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Juliana Furtado Primeiro: Reviewed

A Women's Specific Trail Weapon

Words by Leanne Tompkins. Photos by Sean St.Denis.
June 22nd, 2014

Over the years, I have noticed the ratio of guys to girls on mountain bikes become less lop-sided. As proof, simply look at the line-ups at the Whistler Bike Park. You’ll notice that seeing female riders has become less of a novelty. With this growth in participation follows the need for bikes that complement our abilities. Juliana Bicycles, the feminine half of Santa Cruz Bicycles, has stepped up to the plate to offer a full line-up of women’s specific bikes. One of the prized bikes in Juliana’s collection is the Furtado, the namesake of Juliana’s visionary. Over the past 2 months I have had the pleasure of riding this bike on the North Shore trails, and I came away with a very positive impression of the Furtado.

The beast in all her glory after a day of riding the trails in Whistler, BC. This was the final setup I rode for the majority of my bike testing – note the regular handlebar.

The beast in all her glory after a day of riding the trails in Whistler, BC. This was the final setup I rode for the majority of my bike testing.

What is it?
The Juliana Furtado (Primeiro) is an all-mountain bike, designed to excel both at climbing and descending.

First Impression
The Furtado is a very eye-pleasing bike. The frame was not doused in rainbows, pink decals and glitter, but rather a badass blood-orange tint with (mostly) stealthy-black components that create a wicked looking bike. Visually, I approved.

To summarize how this bike feels to ride in one word: stable – whether you’re cornering, jumping, climbing or descending, this bike is nice and solid underneath you.

To summarize how this bike feels to ride in one word: stable – whether you’re cornering, jumping, climbing or descending, this bike is nice and solid underneath you.

Fit wise, I immediately noticed the handlebar combination – the Furtado features Juliana’s Mountain Compact bar and grip system. It’s a narrower handlebar that tapers down to accommodate skinny grips, designed with smaller hands in mind. This was quite different from what I was used to riding, but figured I should ride it as is before making (further) judgment on it.

What got me excited to test this bike out was the great pairing of components – Fox 32 Float Kashima fork and rear shock, Shimano Deore XT drivetrain and brakes and the essential piece of any climbing bike: the  dropper post. In this case a Rock Shox Reverb. While these are not uncommon parts, there is still a tendency to offer women’s bikes in down-spec versions of their male counterparts. I want the same benefits my male friends get offered on their bikes and we deserve nothing less.

The Fox Float fork and rear shock provided just the right amount of suspension to smooth out the rugged terrain but feel firm enough when it needed to be.

The Fox Float fork and rear shock provided just the right amount of suspension to smooth out the rugged terrain but feel firm enough when it needed to be.

Ride Impression
Ok, let’s deal with the handlebars first with a big dose of honesty: I’m not a fan. Surprisingly the issue wasn’t that the bars were too narrow. Riding down trails that weave between tight trees is more fun when you aren’t worrying about clipping your bars, and I didn’t feel like my hands needed to be further apart.

My issue was how the smaller diameter bar limited clamping options for the shifters and the Reverb . By tapering the bar down to fit the skinny grips you lose the option to clamp your Reverb lever close to the grips. Either your Reverb release or your shifters are going to be further away from your grips. Little paws can hold on better but then you have to practically take your hand off the grips to reach the Reverb, negating any advantage of this women’s specific handlebar.

I was a little disappointed a Shimano I-Spec wasn’t included to get rid of superfluous clamps, tidy up the handlebar and offer better ergonomics for different user setups. And lastly, with a little research, I discovered that finding replacement grips that fit skinny bars is not easy. You’d most likely have to order direct through Juliana, unless your local bike shop stocks them. After several rides on the Furtado as is I swapped out the handlebar and stem and was much happier.

Coming in just under 28 lbs this carbon frame was easy to pedal uphill.  So much so that I didn’t find the 3x10 Shimano XT crankset necessary, even on steep and difficult climbs.

Coming in just under 28 lbs this carbon frame was easy to pedal uphill. So much so that I didn’t find the 3×10 Shimano XT crankset necessary, even on steep and difficult climbs.

As far as the rest of the bike is concerned, I loved it! It is a weapon to climb and descend. The carbon frame and high-end components make the bike nice and light for climbing (just under 28lbs, from the factory), and the Reverb is a great choice for a dropper post (a must-have on any good trail bike, in my opinion. The Furtado was quite stable making it easy to stay balanced while pedalling up and making powering up over rocks and roots a lot easier. On the descent the bike was also quite solid – it didn’t bounce around and was effortless to control. You really can rally the corners and ride steeper terrain comfortably. All around, it rode very well.

