Starling's New 170mm 29er With a Gearbox - Bespoked Show 2019

May 3, 2019
by James Smurthwaite  

Another week, another Starling with an intriguing drivetrain system. This time, Joe McEwan has built up a new bike for a long term customer with an Effigear gearbox. Named after the talon on the back on a starling's leg, meet the Spur.

The blueprint of the Murmur is writ large on this frame despite the addition of the gearbox.


Effigear are a French company and Joe has fitted this new Spur with their 9 speed box. The box mates with the swingarm in a manner that means there's no chain growth. This, combined with a lack of derailleur and cassette on the rear wheel, apparently make for a super supple rear end. Another big advantage of the Effigear is that it can be fitted with a trigger shifter, unlike the Pinion which is gripshift only.

Joe fits one of these plates to every ride and they look stunning.

The Spur has the option to change the shock position, a first for Joe.

Joe has fitted the gearbox with a brute of a bike; like a Murmur on steroids, this is a 170mm 29er. The customer Joe made this for is a sizable gent so this bike has a reach of 520mm and 450mm stays. Basically, when the Spur gets trucking, it's going to take a lot of stopping.

The cable routing for a stealth dropper was supposed to go through the stainless steel plaque on the downtube, but wasn't needed thanks to the Magura Vyron spec. It's something Joe is working on for all future Starling bikes.

A singlespeed hub from Project 321 is all that's needed on the rear wheel.

Joe currently isn't planning on building anymore of these bikes but he has all the jigs and could make one up if a customer really wanted. Expect a frameset to cost around £2,000 if you're interested.

Trigger shifting is a big plus on the Effigear. Joe's Spur runs with a Sram GX shifter.
A custom headcap finishes off the build. #steelisreal is a community of British bike builders that hold an annual demo day for their ferrous bikes.

More info.

Author Info:
jamessmurthwaite avatar

Member since Nov 14, 2018
1,770 articles

  • 307 6
 OK keyboard warriors: long, low, slack, gearbox, coil, steel (real), made in the UK, no weird standards, and reasonably priced. Time to put up or shut up!
  • 30 25
 You sir win the pinkbike comment section for the day
  • 126 36
 no bottle cage tho so its a no from me
  • 9 1
 @VtVolk Amen- I wouldn't consider myself "progressive" but this bike would be rad to check out- the trigger shifter is a big plus.
  • 85 5
 @kookseverywhere: look again, underside of the top tube
  • 7 2
 No variable leverage rate Frown the hydraulic bottom out on the ext shock should pick up that slack though!
  • 23 2
 Lol chain is backwards..
  • 1 1
 @RGonz: I think you are correct. I had to look it up though.
  • 9 2
 @oldtech: you sir, need to stop saying you sir
  • 7 31
flag spaceofades (May 3, 2019 at 19:22) (Below Threshold)
 Too long, too low, too slack, gearboxes suck, airs are better, steel isn't that great, unnecessary 'UK built' tag, not pushing standards, cheaply made.
  • 6 1
 @kookseverywhere: the bottle cage mount is under the rear of the top tube.
  • 1 3
 @RGonz: sure it. Not sure it actually makes a difference though. Maybe there's a reason they did that...? Or maybe it was built hurriedly before the show
  • 12 3
 I have a Pinion gearbox and it's handsdown the best piece of kit I've ever had on a bike. I've always been interested in the Effigear box too, except that the bike company who makes them; Cavalerie's bikes are ridiculously expensive for something that looks like someone threw together in a shed out of scrap alloy.

