2023 Juliana Furtado MX Long Term Review
I had the opportunity to test the new 2022 Juliana Furtado MX this fall and have managed to get in some good long rides, some scary rides, some sufferfests and some pure woot-woots, a nice balance if I do say so myself! After last year's 9 straight months of rain, which deprived the PNW of any of the highly coveted “all time fall time”, mother nature has blessed us with more than an average number of sunny days this fall – a never ending summer it felt like for a while! While the sunshine was nice, the trails, forests, rivers and salmon really suffered from the lack of rain, so I think it’s safe to say we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when the rain finally did arrive. But somehow, the sun came back again with cooler temperatures and tacky dirt and damn if the last few weeks haven’t been the all-time fall-time that we missed last year, and this year’s combined! With the sunshine and good weather unexpectedly still around in November, I headed to Bellingham for the first time since the world changed in 2020 with three other rad women to ride bikes and brought Ms. Furtado along. If you haven’t had the pleasure of riding in Bellingham, it is well worth it. The Whatcom Mtb Bike Coalition does an incredible job with their network, the trails have lots of flow and some awesome jump lines for every skill level, with opportunities for progression galore! Everyone we met on the trails was so friendly. We even ran into Jill Kintner while riding on Galbraith and she took us through the Cedar jumps - I can't think of a warmer welcome!
The Furtado model I tested is the Furtado CC XO1 AXS RSV in size Medium, built out as follows:
- Fork: Rockshox Pike Ultimate 140mm (29)
- Shock: Rockshox Super Deluxe Ultimate
- Bars: 760mm Santa Cruz 20 Carbon bars
- Headset: Cane Creek 40 IS Integrated Headset
- Brakes: SRAM G2 RSC
- Rotors: Avid Centreline 200mm Front/ 180mm Back
- Dropper: Reverb Stealth 125mm-200mm
- Drivetrain: SRAM XO1 AXS Eagle, 12spd (32T front chain ring)
- Wheels: Santa Cruz Carbon Reserve 30 Rims with Industry Nine 1/1 Hubs (boost) - Mullet!
- Tires: Maxxis DHR II, Maxxgrip front and Maxxterra rear
I generally start my suspension baselines using the value of my weight in kg in the fork and my weight in lbs in the shock, and fairly neutral in the compression settings. I maintained that approach with the Furtado.
Three days of riding in Bellingham ended up showcasing all the strengths and the few weaknesses of the Furtado. It was also when a few items on the bike started to show some wear. For three months I had had almost no issues, but those that did occur came up at the same time on this trip. You could say I brought the first issue on myself when I looked at the Rockshox reverb vent valve tool on the shelf and thought “Nah, I don’t need to bring that – the seatpost has been flawless!”Somewhere Murphy is listening.
Sure enough on day one, while chasing three fast and fit women, my seat post immediately squished. This was the first day of setting the seat post up too high to compensate for the squish. The alternative was riding like I was on a BMX and burning up my quads. Thankfully we finished our ride at the Transition Outpost and the service techs kindly sorted out the post while we did the only responsible thing and had a beer. Servicing the Reverb Stealth seat post is fairly straightforward except for a few things: 1) you need a special tool, 2) the seat must be removed to access the valve. Having now serviced this post and another Reverb stealth, it seems the post needs to be serviced at least twice. In both cases after the first service it was firm, but then one ride later the post needed another service.
Other than the frustrating seat post issue, the Furtado kept up very well on the trip. We rode a variety of trails, some very steep and fast, lots of fun jump lines and some good tech. Everyone else was riding their full sized enduro bikes and I continue to be impressed by just how capable this short travel bike is.
