Field Test: Starling Murmur - The Steel Rock Crusher

Dec 2, 2021 at 13:59
by Alicia Leggett  

PINKBIKE FIELD TEST

Starling Murmur Trail



Words by Alicia Leggett; photography by Tom Richards



The Starling Murmur was the bike we were all curious about as we headed up to Pemberton to test all these bikes. We spend plenty of time covering the newest carbon ultra-linkage machines and speculating about the latest changes and trends, but it's easy to forget about the simple things, and that's where the Starling comes in. The Starling Murmur is a beautifully designed, steel, single-pivot bike with elegant tubing, a coil shock, and endless attention to detail.

With 29" wheels front and rear, a 64.6-degree head tube angle with a 160mm fork, 445mm chainstays, and a 485mm reach on the size L test bike, the Murmur is, by the numbers, a true aggressive trail bike. What the numbers don't show is the craftsmanship and care that went into the bike's creation.

Starling Murmur Details

• Travel: 140mm rear / 160mm fork
• Steel frame (geo chart)
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head Angle: 64.6°
• Seat Tube Angle: 76.6°
• Reach: 485mm (L)
• Chainstay length: 445mm
• Sizes: M, L (tested), XL, XXL
• Weight: 34.06 lb / 15.45 kg
• Price: £2,162 (frame and Ohlins TTX coil shock) - note that pricing has changed since we filmed the video
Starling Cycles

Starling is a small British outfit that began in 2015 when founder Joe McEwan began welding bikes in his garden shed. Now, the Murmur front triangle is still hand-welded from Reynolds 853 tubing in the UK, and it's paired with a chromoly rear triangle made in Taiwan by ORA.

While it's available as a frame for £1,880 or with an Ohlins TTX coil shock for £2,162, Starling offers a variety of parts so customers can spec their Murmurs with components from Ohlins, EXT, RockShox, Magura, Shimano, Hope, Middleburn, and others. While there isn't a full range of brands for each part, it's safe to say that just about anyone could build a bike to suit their fancy using the parts available. Starling also offers custom frame and swingarm colors.


Our test bike came fitted with an SLX drivetrain, Magura M7 brakes, Ohlins suspension, and a set of gorgeous Middleburn cranks. While the 'enduro' version typically comes with a 160mm fork and the 'trail' version with a 140mm one, ours arrived with 150mm up front, so our test bike sits in the middle of the two Murmur options and has slightly steeper numbers than the ones listed above. It also arrived with an 11-speed cassette, but Starling's bike builder tool online does offer a 12-speed SLX drivetrain.

Starling bills the Murmur as both a versatile trail option and the enduro racer's choice, depending on how the bike is built up. Each bike is made to order, so some tweaks are possible, such as a non-boost rear end for a bike that typically comes with boost spacing. Also, custom bikes are central to what Starling does, so Starling will build up a fully custom bike for those who want specific sizing or geometry.


Just looking at the bike, it's clear that Starling doesn't skimp on the details. Now, onward to see how it rides.




Climbing

The Starling Murmur is a trail bike, but it's a different type of trail bike than most others we tested. The coil-sprung single-pivot suspension was less efficient than some of the more complex designs, and between the length of the bike and the single-pivot design, the bike definitely didn't feel snappy on the climbs. Whether or not that's a true negative just depends on what we're looking for.

I feel that if you're trying to race to the top on the Murmur, you're doing it wrong. The Murmur is a calm climber, without much bob, and it excels where traction is hard to come by. The extremely supple Ohlins shock keeps the bike glued to the ground, and the stability on the descents also translates to easy tracking uphill and around corners.

We tested the large frame, which had a 485mm reach, and I found it to be quite long, especially on the climbs, and that was exacerbated by the flat handlebar. I had to slam the seat as far forward as possible to avoid back pain, and even so, it took some forward and backward movement to feel like I could be over both the front and back of the bike when I needed to be. I'll concede that the bike was a little large for me, as I'm toward the bottom of the large size range. However, sizing down probably would have brought worse problems, as the medium bike has a 450mm reach, which likely would have felt far too short for me. At 5'10" (178cm), I'm in range for both the medium and the large sizes, according to Starling's size chart, but am caught right in the middle.

Mike Kazimer also thought that a higher rise handlebar would have been more appropriate, but at 5'11" (180cm) he got along better with the fit of the Murmur - he didn't feel too stretched out during seated pedaling.



Descending


The Murmur surprised me on the descents. Immediately, when I pointed it downhill, it felt notably stable, predictable, and trustworthy. I expected it to be nice and ride well, sure, but most bikes do that nowadays. What I didn't expect was just how easy it was to hold tough lines, find traction, and point straight downhill. Its generally comfortable ride made it inviting to loosen up the braking fingers and let it pick up all the straight-line speed it wanted. I would not go so far as to call it a playful bike, but it had more hop to it than I expected, with the 445mm chainstays lending themselves to a more balanced feel than the numbers would suggest.

As for the steel, I didn't notice any overt flex, but I did feel that the bike had a gentler feel than the other bikes on test, and between the length and the frame material, the bike felt pleasantly surfy as it tracked through corners. Speaking of tracking neatly, the bike had the reassuring tendency to ride exactly where I wanted it, holding a line cleanly and keeping traction where most bikes would want to skitter sideways.
Timed Testing


Our timed lap for the trail bikes was about three minutes long and was a mix of choppy, rooty sections and some fast flow. It started with an optional rock roll, a little drop, some fast corners, and a small double. As it serpentined its way down the hill, it included some steeps, a few root hops, and a few slight uphills. While none of the track was overly technical, the bikes that excelled on the test lap had to be capable on both fast, rough sections and in quick corners.

Don't forget that timing is just one of many ways to judge a bike, and fast doesn't always mean it's the best for everyone.


Alicia Leggett: "I didn't feel consistently fast on the Starling, and my times back that up. The Starling ranked 5th out of 6 for my timed test laps, and while it felt quite quick through steep corners and through chunky sections, it felt almost sluggish on the quick climbs and on parts of the track that favored bikes with more nimble handling."


The bike, as a whole, was more versatile than I expected. Still, there were times when it wasn't quite a magic carpet. When the trail turned undulating and there were short choppy climbs, it didn't have the snappy feel that would make me want to power through sprints. As quite a long and slack bike, it also isn't the perfect tool for those rides that are all about quick and nimble maneuverability.

When descending, I didn't remotely mind the bike's length. As I mentioned in the climbing section, the long reach was a drawback for me on the climbs, but I enjoyed the stability on the descents, and the length didn't actually seem to hurt the bike's all-around ability. At a very reasonable 34 pounds with svelte tubes and a thoughtful spec, it also didn't feel like the tank that its capability and frame material would suggest. Instead, it proved itself to be a solid choice for all-around trail riding, a realistic option for those who want a 140mm bike that can double as an enduro machine, and a truly enjoyable bike to ride.




Pros

+ Extremely stable on the descents
+ Beautiful craftsmanship
+ Great selection of parts to choose from when building a custom bike
+ Built to last

Cons

- Odd sizing, especially for someone around 5'10", and no sizes smaller than medium
- Not the most efficient climber






The 2021 Fall Field Test is presented by Rapha and Bontrager. Thank you also to Maxxis, Schwalbe, and Garmin for control tires and equipment.





282 Comments

  • 105 5
 Can we have a video edit just of Alicia charging features head on in semi slow mo... It's up there with watching birds fly and fish swim.
  • 130 0
 This might be one of the better compliments I've ever received.
  • 26 0
 Planet Earth: PB Edition
  • 20 0
 @misterha: With narration from the "Honey Badger don't give a sh*t" guy
  • 4 0
 @misterha: "Running Over Planet Earth"
  • 10 1
 I know, right? Watching her is both humbling and inspiring. Imagine the work it must have taken to make things look so smooth and effortless.

The truth is every other on and off-camera personality at pinkbike is better than me too, but for some reason, (likely deep-seated sexism?) I notice it way more with her.

