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Hands-on Gear Review
Juliana Furtado R 2018 Review
Cons: The rear end is a bit rough, shaken at high-speeds or on steep terrain
Bottom line: An excellent all-around bike for ambitious beginners or advanced riders alike.
Measured Weight (w/o pedals, Medium): 30 lb 0 oz
Suspension & Travel: Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) - 130mm
Among Juliana's most popular bikes, the Furtado lives up to its reputation as a trail bike with a solid skill set. It climbs and descends equality well, balancing precise handling with downhill stability. This allows the bike to maintain playful on-demand antics while remaining calm and confident when you're playing it straight. It's the most confident women's bike we tested, taking on chunder and big drops with admirable stoicism. It's also balanced and responsive, requiring very little body language to operate. The Furtado's 130mm of travel and mildly aggressive geometry hit its limits in steeper, more technical, or teeth chattering terrain. In these situations, the Furtado starts to get twitchy. Everywhere else, the bike combines a lively trail feel with stability. That equals fun in our book.
It's hard to go wrong with the Furtado. A fun and proficient choice for seasoned MTBers and newbies alike, it's a solid choice for a wide range of riders. We've ridden some more exciting options though. If you're interested in big wheels, the 110mm travel, 29er Santa Cruz Tallboy/Juliana's Joplin has the same aggressive attitude as the Furtado with the speed benefits of big wheels. If playful is your thing, consider the super-sporty 2018 Ibis Ripley LS. (Our shorter women testers, 5'3" to 5'4", aren't quite sold on big wheels.) For well-rounded riding with a descending bent consider the Santa Cruz Bronson/Juliana Roubion.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Trail Mountain Bikes of 2018
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Furtado shares a frame with the Santa Cruz 5010. The Furtado caters to smaller, lighter riders with lighter shock tunes and smaller contact points. These are pure-bred trail bikes, meant to climb and descend equally well. The anything-but-extreme geometry measurements fall in line accordingly. We tested the Furtdao against two women's specific bikes, the 2018 Liv Pique SX and 2018 Specialized Women's Camber in our Women's Trail Bike Review. It won the test, so we ranked it against every trail bike we've ridden.
Lively and precise handling, solid descending skills and cruise control climbing made the Furtado the most fun women's bike we tested. The Furtado plays well at slow or high speeds. You can nail it to the ground or pop it up into the air with abandon. It does take a more experienced pilot to unlock its frolicsome nature. In contrast, the playful Liv Pique SX offers a beginner-friendly primer. However, the Pique SX is only playful to a point, and then suddenly overwhelmed. The Furtado keeps its head in any standard trail situation.
Descending is the linchpin of MTB fun. This is where the Furtado takes top honors. Automatically setting you up in a low attack position, the bike is capable of plowing through moderate grade technical trails with ease. It's also ridiculously easy to hop over anything you don't feel like riding through. A semi-slack headtube angle, the longest top tube in the test, and a low-slung bottom bracket result in a grounded and composed bike at speed. The Furtado only loses confidence when pushed to bomber downhill speeds or into steep, black diamond technical terrain.
The same comfortable and balanced cockpit that sets you up for descents puts you in a comfortable position for the climbs. This makes climbing a less painful endeavor, but 30 pounds is chunky for a size small carbon frame with 130mm of travel. The weight can subtly wear on you during long days, with sluggish acceleration adding to the issue. It's not enough to deter us from picking this bike out of the lineup every time, but the lighter feel of the other two bikes in the test is undeniably pleasant.
Though the 25mm rims are on the narrow side for 2017, the 2.3-inch Maxxis Minion DHF front tire and 2.25-inch Maxxis Crossmark II in the rear held traction reasonably. The balanced geometry makes it a simple matter of keeping enough weight on the tires to maintain traction. While we love the Minion up front, we have a hard time appreciating the Crossmark II in the rear. A relatively wide swath of bare rubber separates its cornering knobs from the centerline knobs. As a result, you have to lean the bike aggressively over in the turns to get the edges to grab. Not the most beginner friendly of maneuvers. New tires are a quick fix that can yield an enormous performance benefit.
The Furtado earns a respectable score for its ready and willing personality. This bike's not much of a partier, but it's good for some wholesome, old-fashioned fun. The Liv Pique SX came in a close second in the women's test for its playful but easily disturbed descending skills.