The Furtado is a trail bike with 140mm of suspension in the front, 130mm in the back, and MX wheel sizes (aka mullet with 29 front and 27 rear). Before the Furtado arrived I was riding a Scott Ransom, which is a much longer 29er with 170 mm of suspension front and back and which is much longer 29. The Furtado is a short bike with a tight cockpit. As a rider with most of my height in my torso I was concerned about this, but I have grown to absolutely love the compact feel of this bike on descents. Compared to a lot of other bikes that have embraced longer and lower, the Furtado is snappy and compact, but still incredibly stable. After a short adjustment period I found it incredibly easy to get centred on this bike and, once centred, the bike rides very predictably and playfully. That said, because the bike is short, if the rider gets too far off the backseat its quite noticeable and bike really feels like its getting away. There is a good sweet spot on the bike, its easy to find, but also important to maintain for max-fun and control. In part due to the shortness of the bike, active fore-aft rider movement is important in technical climbing or when encountering up an over objects mid-trail. To get over an obstacle I feel like I need to (but can also easily) pick up the back end to get over it.
Where I didn’t love the shortness of the bike as much was on certain climbs. In tight switchbacks I sometimes hit my knee on the shifter and on grindy climbs I wished I was a bit more stretched out. However, the maneuverability on climbs with tight technical sections or power moves is outstanding.
I was really impressed with the riding performance of the Furtado. I wasn’t sure what to expect with a shorter travel bike. The last time I rode a bike with 130mm of rear suspension it was for the sole purpose of going fast(er) uphill. Some people have characterized the Furtado, or the Santra Cruz equivalent – the 5010, as a jump or pump track bike. That’s not wrong, but I’d say that’s unfairly pigeonholing the bike. This bike rides as capably as a much bigger bike, but it demands attention and commitment from the rider. Due to the 140 fork, its also physical and can be a bit more fatiguing on the descents than a longer travel bike.
The Furtado is not a bike that wants to be passively ridden... You can do it, but you’d miss out on its best qualities. The Furtado favours an active and physical rider; it wants to be pushed, pumped and picked up on the back end. The bike really responds to being driven and pumped through the feet to maximize the benefit of the bottomless suspension feel. The more actively you ride this bike, the more it will come alive. I had the most fun while riding lower angle pumpy terrain on this bike. The quality of the ride is dramatically better if you can let the bike run and brake less, so trails where I can carry speed and pop off features or pump, but didn’t need to brake aggressively, were all hoots and hollers.
The Furtado is undoubtedly playful and poppy. It wants to jump and feels very light. Jumping is a skill that I’m working on, and I really enjoyed playing on smaller jumps and getting more air-time comfort on this bike, especially where I could really let the bike run and finding little side hits on the trail. The most confidence inspiring element is that the Furtado always felt very stable in landing on small to medium sized jumps. I can’t comment on bigger jumps yet, but maybe someday!
Cornering is also the Furtado’s jam. The bike is easy to lean and very responsive which means you get to keep more speed through and use less brakes – and that means more fun! Its very stable turning and I never once felt like I was about to wash out. The Furtado responds well to pumping though the feet in corners which means you can really play and zip in flowy trails. If you’ve ever dreamed of popping berm to berm, this is the bike!
Where I was less pleased was in terrain that was steep and technical enough that I didn’t feel l could ride into something at trail speed. Because the suspension is short, creeping into features while braking just eats up so much of the suspension that the ride quality feels a bit harsh. I found myself really focusing on brake control further out so I could let the bike go and sit up in its suspension again before the feature. That takes a certain amount of confidence and precision, or holding your breath and hoping. In bigger terrain, it demands that you pick your lines discerningly, there just isn’t the insurance policy that long travel bikes come with and chunky ride outs require a certain amount of strength to make up for this. Riding steep and challenging terrain on the Furtado is definitely possible, it’s just harder on the body and mentally challenging.
Faster chunky terrain was also not the Furtado’s strength unless ridden pretty quick. The bike feels very stable, even at speed, but chunky terrain felt rough unless you could totally lay off the brakes and let the suspension use its full depth. In Bellingham we rode a few lines that were long, chunky and fast but not knowing the trails I needed to keep some things in check: I didn’t love the bike in those situations because the suspension can feel a bit chattery when braking at speed, which is not unexpected for the travel.