Oh well. Imma go do some bicep curls and think of some new piece of bike-bling to buy to take my mind off my laziness and lack of skill.
  • 15 0
 @mobiller: I would die so happy
  • 14 1
 @alicialeggett: You look so serene in the sketchy stuff. As soon as things are even a little bit rough my face looks like I'm passing a kidney stone while diffusing a bomb.
  • 7 1
 @mobiller: Look at her go over those RAWKZ... she just doesn't give a shiiit... her front tire just EATS when it's hungryyy. Look at her roast that berm in front of that digger. She just rides away 'thanks for the berm, stupiiid'
  • 2 1
 @JakeEPooh: i think its the smile that just makes it look even better and smoother
  • 41 2
 It seems that a lot of the positive tracking and handling characteristics of the bike come from the inherent flex of the steel frame. Interesting that the general shift now seems to be towards MORE flex, when for years the MTB industry tried to make everything as stiff as possible.
  • 18 0
 I wonder how that flex translates to a XXL frame under a 210lbs rider... and how heavy that frame will be. Very nice bike.
  • 14 0
 Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing. Design refinement means finding those limits on both ends of the spectrum. Stoked to be around for brands figuring this out because bikes are damn fun to ride these days (not that they weren't before).
  • 10 1
 I'm fully behind the ride benefits to flex, but what about the long term wear/damage to the shock?
  • 92 1
 When it's expensive it's called compliance.
  • 9 0
 Yep, for many, many years the MTB industry tried to make everything as stiff as possible... And for many, many years things were really not stiff enough! We finally got to a good place, then went from 26 to 29 wheels and had to start over trying to make things stiff enough. And as a 235lb rider, I'm not sure we're quite there yet. Rider weight and preferences plays a huge roll. Feeling flex is like tire squirm, some people can't stand tire squirm, others aren't bothered by it.
  • 11 30
flag Buggyr333 (Dec 14, 2021 at 8:47) (Below Threshold)
 I think it's worth noting that steel isn't actually flexier than aluminum. A common misconception that is regurgitated in the MTB world. Steel rides smoother because it flexes less. Aluminum flexes so much to fast on a molecular level that it gives the rider more feedback (think of an aluminum baseball bat) while steel flexes so little that it deadens the vibrations.
  • 34 1
 @Buggyr333: Wrong. Steel frames are generally more flexible than aluminum. The reason is the skinny tubes used for steel. To make a steel frame less flexible the tube diameter would need to be increased, this would make the tubes either too heavy, or eggshell thin. It's just a generalization, but for a given strength frame, steel is more flexible.
  • 1 0
 @twopoint6khz: totally agree, especially with a coil. They could put spherical eyelet bearings on the shock like Nicolai/ geometron which would help.
  • 5 1
 I depends on where the flex is. Having flex in the seatstay must give it some good progression at the end of the travel making it feel bottomless. Having flex in the BB area is bad when pedaling and cornering.
  • 2 1
 I don't think it's that we need more flex now as that bike manufacturing got so good they were able to remove most of the flex from the bike and components and got to a point where things were too stiff and now it needs to back off to a point where it's structurally sound but compliant. Which is a great reason to use steel!!
  • 7 8
 @kcy4130: It's hard for an apples to apples comparison, but if you take the wheels out of the rear end on an aluminum bike, and a steel bike, and press the dropouts together with your hands you'll feel an immediate difference. Now sure noodly thin steel stays may flex more than huge diameter aluminum, but not all steel frames are super thin, and not all aluminum frames are super thick. I know it's not a super scientific test, but it's the easiest way to see it in the real world. But the material itself, steel vs aluminum, Steel is definitely less flexy, but also transfers less vibrations. Just to say that is incorrect because some frames have super skinny tubes is a fallacy.
  • 4 3
 Sorry, but I think the benefits of some give in the rear triangle has been widely acknowledged for well over a decade or so. Mountainbike magazines often referring to Valentino Rossi for wanting a bit more give in his motorcycle structure too. At least Dirt Magazine used to praise the benefits of some lateral give so I doubt Pinkbike must have been that far behind. Which media source where you reading the past few years that went "more stiff more better"?
  • 4 1
 @AyJayDoubleyou: So you think a frame that can flex to absorb torsional forces puts more stress on the shock than one than cannot?

You might want to think about that a little harder.
  • 4 2
 @cxfahrer: There's lots of heavy Starling riders (over 120kg) who love their frames. I think the feeling of flex is different to the actual flex. People just assume they flex lots as the feeling is different to harsh aluminium and steel frames.
  • 7 2
 @kcy4130: Steel is 3 times stiffer than aluminum for the same size and wall thickness tube. It is also about 3X stronger than aluminum. As you note, there is a limit to how thin you can make a tube before it buckles so generally steel bikes are heavier and more flexible.
  • 2 1
 @phutphutend: i'm 95kg (in the nudie) and love mine.
  • 2 0
 @cxfahrer: I have an xl at 225lbs. its 33 ish lbs with good parts. great bike.
  • 2 3
 Pretty old vid, but explains it pretty well:

www.facebook.com/StarlingCycles/videos/1380399148727271
  • 3 1
 @kcy4130: actually steel is almost 3 times as stiff as alu, Young's modulus of steel is 29m psi while alu is 10m psi. It is stiffer, but since stiffness is proportional to the cube of the thickness and alu being less dense than steel there is some margin weigh to stiffness ratio to be gained when shape/geometry of a part or a system is designed with that in mind.
  • 2 0
 @sargey2003: depends where the flex is. If the bit attached to one end of the shock twists relative to the other end, that's bad. Of it flexes elsewhere, the shock doesn't care
You could make an infinitely stiff frame (well, you couldn't, but you know what I mean) and there would be no side loading whatsoever on the shock.
  • 16 2
 Maybe I'm not explaining what I meant properly enough as I'm not a metallurgist, but I did have it explained to me by a professional metallurgist at some point.... I don't think that makes me an expert by any stretch but this was my takeaway:
The primary difference in ride quality between aluminum and steel comes down to the 'Damping Capacity' of the material. Steel has a much higher damping capacity than aluminum, causing it to transfer less of the high frequency vibrations than aluminum would, which is what most people are feeling when they note a 'harsh' feeling ride. Triangles inherently are very stiff structures, and aren't going to 'flex' noticeably vertically on a bicycle frame, no matter the material. There is however torsional flexing which is a lot more noticeable, but usually noted as a negative trait, not positive (although torsional flex can be a good quality for a hardtail mountain bike for not getting as beat up on rough downhill) But any effect of torsional flex in a full suspension triangle is likely going to disappear under the effect of the pivot(s) flexing. (also should note that most of the vibrational damping in a frame is pretty irrelevant vs the damping in tires, but that's a whole other conversation...)

On top of that, Steel is a far stiffer material than aluminum (about 3x stiffer). Now it's true that this is assuming the same tube thickness and diameter. And with steel frames they tend to have thinner tubes than aluminum, but the difference is still not enough to make a bicycle noticeably 'flex' vertically.

My main point is that so many people 'regurgitate' that there is more noticeable vertical flex in a steel rear triangle (specifically in hardtails, but I see the same though process being applied to fullies as well) than in aluminum, when what they are really feeling is the increased damping capacity of steel. I'd bet under the hardest riding impacts, the rear triangle wouldn't even flex enough for the rear axle to move even a millimeter relative to the BB (or the main pivot in the case of a full suspension bike)

I hope some of you find this informative rather than just downvote it because it disagrees with some preconceived notions.
  • 4 0
 @cxfahrer: I had an xl with a -1deg headset and 160 fork. I’m 195lbs geared up and ride harder than average. The murmur grip on wet and off camber roots was a amazing! Bike was flexy for sure on flow trails but didn’t seem slower, just different, BUT I could flex the rear end enough that the rotor started to hit the frame (200mm). The bike had a great climbing position, but really did require you to reach for the climb switch. Also even with an a air shock chucked full of spacers it would bottom out too often. I loved the simple design, look and ride feel most of the time, but in the end a G1 worked better for me, hard to tell if it was the frame flex, lack of travel, or lack of progressively. Honestly the starling was the second best bike I have ever ridden if in lump my g16 and g1 together.
  • 2 1
 @cxfahrer: 210lb rider on an XL Twist (160mm mullet version) here. No issues with the level of flex for me. It rides beautifully.
  • 7 1
 @Buggyr333: There's a last piece in the steel vs aluminium flex conversation that nobody's mentioned thus far.

Yes, steel is denser, stronger, has higher Young's modulus, and so on, but probably most relevant is endurance behaviour:

Steel can handle a far higher stress (higher strain, after calculating everything out) to the same number of loading cycles as compared to aluminium. This means more flex can be designed into a steel structure without a risk of fatigue failure. This is why Starling seatstays can be so thin.

This is not to say that it couldn't be done in aluminium (Trek Fuel 90 had aluminium flex stays in a rocker-driven single pivot design for example), it's just good engineering practice* not to, especially because the loads in bike frames are so variable, this makes it hard to design for in a material that is overall also on the brittle side of things. Present day, this is also much easier to implement in carbon fibre.

*aluminium doesn't have a fatigue limit because of its (micro)structure, though in practice, depending on the load, it can be millions of cycles to failure

As Buggyr333 says, vertical flex in frames is very small (I reckon the millimetre estimate for hardtail "travel" is accurate); the most relevant dimension is lengthwise twist. I actually think that this is a super hard target to hit, I don't think the level of engineering that it's possible to put into a bike frame is that high, but there are black art aspects to this: how much brass or steel rod to fill a joint with, whether to pick a certain tube or one that's 0.05mm lighter or heavier, and so on.

