We’re not hardtail lovers here at The Loam Wolf – our knees have been subjected to enough abuse as it is. However, from time to time a hardtail will catch our eye and convince us to get truly acquainted with the trail below. Between the mullet wheel setup and looks of the bare stainless-steel frame, the Starling Roost convinced me to give in and accept the occasional full body battering, and I can’t pretend like I didn’t enjoy it.
Climbing position on the Roost is solid, without being too extreme in either direction. The versatility of a hardtail like this means you’re likely to end up with climbs of all sorts of gradient, and Starling’s chosen 76-degree effective seat tube angle (which steepens a touch at sag) works well across most situations. Because they didn’t opt to rake the head angle out to ultra slack figures, it retains plenty of agility to wind its way around tight switchbacks and generally respond well to steering inputs, ensuring you can keep yourself pointed in the most favorable direction to maximize your likelihood of clearing a tech climb. Crank clearance is not the strongest suit of the Roost thanks to a fairly slammed BB, but it’s much easier to deal with this on a hardtail than the slightly less predictable bb height of a full suspension bike, so it was relatively easy to judge and keep the pedals safe.
The Roost corners very well. The low BB really comes into its own, and it feels fairly well balanced between the wheels. Where some hardtails have left me struggling a touch with the timing and balance of the bike in turns, the Roost was intuitive and had me feeling confident to push hard in smoother turns from the get-go. The rear end is not ultra-short by 27.5” wheeled hardtail standards, which retains a reasonable balance between the wheels to prevent it being a pure “play bike”, yet it’ll still wheelie and manual without much effort.
I’m not sold on the idea that a hardtail frame can ever be “comfortable”, so although the Roost feels to have a slight “zing” in the way its frame flexes when loaded, it’s certainly not absorbing the energy like a damped shock does, and impacts are transmitted more or less straight into your body. Keeping the rear end grounded through rough terrain is left up to how supple your legs can be, making rough braking zones very hard to manage and really forcing you to ride the front wheel, and so I think Starling has been quite sensible and realistic in the selection of the Roost’s geometry. Though you feel nicely integrated “in the bike” thanks to the low BB and high stack, there’s still enough of a direct and snappy feeling to the steering to remind you that you’re not on a raked out full suspension bike. Whether you choose to listen to the reminders is up to you though, and I found myself in multiple “oh s**t” moments coming into rough terrain scorchingly hot. Both the bike and my body survived to tell the tale, but it’s safe to say that the experience would have been more pleasurable with a rear shock to take some sting out, for my preferences at least. Nevertheless, for riders looking for a hardtail to add to their stable, the Starling Roost is an excellent all-rounder.
The Wolf’s Last Word
A competent climbing, commendable cornering and lush looking frame, the Starling Roost is a great example of an all-rounder hardtail that’ll look great for a long time. If you’re in the market for a fun-loving hardtail and are on board with the premium price in order to get that stunning raw finish for the long haul, it’s a stellar option.
Price: £1,220 including Hope Headset and Seat Clamp (appx $1,600)
Weight: (as tested)