I can't comment on the others, but I rode the Era (the aluminum version, not the carbon) and didn't like the fit. I'm 5'3" and I felt really crunched up on the top tube. I don't have the proportions that WSD bikes are designed for - I have shorter legs and a longer torso. Depending on your measurements you may or may not like the women's bikes - definitely something to consider, especially if you are ordering without test riding!
I have had two Julianna's and it is a solid ride. Just got a carbon Mojo and there is no comparison. I have ridden several Specialized and have to admit I didn't like the fit, short cockpit. While I am a bit taller at 5'8" my needs may differ; really think carbon makes a noticeable difference/feel that I love!!
I bought a Specialized SWorks Safire after trying several bikes, and I agree with the others, the Specs are short in the toptube. Both the Safire and ERA run within a few mms of each other in top tube, with the ERA having a longer stem, 75mm vs 60mm on the Safire in the small size. But I am 5'1.5" and have short arms so find it works well for me. But I would not suggest Specialized (or anything else this expensive) unless you try it first.
That being said, I love my Safire. It really finds traction anywhere; the suspension sticks the tires down and the ride is bob free. It's a magic ride, that Brain is no joke. Descending is really something when you can lean it into turns and it just goes right where you point without bouncing around like a pogostick, and it climbs with no wasted energy. The ERA should be more of the same, with a racier feel. But I was looking for more of a trailbike and find the Safire fits my needs and my short upper body.
I will agree with the posted comments that the ERA definitely has a shorter cockpit. The thought that went into the design of this frame was motivated by the fact that most bikes out there were considered unisex and did not take some of the attributes of the female body into consideration. The women specific design is built for riders that have shorter torsos, smaller hands, and narrower shoulders. The top tubes are shorter, the handle bars narrower and the frames have less material in them making them lighter then their unisex counterpart, the epic. Just because it is womens specific, does not mean that every women out there is going to love it. However, if you do fit the build, then it is hard to ride anything else. Hopefully this helps!
My first mountain bike was a Santa Cruz Juliana and I quickly grew weary of it. I personally am not a fan of the single pivot design. In my opinion it wastes a lot of energy. You might want to check out some bikes with a DW link or a VPP suspension system.
Several of the women have had not so great experiences with the Specialized Era. I've never ridden the full suspension version of that bike, but I have an '08 Era hardtail that I built up for XC riding. It is super light, fast and a ton of fun to ride. But again, that's the hardtail and not the full suspension version of the Era.
Have fun and take your time. My biggest regrets, both emotionally and financial, have been from jumping the gun and not taking the time needed to dot my i's and cross my t's when purchasing. It's hard to do that when you're so excited about a new bike!
At 5'2", top tube length and standover were the two dimensions that were critical for my wife's new bike, and she went with a XXS Mach 4. The Pivot website lists the XS demo bike from last year as being available.
The 2009 and older Yeti ASR also came in XXS, and the frames are still available from Jenson.
I have had the chance to try both the older ASR (not the ASR-5) and the Pivot. Both are light weight frames. The Pivots do have a better pedaling platform than the Yeti, but both frames ride well. I ended up with a Yeti, she ended up with a Pivot.
At 5'2" I pretty much gave up hope on finding a frame/bike that gives me good standover on a 'budget' (under $2k seems to be budget these days). As far as I know the sizing chart from Santa Cruz starts at 5', whereas other companies start at 5'3" or even 5'4" (like people below that don't count as adults).
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