Starling Cycles Murmur
Words by Robert Johnston | Photos Jonathan L Dawson | Video Adam Mcguire
Starling Cycles, one of numerous “steel is real” proponents emerging in the UK market right now, was kind enough to lend us a long term tester to see just how real his steel is. Joe McEwan started Starling in 2015 with the vision of producing strong and reliable single pivot mountain bikes, which eliminate complexity. The goal was to allow for more time on the trail and less time in the workshop. What began with a singular offering, the Swoop – a 155mm travel frame utilising 27.5” wheels – has now expanded to a range of frames, from a single speed downhill bike to a townie. What’s even cooler is that all frames are available with custom geometry, custom spec and are hand built in Bristol, UK.
Customers are able to choose their desired head tube angle, reach, head tube length, seat tube length, and fork and shock sizes. Joe has vast experience to help with the decisions to get you the exact geometry figures that will suit your style.
In this era of ever-growing reach figures and slackening head angles, Starling have managed to capitalize with their custom-built approach, and can offer reach figures as large as 535mm. In 2018, their range was further expanded with the addition of the “factory” built frames – produced in Taiwan from the same high-quality steel, with a lower price tag due to forgoing the custom geometry.
Starling sent me a UK made Murmur frame – a 29er with 145mm of single-pivot rear travel comprising of a mixture of Reynolds and Columbus steel tubing. While this rear travel figure would usually indicate a bike that is aimed more towards the aggressive trail and all mountain segments, the geometry of the Murmur has clear intentions of a bike designed to tackle the most extreme of trails, such as those found on the Enduro World Series circuit.
The bike I was sent to test features a 490mm reach, slack 64.5° head angle, steep 76° seat angle, 38mm BB drop, ultra-short 440mm seat tube length and reasonably long 445mm chainstays, producing a very long 1,275mm wheelbase. The single suspension pivot sits just below the chainline of a 32-tooth front ring to obtain the desired kinematics.
As I eagerly pulled the bike out of the box, the beautiful bronze colour popped out vividly as it struck the sun. The welding on the frame is very well executed, with no irregularities to be seen. The style of welding appears a little industrial, but rest assured these are welds built to stand the test of time. Analyzing the frame as a whole, the industrial looking theme continues: with chunky silver hardware that looks straight from the hardware store; a bolt-on brace for the rear triangle; and external cable routing throughout (apart from the last section of the dropper cable). The gussets and brace feature laser-cut Starling birds, which is a beautiful touch.
Rear axle sizing is 142x12mm; there is a 31.6mm seat tube with a generous straight portion to allow for long travel droppers; a threaded bottom bracket; integrated upper chain guide suitable for a 30-34t chainring; and this frame utilized a 200x57mm rear shock. Newer models have the option to opt for a metric shock sizing and Boost 148 rear axle spacing to keep them up to date with current “standards”. The derailleur mounted directly on to the frame – there’s no replaceable hanger to protect that fragile rear mech.
Everything bolted together with reassuring smoothness. After previous reports of misaligned frames being produced, I popped everything apart for close inspection, and there were no concerns with this particular frame. Joe had previously guaranteed that efforts were being made to improve production quality and quality control, which I can’t disagree with.
Fully built, the bike weighed in at 33.5lbs (15.2kg), with a fairly burly build which matched the bikes intentions. This is no featherweight frame, but with no carbon to be seen, the weight is not ridiculous for a bike of this size. Starling offer full customization for the spec on the bike, and this test machine featured an eclectic mix of a 150mm DVO Beryl fork, Fox DPS shock and 150mm Transfer dropper, Hope Enduro wheelset, Magura MT Trail Brakes, Middleburn RS8 cranks and Shimano XT 11spd drivetrain. Tire clearance with the 2.4 Maxxis tires was very good.