ENDURO Long Term Test | Juliana Roubion – “A new relationship”
Juliana says “The Roubion is ready to handle anything your all mountain adventure can throw at it.” I am certainly going to put this to the test in 2015! The Roubion and I will be adventuring in New Zealand and Europe, seeking out the most incredible riding and exploring trails on and off the beaten track.
I mainly race enduro and this will certainly be the focus this year, I am entering most of the Enduro World Series (EWS) rounds and also want to get a taste of some European enduro’s as I travel around following the EWS. I enjoy trails with mixed content, some steep bits to dare yourself on, some off camber to test staying power and some bermed bike park style fragments for that feel good factor!
Juliana also says that the Roubion has “All the brawn of a Bronson in the spirit of Juliana”, with this statement I felt I must evaluate what exactly I am testing with this bike. Juliana is a sister company of Santa Cruz, coming firmly under their umbrella with the female market in mind. So, am I actually testing a Santa Cruz Bronson, with the frame being identical to the Juliana Roubion? Or is this bike a whole new bike in its own right with its component parts selected by Juliana? Do I also have to bear in mind the ‘spirit of Juliana’, that special something that makes this bike different from others female specific models in its class? Can I feel it? 2015 will be an interesting year pursuing the answers to these questions, I’ll make a start today.
As already alluded to in my previous introductory article on the Roubion, this bike is aimed squarely at the female enduro market. With a carbon frame, 150mm of front and rear travel, a 650B Enve wheel set, X01 drive train and XT brakes the bike is well prepared to handle whatever you throw at it, or throw it at if you are anything like me! The Roubion is all ready to go racing, from the 650B colour coded Enve wheelset with Maxxis High Roller tyres to the 125mm Stealth Reverb dropper post, everything is geared towards race function and efficiency. The Roubion comes equipped with a popular combination of 150mm Rockshox Pikes and a Cane Creek DB Air CS shock. The other components to mention are the brakes, drive train and contact points, the bike comes equipped with a combination of Shimano, SRAM and RaceFace parts.
The stopping power comes courtesy of Shimano XT brakes with IceTech rotors. The drivetrain is a simple and quiet 1×11 SRAM XO1 set up with a RaceFace 32 tooth front chain ring and RaceFace Turbine cranks. The contact points; bars, grips and saddle are branded by Juliana’s. The bars are a slightly narrow 720mm wide with slim grips attached and the saddle looks comfy enough. The bike also came equipped with a 70mm stem, not a length very popular in the enduro market right now and as you will see below it was one of the first components to get swapped out for something more suitable for the job! A multitude of features have made this bike ‘ride changing’ for me. By that I mean it has changed how I feel about trail features, how fast I want to hit them and how much confidence I have in doing so. I look at things differently now, I know this bike is extremely capable and my speed and confidence have increased exponentially due to this.
In it’s out of the factory form the Roubion feels as good as she looks. The carbon bike is very light and this coupled with the relatively short chain stays make it feel nimble in the corners and quick to accelerate both up and down hill. It also makes grinding up hills about as pleasurable as it can get with good pedalling efficiency and very little bob from the suspension, its economical ways further added to by the climb switch feature on the Cane Creek shock. The ride position is comfortable, at 5’4” tall and on the medium sized (17” frame) with the 70mm stem I did feel a little over stretched where reach is concerned but that was easily rectified though with a shorter stem. The standover is also a little high for me but I have compromised, I would rather put up with this than be in cramped riding position on a small sized bike. The frame is fairly compact and I was surprised to feel at home on the medium where as other brands I would always choose a small.
I weigh in at 57kg and found the Cane Creek DB Air base tune a little firm for my weight. In order to achieve small bump sensitivity I had to lower the air pressure which then meant I lost a lot of mid-stroke performace, blowing through the travel far too easily. Basically, adjustments resulted in lower air pressure (approx 96psi), less low speed compression damping allowing more small bump sensitivity, a tad more high speed compression damping to save me bottoming out on big hits, less low speed rebound damping to allow for more ‘pop’ in early stages of travel and a bit more high speed rebound damping preventing the bike from bucking me in big hits or G-outs! In the Rockshox Pike forks I run 50psi with a bit more rebound damping than the base setting due to my weight. I also use quite a bit more low speed compression damping to prevent the fork diving when braking hard or when in hairpin turns.