Riding a bike with all the options is nice – especially when that includes a Rock Shox Reverb dropper post to change seat heights with ease.

Riding a bike with all the options is nice – especially when that includes a Rock Shox Reverb dropper post to change seat heights with ease.

The Fox 32 Float fork and rear shock have the Climb-Trail-Descend (CTD) option, which I especially like. Being able to lock out your suspension while climbing and then engage it with a simple flick of the switch before you descend makes this bike more versatile. The suspension also offers enough travel (130 mm up front and 125 in the rear, aka 5 inches of love) that you can easily ride over rough terrain at high speeds and feel stable, as well as hit jumps or drops and not feel like your spine is going to compress. When I set the suspension up with 30% sag I found it supple enough over the rocks and roots, but supportive enough when cornering aggressively or hitting small/medium size jumps and drops.

Trail-Descend options (CTD), so with a flick of the switch you can unlock your suspension after climbing and take advantage of however much of it you want on the descent.

One of my favorite aspects to this bike is how seamlessly it shifts from a great climbing bike to a fun downhill bike. The Fox suspension features the Climb- Trail-Descend options (CTD), so with a flick of the switch you can unlock your suspension after climbing and take advantage of however much of it you want on the descent.

I usually ride a single ring up front, therefore I felt that the Shimano 3×10 XT crankset was excessive. I never found the need to use the 44T chain ring. On chunkier trails, it also had the tendency to hang up on rocks and roots. In my opinion, a 2×10 system with a smaller big ring would have been more appropriate for all types of riders while making the bike slightly lighter.

One of the “women’s specific” features of the Furtado is the shorter cranks, which for those with short legs is great. If you have longer legs you may find this less desirable.

One of the “women’s specific” features of the Furtado is the shorter cranks, which for those with short legs is great. If you have longer legs you may find this less desirable.

The other women’s specific aspects to this bike are the saddle (comfortable) and the cranks (shorter). I have short legs and a long torso, so for me riding a medium frame the top tube length and short cranks fit me perfectly. But not every girl has this build so this may be less than ideal for some of you. If you hop online and check out the Santa Cruz 5010c you will notice that this is bike is very similar (aka the same frame but in a different colour) and has longer cranks if you need a slightly different setup.

JulianaBikes2014-2896 (1)

Although this bike is not really a women’s specific bike, but rather the Santa Cruz 5010c in a better colour, it is still a wicked bike and a lot of fun to ride. It really felt like the do-it-all bike it’s designed to be, and I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Final Thoughts
Do I think this is a women’s specific bike? No, it’s the same bike as the Santa Cruz 5010c with different paint with a few different components. Did I like riding this bike? Heck yes. Would I still recommend it to girls looking at a sweet all-mountain bike? Absolutely – but I would also recommend they swap out a few of the stock components to fully experience this bike’s potential.


Could there be a Furtado in your future?

  • GoatOnMorphine

    I took this bike for a spin in Park City at a demo and really enjoyed it, but I fully agree with your review–mostly caters to a different body type rather than women specifically

  • sally

    I found that the pictures showing the rider clearly riding in the big ring conflicted with the text suggesting that it was never used. Also, the 3 x 10 is the perfect set up for creating a 1 x 10, so this would be one more reason why the 3 x 10 is an acceptable spec choice. Other than that, excellent write up i’d like to see more reviews from the women’s perspective great job!!

    • SeanS.

      For the shoot we put it in the bigger ring for the descents so we could get a bit less chain slap.

      • sally

        The chain could have lost a few links. If you were to call Shimano today and ask what would be the best crankset to buy if you wanted to run a 1 x 10 set-up they would tell you that the 3 x 10 cranks have the better q factor, as well as the ability to run a bash if you found that necessary. For both of these reasons, you would be better to have the 3 X 10 set-up. If you didn’t want to take links out of the chain, and were looking for at least something to fault the bike spec on, you could complain that the 3 x 10 is unnecessary, but a little homework would prove otherwise.

      • SeanS.

        I personally ride a narrow wide on a regular set of 3X cranks and am very capable at bike servicing. But the set up on this bike was given just like this. I wasn’t about to start pulling links out on the side of the trail to get a better shot. I was getting eaten alive just with camera set up as it was. I just wanted a tighter chain. I’m not faulting the bike.

      • sally

        So in other words, the reviewer, the photographer and myself all prefer a 1×10 set-up and we all know that the 3×10 is the best crankset to achieve this. It would be important to either not recommend Shimanos 2 x 10 without noting that the 3×10 is the correct crankset if you actually preferred a 1×10. The reason I say this is that I just went through this scenario and after swapping out my 3×10 for a 2×10 I found out that the best set up for me was a shifter-less front derailleur-less 1×10 set-up…right after selling my 3×10 xt cranks…so the truth of the matter is that the 3×10 spec’d on the bike can be modified into both a 2×10 with a bash guard, and or a 1×10 which is the best spec to have on this bike.

