Juliana Joplin S Carbon C 2018 Review
Cons: Difficult to corner for some, can be overwhelmed on the descents
Manufacturer: Juliana Bicycles
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Joplin has been recently redesigned for 2020. The new version has an updated longer and slacker geometry, 10mm more travel both front and rear, and a new low shock mount VPP suspension design. We expect the performance to be quite different, and we will update this review with the new version once we've had the chance to test it.
Should I Buy This Bike?
The Joplin C S is a zesty short travel trail bike that leans towards the XC side of the trail riding spectrum. This is an energetic and playful bike with decisively quick handling and surprisingly composed and confident trail manners. The 110mm of rear and 120mm of front wheel travel situate the Joplin squarely in the short-travel category. Considering the speed and efficiency with which the Joplin tackles the trail, our testers didn't seem to long for more travel often while testing. The VPP suspension platform provides a notably supportive rear end that provides ample deep stroke support, giving the Joplin a "more travel than it actually has" kind of feel. It has a quick and lively feel on the climbs, with excellent handling and sharp turning radius thanks to its shorter wheelbase and steeper head tube angle. It also surprised out testers with its capabilities on the descents, easily punching above its travel class and handling most terrain with notable confidence. It's far from a brawler, though the Joplin is more capable on the descents than the numbers suggest. This is an excellent option for the rider who seeks a lively and agile ride, values efficiency, and prefers a more calculated approach on the descents.
The Joplin features carbon fiber frame with 110mm of Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) travel. This is a dual-link system that features a link near the bottom bracket and another about 60% up the seat tube. As the bike moves through its travel, the links rotate in opposite directions. This design is known for its excellent climbing abilities and deep stroke support. One drawback is mediocre high-frequency performance. This bike is designed around a 120mm fork.
Our small frame has a 574mm top tube length and 405mm reach measurement. The head tube angle is 68-degrees and the chainstays are 432mm long. Our Joplin has a 1116mm wheelbase and 330mm bottom bracket height. Our bike weighed in at 28 pounds 13 oz without pedals and set up tubeless.
- Available in carbon fiber or aluminum frame
- 110mm of VPP rear suspension
- Designed around a 120mm travel fork
- Offered with 29-inch wheels only
- Available as a frame and shock only in aluminum for $1,999 or Carbon CC for $2,999
- Five builds available, 2 aluminum - 3 carbon, ranging in price from $2,699 up to $6,799
The Joplin sets the rider in a stable and confident attack position though it is far less aggressive than many of the other bikes in this review. With only 110mm of rear and 120mm of front wheel travel and a relatively steep 68-degree head tube angle, the Joplin is more of a precision descender than a smasher. The lower 330mm bottom bracket provides a planted feel at speed while retaining a nimble feel with assertive maneuverability. Despite its large 29-inch wheels, the Joplin responded well to minimal rider input. The larger wheel size allowed this shredder to confidently roll over anything in its path and enabled the rider to sit back and enjoy the ride.
The Joplin S is outfitted with a 120mm Fox 34 Float Performance up front and a Fox Float Performance DPS in the rear. Our small Juliana was not one bit disturbed in bumpy and chundery terrain. You can push this bike harder than you might think before it stutters. In addition to her rockstar smoothness on flowing terrain, the capabilities of our Joplin in rough and boney terrain were extraordinary. It is difficult to rattle the Joplin's cage, though it is definitely limited by its shorter travel and conservative head tube angle. For a short-travel bike, the combination of stiffer more stable platform and VPP suspension design handles high-speed sections of trail with remarkable composure. Our testers agree the Joplin gets slightly sketchy in areas of extreme high-frequency chop. If you recognize the lack of composure quickly, it can be corrected before disaster strikes.
High-speed flowy terrain was the area where the Joplin really excelled. Once this bike was cranked up to speed, it felt balanced and smooth with a fun, pleasant, and energetic attitude. The SRAM Level TL brakes provided substantial power with a controlled feel to the brake lever.
Once it was on course, it was hard to get the Joplin to stray. It performed well when the rider is positioned slightly further back, allowing the front end to do its thing and cruise over most types of terrain. Testers found they were able to ride the Joplin aggressively on the descents, though in less of a charging the fall line kind of way. Much of this is due to the length of the wheelbase and chainstay. The shorter Joplin did not feel as though it was reaching around corners nor did it feel as though the chainstay and rear end were playing cat and mouse with the rest of the bike. Longer bikes tend to be sluggish in low-mid speed corners. With the Joplin, there is little-to-no lag, and it feels quick and responsive to dance through technical sections.