After initially getting to know the bike I have started experimenting with components. Physically, the frame, forks and shock of my Roubion have been left as it came out of the factory, I have no complaints with either the Rockshoxs Pike forks or the Cane Creek DB Air shock. Both are perfect for the job in hand, the Pike forks are stiff and as plush as the manufactures state and the shock is ultra-adjustable, only serving to make you and the bike better! My forks and shock have been kept in tip top condition for me by the suspension specialists TF Tuned and so far have only needed a regular service with no faults reported. They appear to be hard wearing and have certainly put up with some wet and muddy abuse! I swapped out the 70mm stem for a 35mm Hope AM/Freeride stem – 70mm just isn’t that ‘enduro’ is it?!
This alteration seemed obvious to me and made me question how serious Juliana were at aiming this bike at the enduro / all mountain market kitting the Roubion out with this length stem? The next modification made to the bike was tyre choice, instead of the Maxxis High Rollers I am now running a Scwalbe Magic Mary on the front and trying out a relatively new tyre to the market – a Crown Gem by Vee Tyre Company on the rear. I much prefer the grip and feel the Magic Mary gives me in varied conditions. The Crown Gem is a fast roller, perfect for the rear especially heading out to the dry conditions of New Zealand. A word on those Enve wheels here, as great as they look and although the feedback they give is second to none, they are not user friendly. Tweaking or changing a spoke involves taking the tyre off, taking out tubeless fluid, taking rim tape out(!) and then finally getting to the nipple of the spoke which is set into the inside of the rim then using the specific ‘Enve’ tool to get the nipple out – not a quick job at all!
The colour coded Enve decals on the rim, look sweet but they are just stickers and the smallest of contacts with rock will leave them with scars telling the tale, not so cool. Little things like the maintenance time needed to change tyres on the super tight rims or change a spoke are things that need to be thought about when preparing for a privateer race season abroad with limited tools, time and facilities.
The second change I made to the bike was a pretty drastic one! The geometry of this bike is generally well set up for enduro riding and racing but I found the 67° head angle a tad steep and not really conforming with today’s enduro bike trends of ‘longer and lower’. Looking at the bike geometry on paper and noting the relatively steep head angle may put me off forking out the £6,500 for this spec of bike. To combat this issue and help the bike get in line with the other bikes in its ‘all mountain category’ I have installed an angled headset from Works Components to alter the head angle by 1.5° (other angle variations are available).This should slacken the head angle to approximately 65.5 degrees, which on paper sounds closer to the mark for its intended purpose. The wheel base is slightly lengthened and the bottom bracket lowered marginally, all factors helping to increase stability and handling at speed.
Pointing the Roubion down the best of Scottish trails the weekend after installation and she felt like a different beast! I now felt less ‘pitched’ over the bars, the slacker head angle really enhancing the bikes ability in the downhill direction without compromising the pedalling efficiency. A win win situation and the headset has stayed!
Thirdly I have mounted a Mozzart HXR chain guide and bash guard for extra security. I haven’t dropped a chain yet from the Race Face narrow wide chain ring but equally I’m not that keen on my first time being in a timed stage of a race! The Mozzart guide is unobtrusive, making a neat, effective and light addition to the Roubion. Lastly I have also swapped out the standard Juliana bars for carbon Deity Component T-Mo Enduro bars. The Juliana bars were quite flat and only 720mm wide, I wanted to experiment a slightly wider bar with a rise and see how I got on. The Deity Components bars, although not officially female specific are 735mm wide with a 15mm rise, this and the fact that current World Champ Tracy Mosely had an input in designing them was a no-brainer as my choice of bars, keeping both the enduro and the female angle intact. The new bars provide more precise steering and ultimately increased control of the bike, whilst still being light and strong. I have also changed my grips to Uberbike Half Waffle
You can follow the progress of the Juliana Rubion and all the rest of the ENDURO Trail Team test bikes on the interactive timeline.
Words and photos: Rachael Gurney