Always thought the Effigear gearbox was cool though, especially because they have trigger shift, but honestly after 10 minutes on a Pinion with a grip shift, I prefer it much more to trigger shifters now.
  • 5 7
 but its a 29'er
  • 1 0
 @kookseverywhere: There is at least one! On the downside of a top tube!
  • 2 0
 @kookseverywhere: front triangle fits 3 bottles ????
  • 2 1
 @dhmtbr777: you're entitled to your opinion even if it is wrong.
  • 3 0
 No sliding drop outs?
  • 4 2
 Have MOJO G16 29er already else I’d hit this.
  • 1 6
flag Kramz (May 4, 2019 at 11:17) (Below Threshold)
 It's on it's way to being good. Most people could probably bend the seat stays with their hands.
  • 1 0
 @nfa2005: Everything smaller is for BMX, right? Wink
  • 2 1
 @RGonz: Fakie grinds yo
  • 1 0
 @Lurch420: hell yea street af. Needs 4 pegs
  • 2 0
 @Kramz: go on then, id like to see that
  • 1 0
 Best gearbox out there!!! (Whistler riding approved!)
  • 1 0
 @audric: What other gearboxes have you ridden? How do they compare?
  • 4 0
 @excavator666: i rode the effigear gearbox for 8seasons, and did a ride on the Pinion in Whistler.
I'd say that the effigear has a smoother functionning, and the shifter is also WAY better than this satanic gripshift.
Overall gearbox bikes are (to me) more balanced as the weight is centered on the bottom bracket and corner like Hell. Not mentioning that having no chain slapping your swing arm while giving'er is quite addicting...
i'm back with an old fashioned deraileur on my new trek slash, and miss the gearbox comfort shifting up or down and having the right gear instantly (without pedaling)
I hope i answered your question!
  • 2 0
 @audric: That's great, thanks for your insight dude! I've been obsessing over gearboxes ever since I seen a Diamondback Sabbath back in about 2008. I knew then that this what I wanted.

I've spec'd up Cavaleries many times on their website, but always thought that their bikes were ridiculously expensive for what they are.

I now own a Zerode Taniwha and I can honestly say that it's EXACTLY the bike I've been waiting for since 2008.

I thought I wouldn't like the grip shifter, and it delayed me from making the purchase for a long time, but now I think it's a far superior system to trigger shifters. I love being able to dump or grab as many gears as I want, whenever I want (except whilst putting down a lot of power, which just requires an adjustment to the shifting technique).

The quality of the grip shifter is brilliant. It's a far cry from the awful plasticy things that used to come on bikes in the 90's/2000's. The feel of the shifter is beautifully mechanical and precise.

Whenever I'm washing the bike after another trouble free ride I think to myself "Ah remember when we used to have those ridiculous fragile pieces of scrap metal derailleurs hanging of the back of our bikes?.. Oh wait, most people still do!" and I laugh to myself and then rinse and dry my bike and put it away in anticipation of giving'er more trouble free abuse.

I also like the silent running part, or at least I would except that I have Hope hubs! They're great hubs, but the rear one is stupidly noisy, and honestly without the rest of the clanking and banging that normally comes from a bike, the whizz just sounds like a hiss, and it's distracting because it regularly makes me think that I have a puncture.

Noisy hubs are so last decade.
  • 2 0
 @excavator666: Glad you love your ZERODE
Washing the bike and putting it in the garage without any chain lubrication is freaking awesome with the Cavalerie!
Thanks to GATES belt drive system
  • 64 7
 weird looking session
  • 11 2
 Come on not all Joes can be average
  • 6 22
flag Clem-mk (May 3, 2019 at 14:33) (Below Threshold)
 So steel can be ugly..
  • 40 3
 Excellent craftsmanship all around. Seeing that simple single speed hub and no derailleur is appealing, I see the end of flimsy derailleurs and the ridiculous 50 tooth cassettes coming sooner rather than later.
  • 12 1
  • 3 1
 if only one major brand would make one bike with a gearbox w/o grip shift, then that will spark the gearbox bikes big time
  • 19 22
 Flimsy derailleurs and giant saucers aren’t going anywhere. I can bet any money that in 2022 Sram will have 13 if not 14 speeds. The last steps on Eagle are rather big, they will want to smoothen in out - guaranteed. I personally don’t use 50cog. Cannot imagine how someone can ride so slow and still consider it worthwhile to press on the pedals.

Then MTB is about weight, lower weight always sells better. Gearboxes will never be light.

Finally the poliferation of gearbox can only happen with sexy mainstream bikes using them, like Taniwha. I understand how steampunk things like this Starling are great designs and the build quality is excellent but they will never win hearts of the general public. It is the general public that pushes things forward in the end, slowly but it does. You can’t impose much on them.

