Podcast: Why Carbon Expert Joe McEwan of Starling Cycles Chooses to Make Steel Bikes

Dec 23, 2018
by Downtime Podcast  
Photo - Jacob Gibbins

Words Chris Hall : Photo Jamie Edwards


This week, I'm joined by Joe McEwan, the main man behind Starling Cycles. Starling made quite an entrance when Steve Jones rode their 29er Murmur and started raving about how good it was. We chat about how Joe went from aerospace engineer to bike company owner, why a carbon fibre expert chooses to make steel bikes, some hot topics like 29ers, bike weight, 29 front + 27.5 rear, and Joe gives us some inside info on his latest prototypes. You can use the player above to listen.

You can also listen by searching for ‘Downtime Podcast’ on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Podcasts, by asking Alexa, or over on our website http://www.downtimepodcast.com/starling-cycles/ and you can follow us on Instagram @downtimepodcast


185 Comments

  • + 53
 Could anyone tell us his reason please, to us who don't like listening to podcasts?
  • + 67
 Bicycle carbon doesn't compare in quality to the carbon he used in aerospace and Steel was a lot easier/affordable to work with at home in his shop. I think that about sums it up
  • + 56
 22:38
CF made in a shed is shitty and expensive.
Aerospace CF layup is consistent quality; bike industry CF layup quality is terrible.
Steel is strong, doesn't fatigue, can be worked, feels lively.

My immediate thought was: First two reasons are controllable, so why not just aspire to improve upon them?
  • + 8
 Thanks guys! Interesting to hear Smile
  • + 27
 @tripleultrasuperboostplusplus:
Because massive expenditure required for no appreciable gain.
  • + 13
 Lower startup costs to work with steel
  • + 3
 @tripleultrasuperboostplusplus:
"My immediate thought was: First two reasons are controllable, so why not just aspire to improve upon them?"

Because money? Its business not fun. Most bike companys have business men in the headquaters and not people who ride themselves which do it for the love of biking or the community...
  • + 7
 @blazekelly: I have his bike and I have been riding bikes for 35 years... Hands down best bike I have owned or riddin. And Joe please make that freeride bike Wink
  • + 3
 @tripleultrasuperboostplusplus: > bike industry CF layup quality is terrible

First issue, yeah that's why I don't buy bikes made by a dude in a shed. Sorry.

Second issue is not even that big of a deal. Some companies overbuild to compensate and are a bit heavier, others go light and charge more for QA and/or warranty expenses to compensate. Consumers seem happy with current status quo vs paying more for "aerospace quality" layup consistency.
  • + 44
 @dthomp325: Exactly. Bikes don't need 'aerospace' quality carbon. We aren't going near sonic speeds, don't have wildly varying temperature ranges and are not pulling multiple G's with a several ton airframe. World Cup pro DH and even slope and Rampage guys are using carbon pretty successfully. We will be just fine.

Bottom line, ride what makes you happy. Steel, Carbon and Aluminum all have their benefits. If one was so awful as folks claim, it wouldn't be used as a bike material in the first place.
  • + 4
 @bman33: "Bottom line, ride what makes you happy. Steel, Carbon and Aluminum all have their benefits. If one was so awful as folks claim, it wouldn't be used as a bike material in the first place."

So true!