  • YYC

    Bizarre marketing strategy by Santa Cruz. Take a gender-neutral frameset, decal it ‘women-specific’, add poorly compatible small diameter handlebar/grips and effectively eliminate 50% of the initial purchaser/resale audience (I.e. how many males will ride a Juliana?).

    Rather, could have stuck with a single Santa Cruz decal set, add a jazzier base paint frame colour option, spec the small frames with 172.5 mm cranks and sell a ‘women’s-specific’ conversion kit (handlebar/grips/seat) as an option.

    Now that we know the Juliana’s are rebadged Santa Cruz rigs, why would you buy one? To lose all the resale value when can only attract a female buying audience?

    Not to mention the questionable spec (Shimano XT?) on a >$6K build.

    Geez Santa Cruz, running out of ideas?

    • Morgan Taylor

      From what I can tell, Juliana pricing is actually cheaper than the Santa Cruz options for effectively similar builds. The SPX-AM 5010c with Kashima is $6999 on the Santa Cruz site. You have some valid points but I sense an underlying distaste for the boutique brand.

      • http://www.jerrywillows.ca Jerry Willows

        I don’t think SC would be considered boutique in the MTB world.

    • sally

      Typically in MTB, the women in the past were forced to use size small mens shoes, small mens jerseys, small mens bikes, small mens gloves, etc etc…The times are changing and I welcome this, the men have their 5010 already, the Julianna bikes are exactly what the female consumer wants, even if it is just a small frame with shorter cranks it is a start. A lot of women don’t get the cred for being true consumers outside of shoes and purses, but make women cyclists something that is meant for them and they will buy it over the mens version every time if it fits. Bizarre marketing strategy? Have a look at the Giant bikes Liv line, this direction from Santa Cruz is a step in the right direction. Morgan’s senses are spot on.

      • YYC

        Sally – check your data. The Giant Liv bikes actually have different geometries than their male counterparts (as an example – compare the Anthem vs. Lust – shorter top tube + lower standover).
        Santa Cruz isn’t doing much of anything to address women’s fit issues – it’s the same bike, same geometry with a tapered handlebar (which apparently doesn’t fit standard grip/brake clamp diameters and needs to be changed out anyway). A crank length difference of 2.5mm is relatively immaterial. This is women’s specific? It’s Malibu Stacy with a different hat.
        If you ran a bike shop, would you stock the 5010 and a few tapered handlebars to fit all potential buyers (male and female)? or would you stock the 5010 and Furtado and isolate half your potential buyers? Then make a few additional $ when the female buyer returns to upgrade the handlebar/grips because the shifters/brakes are slipping all over the place?
        Boutique brands are ‘supposed’ to fill a niche – especially when Juliana is proporting itself as ‘The Original Women’s Mountain Bike’. Would painting a car pink make it a ‘women’s specific’ car? It has a tapered steering wheel.

      • sally

        YYC, your points were already made on geometry, but keep up the hate… I did not say “this is the same as the Liv bikes” I said, it’s a step in the right direction for Santa Cruz. Your earlier point that this is a bizarre marketing strategy is clearly way off, because the female consumer does want the giant Liv bikes. For Santa Cruz to start to position itself in the women’s specific market is, as I mentioned, a step in the right direction. It’s not an “all in”, move by any means. But the market is there and with more women’s offerings, they will be less likely to ride mens bikes in the future. Thanks Santa Cruz! and Julianna!

    • boomforeal

      how many males will ride a juliana? given that they’re basically re-branded santa cruz bikes at considerably lower prices, all of the smart and secure ones

    • JA

      My bite

    • JA

      My boyfriend lives my baby blue Juliana and even after blinging it with white, gets comments on it constantly. Ha! So pimp.

  • lim

    Sorry but a quick look at the 5010c geometry reveals the frame although based in the same suspension system an overall design has different women’s specific geometry, eg. The top tube on a 17″ furtado is half an inch shorter that the 5010c. So it isn’t just a repainted Santa Cruz its a women’s specific geometry version of it. That shortens the cockpit to account for the fact that women have shorter arms and upper bodies than the equivalent height men. Might have been an idea to maybe do some research on what made the bike women’s specific before reviewing it and making assumptions based on looking at pictures.

    • YYC

      Check again lim. Top tube length is identical on size medium of both the Juliana and the 5010 (584.2 mm). But Juliana doesn’t come in a size XL.

      It is the same bike with fairy and heart decals.