So well, as you can see there are limitations to what genuine intellect can do.
  • 9 0
 I thought I'd see gearbox bikes go mainstream before motored bikes.
  • 7 2
 @iamamodel: ebikes may increase chances of more gearboxes bikes popping up because they force companies to make weird things around bottom brackets
  • 3 12
flag lkubica (May 4, 2019 at 5:39) (Below Threshold)
 Sorry but by 2025 non-ebikes will be practically extinct so no gearbox bikes will ever go mainstream. Ebike market is 10x bigger than traditional mtb market.
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: if you have a big enough chainring on your bike your bike will move with the 50t

I have a 34t chainring with a gx eagle cassette, and i likr it. I dont use it every ride but especially when i race i like to ride a higher cadence.

That being said . I cant notice that much of a difference from the 46 that i had, and only moved up to the 50 because it was the same price buying a gx groupset than buying a 11s with a 46t and xd driver that was what i had.
  • 5 2
 @WAKIdesigns: I love it when people with no need for a 50 tooth sh*t on the 50 tooth. Go and ride some
proper climbs and then we’ll see how you feel.
  • 4 9
flag WAKIdesigns (May 5, 2019 at 2:43) (Below Threshold)
 @AGR97: if you come to Gothenburg I can serve you a few sets of climbs totaling at no more than 1000ft that will fist you in a matter of an hour, and you’ll miss smooth fireroad totalling at 4000ft. You just won’t make half of them if you shift to 50 simce you will either spin out or loop out. Using 50t, especially with anything smaller than 36t front is not synonymous with having tough climbs and being a bad ass. It is ridiculous to imply it. On the contrary I’d say. 10 years ago Alpine fire roads were dominated by folks riding up at snail pace, juggling their balls off while spinning 100RPM on their tripple chainsets. After a few year hiatus, caused by XX1 and 2x10, This sight is back
  • 1 0
Not everybody climb flat trails like you do
  • 2 5
 @glen-allaire: and you base that on what? if you never had the tip of the saddle in your butthole then you don’t know what steep is
  • 1 0
I use SMP saddle for a reason
  • 29 7
 Is there ANY box on the PB collective bikepr0n list that this *doesn't* check? The thing even has a coil shock.





Where do you put a waterbottle??? DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL YOU TEASE OF A BIKE!!!
  • 28 2
 Oh, wait, is that a bottle cage mount on the bottom of the toptube?
  • 12 0
 right under the top tube
  • 2 0
 @pinhead907: Yep, right under the "Spur," Though I'm not sure why there than farther forward.
  • 17 1
 No threaded BB
  • 18 21
 Bottles are for infants and babies. Every time I ride a trail anymore it's littered with water bottles from lazy MF. Have you ever seen a hydration bag laying next to the trail?
  • 6 0
 @pinhead907 she's there buddy- this is the bike pinkbike has been asking for. I assume a couple thousand frame orders are incoming.
  • 11 0
 @brappjuice: Yep, Starling doesn't even need to bother waiting for the phone to ring - just start welding them up. Us PB posters wouldn't spout our mouths off if we weren't going to write the check! Right?
  • 6 0 has green ano tire valves stems on a dark grey/blue bike. Mark this bike as a NO now that I have seen that.

LOL jk

It looks awesome.
  • 3 0
 @vjunior21: cushcore valves.
  • 1 1
 @Domokeats09: yes that's it, Ready for your knees to collide with every pedal stroke

besides that: very cool bike
  • 3 0
 @oldtech: you're damn right !
  • 24 0
 Is steel the vinyl records of mountain bikes?
  • 7 11
flag fingerbangextreme (May 3, 2019 at 15:30) (Below Threshold)
 No it's the chai and soya latte of MTB Smile
  • 9 1
 Avocado toast (locally sourced, of course) of MTB
  • 18 0
 This is the exact bike I want. It's like my Nukeproof Mega 290 spent a weekend drinking in Portland Oregon and came back with a moustache and a taste for local craft beer.
  • 6 0
 @pacificnorthwest, yup...and in portland this bike would do double duty hauling a kiddy trailer.
  • 13 0
 Why do we hear so little of Effigear? Can we get a review?
  • 5 0
 They released the Cavalerie Blackbird yesterday. Go check it out, it is pretty cool!
  • 3 0
 Benoit C. Was running an effigear driven Nicolai a few seasons back on WC circuit.
  • 16 3
 How's the alignment?
  • 9 3
 “...The cable routing for a stealth dropper was supposed to go through the stainless steel plaque on the downtube, but wasn't needed thanks to the Magura Vyron spec...”

