Reviewed by Amanda Wentz and Courtney Steen // Photos by Lear Miller
At the 2016 Vital MTB Test Sessions, we ladies got the chance to sample a few of the latest trail/all-mountain bikes to see how they perform for women. With a smorgasbord of bikes ranging from 120 to 160mm travel, women-specific to unisex, and a price range from about $3,000 to over $9,000, how is one to choose?! This year we tested three bikes in the 150 to 160mm travel range that may be options to consider. We put them (and ourselves) to the test on South Mountain’s trails in Phoenix, Arizona – a moonscape of rowdy rock sections, decomposed granite, and sharp cactus around every bend.
One very well-known bike in this class is the Juliana Roubion. The Roubion was already hugely popular as the first carbon enduro race bike branded for women, but for 2016 it gets a bit of a facelift. Can geometry and suspension tweaks make this an even more dominant ride for the lady who wants to rip up her local trails or crush it in an enduro race?
- Carbon frame
- 27.5 (650b) wheels
- 150mm (5.9-inches) of front and rear wheel travel
- VPP suspension
- Women’s specific contact points
- Tapered headtube
- Fully guided internal dropper post and derailleur cable routing
- Optional side-swing direct mount front derailleur
- IS rear brake tabs
- 73mm threaded bottom bracket with ISCG05 mounts
- Boost 148mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
- Measured weight (size small, no pedals): 28.9-pounds (13.1kg)
- MSRP $4,699 USD
So what exactly is new? The first big thing is the suspension, which has a revised linkage layout to help improve how the bike absorbs small bumps and to give it some more progressive support when you’re riding in rough terrain. This update also helps stiffen the frame up a bit, keeps the bottom link a little more out of harm’s way, and makes it possible to lower the top tube for more clearance.
Out back the bike gets the new Boost rear axle, and you’ll notice some nice rubber guards that help protect the frame from damage. We’re pleased to see it can still fit a water bottle in the main triangle. We also really like the clean internal cable routing that doesn’t rattle at all.
The new Roubion also sees some geometry updates to improve handling in rough terrain and efficiency in the saddle. Juliana brings it into 2016 by lengthening the reach by 20-25mm (up to 1-inch) to accommodate the increasingly popular 50mm and shorter stems. The head angle has also been slackened a degree to bring it to a more aggressive 66-degrees. It was given a 0.8-degree steeper seat tube and 6mm (0.24-inch) shorter chainstays for climbing and cornering performance. One big update for the ladies are lower standover heights across the size range, providing added clearance for those of us with shorter legs. Lastly the seat tubes were shortened to allow for longer travel dropper posts.
Juliana offers the bike in two carbon varieties. From the outside the “C” models look identical to the fancy “CC” frames, but due to differences in the carbon type the CC frames benefit from a 0.6-pound (280g) lighter weight. Frame stiffness, durability, and strength are the same between the two types.
The Roubion comes in several complete models, from the entry level $3,599 C R to the high end and flashy CC XX1 build at $7,899, and you can put a perfectly matched set of ENVE wheels on some of them for an extra $2,000. There’s also a CC frame + shock combo available for $2,999. Expect an aluminum version to drop sometime soon. We tested the $4,699 C S, which features the best build kit you can get on the more affordable frame.
Our mission (which we choose to accept) was to assess whether Juliana’s updates and claims did in fact add up to one badass trail machine. We had our test track mapped out and were raring to go!
On The Trail
We were lucky enough to take a break from the cold and snow hitting most of the country to check out the nice and warm trails in Phoenix. Our test track was on South Mountain, and included sections of Javelina, Mormon, National, Holbert, and Geronimo trails. If we had to pick one word to describe them it’d be “rough,” and our second choice would be “rocky.” So long as we avoided the cactus they were certainly a great place to put a bike through its paces. Steep and techy climbs coupled with fast and technical descents gave us a clear picture of how the bike handled in all sorts of terrain.
Juliana really impressed us with their stock cockpit, and we left the bars, stem, grips, and Juliana Segundo saddle as they were and found them quite comfy. The 760mm (29.9-inch) Race Face Ride bars might be a bit wide for some ladies, however we appreciate that they allow us to customize width without having to purchase a new pair. We were surprised and pleased with the inclusion of a 50mm stem. Lastly, the Juliana grips match the color of the frame, really pull together the whole look, and are lock-ons which makes it easy should you want to make a switch. This bike comes stock with a tubeless tire setup which usually allows you to run slightly lower tire pressure than with tubes, though our rocky terrain required them to be a bit stiffer than normal. We had between 25-28psi in the front and 30-32psi in the rear depending on the tester, which seemed to be right on the money as this was one of the few bikes that didn’t experience a flat.
The last bit to set up before getting on the trail was the suspension. For this we deferred to the experts and started with the recommended pressures for both the fork and shock. The RockShox Pike has a handy chart right on the fork that tells you approximately how much pressure to run based on your weight. The FOX Float Performance rear shock setup chart on the Juliana websiterecommends 15-17mm of sag and gives some pressure ranges to start with. Easy peasy. Compression was set at full open on both the fork and shock to start as suggested by Juliana. We started with rebound set very neutral but ended up slowing it down a few clicks throughout our test to settle the bike down a bit.