The other thing to point out is that torsional stiffness doesn't become irrelevant in full suspension: a LOT of design goes into swingarm flex in motorcycles (at least for high performance track racing) because it makes a big difference to traction at higher lean angles, where bumps aren't in line with the plane that the suspension moves in and it cannot work as effectively. Joe talks about this on his blog; if I recall correctly, the seatstays are designed to provide this function when riding off camber.
  • 1 3
 @alleycatfish: also steel has been used for bike frames for decades and is very well understood as a material. Builders know exactly what tubes and wall thicknesses to use to build a compliant frame. Aluminium and carbon are less well understood therefore designers are likely to be conservative with their designs to avoid warranty claims.
  • 1 0
 Road bike went through this exact same thing. Years ago everyone thought they wanted them as stiff as possible, or perhaps that was the big brands forcing this notion. Then came the world of compliant road bikes, and then gravel bikes that more closely resemble early 90s mountain bikes.
  • 2 0
 @cxfahrer: The 120lb tester said it felt fine so I'm sure it's fine for you too. This is the bike industry where solutions engineered for one type of person are obviously the right solution for everyone. Trust me bro.
  • 1 0
 @alleycatfish: You mention aluminium being brittle... Did you know that 853's elongation at break is under 10%? (7 or 8, if my memory serves me well - I'd need to dig out the datasheet to check)
  • 1 0
 @alexsin: now there's a serious problem... What I call too stiff, at 75kg, would feel like a wet noodle to someone "powerfully built", and might be seriously unpleasant to smaller women. Components built so that strong riders aren't getting warranty every 5 minutes might actually be a partial cause of so few women mountain biking, as they could be getting beaten up by too stiff bikes
  • 1 0
 @cxfahrer: Here are some answers: I’m 6’ 2”, 100+kg, and now 64 years old. My 2019 Murmur XL (515mm reach) weighed in (with Hope headset, DVO Topaz T3 Air shock, and rear axle): 4.2kg (9.24 lb).

I’m not a fast rider and I do love a technical climb and gnarly descents.

I’ve extensively rustproofed mine by spraying excess “LPS #3” corrosion-inhibiting guck in all the frame tubes. I’ve tested that for 20 years on steel winter bikes riding in Ontario salt. Works great.

pilotshq.com/products/lps-3-premier-rust-inhibitor-mil-prf-16173e-g2
  • 36 0
 Great reviews Alicia! Nice to have such a concise well spoken (& new) perspective!
Keep her on board PB!
  • 23 4
 So does a brake lever or caliper fit through that gusset? If not, it's kinda really stupid...
  • 7 3
 No it doesn't and yes it's a bit of an oversite.
  • 11 2
 Yes, everyone seems to gloss over the cable routing issue...all the disadvantages of internal with none of the advantages
  • 15 2
 I actually have this bike and just run the brake cable on the outside of the gusset.
  • 4 1
 Either way, that gusset could be handy for stashing tubes, tools etc.
  • 6 0
 Briefly removing the hose to run through the opening in the gusset is not hard
  • 4 1
 How often are people thinking they need to remove their hydraulic lines from their bikes? It's a one and done scenario unless the hose becomes damaged. Shift cables I totally get, I'm replacing mine often and would like that externally routed. But a brake hose? Hide that thing. I ain't touching it for a while.
  • 3 0
 @minesatusker: Yeah I have my tube, levers and CO2 strapped to the top of the down tube at the gusset junction and it holds it all in place nicely.
  • 2 2
 You can always run brake outside of gusset if it's a real issue for you.
  • 3 0
 @BillT999: It's still way easier than many internally routed frames and it's really neat. I definitely wouldn't say it's "all the disadvantages" of internal routing.
  • 19 1
 That last shot is the money shot, what a good looking bike.
  • 17 0
 That drone shot too at the beginning of the descending section, holy shit. The video guys killed it.
  • 3 0
 An absolute stunner. So clean and simple.
  • 12 1
 "suspension was less efficient than some of the more complex designs"

but also:

"The Murmur is a calm climber, without much bob, and it excels where traction is hard to come by. The extremely supple Ohlins shock keeps the bike glued to the ground"

Isn't all that, like, really efficient? Little bob, lots of traction, calm (smooth); those all sound like efficient ways to get up a trail. This bike has them all, but isn't efficient as some? What exactly are you all looking for as "efficient"?
  • 11 0
 I think a higher rise handlebar would have made a huge difference on the test. Awesome looking bike. May not be for everyone but everyone is better off with new bikes like this out there
  • 2 0
 I run a 50mm rise on my Murmur.
  • 1 0
 @fartymarty: Agree, I run 40mm here and it no longer feels like the long bike it was with 20mm less stack.
  • 1 0
 @strangemeadowlark: forgot that I have 20mm of spacers and a 160 fork so quite a high front end. I'm just playing around with my 120mm fork on my Murmur and running 70mm rise bars (no spacers) - so it does need a decent t rise bar.
  • 3 3
 Bar height is such a personal preference thing, some people like it high, some low. You can't ever have a setting that everyone is happy with...
  • 3 1
 @phutphutend: it's a bit harsh judging a bike on it tho. IMO reviewers should change fit related items if required for a review.
  • 16 4
 What's that? I couldn't quite hear.
  • 5 1
 But what a looker. Be still my beating heart with leaky valve.
  • 8 0
 Question for the BC riders....
Do the rocks up there still have decent grip even when wet? The "sheen" coming off the rocks in the photos instinctively sends me into panic mode. The limestone around me might as well be ice when I see rocks like that.
  • 2 0
 Coast Mountains granite like what you see in these Pemberton videos is definitely slicker when wet but for the most part still rideable and certainly less slippery than wet wood. BC has extremely diverse geology though including some areas with limestone or even softer sedimentary rock so your mileage may vary in other parts of the province.
  • 3 0
 if it's raining or if you have first tracks, it's got more traction than in the summer if you are on the main line. North Shore speaking.
  • 9 0
 @ Pinkbike: Super cool to see this bike included in the field test. Could you please do a steel full suspension shoot out one day? Cotic vs Starling vs Pipedream vs Stanton vs ?
  • 2 0
 Throw a Production Privee into the mix too please.
  • 9 2
 I ride my murmur for more than 2,5 years and it's hands down the best bike I ever owned! I never wasted a second with thinking about to swap it for another bike. I think some of the cons mentioned in the test are related to a frame that's too large for the testers, a cockpit not set up for the preferences of the testers and maybe the shock tune. I tested a lot of shocks with my starling bikes and some were really good on either going up or going down the hill. The only shock I tested that performed perfectly in both directions is the Storia. I don't know the tune of the Öhlins shock, but linear compression tunes, that are really good when descending are often less effective on the way back up the hill. I use my murmur for XC style interval laps and for some Strava top 5 results among eBikes and former XC racers, but I also really enjoyed it in finale Ligure where things got a bit more hectic and rocky. Long story short... It's a custom bike so you'll end up with the right size, the right cockpit setup and the right shock(tune) when you get one. You can be sure that this bike rides a lot better when it's set up for you and your preferences.
  • 2 0
 I like the Öhlins on mine but it does hug the ground. I would love a Storia but didn't have the extra cash.
  • 2 0
 @fartymarty: Öhlins FTW, eh! Super-nice.

On my Murmur XL, I started with a DVO Topaz T3 (air) shock.

Coming off an ‘07 KTM 525, I was intensely curious about a coil shock.

The DVO Jade-X with 550lb spring (I’m 100kg bone dry, unclothed in an updraft) TRANSFORMED my Murmur.

The Topaz was superb. The Jade-X is exceptional. Roots and rocks: bring ‘em on. I often choose to ride the eroded lines going up or down just for fun.

I doubt anyone would be too sad about the rear suspension on a well set-up single-pivot KTM.

That’s true on my Murmur. Admittedly I’m old (64) and not aggressive. The Jade-X (now Jade between rebuilds of Jade-X); don’t need a climb switch) give my bike a bottomless feel to the rear suspension. I do love gnarly terrain. Flow trails: ok. Not my choice.

Up front 160mm DVO Diamond D1. Love it.

Soon to bolt on a 180mm Fox 38 w/ Vorsprung.

