The Takeaway: This dedicated ’cross race bike became a ’cross, gravel, and bikepacking beast, now comes in women’s builds and smaller sizes, and is one of the liveliest and most versatile “gravel bikes” we’ve ridden.
- Who it’s for: Anyone who loves to get loose and go fast going both up and down dirt, gravel, and mellow trails, and may occasionally race cyclocross.
- What we love: Rides like a road bike on pavement, a gravel bike on dirt, and transforms into a mini mountain bike on mellow singletrack
- Something we don’t: With the 650b setup, the relatively low-hanging cage of the SRAM Force AXS derailleur on our test bike picked up peanut-butter mud more quickly than we expected.
Price: $7,099 (as tested, Force AXS with Reserve carbon wheel upgrade)
The Santa Cruz Stigmata has been the mountain bike brand’s carbon cyclocross race bike since 2015. But as with many ’cross bikes, most people were actually using the Stigmata for almost everything besides racing cyclocross. “You look at current Stigmatas in our building and you see fenders on them—people are using them for commuting, people are putting bigger tires on them to ride the cool trails we have in our area,” says engineer Ty Buckenberger.
So for this 2019 update, Santa Cruz made the Stigmata a more versatile bike, capable of big gravel adventures and even bikepacking, while hanging on to some of its cyclocross roots. The new bike can take up to 700 x 45mm tires, or 650b x 2.1-inch mountain bike tires. It has mounts for fenders and a third bottle cage. And it now comes in a Juliana version, called the Quincy, which shares the same frame but has a women’s saddle and narrower bar, and goes down to a size 49cm.
And based on our initial rides, the bike rips. For the past couple years, we’ve considered the Open U.P.P.E.R. to be the best gravel bike out there for its versatility. But the new Stigmata and Quincy give the U.P.P.E.R. a run for its money. Like the U.P. and U.P.P.E.R., the Santa Cruz is quick and lively feeling on pavement, but handles dirt, gravel, and trails like bikes dedicated to riding off-road. And the frame costs less than the Open. A similar, grin-inducing ride on all surfaces, for a smaller price tag? We’re sold.
More Tire Clearance, More Fun
One of the biggest changes Santa Cruz made to the Stigmata and Quincy was to boost tire clearance, from a very tight 700 x 40mm on the older model to 700 x 45mm, or 650b x 2.1-inch mountain bike tires. The ability to go back and forth between the two wheel sizes is also new, and Santa Cruz/Juliana sell the bike stock in both wheel sizes. Some builds also come with Santa Cruz Reserve carbon wheels, which have a lifetime warranty.
The carbon Reserve wheels are specifically made for the Stigmata and the Quincy, and they feature a generous internal width of 22mm for the 700c wheel, and 25mm for the 650b wheels—before the latest generation of wider rims, those are widths we traditionally would have found on mountain bike wheels. The wider rims help plump up tires so you can run lower pressures for more traction, enjoy more contact patch, and prevent sidewall cuts.
A Shreddier Carbon Frame
In updating the Stigmata’s carbon frame, engineers took lessons learned from the company’s hardtail Highball mountain bike as well as its special-edition Danny MacAskill carbon dirt jumper. A new carbon layup and different tube shapes—in general, less square and more round, and decreased dimensions—make for a less harsh, more compliant ride than the previous Stigmata.
On the spectrum between ’cross and gravel geometry (the latter of which tends to prize stability, and be longer and lower to the ground), the bike remains ’cross-biased—Santa Cruz didn’t want to compromise the Stigmata’s ability to be raced. There are two exceptions to this: One, based on how they saw people setting up their Stigmatas in the wild, engineers increased the head tube length by 5 to 15mm, depending on the size. “When you see the majority of the people running 10 to 15mm of spacers, it’s clear we can add a little to the head tube length,” says Buckenberger. He says this will also make the bike handle better on trails, and be more comfortable. Two, the bottom bracket got lower, by at least 1mm on larger sizes and up to 5mm on the smaller bikes (they come with shorter cranks, so Santa Cruz could take advantage of that extra pedal clearance). “With the lower BB, the bikes rail the corners and they’re so much more fun that way,” says Buckenberger. Previously, BB drop had been 69mm across the board, so smaller riders will see this benefit more dramatically.
Finally, to enable you to get extra rowdy: There’s internal routing for a dropper post!
Smaller Riders Rejoice
The Juliana Quincy now goes down to a size 49cm, whereas the previous Stigmata started at a 52cm. Santa Cruz also got feedback that the previous bike’s 52 and 54cm sizes ran a little big, so the new frames have been sized more appropriately in that range.
