Starling Murmur - Review

Apr 9, 2018
by Paul Aston  



Starling's Murmur has been causing a stir recently, but can an old-fashioned, single-pivot, steel bike, made in some bloke's shed in Bristol, UK, compete with the big guns?

We built a Murmur frame from the ground up with an array of products for long-term testing. Starling hand-builds Murmer frames to order in the UK, and while our test bike is in line with Starling's suggested geometry, customers are encouraged to customize some of their numbers.

The Murmur begins with 29" wheels, 145mm of rear travel, Reynolds/Columbus tubing and an MSRP of £2040 GBP (€2300 to $2840 USD approx.) without shock. Starling have recently moved
out of the shed to a real workshop to increase production, and are now offering a Taiwanese-built frame for a lower price, but with fixed geometry, sizes and finishes.
Murmur Details:

Intended use: trail/enduro
Travel: 145mm
Wheel size: 29"
Frame construction: Reynolds 853/631 and Columbus Life and Zona steel
Size: Custom, 510mm reach
Frame weight: 3780 grams (excluding shock)
Price: £2040 GBP (€2300 / $2840 USD approx.)
More info: starlingcycles.com
bigquotesThe modern angles make it easy to ride up and down a wide range of terrain, with a forgiving character that will make your riding life easier. Paul Aston






Starling Murmur Review headtube gusset details


Construction and Features

The Murmur frame is built from a mix of Reynolds 853 and 631, with a selection of Columbus Life and Zona steel tubing. The chassis uses a simple, single-pivot swingarm suspension, and exhibits slim, clean lines and much attention to details, including laser-cut starling's in the head tube gussets, a bolt-on swingarm brace, an integrated seat clamp, an integrated top chain guide, and ISCG-05 mounts for a bash guard.

Starling Murmur Review This is the 114th frame out of the Starling shed
This was the 114th frame out of the Starling shed.
Starling Murmur Review Dropout detail
Slim tubes give the bike a recognizable profile.

Starling Murmur Review Bottle cage mounts
Thank god for bottle cage mounts, hidden underneath the top tube.
Starling Murmur Review cable routing detail
The cable routing on the Murmur is all external.


Geometry & Sizing

Starling Murmur Review geometry chart


All UK-built frames are made to measure, but Starling does have their own baseline recommendations, which on my frame were: 64.5º head angle, 77º seat angle, 510 mm reach and a 445mm chainstay. The seat tube is also low, at 450mm, which left me with 80mm of exposed dropper post. The bottom bracket is low, with a -38mm drop, and the stack height is 647mm.


Starling Murmur review geometry


Suspension Design

There's not much to the Starling's suspension design. It uses a triangulated, single pivot swingarm that hinges in line with the top of the recommended 32-tooth chainring, and slightly ahead of the bottom bracket. The eye-to-eye shock length on my frame was a standard 200mm x 57mm, which provides 145mm of travel a the rear wheel.




Starling Murmur Review Main pivot
K.I.S.S. Keep It Single (pivot) Suspension
Starling Murmur anti-rise
Starling Murmur Review: anti-rise

Starling Murmur Leverage ratio
Starling Murmur Review: leverage ratio
Starling Murmur anti-squat
Starling Murmur Review: anti-squat

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Bike Setup

Starling provided a frame for review which I built with a bunch of components that had arrived for long-term testing including a cockpit from Renthal with their new FatBar and Ultra Tacky Push-On grips, Halo's new Vortex wheelset, Rotor's Hawk cranks with their adjustable Q-ring, a BikeYoke Revive 185mm dropper, a 66Sick saddle, a Formula Selva fork set at 160mm and Formula Cura two-piston brakes..

I set the Murmur's cockpit with high-rise 800mm bars and a 45mm stem, and the suspension's rebound and compression were tuned fast, with 20% sag front and 25% rear.

The bike took a beating on my usual test tracks in Finale Ligure during the winter months in plenty of rare wet weather, taking on long uphill road drags, steep technical climbs, and moss-covered limestone trails.



Paul Aston
Paul Aston
Location: Finale Ligure, Italy
Age: 32
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 165 lbs
Industry affiliations / sponsors: None
Instagram: @astonator
KM's ridden: ca.200


Starling Murmur Review Climbiing corners

Climbing

The Murmur instantly proved that the geometry of the rear end of the bike (the relationship between saddle, wheel axle and bottom bracket) is the most important factor to me for climbing – not weight, fancy linkage designs, or gram shaving. Hopping aboard, the upright position put me well over the bottom bracket with the fairly long 445mm chainstay out back for support. This made climbing simple as there was rarely a fight to keep the front wheel down, my hips were open and torso upright for what felt like more efficient and powerful climbing, with less energy wasted keeping on track, and more air into my lungs. The 510mm reach and high 800mm-wide bar gave plenty of breathing space, even with the saddle slammed forwards and the 45mm stem.

Starling Murmur Review Berm shot



The majority of the time on the Starling, I used Rotor cranks with their ovalized Q-ring. For me, this oval ring was easy to get used to, felt easier on my legs, and improved traction in loose terrain. This added to the huge traction from the very compliant chassis, which seemed glued to the ground.

The downside of the Q-Ring, and something I have felt before on multi-pivot bikes, is that oval rings seem to play with the anti-squat of the bike. At the point where you get the most power (pedal stroke between 2 and 5 o'clock), you also have the least amount of anti-squat as the chainring is at its highest point in relation to the main pivot, and when you have the least power in the 'dead spot,' you have the most anti-squat. This appears to make the bike bob when sprinting up short, steep climbs.

With the climb switch on the Float X2 shock activated, that effect is drastically reduced and the Starling pedals along fine - plus, you have the advantage of the oval ring. With a standard round ring, the Murmur pedaled well, with the anti-squat being just around 107% at the sag point.

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Descending

The first thing I noticed on my initial outing on the Murmur was the smooth steering that was especially predictable as the bike leaned and carved into corners. It may be the best steering I have experienced to date on a 29er, thanks in part to the 46mm offset of the Selva fork, matched to a 45mm stem and 64.5º head angle.

As speeds increase, the stability is massive. Thank God for some forward-thinking lads that started making bikes much longer a few years ago. I found the longer chainstay and more centralized riding position on the bike allows more aggressive use of body weight to balance between the front and rear contact patches when grip is needed. Also, deliberate shifting of your weight forwards and backward to lift and un-weight the front or the rear wheel as you take on severe gradient changes into chutes, over edges and large obstacles is easier - and provides a more dynamic ride characteristic with practice.

The Murmur holds a line and tracks superbly in the array of angled and wet limestone the bike was subjected to, with masses of grip around flat and loose corners. I seemed to hold a line however irregular the trail was – sometimes feeling the rear wheel fishtailing behind me while the front was making progress. The Murmur carries speed over obstacles and "pops" easily. I did notice some chain slapping noise, which was quieted after a lathering of rubber tape on the left stays.

Starling Murmur Review Emanuelle IV
bigquotesAs speeds increase, the stability is massive. Thank God for some forward-thinking lads that started making bikes much longer a few years ago.Paul Aston

Well, all of the above sounds great doesn't it? I loved the ride, and I would happily ride this thing all year in my terrain. The weak point of this bike is the suspension bottoming. It needs more end-stroke progression. I could improve this with volume spacers and more high-speed compression. Bottoming out the steel frame was not harsh, but if I were hitting more jumps and flat landings I would be more concerned.

The major characteristics of this bike are its compliant steel frame and smooth damping, which in most aspects, make it a very easy bike to ride bike as conditions toughen and you weaken. If you ride smooth hardpack, love railing berms, and trying to out-sprint your mates from of every corner, you will probably want something stiffer and more responsive.

The flex of the frame will be impacted a lot by total rider weight; at 75 kg the bike didn't seem out-of-control flexy to me, but riders weighing up and over 90kgs could find this chassis too vague. A little more stiffness in the front triangle and the front portion of the swingarm would firm things up, while retaining that "steel is real" feeling.




Starling Murmur Review Berm life 1


Starling Murmur Review
Civil War: Murmur versus...
BTR Pinner
...BTR's British built Pinner.

How does it compare?

The Starling versus the Pinner? This is a tough one, and a blend of the two might be a perfect machine. The raw finish and fine welds on the BTR do it for me, as well as the more progressive suspension, which allowed the beautiful EXT coil shock to be used. I also liked the BTR's more torsionally stiff (but still not harsh) front end. The Starling, however, won me over with its bigger wheels, 15mm more travel, longer reach, and longer chainstays - all of which made life simpler and more forgiving for the terrain I ride (up and down).