Then what’s the gaping hole in the seat tube below the stainless steel plaque for?
  • 1 2
 That's for when you get sick of charging your dropper battery all the time.
  • 2 0
 @chachmonkey: Have had a Vyron for nearly 3 years now. Have experimented to see how long a full charge would last, got over a year before it needed it. Great bit of kit and easy to swap between bike
  • 8 1
 Does it come with a flannel shirt?
  • 4 0
 Oh wow. Everything I want. Bet it pedals pretty shitty but descends like butter
  • 15 15
 I'm a big fan of gearboxes and steel but am I only one who sees Starling bikes much overhyped. Details are amateurish, brazing is not clean (compare it to Curtis few posts down for example), important struts and gussets are missing, degressive shock curve with coil shock... For garage project it would be incredibly cool but for 2000 pounds?
  • 36 4
 ''Important struts and gussets are missing'' . . . So what you are saying is you have an opinion based on looking only and a preconceived idea of what is needed, whereas Joe has a career in structural analysis, R&D and wing design in the aerospace industry. Now, who knows more about important struts and gussets out of you two?
  • 5 1
 Lack of struts and gussets are what make it so fast.
  • 11 5
 You may have noticed that you are not allowed to have an opinion that differs from the masses on here!
  • 3 1
 You appear to have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.,,,,,,,thanks for sharing ???? By the way you have never ridden a Storia shock have you?
  • 3 1
 @duir: Not allowed to have an opinion then.....especially one that doesn't conform with yours?
  • 7 2
 @duir: @:mgolder Hey guys, me and my riding group are riding steel frames only for last ten years. We cracked and snapped a lot of these, both Taiwanese production and garage made ones, HTs or full sus. If somebody give me this bike I'm perfectly sure that I will return it in pieces in one year or so Smile Whole industry has designers with career in engineering yet frames breaks all the time - you don't need theory but years and years of framebuilding to make a realiable product.
  • 7 0
 I'm going to strut my gussets on the catwalk, on the catwalk...
  • 5 1
 @bd4e1: Totally agree with you on that. Ive seen many broken steel, aluminium and carbon frame bikes over the years due to poor construction. However, give me a high quality steel or aluminium frame over a carbon one anytime!
  • 2 0
 @handynzl: im gonna shake my little gusset on the catwalk
  • 1 0
 @dirtbeard: Well, OK then...
  • 2 1
 Not enough gussets? There's more gussets than M&S underwear dept. on this thing. Looks like Clifton suspension bridge moind.
  • 4 0
 Is this the year of non-curved frames?
  • 3 0
 the chain is backwards. half link chains has to be used the other way around.
  • 4 0
 More gearboxes, less eagles please
  • 1 0
 What a beautiful bike - very nice!