The Furtado is a short travel bike but certainly not an XC bike. The short geo of the bike, the mullet wheel set-up, the short travel and reduced anti-squat make a spritely play-full bike with great traction but not an uphill whippet. The Furtado it climbs very well, but not necessarily very fast. Because of the smaller rear wheel, acceleration is easier in tricky terrain. The bike handles incredibly well, can take tight corners and tricky lines and the small wheel makes some power moves more accessible because it takes less energy to get it moving up punchy climbs. The reduced anti-squat means the bike sinks down a bit more than, for example, a typical XC bike. Fortunately this means when it climbs the wheels track the ground very well. The tradeoff is the bike doesn’t stay as high in its travel and a bit more energy is lost to the ground-tracking action of the suspension unless the shock lock-out is on. I enjoyed climbing the Furtado because I could take some tricky terrain a bit slower and the traction was really impressive, but if I wanted to hammer uphill, I felt like my energy didn’t translate as well into pure uphill movement. From my house I have a quick lunch ride, and on a good day, I can get to the top of the climb in about 45 minutes on my 29’r. I found the Furtado was typically about 2 minutes slower with a similar energy output.
Riders who find their main struggles are power moves and technical features but are happy to pedal at a more casual pace will probably love this feel and find it serves them well. I did find that I missed the rolling speed of the 29er on flatter or low angle terrain, but I could offset that somewhat by maintaining speed better in some situations due to how well the Furtado handles, especially in corners.
The Rockshox Super Deluxe shock on the Furtado comes with a lock-out, which is helpful on roads. I did ride single track climb trails a few times with the lock-out on but if a trail is technical or slippery, the traction provided by the open shock outweighs the benefit of the lock-out. I didn’t use the lock-out that much because it is hard to reach with the water bottle placement on the bike. It would be tricky to use on the fly and is more suited as a lockout for longer approach climbs rather than a lockout you may choose to use several times through a ride.
Climbing brings us to the second issue I encountered with the Furtado; my burning legs in Bellingham. Just before the trip I noticed that shifting in the easiest gears was a bit off. I assumed it was probably a sign to lube and clean the drivetrain and so I did that and went off on my merry way to the long weekend trip. Second lesson here is that old saying about assumptions is really true.
I hadn’t ridden with two of the other girls on the trip before, Julia and Solenne, but I figured if they were friends with the third, fast-Sarah, they were probably also pretty quick uphill. I didn’t really think too much of it when I felt a bit gassed and my legs burned a bit more than usual while climbing all weekend as a result. Unfortunately that darn lube trick didn’t sort out the shifting completely and it was still a bit grindy in granny gear. When I came home we put the bike in the stand to sort out the shifting and Deniz immediately noticed that my rear wheel was hardly spinning. He looked at me with that “your rode all weekend with your brakes rubbing??” look and proceeded to adjust the brakes. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. So “we” started taking the rear hub apart and found the culprit – an incredibly rough and compacted set of hub bearings which basically seized the hub. That compaction also changed the alignment of the cassette and derailleur just enough that it threw the shifting off. Considering I’ve only had this bike for 3 months, most of which have been dry, this seems like premature wear. Aside from my mild joy at realizing being so tired wasn’t all my fault, the state of this hub was concerning. I have i9 hubs on my personal wheels and after 2 years they are still spinning much smoother than these.
I reached out to Juliana and was told that the rims (Santa Cruz Carbon) are covered by their warranty but the hubs are not. I was provided with a service email for i9, sent off an email, and very quickly received a response from Willy at i9 who requested a few pictures and videos. Through reviewing the images, Willy confirmed that the hub appeared to be suffering from an over preloading of the bearings, which typically occur if one of the parts (axel, bearing spacer etc) is a touch short or has become damaged or "mushroomed" in some way. Willy packed up a replacement axle, freehub bearing spacer and new bearings to swap in and sent them by priority courier free of charge. All told it took two days from my initial email to i9 for parts to be ready to ship and I’m very pleased with their responsiveness and resolution. Manufacturing defects happen from time to time, the important thing is how and how quickly they are resolved.
Why a Juliana?
Juliana is the sister brand to Santa Cruz, and the Furtado is equivalent to a Santa Cruz 5010. The key things that make the Furtado different from the 5010 are:
- Touchpoints: The Furtado comes stock with a women’s specific saddle and Juliana grips. The Furtado medium also comes with 760mm bars whereas the 5010 come with 800mm bars.
- Shock Tune: The Furtado suspension comes with a lighter tune.