The bike doesn’t _need_ a Fox 38 coil; I’m curious!
  • 11 2
 They need to start making these bikes way uglier that way it's easier to accept my never owning one.
  • 9 0
 I'd like to see a steel full squish field test. Starling, Cotic, Ferrum, Pipedream, Morph.
  • 2 0
 And stanton and curtis. Mega steel shootout!
  • 5 1
 I've been riding my Murmur for over three years now, I plan to change it soon, for another Starling. Nothing else has seriously tempted me in that time. The smooth, quiet simplicity is fantastic. Previous bike was a Pole which rode no better despite it's more 'sophisticated' suspension. What it did do though was creak constantly and cost me a fortune in bearings. The lack of zip in snappy sprinty type climbs is something I experience with my super plush Push coil shock. I can remedy this by putting on the optional Fox X2 air, but lose some of the plush. You can't have it every way!
  • 5 1
 You would seriously think according to the bullshit and hype a lot of companies put out there you could have everything on a plate . It comes down to this if your happy who gives a fuck what the hells out there you picks your poison
  • 3 0
 Which Starling are you going for? I'm stuck in decision mode: Swoop or Murmur. There are arguments for both.
  • 1 0
 @Lotusoperandi: swoop trail
  • 1 0
 @Compositepro: Best thing anyone can do is custom tune their suspension exactly for them. It transforms a bike.
  • 5 1
 I've had mine for close to 3 years now and have no desire for any other bike. I see my friends buying new bikes every year spending thousands on the latest trends. The industry is designed around complexity because it sells and makes each bike unique and brand-able. All I got to do is powder coat this thing next year and throw the latest suspension and be happy.
  • 4 0
 I am a satisfied owner of a Swoop myself. Which point should also be addressed is the fact that it is an absolutely timeless machine. The half-life in terms of frame design for most of the other bikes is known to be relatively short, while a starling will stand the test of time for many years to come due to its classic formal language.
  • 1 0
 Can I ask, is there a reason you went with the Swoop over the Murmur? I can't decide between the two and appreciate owner feedback.
  • 2 0
 @Lotusoperandi: the reason was that I had the chance to get a used frame at a good price. If it was a murmur it would have been good too.If you need help making a decision, Joe at Starling explains the differences between the wheel sizes quite well on his web site.https://www.starlingcycles.com/what-difference-does-wheel-size-really-make/
  • 1 0
 @koelschejung: Oh okay, great thanks!
  • 6 3
 450 reach for 175cm is just about spot-on.

I get that you only got one size per bike for to evaluate, but any bike in a longer reach will have the fit issues described. Kind of a bummer that the long reach overshadowed the review.

I’d also be curious how snappier the bike would feel with SLX cranks. Those Middleburns are pretty in a mid 90’s way, but I’ll bet they’re also flexy like a mid 90’s crankset too.
  • 12 2
 Regarding the cranks, I've always considered the middleburns quite stiff cranks, they were the most popular cranks for trials for years and floppy cranks have no place on a trials bike
  • 5 3
 Middelburns are plenty stiff. And super strong. They are made from a forged net shape, which is a great way of ensuring amazing fatigue properties and strength. Until you've had a pair in your hands, you'll never appreciate their tactile beauty!!
  • 2 2
 @aliclarkson: I’m sure they were stiffer than something Kooka or Grafton cranks from the anodized era.

I’m also sure they’re much less stiff than a hollow forged Shimano crankset.
  • 4 1
 @wyorider: It is probably hard to beat hollow forged Shimano cranksets, but the Middleburn stuff makes more sense to me than all those cast or machined options. I just still don't get why we don't see more tubular steel cranksets in mountainbiking. Profile is there but it isn't cheap, Cane Creek makes tubular cranks but them being titanium they're not cheap either. You can get good and affordable tubular steel BMX cranks so I wonder what makes it so hard to make them for MTB too.
  • 1 1
 Middleburn cranks are my no1 choice, run them on both my proper bikes (Geometron G1 & Sick Wulf 4130). No issues with flex that I notice. Totally gorgeous to look at and I can't think why I'd go back to standard boring SRAM or Shimano cranks (old bike had X01 carbon and cube XC bike has XT)....nearly 3 years on the hardtail and 2 and half on the G1, zero issues.
  • 2 0
 @vinay: I’d also love to see more cro-mo cranks. The predecessor of the Cane Creeks was Sweet Wings. They came in steel and ti versions. Wish Cane Creek would do the steel version.
  • 1 0
 @vinay: BMX cranks have relatively low Q-factor compared to MTB cranks so clearance would be the main issue. That is unless you opted for a super long axle, but then you're adding even more weight to what's already quite a heavy type of crankset.

Going back to trials as an example, Inspired Bicycles offer a crankset based around the SRAM GX crankset with a direct mount bash/chainring combo which - as a complete setup - is around 700g. Their BMX-style tubular crankset is 1.130kg. That's quite a chunk of additional weight.
  • 2 1
 Are you trying to be funny? Middleburn cranks we’re stiffer and stronger than slx cranks back when they still had a square taper.
  • 14 9
 Maybe I'm in the minority here. I think this bike is hideous. The thin seat stays, and the overall DIY look of the bike is not my jam.
  • 2 0
 I personally love the look of metal bikes with straight tubes, but have to admit it stings a little when people ask me if my Kingdom Vendetta is homemade.
  • 2 0
 @tkclemmer: I’ve never got the whole homemade thing people either love it and go wow man that’s awesome or hate it and go wow you could have bought a proper bike for that (really it’s happened) reality as above is who cares if your happy you are happy
  • 3 1
 @tkclemmer: Not so much that they are straight, I love straight lines on a bike. It just looks like conduit or cooper plumbing I could pick up at the local home improvement store. I guess it's just not for me, and my bike probably isn't for everyone. Which is a pretty cool thing about bikes, eh?
  • 3 0
 @Hardnacks: The variety amongst objects designed to do essentially the same things is one of things I love about bikes.
  • 2 1
 I love steel frames, but also dislike the lines of the seat stays on the Murmur. Definitely not the best looking steel FS frame out there in my opinion.
  • 6 0
 Great reviewers, Alicia Leggett is a fantastic addition. Nice job team....
  • 3 0
 Few things, from a recent owner (‍♂️Fan boy here)
Sizing: I was between a small and a medium (trying the swoop). There isn’t a small in the twist (their mullet), so the boys custom made me a twist with medium reach, small stand over. It’s frigging awesome.
12 or 11 speed: ahhh c’mon few years ago you’d never have known the difference
Climbing: probably would agree though I did come at this from a hardtail and I was actually expecting it to be WAY worse. I was pleasantly surprised

Enjoying these in depth reviews though guys & gal
  • 3 0
 I have a 160/140 Starling Twist with Ohlins coil (nearly the same bike). It zips around up climbs nearly as well as a Ripmo or SB150, a touch slower if you leave the shock fully open. It descends great, holds whatever line you want across chunky, slippery ground, feels like you are surfing down all the gnarly stuff with supreme control. Not an optimal bike park rig for slapping berms and lips on smooth terrain but there are lots of stiff carbon rigs for that.
  • 5 0
 Good lord, some of these comments are creepy and cringe as f*ck. "OMG, woman rider! Look how serene she look!" LMAO.
  • 3 1
 I built mine two months ago. The enduro way. The Murmur is simply awesome. It is PERFECT if you are a good climber, 'cause having a +2000m ascend in one day can be quite an issue if you're not a good climber. But guys, steel is real and going down with this bike will make you scream like a little kid in a rollercoaster!


@alicialeggett If you happen to come to Northern Italy you can try my "M size" Murmur!
  • 3 1
 Might be worth riding the right size bike next time you do a review?

As the owner of a Starling Swoop the 27.5 version I found it is a better bike with a Fox X2 and I didn’t like the Ohlins. As for climbing I find it climbs fantastically when I am riding loads and very fit and is a bit of a pig when I have not ridden for a while. Mine is 3 years old and has been smashed hard on the huge descents of The Lake District where I live and frequent trips to the Scottish Mountains. The flex in the frame is very welcome for my 48 year old body and translates to insane grip and greater comfort on long very rough descents. The single pivot is zero factor with great geometry and shock tune. Reliability has been exemplary as has the paint job. Wheels and tyre choice make the biggest difference.

I am a person that has mostly bought my bikes based on craftmanship, build quality, reliability and durability. I have had a lot of bikes in my 30 years of MTBing. The 3 that have really stood out for me were 2 Nicolai’s and the Starling. All 3 were heavy but when the angles are correct and you know how to setup your shocks then weight is much less important. Every time a batter down a Lake District descent with rocks flying up and hitting my frame, I remember why I own a Starling. It does everything that is asked of it without needing silly gimmicks like carbon or wavey tubes.

