Test Ride: Juliana Bicycles 2016 Roubion

A high performance, female-specific carbon mountain bike that doesn't condescend

For years now, certain cycling brands have tried to reach female consumers by creating dedicated lines. Some have gone so far as to develop completely new bike designs, marketing that they are more than just “pink and shrink.” But when pro-riders don’t actually use the product, it’s hard to believe in the design. Juliana Bicycles, however, knows how to make a product for women mountain bikers without insulting them.

The Juliana brand is “less about being women specific and more being for specific women,” says brand manager Katie Zaffke. There are subtle differences that make the Julianas different from Santa Cruz bikes (the company that launched Juliana as a dedicated women’s brand back in 2013), but they share the same geometry, materials and components. “We work with Santa Cruz because we believe in delivering the best trail riding experience possible. Juliana is distinguished by a creative freedom, allure and spirit that’s uniquely ours, and our staff, friends, and ambassadors,” says Zaffke.

“Juliana acknowledges that women want the same high-end quality and aggressive style bike as the men,” Enduro racer Kelli Emmet tells CH. Emmet has been racing for many years and recently joined the cult-adored Juliana/SRAM World Enduro team. The Juliana/SRAM team is the only all women’s team on the circuit. And they all ride the Roubion model.

“I have to admit I do love the colors and matte finishes of the Julianas. I love showing off my Roubion to my friends and hearing the compliments on how great it looks” Emmet continues. “Yes, I’ve ridden and raced on other ‘women specific bikes’ for a few years prior to being on the Juliana/SRAM team. It was only during the last couple of years that the quality of women-specific bikes were good enough for racing at the highest level. The Roubion was different because the bike design was built for performance.”

With all this in mind, we took the 2016 Roubion out for testing. The “stonewashed purple” carbon frame is so unique that riders stop and comment. After a thorough look, their next observations are about the 27.5 ENVE M60 Forty carbon rims, then the SRAM XX1 components—something most riders lust over. The biggest change between the 2016 model from the previous year’s is the frame. Moving the upper link and top tube down gives riders a lower standover height, allowing Juliana to offer more sizes. Other tweaks include the slacker head angle at 66 degrees, making it more of a Santa Cruz Nomad model rather than the Roubion’s equal in 2015, the Bronson.

The Roubion’s new geometry made aggressive downhill “oh shit” moments smooth and secure, rolling over anything. Because of the bike’s forgiving qualities and ability, we were able to accomplish sections of trail that were previously out of reach. Obstacles like rock gardens and logs took little effort. Even on the steep rocky accents, the full-suspension Roubion climbed like a dream with its steeped seat tube angle. What stood out the most were the transitions that the bike had coming out of tight and technical situations. So balanced with its 760mm carbon bars and a shorter chain stay, maneuvering out of sticky spots wasn’t a struggle but super stable giving us a chance to adjust our body positions easily. The crank power is never abrupt, with just enough pop. Altogether, the Roubion gave us an identity and a very authentic sense of empowerment. Which is exactly what all the women brands are after.

Explore the entire Juliana Bikes range online; the Roubion retails from $3600.

Images shot on the trails of Columbia County Mountain Bike Alliance courtesy of Kyle Bradford