Technical Report

Formula Cura: These are a fantastic set of brakes, with a great feel and huge modulation. They make you ask yourself the question: "Why do I need four pistons?" Expect a full review soon.

Halo Vortex wheelset: The Vortex wheelset is well thought out, with an asymmetric rim that has a thicker walls on one side to balance stiffness, 33mm internal width, a super clicky 120-point-engagement hub, and all the size and sticker options you could ever dream of. I spent most of the time with a CushCore system installed in this wheelset, and while I managed to gain a number of dents, I experienced no failures or punctures, even with much lighter tires than I generally use.


Starling Murmur Review Formula Cura

Starling Murmur Review Halo Vortex
Starling Murmur Review Revive 185mm dropper post

Starling Murmur Review Renthal s new Fatbar was integral to the cockpit


BikeYoke Revive dropper: This was my first time using a BikeYoke dropper, and as RC said in his review "the Revive is in a league of its own." The 185mm length dropper worked without issue and is smooth and silent.

Renthal FatBar and Ultra-Tacky Push-On grips: This FatBar is the all-new design. It's hard to tell that from the outside, but at 800mm wide with an anodized black finish there is nothing to not like. The Ultra-Tacky grip is my go-to choice. After cleaning, gloves will literally stick to them while riding, and comfort and vibration absorption is way above any lock-on grip that I've tried. The new quick-drying grip glue also makes installation easy and more reliable than the older glue. To reuse them, I found that sliding a slim Allen key under the grip and dripping some isopropyl alcohol inside will get them off in seconds. They are also half the price, and last twice as long as many lock-on grips.


Pros

+ Customizeable geometry, details, and finish.
+ Easy to ride in all situations.
+ Fantastic tracking and chassis damping.
Cons

- Expensive at £2040 GBP excluding shock.
- No integrated chain stay protection.
- Could be too flexy for fast and heavier riders.

Starling Murmur Review Top tube graphic
Starling Murmur Review Bottle cage mounts

Is this the bike for you?

Riders looking for a fantastic all-round 29er will suit the Starling's character. Bigger, heavier, or very aggressive riders might find the bike is soft, and people who want to rail hardpack and sprint all day long will ask for something stiffer and more responsive.

Starling Murmur Review Some rust after I had to grind the paint off the shock mount location to fit.
Starling Murmur Review in line or not you decide


Issues

So, investing in a British hand-built bike should promise you a 'perfect' bike when you take it out of the box. But, my bike had a few issues with it. The simple issues to fix were grinding the paint from the inside of the shock mounts so the shock hardware would fit (yes, I did have the correct size). Secondly, the thick layer of paint also blocked three of the cable routing mounts and needed digging out with a pick to get a cable tie to pass through. The third and slightly more pressing issue was frame alignment. With the shock removed, it was clear to see to the swingarm wasn't aligned perfectly with the seat tube. Also, looking at the bike from the rear the wheel revealed that the two were not particularly inline. Here's what Joe from Starling had to say:

Starling's Response

Firstly, the paint thickness: In the past, I have offered a huge variety of color options to my customers, but the huge variety brings some issues. Different colors behave differently, and in this case, the blue Paul selected resulted in a thicker-than-normal layer and caused some issues. Going forward, I have reduced the number of colors I can offer to improve my control over the finish,.

Secondly, alignment: Building bikes from my shed has been a challenge, the lack of a proper alignment table has resulted in some issues. But, as Paul will agree, it has no noticeable impact on how the bike rides. Going forward, I have moved into a new and much larger shop, with two alignment tables, and I am getting some bigger machines - all of which, will allow me to resolve this issue.

Concerned customers may want to check out my Taiwanese bikes that have none of the “shed built” issues, but still have the same great ride. I’m taking pre-orders on these now.



Pinkbike's Take
bigquotesThe Starling is easily one of my top two favorite 29er trail bikes. It should meet the wishes of many riders looking for something a little different to the norm, from a niche steel-maker. The modern angles make it easy to ride up and down a wide range of terrains, with a forgiving character that will make your riding life easier.Paul Aston







246 Comments

  • + 159
 WTF Paul Aston giving a glowing review to a bike which HAS WHEELS THAT DON'T LINE UP?! This guy has such a weird fetish for awkward looking steel British limousine bikes that I will never understand.
  • + 1
 but it's damn sexy tho...
  • + 8
 @fartymarty: never understood this obsession with very simple looking steel framed bikes, especially dual suspension.

no eye to aesthetics at all on most of these. for a road/cross bike, i can get it.
  • + 47
 Pre production model # 114.
  • + 41
 To be honest Paul is becoming one of the worst reviewers for PB, he has such a bias towards the way he likes his bikes to ride that his opinion just does not relate to the majority of PB readers. Come on PB, give him a kick up the arse so he doesn't write everything from tall guy in Finale who likes massive quirky bikes perspective - Its getting a bit repetitive.
  • - 1
 I don't know why Paul Aston was hired. Maybe they thought they needed some UK content but they're only hurting their reputation with his ridiculous reviews.
  • + 64
 Steve Jones was raving about this bike. Could be that this bike is actually pretty good?

dirtmountainbike.com/gear/bike-reviews/trail-enduro-bikes/starling-murmur-steel-bike-thats-blown-us-away
  • + 47
 Maybe perfect alignement is not that important in a environement where the frame AND components are deflecting in so many directions at every hits, corners and line correction.
  • + 6
 510mm reach?
  • + 7
 I love the look of this bike and would consoder one. However. I had an Intense tracer 275 recently that cracked and had shock issues and when I looked, it was out of line. Now Im paranoid about it
  • - 3
 @Racer951: You really like to be THAT a$$
on PB, right?
  • + 6
 @Golem: This. When I ride the only alignment that matters is my body position with the trail. Meanwhile my bike is bouncing and dancing around like its doing the Cha-Cha or some shit.
  • - 2
 @themountain: nah I reckon @Racer951 has a point. Paul Aston's weird-ass preferences for bikes means that I pretty much ignore any feedback/reviews he creates. He's way too niche, and as far as I can tell he hasn't ever reviewed a normal consumer bike yet continues to praise these boutique limo bikes.

I listen to what Levy, Kazimer, and RC have to say. Aston has no credibility to me.
  • + 80
 @LavenderGooms: How dare PB to hire someone who's not a mass market apple product whore. f*ck originality and creativity, I want to be told what I want and I want what I was told to like to be just like the what everybody else likes because being an indvidual is just too damned hard for my instagram following sheep. #vegan #yogaposeonthebeach #glutenfree #vanlife #lookatmetoo #Hashtag
  • + 15
 @Boardlife69: paul is a vegan
  • - 8
flag Boardlife69 (Apr 9, 2018 at 11:11) (Below Threshold)
 @Racer951: Hey Paul, your eating my foods food, and I dont appreciate it. How do you sleep at night knowing you are causing many delicious beef cows to go hungry? #Veganfree #savetheearth #overgrazingwillsaveus #AllenSavory
  • + 35
 Might want to look closely at some of the mass produced bikes, wheels that don't line up is a more common problem than any brand likes to admit. Having said that I hope Joe gets and stays on top of it in his new digs, every review of this bike has been glowing so far, but every review I've seen so far has also been British (Dirt, Singletrack, Bikeradar, Enduro and now Pinkbike Paul). Maybe Paul should send it to the Canadians for a second opinion?
  • + 32
 @Racer951: Yes what we all need is more short and steep bikes made for the masses by massive companies reviews. Aston doesn't drink the cool aid and I think that is fantastic!
  • - 23
flag wallheater (Apr 9, 2018 at 11:22) (Below Threshold)
 @Boardlife69: Any chance you could just f*ck off?
  • + 7
 @SintraFreeride: I'm not saying that at all but all of the recent reviews are centred around very specific build types.

I don't like some bikes myself but can completely see how many people would. Im not saying Paul does a bad review, I would just like to see more 'standard' bikes being put though the ringer by him with the view of how the bike stacks up for the average rider.

