson, and Nomad do.
It might seem a bit unorthodox that James Huang and I both rode the Juliana Joplin, but since it's the same frame as the Santa Cruz Tallboy, we felt it made most sense for the Field Test format.
Joplin / Tallboy Details
Intended use: Downcountry
Wheel size: 29''
Frame construction: Carbon fiber
Head angle: 65.5° or 65.7°
Chainstay length: 430-440mm (adjustable)
Reach: 450 mm (size Medium)
Sizes: XS, S, M (Joplin) XS-XXL (Tallboy)
Weight: 28.1lbs / 12.75 kg (as pictured)
Price: $8,199 USD as shown
More info: www.julianabicycles.com
Both share the same volume spacer (0.4) in the shock, but the Joplin gets a Light compression tune compared to the Tallboy's Medium compression tune and a light rebound tune compared to the Tallboy's "LRL01" which is in-between Light and Medium. There are also a women's saddle and grips, and different graphics and branding. Against all odds, James was able to ride the "gender-specific" components and shock tune without issue.
The bike is available in both the high-grade carbon frame known as the “CC” and the regular "C" carbon, and there are also aluminum framed models with prices starting at $2,699. As tested, with a RockShox Pike Select, FOX Float Performance Elite DPS, SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, SRAM G2 RSC brakes and Santa Cruz Reserve carbon wheels, the price tag is $8,199 USD.
The carbon Joplin gets adjustable chainstays, so that you can set the chainstay length at either 430 or 440mm. There's also a flip chip on the shock mount that can be used to raise or lower the bottom bracket while simultaneously steepening or slackening the head angle. The difference that chip makes is fairly minor – a 3mm BB height change and a .2-degree head angle change – but it does also make the bike's leverage ratio slightly more linear in the high setting, and a little more progressive in the lower setting.
Other details include internally-molded tubes to make cable routing easier, a downtube protector, a fender that keeps mud away from the shock, a ribbed chainstay protector, room to mount a water bottle on the top of the downtube on all sizes, a threaded bottom bracket, and ISCG-05 tabs for mounting a chain guard. The size Medium we rode comes with a 150mm dropper and there's also a lifetime frame and bearing warranty.Climbing
Overall, James Huang and I found the Joplin to be a very competent climber. Body position is comfortable and the 76.3° seat tube angle gets you into a good power position over the pedals. The front wheel doesn’t wander and goes where you want it to go on tight singletrack despite the relatively slack 65.5° head tube angle.
Climbing traction was good, but not great. You have to be a bit more precise about choosing your line in loose gravel and over roots so that you don't bounced around or spin out. The same goes for pedaling efficiency. There are bikes that you really feel accelerate when you stand up to pedal, and ones that seem happier just sitting and staying even with the power, and this bike falls into the latter category.
As for the weight, it's a pound and a half lighter than the Guerrilla Gravity, which isn't insignificant. That being said, it's not in the 26-pound range like the Trek Top Fuel, Pivot Mach 4 SL and Mondraker. For the terrain here it was a good compromise between being light enough that pedaling is enjoyable, while still having burly enough components to attack the descents. Descending
Descending is where the Juliana shines. The geometry is on the longer side for this category, with a 450mm reach on our medium size, and it's actually the slackest of the bikes we tested in this category with its 65.5° head tube angle, but it doesn’t feel too long and slack by any means. James and I felt that the geometry gave us the confidence to push hard on the downhills without feeling like we were working too much to stay centered over the bike.
The suspension feels lively on the descents and while it doesn't totally erase everything you encounter on the trail, it does a great job of neutralizing it so that you can keep your composure. It's a comfortable suspension platform that maintains traction well through corners and on rougher, more technical sections technical trails. While I used all the travel on it, it never bottomed out harshly and it felt like it made good use of its 120mm.
While it's composed, it still feels light and poppy so it’s really easy to boost off of every little thing on the trail. You know you’re on a short-travel bike, but for all the good reasons.