What benefit will moving the shock make? Would it make the leverage curve more progressive / linear?
  • 2 0
 I definitely wouldn't throw this out of the bike rack. Whippin and Shred tastic
  • 2 0
 Looks sweet, I do wonder how much mud would get stuck in those cutouts though
  • 3 0
 Gotta have something to clean now that there's no derailleur!
  • 1 0
 Cool, but why have a tensioner if there is no chain growth, an eccentric system or traditional tensioners would make more sense, or am i missing something?
  • 2 0
 Maybe for chain tension as it gets a little longer overtime, or so you can change the cogs for different ratio ?
  • 6 0
 No sliding drop outs, that's why. Try getting the exact right length chain between the sprockets, then try actually getting it on. An idler pulley is standard engineering practice for chain drive (and belt drive systems) that don't have a means to tighten the chain or belt by extending the drive and driven sprockets apart. Your non gearbox bike has an idler. Your timing belt in your car has an idler. Your Wahoo Kickr has an idler. It has nothing to do with chain stretch, but that is compensated for as a bonus side effect.
  • 1 1
 @handynzl: yeah i get that hence my post, again, why not use a a chain tension system of some sort, bmx and dj bikes don't use a poxy tension system.
  • 1 0
 @watchtower: BMX and DJ have sliding drop outs so you can push the wheel back and tighten the chain. That idler on this bike is sprung to give tension. It won't be rigid.
  • 1 0
 @handynzl: the "tensioner" appears to be void of a spring. If the suspension pivot is at the front sprocket centre , which it appears it is then it would work a treat with bmx or dj sliding drop outs.
  • 2 1
 Sooooo close. Just need to drop the joint at seat tube and TT down more so I can use a longer dropper and slam that seat farther down for decending.
  • 2 3
 Stop using the word "stunning."
For the last few years it was "amazing," and then there was "the (insert superlative) ever, but I digress.
Just learn to think for yourself and write something devoid of oft-repeated tripe that everyone with a high e.q. latches onto.
end rant.
  • 1 0
 I’m stunned.
  • 3 1
 Looks clean like a dirtjumper from 2007
  • 2 0
 Why is the chain backwards?!?
  • 1 0
 Dig it! I am curious about the EXT shock. I imagine it is more popular in the UK and Europe but would love to try one...
  • 2 0
 Noticeably better than my ttx. I have both.
  • 1 0
 @fussylou: thanks, wanting to get a 210x55 coil shock for the stumpy evo. Looking at my options.
  • 2 0
 Looks like that bike could put in the work.
  • 2 0
 Amazing frigging' bike. Too bad I'm already going broke!
  • 3 5
 People there are some mechanical secret tricks that make the bike actually capable to jump and go faster, for example the bolt tightening sequence, try this:
-Tighten handlebar and stem bolts top to bottom, ride it, and then tighten them bottom to top. you will feel it gives you a different handling, also if you tighten them left to right or right to left.
The "pros" have the right sequences that's why they are so good riders.
  • 11 0
 For sure, also, homeopathy.
  • 2 0
 Should have had a belt rather than a chain.
  • 1 0
 Same ! I'd like to see more belt !
  • 3 1
 Steel is real isent just UK its the hole world Smile Sweet bike!!
  • 3 0
  • 1 0
 With little anti-squat you will have to practise round pedal strokes on this one, otherwise you gonna suffer uphill
  • 1 0
 Next thing you know they come out with an electric motor, I wonder what they would call it?
  • 1 0
 Would be interesting to see what kind of range would have the gearbox, compared to any Shimano/Sram 1x drivetrains
  • 1 0
 I love it! But really wish there were more shots of the gearbox from more than one angle.
  • 1 0
 If the efficiency on that Effigear box is good, that might be really nice.
  • 1 0
 IDK, the bike just looks naked.
  • 5 0
 Since when is naked a bad thing?
  • 2 0
 @oldtech: don't think it's bad, it was just an observation Big Grin
  • 8 0
 @oldtech: Since I turned 50.
  • 1 0
 What could I get for the same amount? Hmmm.
  • 1 1
 Ouf... with the pivot point concentric with the front sprocket, it must pedal poorly.
  • 1 0
 Half link chains are sick.
  • 2 0
 Looks like a gate.
  • 1 0
 Amazing frigging' bike. Too bad I'm already going broke!
  • 1 0
 170 travel 29er with a gearbox and trigger shift??!!!! Game changer!!!
  • 1 0
 I want to ride this at a wedding.
  • 1 0
 Shut up an take my money!
  • 2 1
 Sorry. This is ugly in my book.
  • 1 0
 I'll just assume your book isn't a best seller.
  • 1 0
 Now this is a sexy lookin' piece of metal. Would love to demo
  • 1 0
 That is a work of art! Great craftsmanship tup
  • 1 0
 Liking this
  • 5 5
 Its cool and all, but the skinny tubes just don't do it for me
  • 16 0
 Well clearly your thoughts about your own personal preferences are wrong.
  • 10 0
 Well, that's just like, your opinion man
  • 3 0
 @woofer2609: the green presta valves really tie the build together...
  • 1 0
 @flipoffthemonkeys: Standard issue Cushcore...
  • 3 2
 I just shot my load
  • 1 0
 Such a beauty!
  • 1 1
 all this for 2k euro? crazy good price there.
  • 1 0
 Imagine cleaning it!
  • 1 0
 Strange chain Wink
  • 2 2
 gear box ew.
  • 1 3
 Please someone in America build a gearbox ebike for me that cost. 5000 or under Thats not a piece of junk
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