My Juliana Furtado bike in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, Spain
My Juliana Furtado bike in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, Spain

I love my little Juliana Furtado mountain bike. I bought her in 2013 after test riding a similar bike for Total Women’s Cycling, and completely fell in love. She’s beautiful, capable, speedy, talented – in fact pretty much perfect for most of the riding I do in the UK.

Based around the very well regarded Santa Cruz 5010 (or Solo, as it used to be known as), the Juliana Furtado climbs efficiently, and can take on much gnarlier terrain than you might think possible with only 130mm of travel. I’ve ridden her in the Peak District and the Lake District. I’ve even taken her back to what I like to think of as her spiritual home: the loop around Torridon in Scotland made famous by Steve Peat in the original Santa Cruz 5010 promo vid. (It’s an amazing loop, by the way, and should be added to your ‘were to ride’ bucket list.)

That said, I did change a few things when I got her. I opted for the Rockshox Reverb dropper seatpost upgrade, and to be honest I can’t imagine riding without one now. I also opted for Rockshox Revalations Forks (with 140mm travel) rather than the Fox Float 32 forks it came specc’d with. I also swapped out the Juliana handlebars which were a bit narrow for me.

But nearly one year on, and it was time to upgrade a few bits and bobs. I was heading off to the Sierra Nevada mountains of Spain for an enduro MTB holiday with Switchbacks, and much as I would love to have an all-mountain bike like the Juliana Roubion with longer travel for these trips, I just can’t afford it. My aim was to reduce weight, get rid of the triple chain ring which I was beginning to bash a little when dropping off bigger rocks, and get me a little more braking power for the longer descents I’d be doing. So I did the following:

1. Changed the Bars & Stem

Swapping in 720mm bars gave me a lot more control, which is perfect for riding at speed and for more aggressive downhills. The fact that they were carbon meant I dropped weight, and a surprisingly noticeable amount too. I’d also already changed the stem to a shorter 35mm Easton Havoc. This is because I find that Juliana/Santa Cruz frames size up a little small for me. Although according to their guide I would take a Medium, in practice it was too short for me so I opted for the Large and brought the reach back with the shorter stem. Again, if you ever needed evidence as to why it’s a good idea to test ride a bike before trying, this would be it!

The upgraded Juliana Furtado in action on '100 Switchbacks' (it doesn't actually have 100 switchbacks on the trail, fyi) Image copyright Aoife Glass
The upgraded Juliana Furtado in action on ‘100 Switchbacks’ (it doesn’t actually have 100 switchbacks on the trail, fyi)

2. Changed the Chainset

The Juliana Furtado from 2013 came with a Shimano Deore triple chainset. It had served me well but I’d fallen in love with the Sram XX1 chainset that was on the Juliana Roubion. Basically, I’ve come to the conclusion that single rings rule – it was so nice only having one chainring at the front; I didn’t drop my chain, I only had one set of gear levers to fiddle with, and there was no front mech to have problems with. However, I couldn’t afford XX1 (I’m still saving up for this!) so instead I put on a Race Face Sixc double chainset, with XTR shifters and mechs. Not quite as shiny, but actually again it meant a drop in weight and every little helps, right?

3. Changed the brakes

When mountain biking in actual mountains, where the descents are measured in minutes rather than seconds, a really good set of brakes is essential. The Deore brakes that Furtado came with had served me well, but it was time for an improvement here too. I put on Shimano XTR Trail brakes, which have a really nice feel in the levers. They give you a much more subtle control over braking, a more ‘progressive’ feel. I also gave myself  significantly more stopping power with the addition of bigger brake rotors, and my did I need it!

How did she handle Spain? The terrain was dusty, rocky and rough. I loved it, and so did she! One trail in particular stood out. It’s ironically known as ‘Fluffy Puppies’. Is it soft and smooth? Is it hell! It’s littered with rocks and boulders, and there’s not so much of a trail as ‘we’re aiming that way, just get through it’. My pimped out Furtado had no issues, and despite 5 days of hard riding, I was lucky enough to suffer no mechanical misfortune. Hooray!

I love my bike 🙂