Bikes made by engineers not the marketing department will alaways get my vote.
  • 4 0
 Does the rear tire rub the seat tube on that huck to flat? I looks awfully close...
  • 7 1
 Mine certainly doesn't. It's one of the nicest "dropping" bikes I've ridden, maybe because there's a bit of flex in the stays.
  • 3 1
 Looked through the video several times and I'm falling on the side of definite contact with the seat post. It might just be the camera angle playing tricks though but still not a great look for a bike claiming clearance for 2.6 tyres
  • 5 2
 @Thebluelion: I bottomed mine out several times, never hit the seattube
  • 5 2
 Mine doesn’t either
  • 3 0
 It doesn’t. Although I’m potentially fitting a 60mm stroke shock on mine soon so if my measurements are wrong, it might. But that’s my fault, not Starlings
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer @alicialeggett @jasonlucas we need to know this, please!
  • 2 1
 Re-watched the huck to flat several times and my money is on it definitely made contact.
  • 4 0
 According to Ohlins specs it has 10 mm more axle to crown than Rochsox or Fox with the same travel.
  • 4 0
 I own a Starling Swoop. Its beautiful and rides everything well...even climbs quite nicely. Steel FS bikes are rad.
  • 2 1
 'Ride quality' is primarily determined by structural design not material properties. 'Compliant frames' are a total misnomer as well since the stiffness of a typical frame in vertical stress is orders of magnitude higher than the wheels, seatpost and handlebars...
  • 2 2
 @rideordie35 true about vertical stiffness, but not lateral. think about how frame behaves when leaned over in the orner. Watch the link to the YouTube vid I posted above...
  • 2 1
 @aliclarkson interesting read. I own a custom Starling Murumur for 3 years and it is one of the best bikes I´ve had so far.

Regarding the loss of snappiness - you stated that you had to slam the seat as far forward as possible. That does not make much sense as the power triangle is one of the determining things to have enough power on uphills. A changed bar, at least in my opinion, would have been a far better solution to "correct" the underlying problem.
  • 3 0
 Thinking about getting one. Or maybe a custom Marino. I'm feed up with my bike muching bearings in 6 months, at least with this bike is like a 30 minute work to change them!
  • 1 0
 *fed up
  • 1 0
 University Literature Final: Compare and contrast the single pivot designs from Starling and Orange.

Credit will be deducted for noting the obvious steel vs. aluminum material of construction.

Side Note: Why do 90% of people feel like they are in between sizes?!
  • 2 3
 @kosmoHR

I'd love to know the answer to the sizing question. I think it's more a psychology questions.

I'm perfect size for Large, but have also ridden Medium and XL with no real issues. You adapt pretty quickly, as long as you can get saddle to right height and don't whack you knees on the bars, you'll be able to make it work eventually!!

But people struggle to make a choice, especially when it involves a lot of money, so they become uncertain!!

www.starlingcycles.com/starling-cycles-sizing-guide
  • 2 2
 I can't comment on the ride qualities from a single pivot bike but to me it seems like a waste of usable space to have the shock going right across the middle of the front triangle. I would want a link to change the orientation of the shock up to the top tube or vertical.
  • 4 1
 Then you're missing part of the point. This bike has 1 pivot, 2 bushings, and that's it. Simple, works well, and easy to keep working well for a long time. All that can be huge for those who ride in nasty conditions and might not have time/money to keep multiple sets of bearings fresh.
  • 3 1
 I know of few ovalized headtubes on murmurs in finland. Been wondering whether it is due to steel headtube on these not being up to the task or just regular wear and tear
  • 4 1
 When your shock costs more than your frame
  • 2 1
 207 EUR for the shock.. am i missing something? that sounds super cheap
  • 2 0
 @twonsarelli: 207EUR for base level Rockshox, the Ohlins is more like 750EUR.
  • 1 1
 @Fix-the-Spade: they edited the pricing at some point but now it says the ohlins is 282 extra over the frame only. still seems reasonable
  • 1 0
 @twonsarelli: It's more than that but it still works out a good price IIRC
  • 4 0
 Fun looking bike
  • 2 0
 When people are basically saying not "horrible" my cash gets nervous of my potential next purchase......
  • 2 0
 Why is there a Maxxgrip DHR on the rear instead of Maxxterra? Surely that wouldn’t help a trail bike climb well.
  • 1 0
 How is more grip in the back not going to help climbing on trails?
  • 4 0
 @Beamishblue, because the more grip the better when you're trying to stay on the trail in the middle of a late fall rainstorm. All of the bikes in this category had the same tires, so it was an even playing field in that regard.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: Interesting. I thought they would be super draggy. Do you usually run Maxxgrip on the rear in the winter?
  • 1 0
 @Beamishblue, yep, around here I do - I'll take all the help I can get on the wet roots and rocks. MaxxTerra works well for the rest of the year, though.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: What kind of temperatures you have there during the late fall and winter? Maxxis rubber doesn't seem to work if the temperature is below +5 celsius (41°F). The softer the compound is the harder it becomes when cold. I swapped my Maxxis tire to Continental Baron (black chili) for the winter. Also Schwalbes work quite ok compared to Maxxis.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: I reckon that I ride in similar conditions to you in the winter. I’ll have to try Maxxgrip on the back. Cheers.
  • 1 0
 @JAK79: I concur that Black Chili is a very nice cold weather rubber. Gripton is pretty decent, too.
  • 2 0
 Love the single pivot. Seems like an ideal bike for a lockout rear suspension. Begin flaming me now, I suppose.
  • 2 3
 Watch the video, no need for lockout as spoken by @mikekazimer
  • 1 1
 Negative single pivot characteristics are fake news
  • 1 0
 What makes it any more ideal for a lockout than any other design?
  • 3 0
 Exactly how does a Flat bar make the reach longer again?
  • 4 0
 The bar rise doesn't affect the reach, but it does alter the position during seated climbing - a higher rise bar would have created a more upright position, and made things feel a little less stretched out.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: just put some spacers under the stem with the flat bar, it goes Up and Back.
  • 1 0
 My buddy just bought one a couple weeks ago (frame only.) I was totally surprised to suddenly see it reviewed here. Crazy. I can't wait to try his bike once it's built.
  • 3 0
 Niace
  • 104 103
 Seems like we're going backwards here with a heavy single pivot suspension that doesn't climb that well.
  • 51 16
 the fanbois will be along in a moment to downvote the shit out of this ....
  • 26 3
 I'm always the weakest link when it comes to climbing.
  • 13 2
 Steel bikes are so cool that it makes up for weight and any perceived performance short comings.
  • 117 1
 I disagree - I like that bikes like the Murmur exist. Sure, it’s not going to be for everyone, but it’s great on the descents, and it’s not really that heavy considering the steel frame and coil shock - it was actually lighter than the Stumpjumper EVO alloy.
  • 9 2
 @Compositepro: yeah, here I am!
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: what would you rather own, if you had to spend your own money between those two?
  • 2 0
 @andelinc I think that's only partly true; the advances in modern geometry, suspension and components make it possible to build a much more capable steel bike at this weight. If you were to compare this side by side to the types of steel full suspension bikes we had in the late 90s / early 2000s it would be a very different bike.
  • 16 0
 What is this? the Radavist?!
  • 5 1
 @Compositepro: I am getting close to calling you names.
  • 16 2
 interesting how when something quite different gets a (generally) positive review, some will indicate how they feel troubled with information that doesn't match their view..
  • 3 1
 @justanotherusername: sticks and stones ....i got some barbed wire however that hurts the other night in the dark
  • 2 0
 And with drivetrain. That SLX drivetrain sure looks like 11sp XT to me. Which isn't a bad thing! Just bought a bunch of spares for same drive for myself.
  • 4 1
 @mikekazimer: Would be nice to have a "build cost" when your testing frame only. It's not really fair to point out that it's lighter then the Stumpy Evo Alloy unless they both cost the same? (and maybe they do? but it doesn't look like it would?) OR if your just saying the frame is lighter which I would have to see on the scale to believe! Smile
  • 14 1
 Color me surprised its heavy, it has an RFX 36 and a coil shock. My Murmur weighs under 30 lbs with a Pike and Monarch. The perceptions around this bike from people who've never ridden it are pretty entertaining, but that's most things these days...
  • 8 12
flag PHeller (Dec 14, 2021 at 9:08) (Below Threshold)
 Folks over NsMb call this the “Starling Paradox” ie people are willing to overlook weight, cost, and performance when they desire a bike from a cottage manufacturer.
  • 18 1
 @stiingya, I think it's fair - both bikes have alloy wheels, same tires, alloy bars, mid-level drivetrains. It may not be apples to apples, but it's close. Claimed weight for both frames is around 3600 grams depending on the size.
  • 6 1
 The quality is where I expected it to be, cornering. I can ride up and down, but cornering is what puts the biggest grin on my face. From what I get from this review, this is where it excels.

