Rosie has spent the summer since the Juliana Strega launch seeing if the big green witch could perform as well at home as it did in the Alps.
Everything is lovey when the sun is out and there’s people to keep the bike running sweet in the Italian Alps, but what happens when you turn a witch loose in the UK? Rosie got her mitts on a Juliana Strega to see how the 170mm travel weapon would handle home turf.
Based on its performance at the launch event in Italy earlier in the year, I was determined to get my grubby paws on a Strega on home turf and see what delights it could unleash.
My wishes were granted with the arrival of a minty green monster in preparation for the No Fuss Lowepro Endurance Downhill at Fort William.
The weeks preceding the race were taken up attempting to find the end of the Strega’s capabilities. Firstly a slope too steep for the Strega to roll down. Calderdale has steep slop in abundance, but the steeper the terrain, the more composed the Strega feels.
I tried a different tack; surely a bike this burly would be a nightmare to pedal uphill? I was just as fruitless in this endeavour, managing to pedal the Strega up some techy climbs I’ve only previously managed on my featherweight XC whip. The low BB took me and my riding style by surprise initially and I had some pretty eye-watering crunches of crank-ground interface. This took some adjusting to, but once I’d got used to a little extra forward planning with when to put in big committed pedal strokes, it became less of an issue.
For what could easily be described as a park bike, the Strega was remarkably civilised on big, long Calderdale and Lakeland days out too. Pedalling 170mm bikes all day shouldn’t be as easy as the Strega makes it and the little bits of extra effort are rewarded when the hike-a-bike ends and the fun begins.
The bike feels incredibly planted and composed, even through terrifyingly steep and technical terrain. There haveve been many times when I’ve caught myself taking entirely different lines on local trails where I thought I already had the fast line all figured out. The Strega attacks the trails so much faster and is so composed at big speed that I’ve been able to gap rocky sections and take high lines I’ve never even seen before. Scary!
The Strega’s ultimate test came in the form of the race I’d borrowed it for: six gruelling hours of the Endurance Downhill at Fort William.
The infamously rough track has claimed many a bike over the years, including one of mine, and I had beef with this particular race after several frustrating mechanicals and rider malfunctions in previous years.
The Strega handled the track better than I could ever have hoped. The suspension platform is incredibly supportive yet plush, soaking up the horribly boulder-strewn bits of track, as well as the big hits. In fact the suspension performed so well that I managed each of my nine race runs (they closed the lifts after four hours – shame) without having to stop halfway for a little cry. This might not sound like a big deal, but coming from someone who gets arm pump on climbs, I can tell you it’s suspension witchcraft!
What Rosie thought.
As a ‘one bike to rule them all’, big mountain adventure type steed I feel that the Strega is maybe just that little bit too much bike for the UK. There’s a lot of it to heft around and as an everyday bike I’m not sure as an average UK rider I’d use it to its full potential as compared to some of the shorter travel bikes in the Juliana range.
That said; If you want a bike that you can race mad enduro and downhill on, take regular trips to the pointy bits of Europe and/or you live next to a bike park this has to be the weapon of choice. Truly a remarkable bike.
Coming in just shy of £8,000 I had pretty high expectations from the Strega, but in its short time playing out in the hostile terrain of the UK it most definitely exceeded them.