A bit niche, then? Maybe, but according to Will Ockelton, market manager at Santa Cruz Bicycles, “Yeah it is, but we’ve always been about doing ‘nichey’ things. We thought, well, you can’t get any more niche than doing a 170mm travel bike unless we went full V10. This is the longest-travel trail bike that’s attempting to target a women’s audience specifically.”
Key bikes of 2018 – The Juliana Strega and Santa Cruz Nomad
While the company openly admits it might not be a massive money maker, Juliana clearly feels it’s important for the brand to be offering a wider choice of bikes.
But what is the Strega all about? And what on earth does Strega mean?
The symbol of fire illuminates the latest big hitting trail bike from Juliana in the town where the marketing team conjured up the nameSven Martin/Santa Cruz Bicycles
It was when Juliana ambassador, Anka Martin, her husband and photographer Sven along with Will visited the picturesque town of Triora, Italy to scout trails they stumbled upon a rather interesting fact.
As it turns out, Triora was the last town in Europe to have burnt a strega or, as we know them, a witch. The rest more or less writes itself.
Ockelton excitedly adds some detail: “The Strega feels like it’s the kinda bike that’s just out there on a limb, and it’s this whole theme of the witches who, if you ever look into it, those women were the outliers in the community. They were probably the coolest people that lived in that bloody community! They just weren’t like the masses. I think this is a bike that’s not like the masses. It’s out there on the fringes and who cares if we get lambasted for doing it. People who get it will get it.”
It’ll come as no real surprise to you that the Strega uses the same frame as the new Nomad that’s being released simultaneously. The main difference here is that the Strega has a different shock tune (light compression and light rebound compared to medium compression and medium rebound found on the Nomad) along with different contact points, including the saddle shape, handlebar width, narrower grips and smaller chainrings. Seat post travel will also vary between sizes.
The low-slung shock passes through the seat tube and is actuated via the lower of the two links, unlike any of the other trail bikes in the Juliana rangeSven Martin/Santa Cruz Bicycles
Juliana keeps the travel balanced front to rear, with both ends sporting 170mm. Like the rest of the trail bikes in the line-up, the Strega also uses the well-proven Virtual Pivot Point suspension platform. This will be the first of its bikes to have a shock that’s driven by the lower rather than upper link.
The only other bike to operate like this is partner company Santa Cruz’s V10 downhill bike. Why? Josh Kissner, product manager elaborates: “The number one thing we wanted to work on was the suspension performance.” Kissner continues to say that they “made it more like the V10.”
That means the Strega’s leverage curve is very similar to that of the World Cup winning downhill bike, as Kissner elaborates: “it’s basically a straight line and quite progressive. The goal being high leverage at the beginning so it really swallows small bumps, and then supportive in the middle, which is really important on longer travel bikes”.
To get the shock where it needed to be in the frame, the Strega sports a shock tunnel in the seat tube. Juliana has ensured there’s enough room in to fit pretty much any shock that riders might want. (Provided it’s of the new metric variety and 230x60mm),
Unlike the new Nomad, the Strega will only be available with an air-sprung shock. Five of the seven Strega models will use the latest RockShox Super Deluxe RCT, which uses cartridge bearings in the upper eyelet to counteract rotation and keep things feeling as smooth as possible as the bike moves through its travel. These particular shocks also let you fine tune low-speed compression damping, which is useful too.
Positioning the shock in such a place does, of course, leave it open to the elements, or at least all the muck and debris likely to be ejected from the rear wheel. To try and keep the worst of this off, Juliana has created a small fender for the shock — a nice touch for those of you that spend half the year plowing through mud.
This tiny little fender helps to keep as much roost and trail debris off of the shock as possibleSven Martin/Santa Cruz Bicycles
In a bid to keep things as versatile as possible, the new bike uses flip chips down in the lower link which offer a high and low position. When questioned on why Juliana didn’t settle on just one geometry position, Kissner says: “there’s no huge downside to it” and it’s not something that adds much in terms of cost. In the high setting, the bottom bracket has 10mm of drop and sits a claimed 344mm off the floor, which is good going for a bike with this sort of travel. The low setting drops the bottom bracket by 5mm and slackens the head angle by 0.4 degrees, taking from 65 to 64.6 degrees.”
Juliana has been quite bold with the Strega’s sizing, especially in terms of reach when compared to their current biggest hitter, the Roubion. While a medium Roubion sports a reach of 425mm, the medium Strega gets an extra 15mm, putting it at 440mm. Chainstays are kept pretty short at 430mm.
The Code lever sits just above the new RockShox Reverb remote which you’ll find on each and every StregaSven Martin/Santa Cruz Bicycles
Other points to note include the grease ports in the links to help keep things running smoothly along with a threaded bottom bracket, space for a bottle cage and some revised down tube protection.
Juliana has now improved its underbelly protection, using a thick plastic bolt-on guard to fend off any potential carbon damaging rock strikes. Interestingly, it’s also added a down tube guard, which sits in between the lower guard and head tube junction. This unusual bit of protection might not be totally relevant to some of us, but for those that sling their bike in the back of a pickup truck with the front wheel hanging over the tailgate, it should help keep any nasty scuffs and scrapes at bay.
While the revised 2018 Lyrik — the fork used on all but one model, which gets Yari — will accept a 2.8in front tyre, the Strega’s back-end won’t quite accept plus sized rubber, but there’s enough room to fit a 2.6in tyre in, thanks in part to the heavy shaping on the seatstays.
There’s also a new 180mm post-mount rear brake mount which will allow the rider to bolt the caliper straight onto the frame.
SRAM’s powerful Code brakes feature throughout much of the Strega line-up and are paired with 180mm rotorsSven Martin/Santa Cruz Bicycles
Currently, the Strega is only available in carbon, but as with the rest of the range, comes in the cheaper C or more expensive CC offerings. Juliana did tell us that an aluminium version of the Strega is due to hit the shops in August though.
“But why isn’t it a 29er?” We hear you cry. “For us, we would like to make a longer travel 29er, I don’t think we want to do something quite this big, not a 170. I think we feel this is sufficiently stable and has enough traction,” says Kissner.
The Strega comes in extra-small, small and medium frame sizes.
What’s on offer and how much will it cost?
There are, in fact, a whopping seven different frame builds and build kit options to choose from, along with a frame-only option, which will set you back £3,199/$TBC.
As for the bikes, pricing starts at £4,299 / $4,499 for the Strega CR, which boasts a RockShox Yari fork, SRAM’s NX gearing and Guide R brakes.
If you’re happy to shell out a little more, the first in the line-up to receive the full bells and whistles Lyrik RCT3 fork and Super Deluxe RCT rear shock is the Strega C XE, costing £5,599 / $5,899.
Should you feel particularly flush and want all the trimmings, for £7,999 / $9,399 the Strega CC XX1 Reserve can be yours. As the name suggests, it sports the latest 12-speed SRAM XX1 Eagle gearing, top of the line Lyrik and Super Deluxe dampers, Code RSC brakes and Santa Cruz Reserve rims on Industry9 Torch Classic hubs.
Juliana claims this weighs in at a decent 13.2kg / 29lb (size medium).