Paul does one of the better reviews on here and his tech stuff is far better than the other guys, his WC bike checks are awesome, so I'm not criticising Paul so much as the breath of the product being reviewed.
  • - 8
flag Boardlife69 (Apr 9, 2018 at 11:32) (Below Threshold)
 @wallheater: I did, on your mom, twice before noon. Lighten up, learn to read jokes. #Seriously #Notserious
  • + 3
 @enrico650: 510mm reach is the new large. Don't knock until you've tried it!
  • + 3
 @ilovedust: Same - I had an intense spider that dog tracked pretty bad. Riding straight the frame pointed to the right and the tires didnt create the same line in the dirt.
  • + 7
 @Sintra those ‘short and steep’ bikes aren’t at all really. They’re just not ‘ridiculously massive’. It’s a matter of perspective but the use of the term makes it sound like you’re just as hammered on the limo bike cool aid as Mr Aston. Which is fine, we all have our favourite tipple. I guess you’re exactly the target audience for this review.
  • + 34
 @Racer951: Paul Aston is a tall rider and has specific taste. Mike Levy likes his bikes short and steep Paul Aston doesn't. I'm glad both do reviews on Pinkbike. Not everyone rides the same kind of bikes.
I agree with Mr. Aston on many aspects of bike geometry and setup and look forward to his reviews eagerly. The few reviews Paul has done on more normal bikes he has found the geometry lacking so personally I believe that may be why he sticks to these non standard bikes.
In 5 years time when the rest of the bike industry realises that long, slack bikes with steep seat angles and long chainstays are actually better then I'm sure we will see Mr. Aston reviewing Trek and Specialized bikes.
I think if you want reviews of bikes for the average rider then you better look at reviews by other pinkbike editors (no disrespect to them).
  • + 10
 @Powderface:

I just can't understand why PB users can't see, that any product content here falls between advertorial and infotaintment . It's really enjoyable to read and what not, but to base any purchasing decision solely based on "reviews" here isn't something I would advise to anyone.
  • + 5
 @SintraFreeride: I was right with you until “in 5 years time...”
The thing is that it’s NOT better. NOT worse. Just different. It’s not an evolution, it’s a mutation.
The guys and gals who’re making these huge bikes are doing cool things and much of what they’ve done has been observed and the best bits have been taken and used to great success on more moderate and arguably more considered bike design. But they want you to think it’s better. There’s a notion that any bike that’s not 500+ reach 63°HA and 460 chainstays then it’s old hat. Those guys are sleeping...pah one day they’ll realise. This is not the case at all, it’s what the producers of the huge bikes want you to think. And if you truly believe they are better FOR YOU then good for you. But you’re not everyone. They really are like the vegans of bike design.
  • + 4
 @Racer951: Hey every trek and specialized and giant (and what-have-you) has a "very specific build type" also, it just all happens to all come out of the taiwanese/chinese (and the like) manufactured brands that have more cash flow.

Having italian and british-made parts doesn't make a bike more specific, it just makes the parts made closer to people who live in those countries, and allows employees and buyers in those countries know more about the manufacturer. I use hope, mrp, velocity, white industries, chris king, and profile racing products wherever possible for this reason (yes it takes me 10 years to save for my bikes, but that's not my priority).
  • + 10
 @ThomDawson: I have one of those "huge" bikes. 520mm reach 1340mm wheelbase, 460mm chainstays, 63º headangle. I'm 180cm. It is the first bike that really fits me. It climbs better and decends better than all previous bikes I've had and have ridden. I don't buy into marketing. I test stuff and if it works I stick with it. I was running 36-44mm rims 10 years ago before it wide rims became normal again. Shorter people will require shorter bikes but 73º seat angles are crap for MTB and so are 70º headangles no matter where you ride. I dream of the day when most brands offer different reach bikes with short seat tubes you can choose your frame based on the reach you want and not low you can run your saddle.
  • - 1
 @Racer951: he is so much smarter than than us. We should just bow before his superior knowledge and agree that he knows whats best.
  • + 4
 @SintraFreeride: that was a good dig. "average rider" is a nice burn, much more subtle than saying we are a bunch of unskilled noobs. Not everyone can understand and appreciate Mr Aston's genius.
  • + 14
 @LavenderGooms: What's the point in testing the same cookie-cutter shit from the mass manufacturers if they only differ in geo by 0.5 a degree in head/seat angles and put the same stupid short rear centre length on every bike (short chainstays bro!)?

Show me a mass market bike with the numbers of this bike or a G13 etc?
  • + 1
 @SintraFreeride: I fully expected you to dude. I’ve read enough of your comments to appreciate that you know what you’re talking about and if it works for you that’s all good.
My Mrs is a vegetarian, it fits with her well and I’m cool with it. If she ever tried to tell me to be a vegetarian too that’s when I’d stop being cool with it. Cus I’ve tried it and for me it sucks.
  • + 12
 @jclnv: the trouble here is Aston wants to like this bike. Even in spite of glaring downfalls. They should put Levy on this and have Aston test the new Rocky (not) XC bike.
  • + 0
 @enrico650: custom geometry
  • + 9
 One of my balls are miss-aligned. It still rides good, but what about the longevity of the shock?
  • + 1
 @ThomDawson: He likes it because it's relatively unique in geo and rides differently because of that.
  • + 4
 @Fix-the-Spade: I think someone at NSMB has one. They know their shit.
  • + 1
 @fartymarty: I'd still like to see the Pinkbike Canadians get a hold of it. This is exactly the kind of bike that I would expect someone who lives in Finale to like, seeing an alternate viewpoint on the same bike from someone based in a less Alpine environment would be interesting.
  • + 3
 At least the geo is right. Better than buying a 10K trophy bike that was designed wrong from the beginning. You'll look pretty though Smile
  • + 3
 @enrico650: yes. Don't buy into what the big brands are doing. They don't understand geometry. They do know sells.
  • + 2
 @Boardlife69: not very original when I can walk into walmart and find at least 10 different single pivot steel frames lol
  • + 21
 @Racer951: Could not disagree more. Paul Aston is the only reviewer at Pinkbike with a proper downhill racing background and I trust his insights far more as a result. I think there is certainly an audience for a reviewer who talks about things that matter to the crowd of riders who focus on how bike descends down difficult terrain. Also, Aston's 'tall guy who likes long bikes' perspective' is not much different than Levy's 'I like short travel bikes with outdated geometry' spiel, so don't pretend Aston is the only reviewer that brings a certain slant to his articles. Each caters to a certain segment of Pinkbike's audience who care about different aspects of a bikes performance.
  • + 1
 @Fix-the-Spade: I'm Canadian, as soon as the snow melts I would love to give it a thrashing.
  • - 1
 I'd be surprised if most PB readers could tell if a bike had a slightly misaligned rear end. Not ideal but not a show stopper either. Fundamentally it seems like a good bike (more for some people than others), with a few issues that need to be ironed out.

Every reviewer on the site has preferences/biases and that's what makes things interesting.
  • + 8
 @EckNZ: you cant be serious. im no bicycle expert, but when a frame is misaligned, its pretty obvious. putting out a fundamentally flawed product is really bad for business, no excuses. nice try though.
  • + 5
 @jaycubzz: Many USA built frames were misaligned for years.
  • + 2
 @jaycubzz: you answered your own question - its that they are very simple looking. Simple and clean.
  • + 1
 @wibblywobbly: Average rider does not mean unskilled noobs! If that is what I meant I would use the term beginner rider. The average rider in my opinion is a rider that rides a 1-3 times a week for a few hours on average terrain eg 500m climbs and descents i.e. does not have access to lifts. There is nothing wrong with being an average rider. Mr Aston is not an average rider, at least not in my opinion.
  • + 3
 @jaycubzz: Next time you see a Hand built in the USA Intense, take a closer look. Yeah, most of them are (or at least were) misaligned. Mine was perfect looking from the outside but was very difficult to reassemble after a bearing change cause the rear end didn't line up right with the front. Also the upper link cross brace did hit the frame before the shock bottomed so bad that the frame dented there. That's high end boutique stuff right there!
  • + 1
 @jclnv: Amen to that!
  • + 1
 @Loamhuck: Be brands are very conservative when it comes to geometry. This is why every f..king year they come out with a longer and slacker version of their trail/enduro bike but only by 0.5º and 10mm...Seems strange to me that these big brands with their massive budget haven't figured out what the right geometry is and just keep creeping towards it every year...
  • + 7
 @SintraFreeride: the bigger brands are just making very good bikes with well rounded geometry. Sure when the quirky boutique brands cropped up there began a shift toward longer wheelbases and slacker angles but that’s already started to mellow out now they’ve found angles and numbers that allow the bikes to be ridden well by a huge variety of riders and on a huge variety of trails worldwide.
If Stella Artois brought out a shitty, unfinished ‘real ale’ would it sell? No because everyone who tried it would say “wow this is awful, you can really tell it’s been made in a shed, I hate it”.
Some boutique brewery does exactly the same thing and suddenly it’s quirky and “wow this is incredible, you can really tell it’s been made in a shed, I love it”. At the end of the day though you can still get drunk and if you’re having fun doing it that’s all that matters.
Thanks to people like Chris Porter some people seem to think that bike design by big brands is somehow outdated and playing catch up and it really is not the case. They’re just designing bikes with A LOT more consideration to their vast end user base and their locations throughout the world. “Moar wheelbase” is hardly a clever or enlightened view on bike design.
I reiterate, if a big, long and slack bike is working for you or anyone else then have at it. Just don’t keep telling me about how those bikes are superior and how all the big brands have been caught with their pants down. It ain’t so.
  • + 17
 I absolutely love the trend, despite not digging the limo geos, because that gives me an opportunity to buy a smaller size frame with longer post, having angles, wheelbase and weight distribution that suits me. Also those English, German and Finish limos are niche brands. Nobody is forcing anything on us (apart from Pole that wants us to save Polar Bears and Clown fish)

Yes I suck up to English brands, I am a sell out.

