Starling Cycles Roost Hardtail Mountain Bike Review



Words by Robert Johnston
Photos by Dave Price Photo

Starling Cycles has been producing high quality steel full suspension bikes for the last eight years, but until the end of 2021 they’d avoided the classic “hardcore hardtail” scene that so many British manufacturers were founded upon. With the hardtail scene still thriving in the UK, it was only a matter of time before Starling stuck their beaks into the market, and the Roost was the result. This is not your run-of-the-mill, ultra-hardcore steel frame though. Instead, Starling opted to use stainless steel tubing to offer the lustrous raw finish without it turning into a rust bucket after a couple of years’ worth of wet UK abuse, and gave their mullet-wheeled hardtail some fairly well rounded geometry numbers to make it good fun on a wide variety of terrain. We were excited to put the Roost to the test around Starling’s HQ in Bristol, UK, then take it back to the Tweed Valley for a full review, and it didn’t disappoint.


• Hardtail for 120-160mm fork
• HTA 64
• STA 76
• REACH 475 (Large)

Price: £1,220 / from $1,600 (Frame Only)


For their first hardtail, Starling wanted to put out an offering that would stand the test of time and satisfy the needs of riders who want to add a hardtail to their stable to compliment a full suspension bike. For this they opted to make their Roost hardtail from stainless steel tubing, which is manufactured by frame builder giants Ora in Taiwan to offer high production quality with the stainless-steel material with a more economical price tag. This material crucially doesn’t rust, so Starling offers it exclusively in a raw paint finish, which should stand up to the test of time on the trails.

Design and Features – The Roost is designed around a mixed wheel (a.k.a Mullet) setup, with a 29” wheel in the front and 27.5” in the back. This lets them obtain plenty of mud-friendly tire clearance around even a 2.8” tire with a reasonably short chainstay length, boosting the fun-factor of the bike in the process. Starling claims the Roost to be highly versatile in terms of its geometry, with a large 120mm-160mm range for fork travel. Standard geometry is designed around a 140mm unit, but riders can tailor their Roost setup to be more aggressive and capable with a longer travel setup, or nimbler with a shorter travel fork.

The Starling Roost has an interesting rear end standard, in that it’s designed to fit a boost or a non-boost (142mm) wheel without swapping any parts. It’ll accept up to a 200mm brake rotor; has ISCG05 mounts welded around its threaded bottom bracket; a ZS44/EC44 headset allowing for a full angle adjustable headsets to be fitted; and full external cable routing aside from the last internal portion in the seat tube for a dropper post. As a frame designed to offer plentiful durability for those who decide to ride it hard, its 2.6kg claimed frame weight may not be surprising, but it’s unlikely to be a bike that’ll satisfy those in the weight-weenie lycra-clad circles, though that’s not the aim.

Build Options – Starling offers their Roost frame only for £1,220 (appx $1,600), to which you can add a selection of components from their preferred partner brands for various additional prices. This includes components by Funn, Hope, Öhlins, RockShox, Middleburn, Magura and BikeYoke, with which you can piece together a stellar build of mid to high end parts for reasonable prices.

Starling Cycles Roost Hardtail Mountain Bike Review

Geometry – Numbers on the Roost were selected to offer what they consider to be the ideal blend of snappy fun and confident stability, avoiding any pointed numbers that would make it a handful for riding on the opposite end of the spectrum. Starling offers the bike in a medium to extra-large size range to suit riders from 5’6”-6’4” (167-193cm), so shorter riders will have to look elsewhere. With the nominal 140mm fork un-sagged, a size large has a 475mm reach with a tall 660mm stack height; 64-degree head tube angle; 76-degree seat tube angle; average of 60mm bottom bracket drop below the axles; and 430mm chainstay length which grows by 5mm for each frame size increase to offer improved weight distribution. The total wheelbase is a middling 1242mm, which based on our time ripping the Roost, delivers on the versatility that Starling intended.

Starling Cycles Roost Hardtail Mountain Bike Review


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.

Starling Cycles Roost Hardtail Mountain Bike Review

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)

Starling Cycles Roost Hardtail Mountain Bike Review


Frame: Stainless Steel – Hardtail
Fork: Ohlins RFX36 M.2 | 140mm

Brakes: Magura MT7, 200F/180R rotors
Handlebar: Funn Full On 31.8mm| 785mm| 30mm Rise
Stem: Funn Crossfire 31.8mm | 50mm Length
Headset: Cane Creek 40-Series IS42/IS52
Seatpost: Bikeyoke Revive 170mm
Saddle: Funn Skinny

Hubs: Hope Pro 4
Rims: DT Swiss XM481
Front Tire: Michelin Wild AM2 Competition, 29″ x 2.4″, Cushcore XC
Rear Tire: Michelin Wild AM2 Competition, 27.5″ x 2.4″, Cushcore XC

Bottom Bracket: Hope 24mm
Cassette: Shimano XT, 12spd, 10-51T
Cranks: Middleburn RS7, 170mm
Shifter: Shimano XT; 12s
Derailleur: Shimano XT; 12s

Starling Cycles Roost Hardtail Mountain Bike Review

We Dig

Loves to Corner
Well rounded geometry
Stunning stainless finish

We Don’t

Premium price
My knees hurt


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