And sure, we dont need aerospace cf. the cf used already expensive enough!
  • + 2
 @tripleultrasuperboostplusplus: because steel is real.
  • + 2
 @bedmaker: yeah, this. Were not seeing catastrophic carbon frames failures, so the laying techniques used in making bikes are "good enough".
  • + 3
 it so happens that I know people who worked in aero industry (currently make world’s best sailplanes) and they say there is no point to achieving airspace industry standards for bikes. Especially considering that rven F1 does not live up to those standards. So with all due respect I sense a bit of virtuism here, maybe “it’s too hard for me to do it in my garage”. The second part is understandable
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: it may have no point aiming aerospace grade carbon on bikes but you know what, when you buy a 'well respected bike brand' it's allready paid for, so it's a ste(a) el. He knows carbon and choosed if bikes dont require aerospace grade plastic why make them in the first place, just for the seke of being carbon?
And apparently steel works just as well
  • + 5
 @WAKIdesigns: waki you know a lot of people. We know you. First hand accounts once in your life please. No sexist comments. No more insults. You are a fair artist. Why don't you tell us about your pencils eh.
  • + 1
 @es7ebanlv:
well makes a catchy quote . But alloy is real ,carbon is real titanium is also real
  • + 45
 @adespotoskyli: First off I am an architect/ engineer, working mainly with final stages of the project, the construction drawings. However no mater the stage, either concept or final details, the biggest deal of my work is to create the best compromise meeting as many requirements and wishes as it is possible. Hence I am allergic to any absolutism (occasionally I meet consults working this way, some of my colleagues are this way, needles to say, none of them gets very far and their social profile is not filled with too many jokes at the parties) and Im 100% sure it doesn't exist even in making of a space shuttle. The fact that industry presents carbon as the best material from performance point of view is mainly marketing, we can get that out of the way. However there are advantages to using carbon fibre construction. You are more free in creating complex shapes, particularly with elaborated suspension designs, if you work with high-end carbon bikes you can control the flex of the bike in particular directions in particular sections of it. Cesar Rojo explained it very well. I can easily see how a bike made of carefully chosen custom butted tubes, can do wonders, I can see how Murmur got better review than Unno at Dirt, sure. I can see how a simply looking single pivot made in a very mindful way, using already mentioned chose tubing and then geometry, can be anything we can ever need. A Caterham kit car is all 99.9999% of people will ever need, and McLaren P1 seems like 5 levels over the edge . But one just cannot deny the allure of carbon bike vs this simplistic single pivot. There is value in Sworks Stumpy, Yeti SB150, Antidote Dark Matter, Unno Dash. Not all carbon bikes are made even and one just can't throw all of them into the same bag, as if all of it was made like Canyon or YT. It isn't. Carbon bikes I mentioned are damn nice looking bikes and they are damn nice riding bikes. Cutting edge aerospace engineering standards which keep thousands of planes falling from the sky on our heads daily, are way over the top here. Every design consists of three parts: form, function, construction. I am sick and tired of folks who completely reject the form and surpress all the drives we have for nice things. It's just ridiculous. BTW BTR Pinner is a damn nice looking bike. Starling makes cool, authentic bikes, I wouldn't mind riding one at all, but it is not the second coming of Christ. Nothing is.
  • + 38
 @WAKIdesigns: nobody will read this
  • - 7
flag Keit (Dec 22, 2018 at 11:51) (Below Threshold)
 @WAKIdesigns: ah an architect.... I know where the pencil is you lost. Looking at something is not experience.
  • - 4
flag WAKIdesigns (Dec 22, 2018 at 12:02) (Below Threshold)
 @Keit: you are a genuine headcase of an idiot. I told you many times. Your intelligence level must be really low. I wonder what do you think of marketers or sales people if you already cross out architects. My ghawd.
  • - 10
flag WAKIdesigns (Dec 22, 2018 at 12:11) (Below Threshold)
 I mean sorry, I don’t care what you think. I dehumanized you long time ago.
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: I bet you can teach him a thing or two about carbon and make him change his mind about it, you can give it a try.
The world is full of all this gorgeous bikes as you mention, let the mere mortals have their way as well, if you bought a bike that got a less favored review than the murmur, and paid the summ of a kidney transplant that's your problem,
Also caterham still beats looooots of supercars in any track under any condition, simple, effective, function over form the say.
Edit,
Never said anything about second coming or steel is a revelation, it was here long before carbon. It's basically the other way round, people think that carbon does wonders, and pay stubit money for it
  • + 5
 @Vulhelm: true that. I couldn't be botherered. Point being, what material does Waki make his bikes from?
  • + 4
 @Vulhelm: I did, one of his best posts, if not funniest.
  • - 10
flag WAKIdesigns (Dec 22, 2018 at 15:08) (Below Threshold)
 @adespotoskyli: no I am not trying to change his mind about carbon. I hope he continues doing what he does. I just said it has its pros and it is fully understandable why so mamy bikes are made from it.
@Keit: I come from Bielsko Biala where sailplanes like Fox, Swift, Diana, Diana 2 (which won many championships and scored world records) have been made. My father is RC model geek, He knows the people who worked there, I grew up among those nerds like Marganski, and meet them every summer. Now piss off into your rather unexciting anonymous existence.
  • + 2
 @tripleultrasuperboostplusplus: Exactly! Suppler Controls and Process Controls.
  • + 2
 Well I believe this is known but it's always good to remind that steel depending on the alloy, how it's welded, heat treated and finishing also fatigues and to make a part or in this case a frame that doesn't isn't easy, and because "it's steel" one risks to forget about this detail...
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: don’t listen to this guy
  • + 1
 @Vulhelm: I did. You should too.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: in summary in one year. You are pro doping,.... Yeah I will leave it there. Challenge still stands.... Put your money where your mouth is and let's race. I'll wait at the finish line for you with your prize of all the insults. And to close it off here let me quote your again: WAKIdesigns says:

I like you, we are very similar, however just like me you fall short with your assumptions as soon as you elaborate them further. Data shortage. I just wanted to prove to you that you cannot hurt me more than I can hurt myself. Race me? Uneducated? Trumpian? Coward? Honestly? Do people actually get intimidated when you speak to them this way or you just haven't tried it in real life? You talk like a 16 year old looking for a fight. Do you know how many "discussions" like that I have had? What the hell do you think you're doing here? Trying to outsmart a fool in his own game? You can try to get on your high horse all you want. Many many tried, I am just typing sht online, I don't give a flying f*ck what people like you think of me, I am just entertaining myself. Maybe because I got more friends than enemies by putting a stick into an anthill... journos, engineers from bike companies, sales reps, mechanics and racers on WCup race. and I will care about you?

You took a wrong turn man.