With setup complete it’s time to get back to our mission. Do the 2016 updates create a ripping ladies enduro bike? Let’s start up our first climb and work this out.
Right away we noticed that the revised Roubion allows for better force transfer to the pedals with its steeper seat tube angle, and the bike is able to power up steep pitches in control. We found that this bike felt relatively light on the climbs for its travel, and was able to get up and go efficiently in any gear both in and out of the saddle. We really appreciated this as we eyed up some of the bigger climbs.
On the multitude of technical climbing sections we found the small bump compliance of the suspension was decent and helped us maintain traction and balance. On larger ledges we sometimes felt a bit bounced around, however, as the bike seemed to get hung up and slightly resist rolling over rocks. Shifting weight forward and back is relatively easy on this bike, though, which helps you keep moving along. Knowing we had a low standover encouraged us to try tricky climbing sections we weren’t 100% sure we would make. While the rock tended to be surprisingly grippy, it was helped by the quality rubber of the Maxxis Minion DHR II tires. We only found ourselves losing traction on very steep and loose sections which were areas all bikes struggled.
With the techy climbs behind us it was time to let the bike open up and show its true colors. Within seconds it was obvious that it wanted to haul over any and all rocks in its way and we were more than willing to let it try. We found the Roubion to be incredibly forgiving through the many medium size successive hits we subjected it to, and the new slacker head angle and lower bottom bracket made it feel really stable. It also feels really balanced when it’s time for a bit of air.
When we previously rode the Roubion in Downieville, California, our experience was similar as Courtney recounts:
“I don’t think I’ve ever gone so fast on a bike and nearly as fearlessly. The Roubion didn’t require more than 50 feet of trail before I felt perfectly comfortable. It loved carving corners and popping off any bumps at all reminiscent of a jump lip. After getting in some flow, the trail produced some rocky sections to really challenge the Roubion and validate those geometry changes. On the first lap some of these rocky bits were a bit of a trip up, but come round two I think we all felt proud of how we made our way through them atop the purple bike. Powering through some of these tirelessly rough sections, the Roubion kept rolling, didn’t get bogged down, and didn’t pinball off of the rocks.”
In the arguably rougher terrain on South Mountain we did find an odd trait, however. While it wants to run, it isn’t exactly precise. We didn’t feel the bike was reactive enough to handle super quick line changes at speed in the rough, which we were able to do on other bikes in the Test Sessions lineup. According to Juliana, the suspension is now more progressive, but there was still some of that sluggish response time which was a complaint of the previous model. This slow response was felt in both the Open and Trail modes on the rear shock, although slightly less so in Trail. Reducing sag from 17mm to 15mm was nice on climbs, but did little to help this feeling and yielded less control over the back end while descending. We also adjusted the rebound quite a bit to see if we could improve things, but we struggled to find a great sense of control. Overall it just seemed to require more effort to maneuver in super rocky terrain than comparable women’s models.
As previously mentioned, it’s suggested to ride the Pike and FOX Float with full open compression. While we found that this was a great starting point, Amanda’s preference was to have it in Trail mode for both climbing and descending. It made the bike slightly more responsive downhill and saved some much needed energy on the uphill. Courtney found that at the recommended settings the fork was diving, but adding more pressure gave a harsh feel. This could have been helped by adding a Bottomless Token, returning the pressure back to the recommended setting and then dialing it in with some added compression.
All of the components on the Roubion C S build add up to a bike that weighs a respectable 28.9-pounds (13.1kg) without pedals. It was light and snappy on the uphills but felt surprisingly solid and planted on the downhill. We felt this gave the Roubion all the right stuff in all the right places, and it was easy to lift into the back of a truck. Bonus!
The RockShox Pike RC Solo Air fork provides a really plush ride. It proved to be great over small bumps and kept us supported through the bigger hits as well, though some may want to add a Bottomless Token inside. The fork can be easily adjusted to changing trail conditions with the compression knob on top.
Paired with the Pike RC is the FOX Float Performance rear shock. The “CTD” shock has three compression modes (climb, trail, and descend) plus a rebound adjustment. Having to flip switches every time the trail changes isn’t our idea of a good time, and this shock did its job with minimal adjustments. That said, consider the optional upgrade to the Float X shock for the best performance.
The 2.3-inch Maxxis Minion DHR II tires maintain control up front with a softer rubber compound, and the longer lasting and harder compound in the back kept rolling speed pretty good. We like to see that companies aren’t short changing the ladies and choosing a tire that can stand up to a lot of abuse. While the rest of the crew experienced flats, we burped this tire once but the tubeless setup had our back.
Paired with the Minion tires are Easton AR 24 rims laced to SRAM MTH hubs, which are a little lighter than the rims used on the men’s Santa Cruz Bronson equivalent. Being lighter riders we didn’t think we would notice much in the wheel department, but we did manage to dent the rims by our sixth ride, which had us a bit concerned. We found that the SRAM MTH hubs, while we did have to tighten the rear one, had decent engagement to get us up and over the many piles of rocks on our test trails.