The most stable, planted and confidence inspiring descender in the test, the Furtado can rally, to a point. The bike handles moderately steep, technical trails like a dream and remains composed under pressure. At the same time, it doesn't defy the limits you expect of 130mm travel bike with a semi-slack 66.9-degree head tube angle. Once you start hitting high speeds on chunky trails, it gets shaken. It can also feel twitchy when navigating tight spaces through rocks or trees at speed. Luckily, it recovers well and something like 90% of trails and trail-riding speeds are well within its range.
The fork and shock work in concert with the VPP suspension to keep the bike balanced and responsive over big and small features alike. The 130mm Fox Rhythm 34 fork is a solid performer and dynamic enough for even an advanced rider to appreciate. The Fox Float Performance DPS rear shock is reliable but feels stiff on descents. It's not harsh, but it doesn't offer a plush ride either. We would love to try out a cushier, higher-end version on this bike. The lighter, women's specific shock tunes worked well for our testers. We found it easier to dial in fork and shock pressures to allow for active suspension early in the stroke with plenty of reserve for the bigger hits. Santa Cruz bikes come with a medium/medium shock tune. Juliana sends theirs out with a light/light.
The Furtado has the longest reach and effective top tube length in the test, which we measured at 408mm and 582mm. The geometry sets you up immediately in the attack position, nice and low over the bike. This helps the bike feel composed at higher speeds. The Liv Pique SX and Specialized Women's Camber require conscious movement to get into a descending stance and demand more body movement to remain balanced. On the Furtado you can just lock in and let the bike do the work for you.
The bike is balanced in the corners and pushing the Furtado into berms is a blast, tire troubles aside. Its short wheelbase and quick handling also make short work of switchbacks. There were a few downhill runs when pedal strikes seemed more frequent on this bike than the other two in the test. While the Liv has a higher bottom bracket, the Specialized Camber's is comparable to the Furtado's. We chalk this up to increased confidence on the Furtado allowing us to push speeds and hug the trail more.
Like the Santa Cruz brand, Juliana is meant to satisfy the MTB needs of an enthusiastic rider who makes mountain biking a priority in their life and is "somewhat experienced," according to Brian Bernard, the Digital Marketing Manager for Santa Cruz and Juliana. That doesn't mean that it isn't a great option for ambitious beginners. However, the Furtado does require more aggressive handling to unlock its playful attributes than the Liv Pique SX. It is also more competent on descents when carrying speed or in more technical terrain. As a result, while it takes a bit longer to open up, it's much harder to outgrow.
The Juliana was the fastest women's bike in our downhill benchmarking time trials. It was 6.4 seconds faster than both the Liv Pique SX and Specialized Camber Comp on average.
We rate the Furtado a little above average for descending. In this stacked MTB field, that's quite a compliment.
The Furtado is composed on the climbs and the front wheel maintains traction at all times. Balanced positioning, direct steering, and a compact wheelbase keep the bike on track through technical sections, although the front wheel can get stuffed when tackling multiple obstacles. Even with proper rebound settings it didn't take the first hit and set up properly for the next. The Pique SX took these sections with more skill. Overall though, it climbs just as well as the Pique SX and has a better command of the descents.
The Furtado's cockpit is the most comfortable in the test for longer climbs, giving you room to stretch out and move around. As we mentioned, the bike's weight can wear on riders over the course of a day, but it's still our top choice for extended rides.
The Furtado's maneuverability on the ascent is impressive. The short wheelbase makes working around turns and popping the front wheel up and over obstacles a simple matter. Rocks, roots, chipmunks, you got it. (Fall is a busy time for rodents in the Sierra). The stiff frame and handlebars quickly respond to upward pressure. Again though, multiple stair steps could jack the front end. Otherwise, the front wheel tracks well.
The bike is the slowest accelerator in the test, but once it's rolling, the Furtado feels efficient whether seated or standing. When standing up to crank through steep climbs we do find ourselves further forward on the bike than we are used to, but it doesn't feel extreme. On steep sections, the Juliana takes more effort to get going and has some of pedal bob when up out of the saddle. As is the case with most modern rear shocks, the Fox Float Performance DPS shock doesn't fully lock out. The VPP suspension provides an excellent pedal platform but it feels like some energy is lost.
The 30:42-tooth climbing gear is right in the range we're used to, and it is pleasant to climb once you're at speed. But it takes more effort than the 28 to 42-tooth drivetrain on the Specialized Camber or the 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle on the Liv Pique SX. This means you'll probably climb faster on the Furtado but you might have a little more energy at the top aboard the Camber or Pique SX.