Plus, it does seem to climb well. Sure you need to pedal harder, but traction is better too. That's what's your rear suspension is for on the climbs, isn't it?
  • 6 3
 @mikekazimer: Great on the descents but also in the back of the pack time wise. This reads a LOT like the Range. Super long bikes might be confidence inspiring but they aren’t ultra fast getting down relative to competition I’m guessing. If they had one of these with reach that was closer to your Lee McCormacks RAD, I’d bet you’d be seated properly and also quicker downhill with a more fun factor. Much like Remy when he downsized to a medium (he’s also 5-10).
  • 3 0
 @mikekazimer: Well, It wouldn't be the first time I was wrong!!

But there has to be something going on if the Starling has a coil and is lighter then the stumpy with air and frames are about the same weight then something about the Starling build is making the bike lighter.

So back to cost. We know the stumpy price, if this Starling build is about the same price then the fact that it's lighter is impressive. But if it's 2-3 grand more then maybe not so much.

And then depends how much lighter.
  • 3 3
 @Svinyard: The test loop (it seems) had a few snappy climbs.

I can promise its a flat out downhill machine, National Champion and lots of other race wins and podiums attest to this. Just ask anyone who owns one!!
  • 23 2
 @Svinyard, I'm 5'11" (Alicia's 5'10"), and I'm confident this was the proper size. Remember, timed testing is just one small snapshot of the bike's performance, and there are a ton of factors that can affect those results. I also don't subscribe to Lee's RAD sizing theory - I think it puts riders on bikes that are too small. I go by the Kaz sizing theory; it works much better for me.
  • 3 3
 No, you're on target, but some folks like simpler things like a single pivot or a hardtail. It's good that bikes like the Starling exist, though I'd prefer they use a modern suspension and shorter chainstays.
  • 3 0
 I’m with you on the Rad thing- it’s an oversimplification at best, and I think often misleading. Reach and stack is where it’s at. @mikekazimer:
  • 4 6
 @nurseben: If you want shorter stays, the Twist fits the bill. The longer stays of the Murmur compromise stability for speed over manoeuvrability. And no you can't have both, it's always a compromise.

www.starlingcycles.com/bikes/twist-trail

The suspension works great. I think this came out perfectly in the review!
  • 6 2
 @mikekazimer: What's your theory on sizing? You might be right on the small sizing thing. What's your thoughts on some of legend pros downsizing their enduro bikes? Oddly enough they end up close to what Lee talks about...which is a rough calculation of reach and stack and he calls it rough being that his dialed book or whatever is much more specific.

When I asked Remy about his coming in within several mm of a rough RAD calc...he said he had no idea about RAD etc but that he was just faster on the smaller bike after downsizing from the large. Rude's comment on rocking 460mm of reach on medium (just a bit more than Remy) was about bike balance mostly iirc.
  • 5 7
 @Svinyard: Lee is a kook.
  • 3 1
 Slap an air shock in the rear and it climbs plenty well. The Öhlins is super plush and generates so much grip.
  • 3 0
 @Svinyard: That would be interesting to hear the Kaz sizing theory!

At Remy and Rude's level I'd assume they are riding different sized bikes for direct comparison, (as well as providing input on the production frame sizing anyway depending on the timing and duration of the contract?), and not just using any sizing theory?
  • 7 1
 @Svinyard: Lot of those guys down size bikes because of how awfully unbalanced bikes are with huge reach and tiny chainstays. Most of those guys downsize to the most balanced sizes that they are capable of riding. Sam Hill talks in a podcast somewhere about balance in a bike (his is very very balanced) and richie rude has mentioned it before too. Look at the enduro mag review, I believe, where they tested two size Sb150s and the one size smaller they theyd normally ride was faster. They gave credit for that to the more balanced feel and not horribly long front/super short rear combo a lot of bikes are nowadays
  • 5 1
 @andraperrella27: 100%
You are so spot on
  • 8 3
 @andraperrella27: Jack Moir posted a vlog pre-season where he was testing a longer bike vs. a shorter bike. On trails he knew he was faster on a longer bike, but with EWS being somewhat blind and a lot of tracks being tight/technical, he went shorter as the extra agility was more important than extra stability. I assume that's a similar thing for most of them compared to it being purely a front-rear balance thing. That seems to come more into play for DH where you're typically a lot more dialed in on lines/courses and those stability gains can be made because you won't realistically need to suddenly change line or snake around some horrendous Swiss jank.
  • 2 0
 @CleanZine: yeah in those circumstances I see that it’s be beneficial for that as well. Cool of him to speak on it and share the testing.
It’s a bummer most pros don’t actually come out and share the why… but it is what it is
I’d imagine it’s a mix of the two between balance and also tight tracks
  • 14 3
 @PHeller: The starling paradox seems to caught on but it is a huge oversimplification. The author says that anyone can build a single pivot bike in steel and with the starling geo, so it must be the cottage aspect that makes them "better."

That ignores that there are a number of design choices that go into this bike that do go against a lot of established trends. Linear/basically flat rate + coil + frame flex at bottom-out. Frame flex in general. ~100% anti-squat and anti-rise. Geo is fairly traditional now, but chainstays are longish.

The sum of all that is a bike that rides differently because Joe made a bunch of choices that are different. The whole point of the paradox is that there is nothing different or special about starlings other than their boutique build. What is missed are the number of ways starlings are different, because they are differences that people normally think are weaknesses to "overlook." or design around. They probably are absolute weaknesses in a bike that is just poorly designed in one area. But when designed and tuned for them, it creates a bike that rides differently, and some people like.

I like my starling. Sure, I gave up zip out of berms on a flow trail or on mellow terrain, and it pedals like any modern bike with a coil. But it grips like hell, has let me recover several near-crashes, and the suspension is consistent--I'm much more confident pushing on a bike that responds the same at the limit than to have 5% "better" suspension performance, some of the time.
  • 2 2
 @PHeller: Does it extend to big brands as well? If not, then what are those massive marketing budgets good for? I'd wager that factors other than ride quality influence a substantial proportion of bike purchases.

In any case, I didn't get the impression that the reviewers succumbed to the phenomenon.
  • 3 1
 I had an Xprezo Adhoc a few years back. Aluminum front, steel rear end, linkage driven single pivot. By far the best performing and most predictable bike I've owned or tried. It was also 6" front and rear and weighed 29lbs. The only thing I could improve on would be to make it a 29er. The steel rear end rode so well and tracked like nothing else. And if done right, can be quite light.

Don't believe the comment sections, single pivots are just as good as anything.
  • 5 1
 @andrewfif: Reach and Stack is RAD. Every single fast pro is riding "appropriate" to rather small frames sizings. Tried a G16 myself for a year and yeah, that's one stable ship on steep, fast, straight-ish sections and slick of-cambers, but an absolute pig in turns and undulating terrain where you need to pump to maintain speed.
I guess it's an endless discussion and I'm sure Kaz and the BC locals have the terrain for longer bikes. I have more fun and time faster runs on a shorter bike, which also rides fast in a straight line Wink
  • 2 0
 @WayneParsons: such a good bike! shame they couldn't make a go if it; a modern 29'er iteration would be sick.

i also spent some time on a starling - which was a great ride. nicely balanced, refined handling; something to be said about a steel rear end.
  • 3 1
 Why makes you say it doesn't climb well? According to this review it has little bob, great traction, and the rear wheels stays glued to the ground. All that sounds like climbing gold.
  • 4 0
 @xy9ine, @WayneParsons, I hadn't thought about Xprezo in years - those were some really fun bikes. I remember having a good time on the Magic Carpet.
  • 3 0
 @WayneParsons: Couldn't agree more. I had an ad Hoc and now have a Murmur. The Starling is exactly where I had hoped Xprezo would end up. Both great bikes backed by really great people!
  • 1 1
 @justinfoil: probably because its a cumbersome bike. It pedals very, very well but mine is almost 1280mm long! Tech climbing is like doing gymkhana with a limousine
  • 4 0
 @crisotop: It is, and yet it isn't. So it's defined on the website as bb to grips. The 'problem' to consider is that your RAD distance could be exactly the same for a longer reach, with a shorter stack. Which fits differently. He also references RAD angle, but reach and stack and a little bit of trigonometry lets you know the exact diff between bikes for a given bar height. I live in Bellingham as well and ride the same stuff. I bounce back and forth, but generally prefer a 475-485 reach for a 640ish stack. And I almost always use a 50mm stem now that bikes are so slack to keep weight on the front. I also am about 186 cm with longer legs. I agree with you about having something a little smaller. My theory is that the better a rider gets, the less stability they need or even want. Therefore smaller bikes give some diff maneuverability choices as you describe. At least that's true in my experience.
  • 5 2
 @PHeller: That's not quite right. The "Starling Fallacy" was coined by Andrew Major to describe how owners of a bike like the Murmur will call out design features (which may or may not be shortcomings) on a similar frame, but praise those same features on the frame they own. Starling in this case just being representative of a boutique brand that has rabid fanbois.
  • 4 0
 @andrewfif: RAD *is* the 3rd side of the reach/stack triangle.
  • 4 2
 @phutphutend: I think we have a different idea of short, the Twist with 435mm chainstays is average, short chainstays are more like 420-425.