Finally: isn't Paul Aston the fastest or at least most stylish riders among the whole PB staff? I know both Mikes are jealous that's whay they made him test E-bikes to undermine his credentials.
  • + 1
 @ThomDawson: Every year big brands come out with slacker and longer bikes. I have yet to see it start to mellow out...to me it seems like they haven't figured their shit out. If they had their geometry dialed they'd be working on fine tuning the details of their bike. Look at the MX bikes. Their geo, wheelsize amount of suspension is and has been dialed for years. A 2018 Honda CRF is not very different from one from 2010!
  • + 3
 @SintraFreeride: as an aside this is another thing I disagree with CP on - that bicycles should mimic MX bikes. I know you didn’t say that but just made me think.
Clearly geometry is a matter of personal preference so all bikes should definitely not be the same. There’s also the other obvious caveat that the geometry of the bike you’re riding needs to match the terrain it’s ridden on.
And like Waki I’m glad the trend has moved this way. Downsizing is a lot more fun than upsizing. I’m also glad that taller riders have more reasonable options, I’m just not sure that those options necessarily need to be longer and slacker than a DH bike. Especially if the build of the bike would render it flexy, imprecise or even weak when ridden like a DH bike.
So I’m not totally against the like of Pole et al. I just don’t like the notion I keep seeing that they’re the ones leading the way, at the cutting edge. I don’t see it that way at all. I think they’re just big enough to fit taller riders and just slack enough to make people feel like heroes but I don’t think they’re very well rounded.
As far as other brands going slacker...I reckon there’s a good few brands who’ve had their bikes dialled for a few years at least now. One of them won and is winning the EWS right now. Of the ones that are making alterations I don’t think they’re changing their bikes to play catch up to a better bike, they just need to have a slacker angle, a longer reach otherwise the current consumer will go elsewhere. Nobody can feel 0.5 (change a tyre or use a different fork and effect the same thing) but you can read it on a geometry table and right now that’s how you make a sale.
Sorry for he massive post lol
  • + 1
 @Fix-the-Spade: AJ Barlas at NSMB rides a G16. If there is any place I would expect a LLS bike to suck it would be on the shore. As such I think they probably don't suck at all and are probably quite good.
  • + 3
 @EckNZ: most PBers don't have a clue how many psi they have in each tyre let alone being able to feel if a rear end is missaligned.
  • + 5
 @fartymarty: maybe AJ Barlas only rides park? Maybe he’s a hipster who just romanticizes the Shore but kills laps in tank top at CGP and Whistler?
  • + 2
 @ThomDawson: This.

It's not such a hot take to scream out to anyone that will listen "Specialized and Trek know what they are doing and make well rounded bikes". Nobody on the internet is going to come and tell you how smart you are for having that enlightened opinion. And some small builder in a shed that you are friends with isn't going to send you free stuff for that opinion either.
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: "made him test E-bikes to undermine his credentials" quote of the week
  • + 2
 @mhoshal: Or a motocross bike? Single pivot is the best, the shock is what matters, these complicated designs are require contstant servicing, single pivot needs no servicing.
  • + 2
 @hamncheez: I must convince Sick Bicycles to make an E-bike and call it Pinkbike.
  • + 5
 I don't get people complaining about Paul Aston working for Pinkbike. Stop this mobbing shit.

Could it be that Paul Aston was hired to actually look at such niche bikes? Because with his DH racing background he is actually able to look beyond obvious shortcomings in a bike?

It's ok to bemoan that obvious shortcoming, a misaligned frame, but it's something every average reviewer would have done. If that closes the book on a bike or even brand, then there are many brands that shouldn't be out there. Including Specialized. I once saw an SX Trail with completely off down tube shock mounts.

Being able to look past such things, and actually inquiring about those with the builder, and getting a valid response that the issue is resolved, is to be highly commended imo.
  • + 2
 @ilovedust: My first reaction when reading the manufacturer's reply about how it "didn't impact the ride" was what about wear on all the linkages and weird unplanned forces on the frame.
  • + 1
 @LavenderGooms: @LavenderGooms: So?? Why do you post then in the comment section? Big Grin
  • + 1
 @Racer951: ..and you an idiot....whats worse?
  • + 0
 @hirvi: that’s why Intense outsourced all their frames to China and are racing to the bottom by turning in to a consumer direct company. Intense has always been something your buy because you couldn’t resist 40% on Jenson
  • + 2
 @ThomDawson: a) nothing wrong with massive posts! I am enjoying this exchange of thoughts myself! b) I agree that geometry is a personal preference but there is a point where geometry works and where it doesn't. Sure with skill you can compensate for bad geometry but good geometry allows you to push the limits.
c)These current "huge" bike are longer than DH bikes because DH bikes are too short as it is.
d) I do agree that most people can't feel slight geo difference or even know how to set up their suspension or tire pressure!
  • + 1
 @hirvi: Old Intense bike’s were overpriced rubbish. My riding buddy back in the late 90’s broke so many Uzzi frames riding down stuff my old Kona U’Hu ate for breakfast it was crazy.
  • + 2
 @jaycubzz: It's almost as if he has a different opinion than you on what he likes the look of. The crazy son of a bitch.
  • + 5
 @LavenderGooms: Given you dislike him and 'ignore' his reviews so much I have to say it is a shock that you are even in here indicating you actually read the review.

Bit bizarre behaviour really. Kind of as if you are just mouthing of because you hope someone will agree with you.
  • + 83
 I cannot understand a positive review for a bike that costs this amount and is misaligned. I understand that this is a custom built bike, but if a manufacturer is taking on the process of building themselves and charging a premium I would expect that they would have the level of expertise and machinery necessary to deliver. I would never tell a patient I could perform an appendectomy then pull out a steak knife to do so, following up with "In the future I'll have proper surgical equipment."

It is a beautiful bike (I love steel), but I'm shocked that the misalignment isn't considered unacceptable.
  • + 13
 Disclaimer: mfranzen is not a doctor but he does perform surgeries with proper surgical equipment.
  • + 0
 It’s part of the appeal. It’s built in a shed kinda rough but it rides great and those features add character just like a classic car. I think he was looking past that stuff review the ride.
  • + 4
 “I cannot understand....”

Because Aston.

This guy seriously claims that the bobbing is due to the oval chain ring affecting the anti-squat!?!?

What about that regressive leverage curve?!

Hey Aston... you’re fired!
  • + 15
 @dtm1: he is right about that, the oval ring changes in diameter by an effective 2 teeth.

On the other hand the leverage ratio is essentially flat, it changes by 0.1 over the bikes full travel, do you think this amounts to a regressive curve? You are confusing yourself because of the graphs scale.
  • + 5
 @dtm1: you are fired from the comment section. Read the graph scale
  • + 0
 @FlorentVN: It is regressive. Only slightly, but it is.
  • + 0
 @Racer951: you sound an awlful lot like the guy who designs bikes...joe, is that you?
  • + 6
 @Racer951: Yes the scale of the graph is misleading; however it is still regressive.

But re: the 2 tooth difference, I find that to be a ridiculous comment. I’m aware of how changing the chainring size affects antisquat (and PK), but this guy is saying he can pinpoint that differential twice per revolution and separate out the cause of pedal bobbing?

That is absurd. If he had ridden with a regular chainring and them compared it, his comment would be more credible, but without that “control” factor there’s no way even the most sensitive rider would feel that.