The Juliana was the fastest climber in the test. We credit the speed to its stiffer gearing and more comfortable positioning. There is a lot to be said for being comfortable on a climb. The 28-tooth chainring on the Specialized Women's Camber made holding speed trickier. The same is true of the SRAM GX Eagle on the Liv Pique SX.
The Furtado earns a high score for it's hiking abilities, tying with the Specialized Camber 29 and Pivot Mach 429 Trail for their equally pleasant handling on the climbs.
Ease of Maintenance
Along with ride characteristics and price, it's important to consider the quality and maintenance needs of a bike's stock components. It's often a good idea to check with your local bike shops before buying a bike to see which designs and brands they are most familiar with. You should also consider the maintenance needs of a bike's frame. We rank the Furtado's ease of maintenance in the chart below based on methods explained in our trail bike review
Juliana and Santa Cruz bikes use a dual pivot suspension design. The collet axle system is fairly simple although they do require oddly light torque values. In addition, the stock bearings are notorious for wearing out quickly. Fox recommends less frequent maintenance then many RockShox options. Many mechanics claim that they see Fox parts more often than those guidelines suggest. Pay attention to the sound and feel of your bike. SRAM brakes are harder to work on than Shimano options.
Frame Design and Suspension Overview
The Juliana Furtado's Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension is proven and progressive. A progressive suspension activates quickly to react to small hits and chatter and then ramps up to prevent you from bottoming out on bigger hits. The VPP is known to discern between trail impacts, pedal, and braking forces. This system offers a balanced, reliable and stable suspension response on the Furtado. An asymmetrical swingarm in the rear triangle keeps the bike's chain line reasonable.
The Furtado's anything-but-extreme geometry measurements fall in line accordingly. A reasonably slack 66.9-degree head tube angle sets you up to climb and descend confidently on moderately technical trails. The head angle pairs with 429mm chainstays to create a 1118mm wheelbase. Overall the Furtado is a compact bike, easy to work through switchbacks. The relatively slack 72.7-degree seat tube angle is comfortably placed for descents and still sets you up to pedal steadily up the hills and across the flats. The 798mm standover height works well for our 5'4 to 5'5 testers. This bike is the biggest in the test, the most comfortable on the descent and gives you room to move on the longer climbs.
The Furtado R is the lowest tier build available. It offers sound components that allow the bike's well-founded frame and suspension to shine.
Fork and Shock — The 130mm Fox 34 Rhythm with its GRIP damper is dependable and dynamic enough for an advanced rider to appreciate.
The Fox Float Performance DPS shock is dependable and keeps the Furtado comfortable on descents, but a higher end, more adjustable shock would likely soften the experience.
Wheels and Tires — Hub engagement on the Novatec D711/D642 rims front and rear is fine. We like the stout 32 spokes though. We don't feel discernible flex even in the 24 spoke front wheel on the Women's Camber, but the extra support of those eight spokes no doubt contributes to the solid feel of the Furtado.
The WTB ST rims could be wider. An inner width of 25mm is hardly inspiring in 2017. When paired with a 2.3-inch tire up front and 2.25-inch rubber in the rear, we were left will smaller contact patches than we prefer. The Maxxis Crossmark rear tire requires semi-extreme angles to engage the corner knobs in a turn. It's not our favorite and damages confidence. We like the Maxxis Minion DHF up front.
Groupset — The SRAM NX 11-speed drivetrain has a 30-tooth chainring and 10-42-tooth cassette that make for reasonable climbing while granting plenty of power in the flats. It performs reliably, though we prefer the SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed that the Liv Pique SX 1 provides for $200 less. Even the SRAM GX 11-speed on the Specialized would be a significant improvement.
SRAM Level T brakes work fine for their intended trail application, especially with 180mm rotors front and rear. Better is better, however, and we'd prefer a more adjustable Level brake, such as the TL or TLM. This is especially true when we glance over at the SRAM Guide RS brakes on the Liv, which are higher quality with higher stopping power. They Guides have four pistons. The Levels have two.
Handlebars, Seat, and Seatpost — The Race Face Ride 760mm handlebars feel great, especially with their sturdy 35mm clamp. The width hits the sweet spot for all our testers, narrow enough to work through the trees and broad enough to effectively wrestle the front end around.