Oh and no hard feelings... honestly, you're just another pissed off dude. I can understand that. Make this a better day for yourself and ignore me.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: why do you apologise before your insult. Stand your ground at least even if you are....* Insert own definition of waki
  • + 1
 @Vulhelm: Sing it with me "Ohhh Paragraphs please the people yeah, paragraphs ease the reading there."
  • + 1
 Watch this & you can tell that steel is real?
www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDCdyxZF6q0
  • + 2
 @blazekelly: I worked with one of the biggest carbon fiber and prepregs manufacturer. Yes, it is big difference between quality of fiber and weave type, difference in compound of resin. But it is not big difference in price, also, you don’t need to use super high quality carbon for the bicycle frames and also you do not need to use differing (with different weave type for better look) external layers because your frame will be painted. The most expensive thing is that it is very long process for mass production.
  • + 5
 @DustyPat: which basically confirms what Cesar Rojo and many other said, as well as people in the biz who laughed at Pole for creating a dramatic story out of a simple fact that they, as a small company, were not able to produce quality carbon bikes. They had no knowledge to do it themselves and since they were small, Taiwan treated them just like any business would treat a small client: yeah... we’ll find a slot for you... So they behaved like a particularly stupid teenage girl that got rejected by a “man” of her dreams and started going around talking sht about him. Everyone who actually knows something, says the startup cost for CF frame production is huge.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I described my own experience. I don't want to say something about other manufacturers. They could have their own opinion and experience. But for start-up of carbon frames manufacturing you really need to have money for an autoclave and for the molds, but you will use it for a long time.
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns: nice planes but not quite on par with the likes of Schleicher, Schempp-Hirth and DG and certainly not the world's best gliders. Please keep to the bike comments and stay away from absolutisms
  • + 0
 @wildedge586: yes you accuse me of absolutism but you cannot agree with “some of the best”. Yeah... yeah... good luck with that. Considering budgets and Facilities of Polish and German makers yeah, it’s like Joe Blow and his van vs Bruni and Spec Öhlins team. Uhm yeah...
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: good post.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns:

@WAKIdesigns:

"(currently make world’s best sailplanes) " is not the same as some of the best. And you started to forbid absolutism a few posts earlier

I know all the types you mentioned and you better not look inside the cockpit, fuselage and wings of a Diana. Performance yes,really good but workmanship precision and durability very questionable. And polish budgets are a weak excuse, quite a few very durable gliders were produced in Poland. Its just a business decision to spend little on the details and quality checks in order to sell at very low prices. Just like bikes.

But it is fun to take you up on your bold claims and then see you retreat later on. Fun for the festive days, cheers.
  • - 1
 @wildedge586: no I did not want to make a bold claim, it seems it sounded so. I back off then. Gladly. I don’t know sht about building sailplanes. The original point of the whole thing is not whether Waki can single handedly build a rocket that will take Jeff Bezos to the Moon, but whether it makes sense to make a bicycle frame out of carbon fibre if it does not live up to airframe standards. Apparently it makes plenty of sense. Otherwise they wouldn’t be around. Like there aren’t many frames CNCd out of block of aluminium or there aren’t any 3d printed ones.
  • + 1
 @tripleultrasuperboostplusplus: Because he likely knows the investment required to achieve an aerospace level of quality, and it doesn't pass the cost/benefit test for a small player in the bike industry? Steel is easy and versatile.
  • + 1
 @Vulhelm: nope, I didn't...
  • + 0
 @bman33: OK, and where do you throw your carbon frame once it`s - soon - broken? Do you repair it? Do you store it in your garage besides the other broken carbon frames? Do you bury it discreetly in your garden or in a forest?
  • + 1
 @Franzzz: I have never broken one. I've broke 3 alloy frames. The two carbon bikes I had prior I sold. 99% of alloy frames are never recycled out there. Believeing they are is naive.
  • + 0
 I'd say they're made of bullshit
  • + 0
 I'd say they're made of bullshit @ColquhounerHooner:
  • - 1
 They make mountain bikes out of the cheap Chinese carbon mainly to make more money. There’s no other reason to use it. still years later nobody’s come up with a convincing argument why it’s necessary and on paper it could be seen as the worst of the three commonly used materials.
  • + 2
 @thenotoriousmic:
Urban myths and old wives tales . Well done you ticked all the boxes .
  • + 2
 @thenotoriousmic: oh yeah, as if there were no cheap, crappy Chinese steel and alu frames, give me a break... as if Commencals weren't heavy because they are overbuilt just in case to cover up for any faults in manufacturing. Well made frame is a well made frame, regardless of material. So far the dumbest way of doing a frame is 3D printing it, followed shortly by CNCing it. Especially if you are about to do a classic traingle shape that can be easily achieved by welding tubes together. Unless off course you have no access to good frame shop that can weld those tubes together and realign well - then you may want to cut it out. There are different, creative ways to deal with shortcomings of your ability.
  • + 1
 @nick1957: obviously not or you’d have told me why I was wrong but you didn’t and you can’t. So unlucky with the snide comment. It missed.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: at least when you buy steel or alloy you’re getting pretty much top grade stuff within reason. Buy carbon and your pretty much buying the lowest grade possible. It’s basically the hi tense steel of the carbon world.