And as one who has experimented with different chainrings for exactly this purpose- increasing and reducing anti-squat- as well as having used several different oval rings, I find this comment to just be silly.
  • + 1
 @FlorentVN: Noooooooo! Sniff sniff
  • + 1
 @dtm1: though I can't comment on the actual magnitude of the effect on anti squat with oval chainrings there will be some so paul isn't wrong there.

Blaming it entirely on he 'regressive' curve, which is probably around 0.02 change between no compression and sag is more absurd though, it won't have anything to do with it at all. At least admit that.
  • + 1
 @ledude: you don't need to be able to design a bike to read a simple graph.
  • + 0
 @Racer951: my bad, maybe i should call you Kramoust
  • + 1
 I wasn't arguing that it's regressive rate hinders its pedaling efficiency, it absolutely will hinder its bottom out resistance though, and that would get old very quickly.
  • + 1
 @jclnv: I don't think 0.1 change over travel constitutes it being regressive in anything other than a numerical sense.

How do you feel about bikes like some specialized, Niner etc that are deliberately regressive at bottom out to ensure you get full travel when using an air shock?

A simple change in shock volume or spacers would help with bottom out.
  • + 4
 @Racer951: Personally I think anything linear, even with small volume air cans, causes excessive bottom out. Sure you can run higher sag/spring rate but then you loose small bump which is arguably worse.

I get that the overall ratio isn't as disastrous as some of the bikes you mention. The 650b Stumpy is a really bad example as the overall ratio is high and it's regressive at the end of it's travel, meaning that for larger guys that bike was literally unridable, even with 350psi in the shock...!

Many bikes need to be more progressive IMO. I can think of dozens of examples of guys struggling with excessive bottom out. Trance's, Reigns's, Enduro's Stumpies's, etc. I can think of one example (the previous Capra) where the opposite was the case.

I guess there's an element of subjectivity and personal preference going on. I'm all about active, low anti-squat and anti-rise bikes that rely on the shock and a flat/progressive leverage rate (flat meaning a straight line, not horizontal) for support. They're the easiest to tune as nothing wacky is going on like counter-rotating links (VPP) etc and the shock is running lower pressure around sag point for less dynamic friction.

Blah blah...
  • + 85
 No matter how good it is, I'm not paying upwards of $3000 for a steel frameset w/o shock.
  • + 26
 Would you pay that if it were made from a different (sensible, so I don't mean gold) material? If so, why? Reynolds 853 is tough material to work with, so I understand it costs a bit more to build a frame out of.

That said, I wouldn't quite accept the alignment issue for a frame for this kind of money, no matter what material it is.
  • - 3
 Agreed, throw that cash down on recycled shampoo bottles made in the far east instead
  • + 12
 Agree. The setup for the fork and shock as shown in this article would be north of $4500 (CDN) once you add taxes, shipping etc. I just dont see the market for a single pivot steel bike that has questionable QC and unproven design and durability at that price.
  • + 2
 Looks like its about 2400 usd w shock for the taiwanese version
  • + 13
 @sewer-rat: At least they know how to make properly aligned frames in the "far east"
  • + 7
 @LavenderGooms: You can expect those top Taiwanese welders to be well equipped and obviously more experienced.
  • + 4
 Yep, Evil had great success @LavenderGooms:
  • + 4
 @sewer-rat: Now that's not fair, it's not Pacific's fault they couldn't build a bike within one inch of alignment, they were under a lot of pressure and they'd just had a big row with their wives about how much time they spent welding and how little time they spent grinding and aligning...
  • + 4
 It's funny, the only suss frame I've had which had the same alignment issues was my 2008 Intense Uzzi- also hand made (I'm guessing maybe without an alignment tool). Still loved that frame though.
  • - 1
 Give it to me in Ti and I'm sold. It will both stiffen and lighten it up at the same time, but not as stilff as AL or carbon, so it still has that silky steel ride
  • + 2
 Worth noting that the Taiwanese version is a bunch cheaper and comes with a shock, but obviously lacks any kind of custom options.
  • + 4
 It's cheap per gram, given the weight of the thing. The Taniwha looks a hell of a lot more reasonable suddenly.
  • + 39
 Out of alignment means your shock will tie an early death. You may not feel it, but your shock will!
  • + 0
 Fox shocks have teflon spacers on their mounts just for this case. They can "breath" so if the frame isn't perfectly aligned the shock can perform and doesn't get damaged. Still for the money the Murmur goes 0.1 mm of misaligment is too much.
  • + 8
 Agreed - Somebody I know bought a well known $1900 frame from a decently large USA owned brand (who make in Taiwain) and the shock mount was 5mm out of alignment on that, he didn't notice until a few rides later and the shock was scored to crap.
  • + 5
 It is said that wheels did not align, not the shock eyelets.
  • - 2
 Actually more stress on the rear Wheel (hub bearings)?
  • + 2
 @Clem-mk: Wheels are being bounced around a lot and do not track in line as soon as the bike is laid a little bit in whatever curve you throw at it or every rock you hit a little off center. Hub bearings can take that little misalignement.
  • + 1
 @Golem: Actually it said the rear triangle didn't line up without the shock bolted on, and that the wheels didn't line up with the shock on. This indicates to me that the shock is pulling on the rear triangle causing the wheel mis-alignment.
  • + 1
 @cdmbmw: Well it might need a deeper investigation as the text leads to interpretation: ''With the shock removed, it was clear to see to the swingarm wasn't aligned perfectly with the seat tube. Also, looking at the bike from the rear the wheel revealed that the two were not particularly inline''
If shock eyelets and pivot are aligned, this is a non-issue, thrust me.
  • + 1
 @Racer951: tell us who the manufacturer is! Why keep it secret?
  • + 5
 @skelldify: Respect and not wanting to bash good people? I deal with them fairly regularly, I like and respect the people that work there / run the company and because they dealt with the issue promptly and in the customers favour.

They have frames made overseas, so it is their factories QC that was lacking, of course this has been brought to their attention and shouldn't be repeated - There is nothing to gain by badmouthing them online.
  • + 36
 "lack of a proper alignment table"... seems legit.
  • - 5
flag Loamhuck (Apr 9, 2018 at 13:49) (Below Threshold)
 Lack or proper alignment seems okay, but crap geo from the beginning seems sketchy. Life is full of hard choices.
  • + 26
 Hmmm, I really like Starling and what Joe does there but that's not the response I wanted to see.

I am part of an engineering company and sometimes we make things that have pretty tight tolerances and are not easy to 'locate' but it is our responsibility as the manufacturer to ensure that we choose the correct method of production and deliver a quality product - We cannot make the excuse that because our company is small an out of tolerance product is acceptable.

In reality, if you cannot ensure alignment with the tools you have available, purchase, make better tools, get somebody else to deal with that aspect or change your manufacturing methods but if the misalignment was clearly visible to Paul then it would have been clearly visible to Joe - Its not looking good in support of the 'buy british' mantra in that the Taiwanese made frames are probably made a tighter.

Joe, why oh why did you send a frame with misalignment and paint issues to Paul of all people for review on here?!

Note - I would still buy a Starling.
  • + 2
 Agreed, this is pretty unfortunate for him especially considering he has now moved to a bigger and better equipped workshop which (most likely) implies future frames won't suffer from this issue.
  • + 26
 Having a twisted or misaligned frame would drive me nuts. I’d be asking for my money back Eek
  • + 18
 This is a joke, right? A misaligned steel frame at a ridiculous price, with a suspension design from the early 90s, flexy, and with only a one year warranty? Made to measure and ends up with that saddle position? What really gave it away is the bottle mount, though - obviously a very late April's fool.
  • + 14
 give it a pinion and it will be bike of the day everywhere! lol it's ridiculous.
  • + 21
 so doesn't fit together, out of alignment and poor quality control. and 2k for a frame. no thanks
  • + 20
 This guy is really channeling TVR - bolted together in a shed in the arse end of England, out out of alignment and poor paint. Good job it doesn't have an inline six hand grenade bolted in the middle too!
  • + 1
 cool name though
  • + 16
 Guy who spent months riding the bike: "It works really well, the weight doesn't matter, it climbs great, descends great and is one of my favourite bikes of all time. The frame was out of alignment but that didn't actually cause any ride issues."

Guys who have never seen one in person: "It's too heavy, it's out of alignment, It obviously rides terribly, its a piece of crap, why does this guy even review bikes, I clearly know better than he does?"

