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Exploring the Santa Cruz Mountains with Juliana Bicycles

A review of the new Quincy Gravel Frame

Originally written for Pretty. Damned. Fast.

All photographs by Ian Collins

On a stunningly clear day on the Northern California Coast, I met up with the ladies who run Juliana bikes and a team of the most adventurous cyclists we could find . We stopped by HQ to gear up the new Quincy gravel frame, and soon headed north out of Santa Cruz and into the mountains. We had all the rugged, stunning diversity of the Northern California coast at our finger tips, and planned a route that would take us through damp, shady dells, sandy ridges, and along hardened bluffs. After stuffing our pockets full of snacks and cinching our pedals down tight, we began the climb out of town and into the surrounding forest service roads.

The genre of adventure and gravel bikes has grown rapidly in the past few years. While the cousins in this category share many consistent characteristics, the growing popularity of gravel grinder races and bike packing has inspired rapid innovation and any number of variations on the theme. The goal is to make a machine that is nimble enough to navigate through washed out roads and mellow single track but comfortable to ride on all day. Juliana solves this problem deftly and with a heavy dose of style. Built on the successful geometry of her sibling, the Santa Cruz Stigmata, the Quincy offers room for tires you can trust down unnamed roads, and a wider wheel base to keep you upright around sharp corners and bumps. Juliana offers it built up either with 700c wheels and a SRAM Rival 1x11 drivetrain that would be equally at home off the road or on the cross course, or the 650b adventure oriented model that I was riding. This version comes with smaller wheels to offer more comfort and agility on rugged courses and a SRAM eTap 1 x 12 drive train. Once we began the climb over the first range of hills into Big Basin Park, I shifted through the gears quickly before landing on a sprocket the size of a dinner plate, making the initial 2,000’ climb a breeze. At first glance, the carbon frame with its sleek iridescent may look like a road bike. But it is most happy in the dirt, with slightly slacker head tube angle and wider wheel base to keep you steady over rutted out roads, and shallower seat tube angle places the rider in a more upright position with less pressure on your hands and a clearer view of the road ahead.

This was ideal for the ride we had planned, because I didn’t want to miss the chance to gape at the majestic groves of redwood trees or sweeping views of the coast that we were winding through. We soon turned onto a small, hidden forest service road. The steep descent down the rocky path made clear that the designers had used their years of expertise in the mountain bike industry to dial in the bike’s handling. I usually take my time around corners, especially when there is any loose gravel in sight, but the extra clearance on the frame allowed for super knobby tires that cut right through the layer of eucalyptus bark and loamy redwood top soil as we descended into Big Basin State Park.

Big Basin is famous for its redwood groves, which are concentrated in the lower dells of the park where fog collects and moisture is plentiful. We followed a road cut into the rock on the side of the hill climbing up alongside these giants past their ancient furrowed bark to the scraggly needles in the canopy. The lightning fast electronic shifting enabled me to navigate the steep changes in pitch without having to anticipate them and shift down ahead of time. This gave me more freedom to soak in the scenery and wonder at the dramatic changes in microclimates we were traveling through.

After crossing several ridiculously scenic brooks that can only be described as ‘babbling’, we emerged from the shady grove into an entirely new ecosystem. The open redwood cathedral gave way to more densely packed brush, finally opening on a sandy ridgeline. Looking back over the tree tops we has just climbed out of, we had an expansive view over the Santa Cruz Mountains and down to the rugged Northern California Coast.

The 650b Quincy comes with 2” WTB Ranger Tires, which were key as we left the rock ledge which the fire road was cut into and begin navigating sandy gravel climbs. The extra grip helped pull me up the 3,800 feet of elevation in our itinerary. By the time we climbed up to the viewpoint perched 1,500 ft above the pacific coast, I was grateful to all the thought that had gone into engineering this svelte carbon frame down to just 18 lbs. I find that extra weight was better dedicated to carrying some trail beers to enjoy at the summit!

After an incredibly satisfying (although slightly smushed) half sandwich, we began the well-earned descent. The chaparral dropped away beneath us, giving way to sandy switch backs bordered by rolling hills and farm land. This quick turns allowed me to test out the nimble steering and stable wheel base of the Quincy. I could comfortably fly into the corners with only a light tap on the SRAM Force hydraulic brakes that are spec’d on the Quincy bikes come with. By the time we reached the bottom, I was smiling so wide a literally had a bug flatten against my teeth on the rapid descent.

We rolled into the quaint seaside ‘Pie Ranch’ – a local legend among snack aficionados cycling Highway 1. Their chocolate crème pie almost demands its own review. Refueled, we started heading south on Highway 1, wedged between pastoral farm land and a steep bluff above the Pacific. The views were so magical you really could imagine Pies grazing on the wildflower studded slopes. Between the pronounced knobs on the tires and the Juliana’s dirt rag pedigree, the Quincy does feel a bit out of place on the road. The ride was comfortable as we wound through pastures and crushed the climb Swanton Road, but it didn’t handle quite as well on the paved descent. We followed the country road through a small valley carved by a creek surveyed by a rather contented looking herd of cows, and soon looped back to meet up with Highway 1. A few miles later, we arrived at Cemitas 1, a seaside taco joint where our ride (not to mention dinner!!) was waiting.

After a long day on a new bike, I was amazingly free of aches and pains. I have gone through any number of bike fits and component switches to dial in the fit of the bikes in my own stable do to frequent knee and lower back pain. Other than a few adjustments to saddle height, the Quincy fit me amazingly well out of the box. I credit this in part to the gravel specific geometry, but also to the selection components that come standard, which are tailored to women. I discussed this well curated selection with Juliana’s brand manager, Katie Zaffke, over another round of micheladas. They selected narrower, 38 cm wide Easton ‘flare’ handlebars to fit the average woman’s shoulder width, and an Ergon SR10 Women’s saddle, both of which I found comfortable and competent over rough roads and rocky terrain. Some companies also adjust the geometry of the frame for their women’s bikes, the most common approach being to shorten the top tube. I have a slightly long torso, so this approach has never worked for me, and I often feel cramped and hunched over on women’s specific frames. Juliana has eschewed this approach for selecting geometry and components that they feel will work for the largest range of body types, which luckily includes mine. This description would not be complete without taking a moment to gush over the paint job, which I find elegant and distinctive, without being girly. There is no trace of the industry standard ‘shrink it and pink it’ approach to making women’s specific cycling gear!

In brief

This beautiful piece of machinery merges the nimble steering Juliana Bike has developed for their mountain bikes and comfortable geometry for all day riding. Combined with the components package, this makes it a great option for long adventures and crushing gravel climbs. It can handle versatile terrain, and while it could easily handle a cyclocross race, but is targeted to longer rides off the beaten path.

The route that the crew at Juliana Bikes curated was truly stellar. I encourage you to check it out no matter what bike you are riding (Just make sure to throw on some beefy tires!):

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