The Juliana Segundo Saddle is fine for a stock saddle. Women's specific saddles aim to provide support for wider set sit bones than men's on average. This one worked fine for our testers. The Race Face Aeffect dropper seatpost works, and we always appreciate infinite travel to tweak saddle height for every situation. The 125mm travel is much more practical than the 100mm provided on the Pique SX and Women's Camber.
In our women's test, we scored the Furtado a 7 of 10 for its respectable component spec. The killer build on the aluminum Liv Pique SX 1 earned a 10 and Specialized Women's Camber Comp Carbon 650b got a 5.
Build Differences from Unisex Version
The R build we tested is your lowest cost option. Juliana doesn't currently make aluminum bikes. Here are some sparklier specs —
Gunning for a 12-speed drivetrain? The $4,799 S build will get you a SRAM GX Eagle, a Fox Float Performance fork, SRAM Guide R brakes, and a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post. While we'd love the GX Eagle on this bike, the Furtado R is a pretty comfortable climber, this bike has the same rear shock as the R build, and the other components aren't liable to fundamentally change your ride quality. We don't see the need for this jump.
The $5,499 XE build does get you a nicer Fox Float Performance Elite DPS rear shock and a 30 to 46-tooth Shimano XT granny gear that offers easier climbing than the R build. This combination could be worth the extra cash.
If you're high-end curious, the $6,799 Furtado CC X01 gets you higher quality carbon, a Fox Float Performance Elite DPS, SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, SRAM Guide RSC brakes, and a more adjustable Fox 34 Float Performance Elite fork. This build will certainly showcase the bike to its utmost if you can afford it.
We don't see enough performance benefit between the SRAM X01 Eagle and SRAM XX1 Eagle and the Fox Float Performance Elite DPS rear shock and the Fox Float Factory DPS Kashima to make the jump from the X01 build to the $7,999 XX1 build.
What Makes It a Women's Ride?
Juliana is the women's specific branch of Santa Cruz Bicycles, using the same frames and building them with lighter tuned shocks, women's components (i.e., smaller chainrings and women's specific saddles and grips), and unique colorways. Women are in on the process too. A female product manager chooses Juliana components and dials in shock tunes and a woman, Katie Zaffke, manages the brand.
Both brands offer gender-neutral sizing. The small Juliana Furtado uses the same frame as the small Santa Cruz 5010, for instance. Standover heights are low. All but one of Juliana's bikes are available in an extra small, and all but one of the Santa Cruz bikes come in size small. (The 29er Juliana Joplin starts at a size small because fitting big wheels on such a small frame would have required bizarre and detrimental geometry compromises.)
Juliana's most substantive benefit to women is providing shocks tuned to suit lighter riders. Juliana used Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data and their own 15-month study sampling 3,074 riders (438 of which were women) to determine that women weight about 32 lbs less than a man of similar height. Figuring out how much air pressure to put in a shock tuned for a rider 30 pounds heavier than you is tricky. Tweaking the shock tune is a way for lighter riders to experience adequate small bump compliance and suppleness, according to Paige Anderson, Juliana's demo tour coordinator. Anderson states that a shock with an overly heavy tune is too bumpy for a lighter rider.
So why can't Santa Cruz just offer the option to use a lighter shock tune for lighter riders? Why does Juliana exist? "Good question," says Brian Bernard, Digital Marketing Manager for Santa Cruz and Juliana. Bernard contends that, as a brand, Juliana "gives women something to identify within a very male-dominated sport." Fair enough. Anderson is more hands-on, saying, "we're here to support women in the sport however we can do it."
Juliana offers only a subset of Santa Cruz's frames, four carbon bikes to Santa Cruz's twelve models. Obviously, women can buy Santa Cruz bikes. But only the Nomad, the Juliana Strega's counterpart, is offered in an extra small. All of the other Santa Cruz bikes come in small frames.
The Furtado R's build value is firmly in fair territory. When paired with the bike's versatile performance, we say this bike earns its keep.
A beefier rear tire would help us scramble up the hills and keep traction on the descents. Wider rims from a higher end wheelset and a GX Eagle drivetrain would be on our wish list.
The planted yet playful Furtado is a great choice for all your trail biking needs. This bike knows its business and takes care of it with precision and a splash of panache. Not the most exciting option out there, the Furtado will certainly take you anywhere you'd like to go.
— Clark Tate, Tasha Thomas, Brie Hyslop, Sally Hunter, Pat Donahue
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