Why do you bother to read reviews if you immediately ignore anything the reviewer says and stick with your own opinion?
  • + 14
 Damm, so sad to see so much hate towards this bike.

It's really unfortunate from Joe to have sent a missaligned frame with paint issues to the biggest mtb site, and is sad to see that the price of the frames has doubled up since the first time I heard about them (bye bye, purchase chances), but please cut the crap on steel being a poor material or single pivots to perform bad just because.

Haven't even seen one in real life but f*ck, every single review of these bikes is north of awesome, and I don't think Joe has anything to do with any media payroll.

Mad respect to a guy who starts a bike company welding in his backyard these days. I just hope as the company grows and the new investment returns profits the prices come down to earth again.
  • + 5
 It's unfortunate that starling sent a bike out for review before he had the equipment needed to build quality bikes, but that criticism is fair. He's not ready to be distributing frames if he can't QC the product. Anti steel and single pivot comments are inevitable. Single pivots and steel aren't what the big brands sell. Who cares.
  • + 3
 I totally agree. What a total brainfart sending a misaligned frame for review. I really wish I could have read a review whereby there wasn't a overriding preoccupation with a fault which might be limited to individual frames rather than all Starling production.(not Aston's review but the ensuing commentary of it).

Regarding steel enduro frames I know someone who was riding a Swarf for a while there and absolutely loved it. Price aside I would certainly like to try a chromoly dualie, even if it was just for comparison's sake. Always had a soft spot for my steel HTs and cross bikes but would be interested to see the lateral flex with a linkage in the mix.

The criticisms of @paulaston is disappointing to see also. I always appreciate his gear freakery and attention to fine detail. While some like the rich fondue which is Levy's writing I personally find it verbose. I refer to read something which is keenly analytical, perhaps what some would describe as dry; rather that reading something which is 'lite' and seems more focused on cracking funnies than discussing the things that actually matter (when you're reviewing a mechanical product).
  • + 3
 @DDB1: He didn't have an alignment table. They were all misaligned.
  • + 4
 @jclnv: the writer didn't need an alignment table to see things we not aligned. The builder didn't inspect his work.
  • + 4
 @FLATLlNE: Indeed. And he may not have on every bike he's built to date!!!
  • + 4
 @jclnv: To me that seperats the wheat from the chaff. No offense to the builder, but in my line of work, I have to double check everything. If I didn't, I wouldn't be employed for long.
  • + 2
 @FLATLlNE: Yep thats a very fair comment. I certainly wouldn't buy a bike where the review bike was flawed as such. (Regardless of the price.)
  • + 15
 Have non-linkage driven single pivots gotten any better in the 10 years since I last rode one? They used to be quite terrible.
  • + 5
 The used shock seems to matter a lot. I've got a Cannondale Prophet too. Never quite got along with how it behaves (though I have not much experience with other full suspension designs) but I noticed that Prophet with the Fox shock got more positive reviews than the cheapy model I have with the RockShox shock. Shocks have come a long way since so this one is probably fine.
  • + 4
 I would imagine that brake jack would be prominent on a design like this.
  • + 6
 @vinay: That's true. A poor suspension design needs all the shock innovation it can find.
  • + 1
 @hbar314: That's one way to look at it. The other is that it is easier for a tuner to tune shock for a simple suspension design (like a single pivot) than for something more complex.
  • + 4
 Shocks used to be generally terrible though (although 2008 era shocks weren't THAT bad).
You can make a decent single pivot now since you don't need to create a rapidly rising rate at the end of travel to compensate for the linear spring. Damping is a lot better (and tunable) than it used to be too.
  • + 5
 @LaXcarp: Brake 'Jack' is a marketing term, look up 'anti-rise' and the different levels between frames and you would be surprised to see that many multi-pivot frames have braking characteristics very similar to a single pivot.

Also, do you propose this would have higher or lower anti rise than a bike such as a nukeproof pulse? How about a Kona? - The linkage makes no difference what so ever.
  • + 6
 @enki: Not just that, we run 1X10,11spd etc drivetrain now, you can position the pivot based around a 32T ring (usually) to give decent levels of anti squat throughout the travel without worrying about how it will perform in the 22T or 42T ring positions - that has probably made the biggest difference to how single pivots ride.
  • + 0
 @Racer951: Never looked into anti-squat that much (mostly riding my hardtail) but considering Paul notices the effect of the oval ring on the anti-squat, apparently plus or minus 2t does make a noticeable difference. Apparently the one-by marketing blare has overshot a little too.
  • + 1
 @Racer951:Whatever the correct term is, I just know I've ridden frames (SC heckler and Transition blindside) with similar looking rear suspension and the rear end would stiffen and perform poorly while on the brakes. These companies offered floating brake add-ons, as Trek now incorporates, to counteract this issue.

I don't have a solution for it as far as suggesting lower/higher anti-rise rates, it just anecdotally would seem to perform similar to these past designs. Maybe you can provide insight if that is the case or not?

Also, you say multi-link designs may have braking characteristics similar to single pivots, but then say linkages make no difference...so which is it?
  • + 2
 @LaXcarp: Funnily enough, coming from riding a hardtail most of the time and relying mostly on the front brake, I started to use the rear brake to keep the rear end from rising on steep switchbacks. So yeah, I liked this behavior or at least it made riding with rear suspension a bit easier. I understand floating brakes aren't popular anymore but I actually thought it was an elegant solution. Modern designs kind of have it built in (like Trek ABP etc), but you can no longer adjust it. The DOPE system from Kona allowed you to set the effect of the brake on suspension exactly the way you want it.
  • + 1
 @LaXcarp: I owned 2 single pivots without a linkage back in the day. They were OK for the time, but they had some issues.

> rear end would stiffen and perform poorly while on the brakes

This is exactly what I experienced on these bikes, suspension would almost completely lock out while hard on the brakes. They were also regressive, so shock performance was harsh around the sag point, but then it would bob a lot if you pedaled hard and would blow through travel on hits. I eventually landed on a Manitou SPV shock that had more progressive damping than a standard shim stack, which helped.
  • + 2
 @vinay: Sorry, should have been more clear you are missing the term multi pivot and linkage.

Multi pivot being non single pivot (Santa Cruz) and linkage bikes being kona etc which are the same as this starling in terms of mechanics with the addition of a linkage to alter leverage ratio and obtain desirable shock packaging, frame stiffness and insulate from shock side loads etc.

What I'm saying is people don't moan about Kona etc having poor braking from just a picture as they are visually more complicated but are essentially the same in many ways.
  • - 2
 @Racer951: ya it does don't use single pivot frames as an example kona is a four bar linkage but its still a single pivot design in that the wheel is attached directly to the chainstay. It definitely has more anti rise then floating pivots bikes or bikes where the wheel is mated with the seat stay with a pivot at the chainstay like Rocky uses
  • + 1
 @mhoshal: it's true. A Kona Process will brake jack as bad as an Orange, or a Starling, if "single pivot" is your only qualification for saying a bike will have brake jack.

And my 111 definitely does. But in real-world riding it hardly presents itself. The back it skips across breaking bumps a little more than other bikes I have owned but it's kinda fun.
  • + 12
 "All UK-built frames are made to measure, but Starling does have their own baseline recommendations, which on my frame were: 64.52224º head angle, 77.0002º seat angle, 510.10112 mm reach and a 445.006mm chainstay and custom 10.229mm misaligned rear wheel"
  • + 3
 And what is your BB size ?
  • + 9
 Its not misaligned its asymmetrical for better weight distribution
  • + 15
 What's the flex to $ ratio on this ?
  • + 10
 a well engineered frame is is a good frame no matter the material, but even if it has the best ride, amazing climbing ability, blasting the downs but came misaligned, it would end in the recycle pile of junk at the side of my building shed, and ask my money back, owner of starling is an aviation engineer and a man of expertise, building a frame and leaving his shed like that, its like airbus leting a 320 with misaligned wings for a test flight, get serious
  • + 9
 I really like this bike but it has a 1 year warranty Frown
My yeti sb has cracked nearly every time I have spoke to it in a harsh tone and it has a 5 year warranty. I wouldn’t take the chance on 1 year which is a shame. 2 and I coulda turned a blind eye
  • + 0
 That's why you sell it after 6 months on the PB classifieds and order the next "ultimate" hand made weapon! Wink
  • + 1
 1 year! Thats 4 times longer than the warranty on my broken Foes!
  • + 9
 Water bottle under the top tube? Get the F*** outta here with that mess....
  • + 3
 What's the issue with that? (Serious question).
  • + 1
 @DDB1: Couple of issues I could see: puts weight higher on the frame than a normal location which is bad for cornering, and most bottle cages are designed to hold the bottle in a more vertical position so you could lose the bottle. I was wondering about leg contact during cornering/pedaling but it is pretty far back so might be fine there.
  • + 8
 C'mon Aston, how does it compare to the full suss Shan??? we need to knowwwwww
  • + 1
 Oh yeah, I was definitly looking for this remake of the Crunch ! (ok, even if Production Privée is based in Andorra)
  • + 2
 Yeah...or a Cotic Rocket Max ?
  • + 4
 Two things 1) That gusset is ugly. It's not the 2000's anymore and plate head tube gussets are oldschool. I feel like there are so many more elegant ways to accomplish the same thing. 2) 8.3lbs frame only. Ridiculous, considering that heavier riders (heavier than 160lbs) might experience flex.
  • + 6
 $2840 for a simple-looking single pivot steel frame without a shock built in some guy's shed that could have alignment issues?! Lol no thanks.
  • + 4
 Paul Aston represents the UK mountainbike scene with his reviews. Brits don't give a shit if a bike isn't perfect in every way possible, If it rips its all on. Maybe Americans should stop looking at their bikes to make sure their perfect and go out and give them a hiding instead.
  • + 5
 Interesting that he noticed the chain slap noise and fixed it by putting tape on the left stays according to his article.