On sizes 49, 52, and 54, Santa Cruz went from a 45 to a 50-offset fork, to enable them to get the same toe and tire clearance on smaller bikes without having to slack out the head angle, which would have compromised the bike’s handling.
Both the Quincy and the Stigmata come with a flared handlebar, which gives you more leverage when you’re riding in the drops. But the Quincy comes with a narrower version of it (38cm for size 49, 40cm for 52 and 54), and a women’s saddle, the Ergon SR10, a women-specific road model that was selected by the female employees at Santa Cruz.
The Stigmata Goes Wireless
The Stigmata and the Quincy come with several build options, with Shimano and SRAM drivetrains, as well as mechanical and electronic shifting options. The higher-end versions of the bikes come with SRAM’s newly updated wireless drivetrains: The Stigmata goes up to $9,899 for SRAM’s 12-speed Red AXS wireless system, with the carbon Reserve wheels. The Quincy goes up to $7,099 for carbon Reserve wheels and a 12-speed SRAM Force AXS wireless drivetrain (this is the version we tested), which is SRAM’s mid-priced version of its previously named eTap wireless shifting system. Other options include: frame only for $2,299; $3,599 for Rival 700c build; $4,599 for Ultegra 700c; and $5,899 for Force AXS 650b.
A Bike That Lives the Grinduro Spirit
Of all the gravel, all-road, and ’cross bikes I’ve ridden, I previously considered the Open U.P.P.E.R. to be the ultimate in versatility: It’s quick and efficient-feeling on the pavement, but handles gravel and smooth singletrack like you’d expect a great gravel bike should. Until now, I haven’t ridden another bike that has the ability to transform in various situations like this—until this one.
Let’s start with the descending.
The name for the Juliana Quincy is inspired by Grinduro, a unique gravel race that takes place each fall in a remote, stunning area of the northern Sierra Nevadas, out of an old mining town called Quincy. Participants race timed climbing and descending segments, and ride together in between them. The race is known as much for its party atmosphere as its challenging course.
It’s an apt moniker for a bike that is insanely confidence-inspiring and fun to rip down descents, both paved and unpaved. Set up with 650b x 2.1-inch tires, my Juliana Quincy test bike seemed to have endless grip on a long, fast, and swooping fire road descent, even over deeper sandy or gravel sections. It encouraged me to dive into turns faster, brake less, and test the traction of the tires and my body position in corners. The riding position on the bike just feels right: It’s intuitive, your weight is in the right place, and I found myself hip-steering the Quincy not only on dirt downhills, but also through fast, swooping singletrack and even curving, paved bike paths. With the 2.1-inch tires, I felt even more comfortable descending fire roads fast on the Quincy than my mountain bike—because of the bike’s light weight and shorter wheelbase, I actually had more control. Everywhere I went, when the grade tilted downward, the Quincy whispered at me to go a little faster.
When I hit flatter paved sections, or even paved climbs—territory where a typical gravel bike would start to feel sluggish—the Quincy felt remarkably like a normal road bike, even with the 2.1-inch setup. I was able to ride with a friend on an aero road bike—I was certainly working harder, but at a social pace, we could ride together. The bike jumped forward when I pedaled hard, rode light despite its wide rims and big tires (the carbon wheels surely help), and felt responsive and agile. The riding position, instead of being overly upright, also feels like that of a normal road bike, just with big tires (a personality trait this bike shares with the Open). And on climbs, the huge 500 percent gear range on the 1×12, 10-50 cassette—the same gearing range I have on my mountain bike—had me spinning even up steep, usually grunty grades.
Like the Open, the Quincy has the alchemic ability to transform into the bike you need for the surface you’re riding. On the beginner singletrack trails near my house, the Quincy crawled over lumpy slickrock and hopped up small ledgey step-ups like a mini mountain bike, and in fact kept up with a friend on his 29er on a mellow, smooth descent. On a slick, steep, climb that became clay-mud in a flash rainstorm, the Quincy with its 2.1s floated and had enough mud clearance to keep its wheels turning after friends on 32mm knobbies dismounted. The only potential concern—I did hear and feel a fair amount of grinding from the buildup of the clay mud, perhaps due to the relatively close distance between the AXS derailleur and the ground on the 650b setup when in my big 50-tooth cog (I’d need more testing in these conditions to confirm that though). Otherwise, the Force AXS group is super intuitive and makes shifting dummy-proof.
I still have yet to do a long-term test of the Quincy/Stigmata, but from my initial rides I can already say that this is the perfect Grinduro bike—and I don’t only mean that this bike is ideal for you if you plan to race Grinduro. The Grinduro ethos is to maximize the “party-to-race ratio,” and this bike seems purpose-built for anyone who embodies that spirit—to have the most fun on every ride, on every surface.