Literally all I’m asking for is one thing carbon can do that alloys can’t do and nobody can tell me. Not one single reason to justify its massive price tag. Nobody can do it.
  • + 2
 @thenotoriousmic: carbon looks better and has better weight to strength ratio, even the sht in Canyon bikes. Rider does the “can” part. Always. There is pretty much nothing an average bloke, on whinding Welsh road can do in McLaren P1 that he wouldn’t do in Mazda MX-5. The differemce is pretty much nothing. In this pretty much nothing (and th fact hat P1 is a much more advanced car than MX5) we buy hope for better outcomes and it is none of anyone’s business to judge that really. Humans always wanted nice things. For instance, they found blades made of black stone that are damn symmetrical, even though it is completely irrelevant whether blade is symmetrical or not when piercing flesh of a saber tooth tiger. The higher in the hierarchy was the buried person, the better looking tools and weapons were buried beside them. So, It is in your nature, whether you like it or not. Even if I wanted a high performance, full suspension, steel frame, I would opt for BTR Pinner over Murmur, because it looos better. I could also choose Cotic, because it is cheaper. Now tell me... what is that a super long bike can do that a short 2010 bike can’t. Byeeeee...
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: dude it's Christmas give us a break. And please a P1 compared to an MX5. And a Pinner and Murmur are different catagories of bikes. Stop drinking so much please
  • + 1
 @Keit: even on Christmas, you cannot understand a purposeful exaggeration. You are such a stiff head that our incompatibility cannot be any more natural and understandable. I hope you are a banker, an accountant or an engineer doing stress calculations, or anything making use of your contentiousness.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: STOP Drinking... Honestly.
  • + 1
 @bedmaker: I own a 10 year old aluminum framed full suspension Titus that weighs in at 20# and it's an amazing bike. Titus couldn't afford CF facilities and now they're out of business. CF isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Of course, I also now own a couple CF bikesSmile .
  • + 1
 @jwgeiger: Titus died because the owners were unwilling to invest in the company and forced Chris Cocalis out, who subsequently started Pivot to build all of the bikes he couldn't get funded at Titus. Titus had essentially no R+D after Chris left.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Except the second coming of Christ. That my friend will be the second coming of Christ!
  • + 1
 @manco: i am pretty sure Christ came many times.
  • + 33
 Joe here, might be worth listening to the podcast before commenting. I’m not against carbon fibre and don’t say it can’t be used to make great bikes. I’ve just seen it at the highest level and don’t want to go down the route myself.

Lots of other interesting topics discussed; weight, stiffness, 29ers, tyre inserts...
  • + 6
 Thanks Joe, l enjoyed your podcast a lot more than many others. Straight up mate. Good luck with it all.
  • + 3
 Likewise thanks for the podcast Joe (and thanks Chris for another great episode). I really enjoyed all those other topics, as well as the main one/s.
  • + 1
 Indeed. So I still run two wheelsets on the swoop.... (when my knee is in one piece, and the family let's me escape) one carbon and one alloy, same hubs and tires. As we had discussed have also been playing around with inserts, Procore and Cushcore plus some homemade ones with materials sourced from local customers and have made some interesting observations. Those fatiguing vibrations I get from the carbon wheels are lessened with Cushcore, more so than all the other options. However once at speeds over 45km/h I like the overall grip and "floaty" feeling of procore. I have combined foam with an air chamber but not quite happy with my results. All in all the flex in alloy wheels when at speed with the steel frame is the best combination. So good I have managed to overestimate my cornering skills one too many times. Albeit the bike climbs and accelerates much better with the carbon wheels. By a large margin.
Long story short: I get much more milage out of the steel frame with alloy wheels than I do out of any other combination, overall. I have kept an excel sheet and used a time and a phone GPS. Note: I have snapped the carbon cranks and bars already but not the carbon rims. Other than that the only wear is normal wear.
PS still want you to make me a 27.5 freeride bike with a gearbox please Wink
  • + 11
 He obviously knows his stuff but some of it is at odds with my experience of riding an alloy plus bike (a Whyte 909). Steel is a great frame material, but so too is aluminium.
  • + 0
 Agreed, especially with plus tires.
  • + 8
 Nowt wrong with a nice aluminium frame and still my go-to choice as I steer away from carbon personally.

He is correct about fatigue but a decent aluminium frame still out lasts most riders unless they are real quick / hard on them.
  • + 1
 @justanotherusername: All my carbons have outlasted me.. Sold a 2010 Blur ltc to my cousin and he's still smashing on it without issue. Mind you I have always installed frame protection day 1. Good for resale.
  • + 2
 @bohns1: and can you imagine riding a ten year old frame? the geometry and dimensions all sucked, save for a very few, mainly xc hardtails. I assume it will be the same in another ten years...
  • + 1
 @bohns1: who said a carbon frame wouldn't? nobody mentioned carbon.
  • + 2
 @justanotherusername: My bad.. I'm insinuating that you assume carbon does not last or that it has a high fail rate as to your comment that you steer away from carbon.
  • - 2
 @shredddr: That's why I don't even ride 3 year old frames.. The geo change from my 16 fuel ex 9.9 is a drastic departure to my sb130 in every way.. A welcome one at that.. But there is a market for me to sell my old frames to offset my costs on new bike day..


