Dirt School Coach and shop Invisiframe guru, Fi, spends a lot of time coaching and riding the full range of trails the Tweed Valley has to offer. At work, she spends much of her time on longer travel bikes, using them to take the edge off the impact of riding day after day on rough ground. But with so much time spent on enduro bikes during her working week, she fancied something a little different for her personal ride.
The Juliana Wilder is a thoroughbred XC race bike; 115mm of rear travel is delivered from Santa Cruz’s Superlight suspension platform. Designed for World Cup XCO and Marathon racing, the suspension design saves weight compared to the more commonly seen VPP bikes that Santa Cruz are known for and prioritises traction, letting the suspension work over lumps and bumps in the trail to maximise grip. The Wilder is also a whole lot more capable on the descents than you might imagine; Fi’s go to rides range from the new flow trails at Glentress to big mountain epic adventures, and she’s even been known to take it to the Golfie! To find out more about the bike and why she loves it so much, we sat down with her for all the detail on this custom Juliana Wilder.
“Back in 2022 Janey and I rode the Capital Trail on a pair of Juliana Wilders. I’d never really ridden an XC bike, or a route like that, and the experience got me totally hooked on what these bikes make possible. Outside of just being able to cover ground quickly, I was blown away by how well these modern XC bikes descend. That was the start of my obsession with these little bikes!” - Fi
Click HERE to see Fi and Janey’s Capital Trail video.
Standing at 160cm tall, Fi is right in the middle of the small size bracket, making frame size selection a simple affair. Wilders use a size specific rear centre length, giving a longer chainstay as the sizes increase. Fi’s small frame uses a short 431mm chainstay which, when paired with a reach figure of 412mm and head angle of 67°, gives an overall wheelbase of 1126mm.
Keeping the 115m of rear travel in check is a Fox Float Performance DPS rear shock. Inflated to 120psi, giving just less than 30% sag, with the rebound set 2 clicks from fully fast, Fi’s Wilder is designed to transmit every watt of power down to the wheels.
“There’s a climb switch on my bike but I rarely reach for it, the bike pedals and climbs so well as it is I just don’t feel the need. Any bobbing is so minor that I don’t notice it and I’d rather keep the suspension slightly more active to keep the rear wheel in traction on rocky steps or roots. The only time I consciously reach for it is when I’m pedalling along the cycle path to Peebles for coffee!” - Fi
A Rockshox SID RL props up the front end of the Wilder, with 120mm of travel and 35mm stanchions keeping things under control. Fi runs 55psi, 1 volume spacer, has the Low Speed Compression fully open and Rebound set to one click from open.
“As a rider on the lighter end of the spectrum, I find I have to set my suspension with much less damping than heavier riders in order to get similar rebound and compression speeds. I’m looking for a setup that keeps the tyres in contact with the trail as much as possible, so running less damping lets them move up and out of the way of obstacles as well as return back to the trail as quickly as possible.” - Fi
While she may have left the suspension standard on her Wilder, her wheels and tyres are anything but. From the get go Fi fitted a set of Reserve 30|SL Aluminium rims laced to DT Swiss 350 hubs, knowing they'll stand up to the varied trails and terrain she rides without adding excessive weight. Should the worst happen, the lifetime warranty removes any worry about dinging a rim and keeps her focused on the ride ahead.
Tyres have also been changed from stock. Coming standard with Maxxis Rekon Race front and back, Fi quickly changed to a Maxxis Forekaster out front. A more aggressive tread pattern, designed for wet and muddy XC races, it’s proving to be her perfect front tyre for year round Tweed Valley cross country and trail riding. Pressures of 19psi front and 24psi rear in the EXO casing tyres gives a good balance of outright grip while still giving enough support to resist rolling on higher load turns, such as the berms on the flow trails at Glentress.
Brakes are a hugely important part of any bike build, with everyone having their own personal preferences for lever feel, reach and modulation. As a huge fan of Hope brakes it’s no surprise that Fi has fitted a set to her Wilder. A pair of Tech 4 levers give Fi fine control over how her brakes feel, while E4 calipers give plenty of power when clamping down on the 180mm SRAM rotors.
Pedalling, and pedalling comfort, is obviously a high priority on a bike like this. A noticeable improvement in comfort came when Fi changed out the standard 175mm cranks for some 165mm arms.
“Being a shorter rider I find longer cranks exaggerate my pedalling circle so much as to be uncomfortable on even relatively short rides. Swapping them for the 165mm option has made a huge improvement to my comfort over a long day, spinning a smaller circle means there’s less bend in my knee at the top of the stroke and each rotation feels smoother.” - Fi
SRAM Eagle components make up the rest of Fi’s drivetrain with a 10-50t GX cassette being spun by a 30t Burgtec chainring and shifting duties taken care of by an NX rear mech and shifter.
Up front at the cockpit, Fi has also made some changes to fine tune the fit and feel of her Wilder. A 42.5mm Burgtec stem replaces the standard 60mm unit to bring the front end length down and improve handling on steeper trails, while Santa Cruz carbon handlebars save weight over the stock aluminium option. Cut to her preferred width of 750mm, and at 20mm rise, the front end of Fi’s Wilder is surprisingly similar to her enduro bike. Slim Burgtec Bartender grips let Fi get a solid grip to the front of her bike without overstretching around a thicker grip and causing arm pump.
Fi’s Juliana Wilder Full Spec:
Frame: Juliana Wilder, size small
Fork: Rockshox SID RL, 29”, 120mm
Shock: Fox Float Performance DPS
Wheelset: Reserve AL 30|SL, DT Swiss 350 hubs, XD driver
Tyres: Front: Maxxis Forekaster, EXO casing, 19psi Rear: Maxxis Rekon Race, EXO casing, 24psi
Stem: Burgtec enduro mk.3, 42.5mm reach, 35mm clamp
Handlebar: Santa Cruz carbon riser bar, 35mm clamp, 20mm rise, 750mm width
Grips: Burgtec Bartender
Brakes: Hope Tech 4 E4, SRAM 180mm Centreline rotors
Drivetrain: SRAM Eagle GX cassette (10-50t), Burgtec 30t chainring, SRAM NX rear mech, SRAM NX shifter, SRAM X01 165mm cranks
Seatpost: SDG Tellis, 150mm
Saddle: Nukeproof Horizon
In her time with the Wilder, Fi has become enamoured with the bike and the style of riding it allows her to do.
“I’ve had the Wilder for about a year now and I’ve absolutely loved all my time on it. It’s so easy to ride insomuch as it lets you cover ground quickly and efficiently while still being a blast on the way back down!
Around flowy trail centres like Tarland and the new Glentress trails it carries speed like nothing else I’ve ridden, yet it’s still so capable on technical terrain that I’ve even taken it to the Golfie. You have to be a little more careful with your line choice, but the fact that it’s even possible on this bike is impressive to me.
I’ve also used it for longer, multi-day rides further North, bikepacking around Lin of Dee and hike-a-biking up Beinn a’ Bhùird are two rides that spring to mind, both rides I wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for the Wilder.” - Fi
For more information on the Juliana Wilder or Santa Cruz Blur, pop in to our shop in Innerleithen, or to see them being put to use against the infamous Capital Trail bikepacking loop, click HERE for Fi and Janeys epic effort tackling the 240km round trip in a single push midwinter.
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