Our testers found the cornering aptitudes of the Juliana Joplin 2.0 to be at different ends of the spectrum. Our more aggressive and super-charged tester X thought that the bike handled well in corners with weight back in an athletic position. Efficient attack mode in the corners was achievable even when corners drifted away to flat and were soft and sandy. Our lighter and more finesse-y tester Y indicated that corners at high and low speeds were more difficult to set up for and body position was farther forward over the bike when entering corners and that the flatter stock bars the bike is outfitted with may have something to do with that.
Climbing capabilities of our small Joplin 2.0 were beyond stellar. The 29-inch wheels with the 30-tooth ring up front made it climb like a dream. The wheels want to roll up and over even the steepest of steps without taking much effort. This bike's platform allows for exciting excursions around your local or distant forest adventures. The Joplin rocketed up challenging terrain with the aid from its trusty 1x12 SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain while shifting with ease and fluidity. The head tube angle is comfortably situated at 68 degrees providing very direct steering, a short turning radius, and a strain-free body position.
Climbing efficiency on the Joplin while both seated and standing were super comfortable. With an effective seat tube angle of 73 degrees, the saddle position of the Joplin is well behind the bottom bracket but didn't make our testers feel too far back or detract from performance. The geometry allowed the rider to generate a forward propelling feeling at all times, and it felt able to scale any mountain with remarkable composure.
Technical climbs don't stand a chance when the Joplin takes the stage. The performance of this bike is impressive as it steadily creeps and crawls uphill like a mountain lion hunting its prey. In steeper sandy sections of climbing, the Joplin also performed in such a way that if we found ourselves in a standing position, there was little to no energy loss. That said, the traction was questionable due to the Maxxis Ardent EXO TR tires. These are faster rolling tires designed for XC and endurance, not superior grip. The Joplin blasts its competition away at the start gate on mellower climbs. She gets the whole shot and then powers on with a consistent pace keeping her eye on the prize.
The Juliana Joplin, unlike some other 29ers, maneuvers extraordinarily well uphill around switchbacks and turns. Having a shorter wheelbase just shy of 1116mm and a steeper head tube angle is beneficial for wrapping around uphill turns. The flat bars also help get your weight forward to make it up even the loosest and steepest trail. The climb switch on the Fox Float Performance DPS shock was by no means necessary when climbing on the Joplin, though it was nice for extended paved or fire road ascents.
We tested the Joplin Carbon S which sells for $4799. Here are some other noteworthy build kits.
If our test model seems a little spendy, the Joplin D Aluminum is the entry-level model and sells for $2699. The aluminum frame offers the same geometry as the carbon version. The only penalty is a slightly higher weight and reduced frame stiffness. This bike is powered by a SRAM NX 1x11 drivetrain and runs a RockShox Recon RL 120 fork. This build does not come with a dropper seat post, but it is a nice way to get on a high-end frame design at a reduced price.
If you want a carbon frame, the Joplin Carbon R retails for $3899. This build kit runs the new SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain and a Fox Rhythm 34 fork. SRAM Level T brakes offer stellar stopping power and this bike rolls on WTB rims laced to SRAM hubs. This is a serviceable bike that would be great to upgrade over time.
Looking to go high-end? The XO1 Carbon CC build is one sick bike. For $6799, this bike uses Santa Cruz' Carbon CC frame which saves approximately a half-pound over the regular Carbon C frames. This bike uses Fox Performance Elite suspension, SRAM Level TLM brakes, and a SRAM X01 drivetrain.
The Joplin C S carries a $4799 price tag. This lofty price tag comes with decisively high-end performance. It is easy to call the Joplin a solid value.
Wider rubber would be beneficial on this short-travel ripper. A pairing of a 2.5 Maxxis Minion DHF and 2.4-inch Minion DHR II would enhance traction and suspension feel while boosting confidence.
The Juliana Joplin Carbon S is a remarkable all-around climber and descender and is our Top Pick Award winner for a short travel trail bike. This bike operates with confidence in both high-speed situations and surprisingly rowdy terrain, though it doesn't charge quite as hard as bikes with more travel or slacker head tubes. One of our testers describes the Joplin as "an extraordinarily playful bike when it gets your approval for roughhousing." The bike in no way hesitates as you push it to its limits and is a great option for the more XC-oriented rider. The proven VPP suspension design and responsive handling create a joyous riding experience.
— Tasha Thomas
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