Many mountain bikers out there more than happy to buy outdated carbon frames... Just not us fickle pbers!
  • + 0
 @justanotherusername: carbon seems to just crack when it feels like it lol
  • + 0
 @bohns1: Only problem with Blur is rapid bearing wear
  • + 1
 @aljoburr: Sold it long ago.. My cousin is still on it without issue other than servicing!
  • + 1
 @markar: still waiting for it on any carbon frame I've owned.. On a sb130 now... Yeti had some carbon problems last gen.. Let's find out!
  • + 8
 Small manuf go with steel because it's just WAY easier to build with and find employees or other people that can weld on it and have the tools. It's really hard to find super good guys that can weld alum really well. So they use steel and expound upon all the other stuff that can be nice about it. Believe me tho, when you are starting a business it def starts with "can we even make this?"..."yeah I can weld it in my backyard if we use steel and it's cheap". You see this in lots of industries.

Now the guys at Pole, those dudes are on another level when it comes to small batch non-carbon stuff. The manuf process is super innovative and a huge investment along with ultra progressive, industry defining design (a little wild). That's a wild business there.
  • + 9
 You may want to check some of your assumptions - no, I wouldn't compare the process and investment of Starling v Pole but the Pole frame business isn't as 'wild' as you think.

E.g, if pole had decided on a carbon frame after all, they would have needed 3-4 moulds depending on size (potentially 200k plus) and have recently re-designed the frame so another 200k - getting on to half a million now)

What they did do is go for an innovative design by machining in two halves but the manufacturing process itself is far from innovative, waterjet cutting of the basic profile followed by 3d machining of two halves isn't the magic show it is marketed as and they could have outsourced all of he initial prototypes.

If they have gone down the in-house manufacturing route a decent cnc mill with a large enough bed and some modern cad software and you are away (Im not making this up, we have the machine capacity to make these in-house at the business I am part of) - A decent investment sure but less probably less than a full batch of carbon frame moulds alone.

This isn't taking anything away from Pole, its an innovative approach that they were the first to move forward with, they look great and from what I gather really work too but the manufacturing itself isn't ultra progressive and it likely wont be repeated by any other brands as it is just so inefficient, slow and realistically wasteful of resources (machine-time and all it entails)
  • - 9
flag kmg0 (Dec 22, 2018 at 19:35) (Below Threshold)
 @justanotherusername: so many words, so few points
  • + 2
 I don't know about you but the Machine is right at the top of my want list. I am waiting for them to make a few small changes such as no screws, shock in the front triangle, and slightly better aesthetics on the cable routing. I would love to buy one. The stamina is a third of the way there but doesn't look that good IMO. Machine v2 should be good!
  • - 2
 Think you missed point that steel steed be real!
  • + 7
 The guy seems a bit too contrarian/regressive, imo. I agree with a lot of the things he's saying, like too much stiffness is a bad thing, rear flex adds grip, carbon layup is often shoddy, an extra pound isn't a huge deal, there's value in simplicity, etc., but he's going too far in the other direction.

I ride an aluminium, linkage-driven, single-pivot bike when I could have gone with a DW-link carbon bike, but that doesn't mean I want to be riding a 35lb, noodly, simple single pivot, linear dinosaur.
  • + 14
 You are making a contradictory post accusing somebody else of being contrarian?

You agree with rear ends being too stiff then refer to them being 'noodly'?
  • + 5
 Having ridden a steel FS bike as well as a TON of other modern alloy and carbon bikes... steel doesn't have to be 'noodly". Like anything else, manufacturers are free to use different types of steel and tube shapes to accomplish different things. You can make a steel bike that is stiff in all the right areas, and you can make a carbon bike that's worse than any alloy bike for flex. Give engineers some credit.
  • + 3
 I have one of his frames (an early one). Although its is not exactly straight, it rides beautifully. Actually it is one if not the best riding bike i have ever owned. A couple of things bug me though, even i at 75 kg can make the crank touch the swingarm when sprinting. I like coil and i bottom out quite often, even though i just run 25% sag. So in my opinion your wrong even tjough your right.
  • + 1
 @justanotherusername:

I'm saying there's a happy medium. I agree that ultra-stiff bikes, or bikes with overly complex suspension designs (rhymes with spaghETTI) should not be the ideal, but he seems to be taking it to the extreme. He's basically describing steel Orange Bikes.
  • + 1
 @justanotherusername: Maybe some flex is ok, but cranks hitting chain stays isn’t and is noodley?

Not my opinion, I hate the rear wheel all over the place some bikes have, sold my old Meta AM V4 as it felt too noodley for me.

Different people like different rides.
  • + 2
 @StevieJB: I would prefer to say if the cranks hit the frame then the design needs looking at.

I imagine the idea you flexed your commencal to the point that it was so bad you had sell it is all in your head though.
  • + 1
 @justanotherusername: Bad enough to snap rear axles, loads of people have on V4’. The newer models introduced a seat stay brace to help stop the silly amount of flex.

Agree bad design or choice of tubing for cranks to hit chain stays as a rider said they do with the starling.
  • + 2
 @StevieJB: i think it is mostly due to the very little space between crank and chainstay, on my frame the distance is about 3-4 mm. Combine this with a flexible frame and crank hits frame. The frame was one of the first with bigger tireclearance without boost, i think the current bikes do not have this flaw anymore.
  • + 6
 This was a great podcast. Well worth a listen. McEwan is a straightforward and very knowledgeable guy, with a great take on simplicity in design.