So the thing was so far outta alignment he needed to tape the nds?
  • + 3
 Just wondering, why is Paul stacking adaptors for his rear brake caliper? Not sure about Formula, but at least several brake manufacturers advice against this approach. 160mm IS to 180mm PM adaptors do exist and are probably the most stable solution there.
  • + 1
 Depending on body positioning even four bar suspensions can brake jack.
  • + 3
 That was supposed to go somewhere else. Wtf?
  • + 3
 @Boardlife69: It is fine. I like going off topic too Smile .
  • + 3
 @vinay: yeah f*ck boost, huh? Am I right?
  • + 3
 @Boardlife69: Well yeah, did some dig days last weekend. Built some berms and did some surfacing. It does make the trail more durable yet at the same time I kept questioning myself whether we weren't dumbing these trails down.
  • + 3
 I had an Empire MX6 Evo that didn't line up by a similar amount. shock was dead in 30 miles riding, anodising wore off on one side and the mounting bushes were shot. Alignment its doubly important when the bike is single pivot with no linkages to drive the shock as that off set load is taken by the shock alone.
  • + 6
 ~$3k for an out of alignment steel frame with no shock LoL It takes all kinds I guess.
  • + 2
 "The cable routing on the Murmur is all external."

Except for the one in the seat tube. And speaking of routing, might have done better with a different line to the rear caliper.

Also, I can't relate to this review as it's out of my $ and component range. Except for the misaligned frame; I know a bit about those and can spend less $ to get one.
  • + 4
 what i want to know is what Pinkbike pays that Paul Aston can buy every cutting edge bespoke bike option on the planet. man i chose the wrong career.
  • + 10
 The bikes being reviewed on PB (or really any MTB site) are almost never purchased by the reviewer.
  • + 2
 I don't think I get it. I have two 29'ers, and one has ~10mm shorter chainstays than the other. And I dramatically prefer the shorter chainstay. I'm like 5'8", so firmly "medium" - maybe since Paul is huge he likes long-ish stays? Not sure. Where I live, I don't often ride very extended descents - maybe 1.5 miles or so is about the max I typically ride down before the trail becomes flat or turns back up. So I also prefer a bike that has a bit sharper handling, since I'm doing a lot of pedaling - and I think the shorter stay helps compensate for the long FC and slack head angle. So anyhow - I don't have an apples to apples comparison, but based on what I know, I'd take the shortest chainstay that I can get, all else equal (of course, with the ginormous 29" wheel, and big 29" tire, there is a limit to how short it can be - but you know).
  • + 3
 I prefer longer stays
  • + 3
 It probably has a lot to do with rider height. Aston is a lot taller than you (and me), so for him to position his weight in the neutral position between the axles to maximize cornering grip, it is going to be easier if the chainstay is longer. A tall rider with a short stay will be hanging off the back, whereas a tall rider with a longer stay will be more central. If you're 5'8" riding a 29er, given the chainstay length needed to fit the big wheels, you probably are already positioned fairly central on the bike and wouldn't benefit much from a longer stay.
  • + 1
 @eblackwell: You must be right. The other thing I'd say is that once I'm pointed downhill and going fast(-ish, I'm no Aaron Gwin), the short chainstay doesn't seem to matter as much. So if I was on a lift or just climbing fireroads, maybe I wouldn't care. But since I pedal around singletrack a lot, I like the shorter rear end to maintain some semblance of being able to turn the bike.
  • + 2
 @pinhead907: If you want balanced cornering grip a long front centre and short rear centre results in low front wheel grip.

90% of bikes have too short rear centres.
  • + 2
 Why don't all bikes have a seat tube this steep? You use your seat to pedal up so put it in prime position. Even a DH bike should have a steep seat, when you down just drop it!
  • + 1
 Steep seat angles make it difficult to pedal while seated and descending because your weight is too far forward, and hitting a bump could send you over the bars. Maybe ok for 3 minute descents where you stand the entire run, but I find myself seated and pedaling quite a lot on 5-15 min Enduro runs, and if you watch WC DH you'll also see a surprising amount of seated pedaling.
  • + 1
 @dthomp325: that makes sense
  • + 1
 I can see frame allignment not be an issue. when riding a mtb, your wheel are never perfectly straight. there is always a little bit of drag between the 2 wheels. you dont feel it until you try a swing bike and can corner with 2 pivot points, then the wheels follow the path of less resistance and you feel the LACK of drag. and this is with m homemade swing bike that I didnt even take a tape measure out to build with a 1960s cruiser frame... I think any steel frame will have slightly less drag in cornering due to the flex factor and the wheels wanting to follow the easiest path. Although probably not noticeable ripping down a trail at mach 10 and drifting. in which case nothing will be alligned anymore anyways, espescially with a dual suspension.
  • + 1
 Great review! "the geometry of the rear end of the bike (the relationship between saddle, wheel axle and bottom bracket) is the most important factor to me for climbing – not weight, fancy linkage designs, or gram shaving."

He seems adept at finding a fine distinction between "weight" and "gram saving", but he does not even realize that that relationship can be altered to your desire simply moving your saddle?

Go figure how these people get to write reviews for Pink Bike: by the end of the story he seems to be happy with a flexy bike with misaligned wheels!!!!!!!!
  • + 1
 When I bought my hardtail I noticed it had a front wheel with the wrong dish for the fork. It was about 10mm out of alignment. I thought I’d fix it but after a few months I realised that I couldn’t feel anything wrong with how it rides, so I didn’t bother. Has anyone with a misaligned bike noticed any real difference in the way it rides?
  • + 6
 Is it light?
  • + 29
 light as steel
  • + 1
 Never ridden an oval chainring, and I hadn't ever seen mention of its effect on anti-squat--interesting point. I also hadn't seen the effect--captured in the overhead photo--of an in-focus shadow moving over blurred ground; that's very cool. It's also interesting to know that frame alignment isn't critical to a bike's behavior. Aston is taking a lot of heat in the comments, but it doesn't seem particularly deserved--I got a lot out of the review, and I can decide for myself whether paying extra for a misaligned frame is what I want. "Bespoke" shit in general is a first-world fetish I don't suffer from, so thankfully I won't lose sleep over any part of this review.
  • + 3
 a)"Why do I need four pistons?" b)"Why do I need V8?"

Because both are better.
  • + 0
 It looks like a fashion bike for people into “bespoke” “artisanal” “chi-chi” stuff...
Steel is no good for full suspension. This has been obvious from day 1 and should not be discussed again.
Price is insane, for the same or less you can get a top end Lenz or GG.

I can only imagine how the stiff formula fork and renthal cockpit make the whole front triangle flex.
If it flexes under 160 pounds rider....

Why don’t they just make a front suspension, 130mm trail bike? This is oviously the next “big thing”
  • + 7
 Steel is no good for full suspension? Says who? Sunn Chipie team DOMINATED DH racing in the late 90s on full suspension steel bikes that wear light years ahead of the competition. Flex can be a good thing in the right direction. This is why current Fox 40 forks are less stiff than the same model from a few years back.
  • + 2
 @SintraFreeride:
Who?
All the people making full suspension bikes from day one?
Flex is different than noodle.