Still doesn’t answer the “more advanced suspension” question. I’ve ridden single pivots, they don’t suck, but there’s much better designs out there.
  • 3 0
 @nurseben: What full current full suss bikes have a chainstay this short?
  • 3 1
 @militantmandy: BTR Pinner 26" frame?
  • 1 0
 @andrewfif: RAD is about finding your reach and stack Wink
  • 1 0
 @J26z: it can help, but my 2nd comment shows the potential issue of having the same Rad but getting there very differently.
  • 1 0
 @Madtho: @J26z: it sure is the 3rd side. My 2nd comment shows the potential issue of having the same Rad but getting there very differently.

It’s just a couple of comments above this.
  • 1 0
 @andrewfif: Just like you can't discuss reach without stack, you can't discuss RAD without RAAD. I definitely have a better feel for reach than for RAD. But I think the RAD and RAAD numbers are easier to do the math about what the bike feels like when you're on a slope. Because to some extend that's where bike geometry gets critical isn't it? When you're on a slope, the horizontal distance (with respect to the actual horizon) between bars and cranks becomes less so you still want enough room to move around and put your mass center in the right place between the tire contact patches.
  • 1 0
 @vinay: yeah I can get on board with that I suppose. Although I still think they aren’t really meaningful numbers. Bike fit has always been less than scientific. But you’re right about your description. For me I just want to know exactly how the bike will fit standing before I buy it as I never demo anything. So I do some math and it’s never let me down. I can make a choice between bigger or smaller for the next one. The terrain varies so drastically during a ride that I’d rather not make guesses about that. And that’s why people need to find what they like rather than trust internet folks Wink you can get a ballpark, but then experience and preference come in
  • 1 3
 @Svinyard: according to RAD I should ride a bike from the early 2000's, I did and I'm glad I don't any more.
  • 5 0
 @strangemeadowlark @2socks @mikenettleton sounds like we all think the comments over at NSMB mean something different. I can't even find that topic/comments over there anymore. It just stood out to me as a good point - people overlook many single pivot bikes but the hype for steel single pivots has really taken off.

That's not to say Starling hasn't developed a really nice, unique, single pivot, but I do feel like hype is really driving the favorable opinions by their owners.

Then again, I'm guilty of it as well with my GG, lol.
  • 1 0
 @HaggeredShins: OP didn't mention size, they only mentioned suspension design, so I have to assume that's what they were basing their own assumptions on.
  • 2 0
 @nurseben: "better" is subjective though. Some people like the feel of a single pivot and the simplicity of the leverage and anti-squat curves. Others really dig the progressive-neutral-regressive leverage and anti-squat feel of an older Ibis dw-link. Others love the relative lack of anti-squat and pedal kickback on some horst-links.

And still others just want a suspension they don't have to rebuild every few weeks of sloppy winter riding, or can rebuild in 20 minutes flat, and in that case, a direct-driven single pivot is very much "better".
  • 3 1
 @adespotoskyli: do you think Rude, Moir, Hill and many other would agree? They are typically on bikes a smaller than most would ride and are pretty close to the RAD/RAAD measurements...
  • 1 0
 @HaggeredShins: sounds like you followed the manufacturer sizing chartWink
  • 1 0
 @J26z: custom geo!
  • 3 0
 @andrewfif: Well said in that comment above, sorry I missed that, I really like this part :
"My theory is that the better a rider gets, the less stability they need or even want. Therefore smaller bikes give some diff maneuverability choices as you describe. At least that's true in my experience."

Attempt not to ramble too much but geek out just enough:
I'm in a similar boat at slightly under 192cm with shorter legs - I'm on an L Murmur (STAINLESS STEEL!) with a 485 reach (632 stack, 1260 wheelbase) and the bike feels and performs how I like - It's setup to be pretty much right at my RAD (neutral) measurement with my preferred bars and stem.
I did the knuckle height measurement but I also get on my back with the bike upside down thing - straight arms and legs and make adjustments to get the bars centered on my first knuckles - akin to doing a deadlift - this allows having the biggest bike possible while being able to apply max torque to the bike with your upper body and hinge your hips properly. If you're too stretched out over the bike, it inhibits this.
Not sure how to say this but I'll try: If you properly get your knuckle height and use a string (or a tape measure), and rotate the radius around the bb; you can apply this principle and chose your rider position based on your stem, bar, spacer combo.
but the "deadlift theory" is actually more than just a theory.
@mikekazimer is it possible that KAZ sizing is a desire for a more comfy ride as a result of riding so much on so many different bikes Wink
  • 1 0
 @J26z: Unfortunately the comment section doesn't allow for images, would love to get a visual representation of how the on your back measurement works. From how I see that, that also depends on hip mobility hence hamstring length. Even though of course hip mobility does have implications for how long of a bike you can ride, the balance point like this also depends on the center of mass which can vary between bikes. But yeah it is an interesting one.

We can talk geometry until the cows come home so I'll just throw in one more consideration and leave it at that. Foot on pedal placement. I think I've been on platform pedals for nearly two decades but initially stuck with keeping the ball of my foot over the axle of the pedal. Also because the curved shape of the relatively stiff shoe (5.10 Impact) fits so nicely inside the concave pedals. It was only when James Wilson released the Pedaling Innovations Catalyst pedals that I made the shift to having my midfoot over the axle as that's how these pedals are intended to be used. It also implies it effectively increases your rear center and reduces the front center. It made my size small DMR Switchback (because I just wanted a seattube no longer than 16") from just doable to scary. More weight over the front implied more oversteer and less stability. Eventually I made the shift to a new frame (BTR Ranger 26" with large geometry but small seattube) with on paper 415mm chainstays, 460mm reach and a 1214mm wheelbase. The chainstays may appear short by modern standards but if you consider my feet are maybe 20mm in front of where others would place their feet, my weight balance may be comparable to what others would have on a bike with 435mm chainstays.

By modern standards I think my bike geometry is pretty midpack now (the 63deg head angle obviously steepens at sag) and for me it feels spot on. It is easy to play around with my balance. For more rough terrain I can imagine longer geometry could be easier to ride but it would also be harder to play near the edges of the stable region. I think that's also how the Geometron bikes are marketed. They're safe as it takes more to get near the limits where they become unsafe. Seems to me that it also becomes harder to play near those limits. So at the end of the day there are so many variables that it becomes near impossible to say for someone else what's "right". It not only depends on body dimensions and agility, speed and and terrain, but also on where you like to stand on your pedals and where you want to be on the spectrum of stable to twitchy. As someone else mentioned above, the only way to know is to rack up a lot of experience on one bike until you have decided what you want from your next bike and which direction you want everything to go. If even pro riders have to experiment with different geometries to find out what they like, how could any of us punters think we can get the definite geometry numbers through static measurements?
  • 1 0
 @RadBartTaylor: what I think about any pro is irrelevant of how my bike fits me. I don't see how you see a connection here. But I 'm still trying to see how lee or any other "bike fitter" can come up with a formula but can't actually justify how is the best fitting guide. Like why if my rad is a given no I have to be comfortable or better yet "A" size is the right size for me.
  • 1 0
 @adespotoskyli: what pro's ride illustrate the point and show that it's not 'wrong' to downsize from a performance perspective, so it's certainly not irrelevant, but certainly is not something you have to copy....

Lee is trying to quantify bike size relative to body size vs just getting a longer and longer bike.

If your objective is being 'comfortable' do what you gotta do to make that happen, but realize comfort and performance are not always the same thing, if you want to optimize for performance then it's worth trying new things.
  • 1 0
 @RadBartTaylor: pros don't downsize, they ride what was L in 2010 and is now M. I'm not a pro, can't follow their pace no matter what, that's my point exactly. Old school, been there, done that, was not fast then it's not fast for me now. I actually have 2 bikes in the shed atm, a L from 2010 geo, 445 reach, rose uncle jimbo and a 515 reach p4 privateer 161 "new age", both on up to date suspension jimbo on coil f/r, guess on which one I'm more comfortable on the ups, and which one is wayyyy faster on the downs...
Lee's RAD formula is arbitrary to say the least, what I asked is how he justifies his rad value is correct, based on what exactly? Yes I'm 185, with 189 arm span, so what? The way I see it, as long as reach doesn't exceed tt length I'm quite confident that I'll be able to ride a bike no matter how long reach is. If I can ride a bike with eg 700mm (640tt + 60 stem) bar to saddle length, while seated, what makes you thing that I can't ride 575mm reach (515reach + 60 stem) on the descends attached at only 2 points feet/arms instead of 3 while seated? Being hunched over the bars like trying to reach my tip toes isn't exactly a performance posture, what makes me ride more comfy, safer thus faster is when my back is straight my arms push up stance appart and legs sligthly bent, this brings my upper body where it should to get grip up front and move around the bike when cornering without getting of balance.
  • 1 0
 @adespotoskyli: they ride bikes smaller than what is commonly suggested by bike manufacturers, so yes, they are downsizing relative to that.