Oh, and now I can’t stop thinking about how a Swoop would run on my local trails...
  • + 6
 He also had a lot of other interesting ideas about weight and stiffness. How about about low weight being over-rated or at least a bit simplistic, and sometimes more sprung-weight sometimes actually equals more traction and stability (less deflection)? And the idea of a larger (and sometimes heavier) wheel generating more rotational inertia to go straight through the rough stuff. Hmmm.
I just put the heaviest tyre I have ever used on the front of my my bike (Schwalbe 2.35 Magic Mary Super Gravity, Ultra soft) and it feels amazing. The damping and the traction far exceed the Minion DHF 2.5 EXO I had on there and I couldn't care less that it weighs 450gms more. Yes I actually weighed them both.
  • + 7
 Steel in cheaper than carbon, this is just about the bottom line of business. Make bikes cheap, sell them at premium dentist plan!
  • + 5
 You completely sure that is true?

Maybe at the scale at which Starling sell frames but compare a mass produced carbon to Reynolds steel, I don't see many chinese Reynolds fs frames for £500 like I do carbon.

Regardless, the Starling is £1650-£1800, a Santa Cruz about £3k, yeti over £3k.
  • + 1
 Well... at first you can choose between custom geo and handmade or the taiwan frames. Then, like already said, its not mass production and no multi million dollar company behind it. If you dont like something special, custom, something that not everyone else got...then its nothing for you. also you have to admit that he just startet his company couple of years ago...
  • + 0
 @justanotherusername: I'll still take the Sc or the Yeti any day.. But that's just me. I've simply just never had issue with carbon... Love how they ride.
  • + 1
 @bohns1: Yea but what are you saying? That you would prefer a frame that's twice the price?

Very strange way to get your point across, don't you think?

Nobody is saying you should have a problem with carbon either - he is saying that at his level and qty of production carbon isn't feasible and steel can offer its own benefits anyway.

Oh, and just one last thing - as its highly likely you haven't ever ridden a starling to compare it to a SC or Yeti, how can you say that other than based on snobbery or looks?
  • + 2
 @justanotherusername: not really a point.. Just an opinion on that I would take the yeti or SC...

I've ridden steel frames before.. Too heavy and the aesthetics lack in my opinion.. No I have not ridden a starling, but I highly doubt if they compare to a yeti or sc..

Also yes, looks are important at these price points... No doubt about it.
  • + 1
 @bohns1: they are fun until they crack!
  • + 3
 @bohns1: looks are a personal thing and at this price point it is important to like what you are buying, totally agree with that.

As for it being heavy because it's steel - well doesn't that depend on the design and construction? You can make a carbon or alloy frame heavy.

You doubt they compare to a yeti or sc, whys that? Timed runs when tested at Dirt mag has a prototype frame being faster than the big named carbon bikes with much better builds.
  • + 1
 @markar: still waiting for that day!
  • + 1
 @justanotherusername: Does that timed run include climbing? If it's just on the downs, that's only half the battle.. I rode a steely Stanton.. Nice bike... But the way up left a lot to be desired in that regard in comparison to the plastic brethren.

Just sayin.
  • + 1
 @bohns1: Indeed climbing and riding on the flat is something a lot of people on pink bike either blank out or don’t do because they live next to an uplifted park.

The vast majority of my riding is on flat or up hill too get to ride down a hill so typically I go out for a 2 hour ride that’s up hill for 1hr 45mins with the aim of two great fun 7 min downhills.

That means these heavy weigh flexy steel sleds are out of the question as ride would end up being 1 hr and one fun down hill as I’d be too knackered to ride up to do another run.

Aluminium or Carbon for me thanks.

To me ‘Steel is real’ translates as ‘steel is old fashioned but what we know how to work with so it’s what we do’.
  • + 3
 @StevieJB: would you be any more tired riding a bike less than 10% heavier up a hill or would you go slightly slower to compensate? E.g. Effort level the same, time spent climbing 3mins extra?

Have you listened to the podcast? - Joe puts this very well as your body and bike being a system and how 2-3lbs is a realistically minute percentage of this.

Its a very old road cycling debate, riding a lighter bike do you try any less hard than riding a heavier one or do you just cover ground slightly slower?
  • + 1
 @justanotherusername: I notice a huge difference and it isn’t just weight it’s the flex, Joe has a product to sell he may have a lot of ideas - doesn’t make them right though.

I’ve been a road rider, I was quite a bit of a road rider last year, this year just MTB though. Get on a light weight stiff carbon road bike and point yourself at a hill then repeat with just an average road bike and the difference is huge. You accelerate faster it’s less effort to hold the same pace it’s not as hard work. Indeed I give you that it may be roll reversal after a full day in the saddle.

It’s horses for course as such and I know I want light weight and reasonably stiff. I’ve had many steel bikes before steel became fashionable and I don’t like their bulk.

Couple of weeks ago I helped a knackered rider lift his Cotic Flare Max over a fence, man the weight of it made me feel sorry for him, it became obvious why he looked so knackered.
  • + 1
 @StevieJB: Couldn't agree with you more.. I live in the Canadian Rockies and most of my rides consist of atleast two to three hour slogs uphill... But I love it... For me it's all about the plastic!