- Frame Finish: The Furtado has a Matte Aquamarine colour with bright green decals and the 5010 is glossy bright red or matte nickel.
- Branding: Juliana focusses on supporting women riders and has a great roster of incredible female athletes they are supporting. They also sponsor a lot of events focused on increasing female participation in mountain biking.
The spec differences are minor but I would prefer to see a wider bar stocked on the Medium Furtado’s – 760mm is a little narrow for me. My preference would be to run this bike with 780 bars, which I could do easily if they came with 800's, but I'm guessing that gluing little bits of carbon to the end of the 760s is probably inadvisable. My bike came with a Juliana-branded saddle (ends up not a WTB as previously noted!) with carbon rails. I broke that saddle after 5 rides. The saddle is very comfortable but, in my opinion, carbon rails have no place on a mountain bike saddle unless its for XC racing. Juliana sent me a replacement saddle but this is not a typical warranty procedure.
The lighter tune on the shock is interesting. I had a chance to ride the 5010 and the differences I noticed were subtle. I felt like the shock on the 5010 - set to the same settings as the Furtado - felt a bit firmer on the top end. The shock seemed to activate on the Furtado with less effort, which would help lighter or less aggressive riders access the shock more easily. I didn't notice any other big difference between the rear suspension on the two bikes, but I would guess that the lighter tune on the Furtado also contributes a bit to the more squat and plush feel on the bike while climbing, but the tune on the 5010 may keep heavier riders higher in the travel on the uphills. This lighter tune could have benefits for the lighter weight rider or riders who aren't quite as active on their bike, but likely has little benefit for a rider who weighs closer to a male average weight and who rides aggressively.
The biggest difference between the bikes are the community and branding aspects. There have been several times I’ve been out on the trails and someone has remarked about the bike, or another woman has found some instant kinship if she was also riding a Juliana, and I just love that. When I first got this bike to review someone made a remark about how “girls bikes” aren’t needed and suggested I should reach out to a few well known riders in our area to ask if they “ride like a girl.” I was immediately reminded about how much we need brands like Juliana doing what they do. I hope that all the amazing women riders I know and have the pleasure of riding with do think they ride like a girl – because that’s rad.
Women are riders, good riders, accomplished riders, and for far too long have had to claw and fight for a tiny part of the pie. I don’t think women’s specific bikes are necessarily needed, but I do think brands that build bikes that are capable for smaller riders and who support and lift up women riders as a priority are deeply needed. Most brands have now evolved to have some women in their athlete rosters, but not an equal amount, and never the majority… unless it’s a women’s specific brand. I hope someday that we can look to all the brands out there and see just as many women as the face of the brand as men, but until then we need companies who are specifically putting women first and hopefully changing the old stereotypes that riding like a girl is somehow an insult. A lot of people should be lucky enough to ride like the talented women and girls I know.
As a rider who lives on the North Shore and enjoys riding more technical trails but still has objectives I’m working my way up to (do we ever stop?), I feel this would be an amazing second bike for me. I can ride a lot of my regular trails, and some more "thrilling" ones, on this bike but felt more fatigued with the shorter suspension. If this was my bike, I would probably put a 150 fork on it just for some extra cush.
If you are seeking to push the boundaries of your riding on technical steep trails or bigger features on very aggressive terrain, I don’t think this is the bike for you, nor is it intended to be. However, if you like to do that once in a while and are good with line choice, the Furtado can certainly rise to the occasion and will make you a better, more deliberate rider in the process. This bike is perfect for someone who loves fast and flowy riding and wants to be active and playful on their bike, or a rider who is improving their riding and wants a bike that will be good to learn new skills or tricks on. I’d happily take the Furtado on a riding trip to Vancouver Island or Sedona, for example, where terrain tends to have more flow and speed than the North Shore. This bike would also be super fun for someone who has more limited time to ride and wants to make their regular rides a bit more interesting and playful. It’s a fun bike to work on little steezy tricks, and begs you to hit all the fun little side-hits out there.
The world is your playground on the Furtado, I will miss her when she’s gone.
Furtado CC XO1 AXS RSV MSRP $13949 CDN