Given the fact that the Roubion is a bike made to rip, it’s nice that they chose brakes and rotors to reflect that. The Shimano SLX M675 brakes are helped along by the stock 180mm rotors front and rear. Having larger rotors with Shimano’s Ice Technology increases overall stopping power and dissipates heat, keeping the brakes grippy all the way down the hill. Plus the SLX brakes have a knob for reach adjustments on the fly and we found the levers quite comfy.
Our size small test bike came with a generous 125mm (4.9-inch) travel RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper seatpost, and larger sizes come with even longer 150mm (5.9-inch) posts. This gave us plenty of room to maneuver around the bike when pointed downhill. The lever spacing is pretty poor and sometimes hard to reach for those with small hands, though, because the Reverb lever and Shimano brakes don’t play well together.
We have said it before and we will say it again, we love 1x drivetrains. They are simple, quiet, and keep the cockpit (and our brains) clutter free. The SRAM GX 1×11 drivetrain and shifters worked together to make shifting easy. We didn’t experience any dropped chains, and even through constant rock bashing the drivetrain stayed well adjusted. We did have to tighten the bolt on the derailleur during our testing, however. This is something to remember to check occasionally. The stock 32-tooth front chainring worked well for the test terrain. If your home trails are a bit steeper there is always the option to go to a 30 or 28-tooth to make it a little easier on the low end.
Unlike most 1x bikes we’ve tried, we did notice quite a bit of chain slap and it seemed to get louder under braking. The chainstay comes with a nice looking custom molded guard to keep noise and frame damage to a minimum, but some additional protection on the seat stay may help.
Overall this build at $4,699 is solid. Based on the value of the components we feel it is worth going with this model over the lower priced option at $3,599. At the lower price point many women would want to upgrade several parts after just a season or two. The two more expensive models priced at $6,599 and $8,099 are built around the CC frame with an option for custom color ENVE rims. If you have some financial flexibility, then sure, go with the slightly lighter models, but for those of you looking to get the most bang for your buck we feel the Roubion C S is money well spent.
Long Term Durability
So will this bike last over the long haul? For the most part we think so. During our testing we did experience a loose rear derailleur and hub, but we feel this falls under routine maintenance and might be something to check a bit more frequently. Because we were able to dent the Easton AR24 rims during our test this is our only real concern with long term durability when it comes to the components.
Maintenance wise, the Roubion has some cool grease fittings on the linkage to keep things running smooth, sealed angular contact bearings, and locking collet axle pivots to keep everything tight. We did notice some of the cables rubbing on the seat tube, so consider putting some tape or vinyl on the frame as a layer of paint protection.
Juliana has a lifetime frame and bearing warranty you can count on, and a no-fault, minimal charge replacement program in the event of a crash or other non-warranty mishap.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Is the new Juliana Roubion one BA lady’s enduro machine? We think it could be for the right rider. It’s certainly an able climber that can tackle gnarly descents with an inspiring amount of stability. At the recommended settings we found it was great at holding a line through really challenging sections, although it sometimes required extra effort to change lines when the trail called for it. As such, we think the Roubion will shine brightest for women with great bike handling skills on trails worthy of a bigger bike, so it’s fitting that it will be the war horse for Enduro World Series racers Anka Martin, Sarah Leishman, and Kelli Emmett.
Value wise, the stock parts spec and carbon frame won’t leave you feeling the need to upgrade for a while. We would absolutely recommend this bike to any of our go-getter friends who want to rip up the trails. Now excuse us while we sneak in another lap!
Visit www.julianabicycles.com for more details.
Vital MTB Rating
- Climbing: 4 stars – Excellent
- Descending: 4.5 stars – Outstanding
- Fun Factor: 3.5 stars – Very Good
- Value: 4 stars – Excellent
- Overall Impression: 4 stars – Excellent
About The Reviewers
Amanda Wentz – Age: 34 // Years Riding MTB: 10+ // Height: 5’6″ (1.68m) // Weight: 135-pounds (61.2kg)
“I like riding rocky technical uphill as smoothly as I can, but my rims would say all that goes out the window when the bike is pointed down.” Over the last decade Amanda has soaked up all aspects of mountain biking and continues to push herself to progress. She’s a personal trainer and mountain bike coach, and loves knowing what her gear is doing and why.
Courtney Steen – Age: 28 // Years Riding MTB: 8 // Height: 5’7″ (1.70m) // Weight: 25-30% sag 😉
“Going downhill puts a smile on my face and I climb for ice cream.” Courtney routinely shocks the boys with her speed and has experience in various disciplines. Today she travels the country in a RV in search of the next best trail and writes women’s reviews for Vital MTB. Her technical background helps her think critically about products and how they can be improved.
About Test Sessions
Four years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you’ll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2016’s most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in Phoenix, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Rage Cycles. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Royal Racing, Smith, FOX Racing, Race Face, Easton, and Source.