Earn your turns!
  • + 1
 @justanotherusername: covering ground slightly slower is a non option... Especially the peeps I ride with... Battling up the hill is part of the fun.. Two to three minutes is a long ass time to be waiting for people..
  • + 1
 @bohns1: yeah let’s listen to the guy who actually bought crank brothers wheels. Ha
  • + 1
 @thenotoriousmic: ya, back in 09 that came on my blur as a demo buy.. Havent upgraded my profile in years... No what, those things were bomb proof..

It's not about what u used to do... Its what have u done lately... The sb130 it is.
  • + 2
 I found the podcast highly informative, entertaining, and worth the time. I liked: his philosophy on bike design- material, stiffness vs compliance, linear frame design and the role of suspension tuning, thoughts on bike weight, and insight to what 29" wheels are actually doing while rolling. A really bright dude.

Don't think most PB'ers took the time to listen and I think the shit show that was the original Pinkbike Murmur review was a shame. Don't know of anyone else that could build a bike in their shed (while working a job), have it be radically different, annoyingly simple, and a completely different aesthetic. And then to send it off and have it circumvent conventional bike standards and perform well in it's own unique way.

Been looking for a bike for a while and being here in So Cal I see evils, SC's, intense, etc all day and have become so numb and almost annoyed at current bike design. The murmur is exactly what I was looking for in terms of geo and performance. The whole aesthetic (may not be for everyone) and design ethos is a refreshing bonus. Everyone might claim that the 'marketing is working' on me but take the time to listen to the podcast. It's just a dude whose already financially comfortable, has a family, and just wants to sell X amount of bikes to ensure he can continue to make bikes.
  • + 4
 I like people like Joe, straight talking without being a rude asshole like some other small bike company owners and with the knowledge to back up his claims.
  • - 1
 You changed your screenname!
  • + 2
 @sickbicycleco: how long did it take you to dig through a story completely unrelated to you and your business and connect a comment to yourself you egotistical dullard?

Other people / businesses exist and are more relevant to others despite how you may see yourself and ‘sick’ - you are not the only person completely immersed in an echo chamber of your own bullshit - ‘leader of the new school’.... yea right, you can’t even control your own ego and mental fragility.
  • + 0
 @justanotherusername: Oof, you didn't like getting called on that did you?
  • + 1
 @sickbicycleco: didn't like getting called out on what? A changed username on Pinkbike? haha, yes, I am so very upset about that!

You really need to sort your mental state out - making weird little Instagram posts as you are paranoid that everybody is talking about you on Pinkbike is almost as bizarre as the fact that you have scoured a story that is over a week old, read my original post and decided it absolutely must be about you.

You are either delusional or you just have hyper active ego, probably both- Happy New Year, I suggest concentrating on the things that actually matter in your life rather than taking time to broadcast to your echo chamber that somebody might have said something about you, weeks ago, on the internet, in an unrelated story, that didn't actually mention you.
  • + 0
 @justanotherusername: A free mental health assessment. How generous.
Tbh just wanted to see if you stalked my insta - got what I wanted cheers
  • + 1
 @sickbicycleco: I don't 'stalk' your insta - I am one of the other almost 25K people that follow your Instagram profile where you put information for the public to see - I would say you finding this comment on here is more akin to stalking, don't you think?

As I say, this comment genuinely wasn't about you, I really am sorry to say. I recently almost purchased a bike from a company who's owner was absolutely full of shite, this was about them, you have basically trolled yourself here.
  • + 0
 @justanotherusername: oh yeah absolutely! But that’s the thing I love a challenge or a puzzle. The internet affords an anonymous space for people.

You absolutely dogged me ragged when we started, and pinkbike is a Wild West in terms of high jinx.