Just look at the video, every slight turn he is taking, the rear is slightly flexing sideways. And those can be barely considered turns. 160 pound rider.
For bikes where weight is not a concern, sure, go ahead and add 2-3 pounds to have the same stiffness.
  • + 11
 So I felt my Yeti SB6c flexed a lot.. in fact the rear end flexed under cornering loads so much that my drive side crank rubbed the paint off of the chain stay. So flex is inherent in EVERY bike and some flex more than others. I would say that although steel appears to be more flexible than a carbon frame, I would stick my next out and say that my Murmur frame doesn't flex excessively more than my Yeti.

So yes, I weigh 195lbs and I own a Starling Murmur. My reach is 490mm so I went a bit more conservative than Paul and I'm just about an inch taller.

The thing with how this bike rides and flexes is that where as I'd get my Evil Following to jump and skip in hard turns over bumps the Starling is a LOT calmer. Also even though this bike is considerably longer than my size Large Evil Following, this bike turns in as sharply as this bike when committed to weighting the front wheel properly. It also wants to drift in a more balanced and predictable manner than my previous bikes, which may have to do with the wheelbase and my position within that.

Paul's point on the end of stoke progression for the rear shock is valid and I do have my shock (DVO Jade) stuffed with spacers to get the type of response and bottom out support I need for typical PWN riding. Somehow that shock still exhibits great sensitivity on smaller trail noise even with that set up.

It's sad that this frame showed some alignment issues. My frame seems pretty good (I went and rechecked it this morning after I read this) as I hadn't noticed anything. After 6-7 months of hard winter riding my lower shock bush has worn out... so yes that end of the shock takes a lot of load, but the shock is all good even after a winter of abuse.

The Starling certainly isn't a frame for everyone... I get that, I'm sure Joe gets that too. There's definitely a bunch of folks that are pushing the geometry discussion and get the advantages it can provide and Joe is part of that and providing a product for a niche of riders.
  • + 1
 I think its a thing of beauty - and it goes like shit off a shovel!!

another good review here... singletrackworld.com/2018/03/review-starling-cycles-taiwanese-made-murmur-factory-29er
  • + 1
 I do like a steel frame but these shitty looking half assed things are a rip off. For the same money or less you could get BTR pinner, cotic rocket, pp Shan no5 all of which are better.
  • + 2
 Misaligned frame & strange leverage ratio & high price & a disappointing manufacturer reply. I think I will pass.
  • + 3
 but hey, i love the guy's detailed and thorough reviews, and out of the box thinking.
  • + 3
 I luv my steel single pivot. Simple and fun. More time to ride the trail hits Smile
  • + 3
 More time than what?
  • + 1
 @alexsin: simple bike = less to go wrong. less to fuss with = more time spent on the bike Smile
  • + 0
 Hey Paul:
One thing I cannot understand of the videos in PB showing how the rear suspension works are that every single one of them pushes the bike down so easily that they bottom the shock down to the limit. Wouldn't it be better to show the "normal travel" of the shock/suspension, let's say by showing a guy on top of the bike working the suspension down, instead of bottoming it up?

It is a pretty bike indeed.
Cheers!
  • + 3
 With stays that noddly and at that price, I'd want more than 1 years warranty.
  • + 3
 With poor alignment you’ll want a decent warranty, nothing like side loading the whole back end and shock over a period of time to kill it.
  • + 1
 About two years back I was in contact with Mr. Starling Cycles and asked for a seat tube angle steeper than 74.5°. He ruled it out completely.
I'm glad he changed his mind.
  • + 1
 cool bike. One question: the leverage graph provides 'ratio'. I'm used to looking at leverage rates. How do they compare, and what is it a ratio of?
  • + 2
 Same thing. It is just wheel displacement divided by shock displacement. Occasionally (Rocky Mountain) you get the inverse.
  • + 4
 It's the same thing. Rate is just instantaneous ratio/change.

A far from ideal rising rate/regressive leverage rate on this bike. Very strange in this day and age.
  • + 3
 There are two terms that describe how a shock is compressed, leverage ratio and shock rate. These are inverses of each other, so basically the same thing. Leverage ratio describes how much leverage the rear wheel has on the shock. Shock rate describe how far the shock moves in respect to wheel travel. With a progressive suspension design you want higher leverage (lower shock rate) at the beginning of travel to let the suspension easily respond to small bumps. At the end of travel you want lower leverage (higher shock rate) to reduce bottoming out. The Murmur has a flat and slightly regressive shock rate, which is not what most designers aim for. For this style of design, bottoming out is a problem and requires a smaller volume air can, as the review mentions. Coil shocks would bottom out even more frequently.
  • + 3
 @jclnv: if you build it to "look right" for the shock location the best you can get in that frame layout is a completely linear leverage curve. If you get funky rise up the back end of the shock at a funky angle and tip the nose down you can get a bit of progression but not much. If you add in a yoke and drive the shock from a point behind the seat tube you can get more progression.

With the BTR layout you can get as much or as little progression as you want, easy to get more proegression than even YT are using.

The linear rate will eat up trail with a basic set up, but if you adjust for bigger bottom out impacts it will really stiffen up the suspension. I never found a happy medium on my single pivot set up that was truly versatile across a wide range of terrain, in the end I gave up bottom out for better small bump.
  • + 1
 The time when you can get a full carbon frame for under a 1,000 (on sale) and a steel for over 2,000 has arrived #choosewisely
  • + 2
 Well didn't this just kick off. PB comment threads are headed in a very Youtube-esque direction.
  • + 2
 So it's a KISS single-pivot suspension design that was still mis-aligned. Hmmmm....
  • + 3
 MISS
  • + 1
 How does someone 6’1” fit on a bike that big. It must have to do with the longer seat stays and short fort offset otherwise it would ride like a shopping cart.
  • + 2
 And the 77º STA meaning it probably fits very similarly to a bike with a 74º STA and 470 reach.
  • + 2
 So heavy. And not well thought out.
  • + 1
 Formula released the R0 years ago that proved your don't need quad piston calipers for serious power
  • + 1
 You have a mortal ride this, is probably a slow, heavy, clunky, can’t turn!
  • + 1
 Can we please get a set of content hyperlinks on every article? Those are awesome.
  • - 2
 “Concerned customers may want to check out my Taiwanese bikes that have none of the “shed built” issues, but still have the same great ride. I’m taking pre-orders on these now.”

Sadly so what is point of buying a bike from a small frame builder if it’s just going to ship out of Taiwan? Shed bike that shreds sounds good to me. Keep it home brewed and out of Asia. Bike manufacturing needs to be in Europe and North America.
  • + 2
 Really love the another angle point of view.paul delivers
  • + 1
 BTW I love the "Aosta Freeride" socks :-) I was in Pila years ago, awesome riders...
  • + 0
 The cable routing on the Murmur is all external. Sort of.
  • + 0
 Sick bike mate I love it!!!!
  • + 0
 Looks like my Panda BMX from '78, like it.
  • - 3
 @paulaston well I really liked the review. You spoke about the important stuff - how it rides.

PB commenters are an odd bunch. They loved the BTR, which broke mid-test, but they hate this Starling for being slightly out.
  • + 4
 The BTR didn't break. The headset shifted due to poor maintenance by testers. This frame was misaligned, a production issue. The BTR was produced properly, which is what matters in a review. That said, I wouldn't hate the Starling. This single frame had a production issue, doesn't mean all of them do. Moreover, future frames won't most likely won't have it either. Paul liked much about the frame so apparently there is much to like Smile .
  • - 1
 @vinay: how does a headset shift due to poor maintenance?
  • - 1
 @jflb: exactly. The headtube ovalised (ie it broke) due to not being up to the job
  • + 2
 @jflb: The headset was not preloaded properly. I call that poor maintenance. This caused it to ovalize the headtube.

@IllestT: The headtube ovalized, it didn't break. They could fix it. If a customer expects to not do basic care like regularly checking preload on the headset, one could also use a headset with taller insertion of th cups, like Nukeproof has. It is one solution, but best approach is definitely just to just learn some basic maintenance and practice it.

You may want to read the bottom part of the respective article again (starting at "issues").
  • + 5
 @vinay: headset cups don’t shift because of a loose headset. They shift because the cup itself is deforming or the headtube is stretching because shit got made too light.
  • + 0
 @jflb: this
  • + 1
 Pinner for me...
  • + 0
 looks flexy. no homo
  • - 1
 awesome parts
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