For better or for worse. I love the company being 1:2:1

In the spirit of season. I’ll behave now
  • + 1
 @sickbicycleco: You are your own worst enemy.
  • + 0
 @justanotherusername: nah, I have far worse enemies.
  • + 2
 When happens when one of your workers places a small piece of CF 1-2 mm away from your "desired" layup location. ie: at a 47 deg angle instead of 45 deg?
Does this change the characteristics of the bike in any meaningful manner?
You are at the mercy of the workers doing the layup. You know....don't buy a bike built on Monday, Friday, the first day before/after a long weekend.
I'm personally not sold on the price/value proposition of CF yet, let alone a few downgrades of components to meet price points.
  • + 1
 Ok here is my question is it ok just to throw all the broken cf frames away in the trash? That it is really expensive to recycle all of the cf frames and parts. That they should not be going into the land fills that they do not brake down over time? Any truth??
  • + 2
 Problem with Carbon fibre is toxic resins used in manufacturing !
  • + 2
 @aljoburr: you think welding tubes doesn't cause toxicity? Especially to the builder..
  • + 1
 We have a custom steel frame builder in my city. He does road,gravel aggro hardtail and recently a 29er dual suspension enduro bike. Apparently it rocks. It's not too heavy and it gets ridden to top ten places at local races. Steel is real
  • + 1
 Don't you mean Mercer? Would love that full suspension, I think it's called Gangly Gibbon? Saw a photo of it at vital but no info about it.
  • + 1
 The world doesn't really need anymore plastic "crap". Where will all these carbon bike frames be in 10,15, or even 20 years? I know I still get lots of fun out of my old chromoly Stumpjumper, can I expect the same of a carbon bike? We will see but my guess is not..
  • + 1
 Waki; I don't know why you take such pleasure in starting fights; if you could be respectful towards others consistently you'd likely find others treating you with the same respect as well. I appreciate your wide variety of knowledge but find your insults and bickering to be a distraction from the actual conversations about bike culture. No insult is needed in response.
  • + 1
 fwiw aerospace carbon manufacturing is no better than F1 and not much better than the bike industry. It's cost is reflective of certification and trace ability requirements. Every part on a finished aircraft is inspected and certified at each level, every hand that touches it is recorded and the material is traceable to it's raw form. If something fails somebody is in trouble and they'll know who to blame.
  • + 1
 Exactly its a known quantity done within a rigid set of rules there are very few new things in aerospace and even repairs are done to a set specific standard that anyone can do not some super high standard above which all others are judged thats just complete Rubbish they are just checks to ensure it slots into set of rules x or y now when we were doing the dreamliner that left a bit of room for R@D the private message joe sent damming me for my critisism almost showed the contempt he has for anyone that criticises his bikes and i heard this from another company also. I never said were bad at all i merely pointed out someone with over 25 years of experience is going to come along and point out that your using an argument thats false as someone pointed out above he knows he cant afford carbon he just justified it as a sales tool. I mean who would think a company called Atlas composites who were well known for making aircraft parts would make the parts for the olympic track bikes...and the company before them Advanced composites group, now owned by one of the biggest players in the aerospace industry were doing that too. Unless you worked there
  • - 2
 I dont dislime the bloke or his bikes but i do dislike thinly veiled marketing bullshit for your own end and anyone that knows me in the bike indistry cann tell you i can be a nob but i never ever bullshit
  • + 6
 bamboo is the future
  • + 3
 Yeah, the future of grass.
  • + 1
 it breaks down too quick unfortunately
  • + 1
 You would think China would have released better uses for Bamboo in building bikes & a lot cheaper than other carbon fibres
  • + 1
 @madmon: Not if heat treated
  • + 4
 VOLUME WARNING for that three-second intro. Why the F would anyone do that?
  • + 2
 Keeping you on your toes my son.
  • + 5
 Steel is real, for hardtails and road bikes.
  • + 2
 Because he realized that there are people willing to pay more for steel than carbon. LoL

Did we really need a thread about it?
  • + 2
 I ride a Murmur since this summer - custom geometry and love it. Fastest and most confidence inspiring bike I´ve owned. It also climbs really well
  • + 1
 I've been behind carbon for the last tens years until reading the article about Leo Kokkonen refusing to push forward on their carbon Pole bikes due to the massive about of waste dumped into the sea, unregulated
  • + 1
 Chatted to the guy at Ard Rock. Full of passion and happy to talk to an idiot like me without being patronising. I’d have one of his bikes in a heartbeat. Might have to sell a kidney ????
  • + 3
 have a de kerf legendary steel frame nuff said!
  • + 0
 Good man. I've always said I will never own carbon bike. I will never sucoumb to the plastic fantastic brigade. Give me a high quality steel or aluminium frame any day of the week.
  • + 2
 For the love of Sol Invictus..... Starling!!!! CAN WE PLASE HAVE AN AGGRESSIVE HT SHOOT OUT
!?!?!?!
  • + 1
 "I can weld it in my backyard if we use steel and it's cheap"

Thats the only reason nothing else. The rest is marketing poop.
  • - 1
 Marketing bobbins to support your own products is great looks lime the public are becoming educated enough to see through it i have said this before in the land of the blind etc etc

Oh ive seen it at the highest level also and its actually not that high in fact i worked in aerospace on some of the worlds first (kind of things) i also spent long enough in F1 to blow holes in lots of theories
  • + 1
 I am not in the bike industry, but from the outside, talking about a competitor like this doesn’t sound very professional, and also makes you look a bit shoddy to the public too!
  • + 1
 @nrpuk: ok cool shall I give a shit what you think when I run out of cash or customers?
  • + 1
 @Compositepro: You might want to before it gets to that stage rudeboy
  • + 3
 Looks like a Cotic
  • + 1
 I am totally in love with Starling, but a employees deal on other brands will keep me away with these beauties.
  • + 1
 no kevlar bikes yet. carbon kev layup? or now its mainly some sort of polyester resin with some chopped fibers.
  • + 2
 Expert=X is an unknown quantity. Spert is a drip under pressure
  • + 1
 If Liteville would develop their bikes in carbon, I would buy carbon frame of Liteville... So simple is it..
  • + 1
 Remember when the 2016 ews after the first 3 rounds aluminum bikes were 3/ top five in standings? I do.
  • + 1
 Because carbon fiber brakes
  • + 8
 give me a break
  • + 17
 i would love to try carbon fiber brakes.
  • + 6
 @cuban-b: get a Lambo I think they come stock
  • + 1
 Tech3 results Muslys, Bates etc
  • + 2
 Is it 29+ compatible?
  • + 1
 Good article.
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