RAD is a theory - no such thing as correct as it's largely impossible to prove, but it certainly has some merits based on qualitative performance data and some quantitative body dimensions.

Riding position and posture has as much to do with flexibility and strength as anything. You may be more comfortable, but again, doesn't mean it's the best position to be in control.

I think your perception of what works vs reality are very different. While I'm not an advocate of copying exactly what Pro's do, they test, time and evaluate constantly so their opinions of what works best hold a lot more water than ours.

I also think a well performing bike is not always comfortable, being in an athletic stance in 'proper' position (as we understand it) doesn't always feel natural and certainly is not relaxing....if being relaxed is your goal than you *may* be giving up some handling because of it, that has been my experience.
  • 2 0
 @RadBartTaylor: what actually changed it's the labeling on a frame, what was a L labaled frame then, now in some examples is M or even S, what bike manufacturers suggest is irrelevant, they might have been wrong then or they are wrong now, either way pros stick with what they know better. If Rude wants to ride a 450 reach bike what does it matter if it’s labeled M, S or XL? They don't downsize, they pick what suits them regardless of the size label, numbers is what matters,
My perception of what works vs reality... Yeah I ride both bikes and I'm pretty much well aware what is more comfortable and faster, up and down. My grasp of reality is just fine in my case, timed laps, progress, compared to other riding buddies and between both bikes.

Pro's opinion on what works for them holds true only for them, not me. For the same exact reason what holds true for me in my field it does not in any way suggest it must hold true for any other person not deeply involved in my line of work. That's not hard to understand.

RAD is as vague and arbitrary as much as you want it to be, still doesn't explain why is a good theory and how applies in reality, it's a diagonal line that can be anywhere from horizontal to vertical, according to lee, we were on the right sized bikes a decade ago, as he says bikes got longer people didn't, yes but who says we were right then and wrong now? Lee's method is full of assumptions to give you an even more vague result,
I can assure you that the majority of people above 1.85 cm disagrees.
  • 3 0
 @adespotoskyli: Old bikes from 2010 had it wrong. New bikes...likely have their sizing recommendations a bit wrong too. Seems like we might have a hit a sweet spot for bike length around 2018/2019. That tends to match up with RAD (sorta)...which is a lot more detailed if you look into and how to measure RAD and implement it etc. its all about have a proper length to give you the most dynamic range of movement (you can boost higher etc etc). There is some thought behind it if you dig in and watch the videos...if anything is closer than what marketing departments are giving you. When we look at what some of the higher end pros are doing...they want full dynamic range on a bike it seems and balance. EnduroMag found it faster and more fun in their testing. PB testing found it faster (capra crushed the range) but not as confidence inspiring at times. I think the RAD stuff has at least some validity. But rest assured, the argument is NOT between 2010 geo and 2022 Geo...those are strawmen arguments at best. Fitment is very personal and includes bar/stem/backsweep/stack etc. RAD at the very least takes that into effect. Its obviously a HELL of a lot better than random sizing guides that only account for height from manufacturers desperate to "obsolete" decent geometry and get you to buy a new bike 2yrs later.
  • 1 0
 @adespotoskyli: go look at the geo-charts from manufacturers, they have suggested bike sizes based on rider height....pros tend to ride a size down from what the manuf are recommending, many other people buy bikes based on those recommendations.....it's not hard to understand.

Pro riders know how to ride a bike better than us and their decisions to ride a slightly smaller bike is worthy of consideration, it's not a rule, it's worth considering. Just like your line of work where you are an expert, your opinion matters, you are a subject matter expert, that doesn't mean it's fact....but it holds more water than somebody who is not an expert.

I'm 193cm and just bought a bike with a 475mm reach, my other bike is ~480, I think RAD has merit....bikes slightly shorter feel better to me, most bikes from 3-5 years ago felt better to me to be honest and believe it or not.....they also generally align to my RAD calculations (go figure).
  • 1 0
 @Svinyard: agree, I think we are starting to see writing on wall a bit and think geo will creep back slightly....
  • 1 1
 @RadBartTaylor: for one more time, what pros do is irrelevant, their goals are different so their skills. I don't expect my brother or aunt to drive or choose a car based on my impressions or opinion or my skillset as trucker. The miles I've reversed a semi is more than they drove in their whole life. Total different game. My Rad suppose to be 826, my 161 is 90. Fits me better than than my xl jeffsy that was 465 reach compared to 515 on the 161, the L jimbo have not measured it yet but will today just to get an idea, and see how far it is, tge jeffsy is sold so I'll see what I can do to find one and measure it.
  • 1 0
 @Svinyard: what? We hit a sweet spot because it sorta matches the rad? Sizing recomendation is so vague between brands that is useless in chasing the best fit. Some brands have just 3 sizes some others 4, 5 or 6 with a big overlap in between the sizes. For rad to work you have to establish constants, between two people of the same height you get huge variations in what fits them or feels comfortable from proporsional issues to mobility, strentgh etc. My rad no in my case is 826 but my current bike is 90, is that close enough? Far out or somewhere in the middle? My jeffsy was closer that's for sure as it was shorter but didn't fit me properly. Point is, rad is as close as size recomentations and overlaps as much,
  • 1 0
 @adespotoskyli: so what you do as a professional truck driver is irrelevant to new/younger truck drivers? Hopefully those guys don't listen to you and do their own thing. Some of what pros do is 100% relevant, particularly when we see a couple different data points that agree, RAD and the trend for pro's to run shorter bikes, two data points that suggest the same outcome a better handling bike....you don't need to copy them, but it's worth experimenting and considering.

"Fit better" is subjecting as is being comfortable, that doesn't mean it's the right size....I had just as much fun riding bikes 5 years ago on bikes that were 30-40mm shorter than I do today, they fit just fine.

My RAD is supposed to be in the 860-870 range and I like bike shorter reach than 500, just bought one that is 475! We all have preferences, but don't dismiss it when you are comparing bikes of different eras.
  • 1 0
 @RadBartTaylor: young truckers should practice and follow specific guide lines, not all are stars or exceptionally good, and there's not a rad value for the drivers seat to get comfy on it, it takes miles and hours. the case is for non proffesionals is irrelevant what's going on, same apply for mtbers, again I'm not a pro and have no aspiration to be one, how many times untill you get the parallel. Pro's target is the podium not recreational riding, sam hill knows better what's fast for him because he knows how to handle the damn thing no matter the rad, their discomfort/tiredness/focus tolerance is on another level, they compromise many things to gain fractions of seconds, it takes time, effort, trial and error and sacrifices untill you hit the sweet spot. Not all of them are on the rad I guess. you say they down size but I didn't find evidence of rad being the correct value or the target. They just pick what suits them regardless of size labels. as I already mentioned they found the sweet spot and stuck with it, if rad was the target sam hill would rode an xl in his first years, but how you conclude it's the reason they win, the top 10 to 20 run on wrong rad value? like saying any pro with the same rad would hit the same time if using the same bike but the case is, a bike handles as good as the rider can handle it, there's a million variables involved and it's naive to assume rad is the secret sauce of bike handling. Also rad can be adjusted no matter the reach value, and you can have a rad at a different angle as well. Pretty much useless exept if you actually know what works for you, not the other way round. Rad will not tell you if fit is ok or not, if you manage to make the bike fitment perfect you can transfer the rad value on different frame and start pretty close, and you are just left with a different bike altogether, that might or might not work with your rad...

I had the same fun back then as now but can't go back, no way. It's like when you see how magic tricks are done, you can't unseen it.

Out of curiosity when to the shed and measured every bike I own and some of my riding buddy, jimbo is 770mm, on one 456 ht is 820, orbea ewild xl 895, ghost overforked ht 856, privateer 900mm, I would be really interested to see what xl jeffsy was but sold it, by far the worst bike I owned though. I reject rad and any other sum of rough estimates on fitment because is as accurate as any size recomendation range from manufacturers.
  • 2 0
 @adespotoskyli: you live half way across the world and we aren’t arguing about Covid or Politics etc. I just wanted to say that this is great. Cheers.
  • 1 0
 @Svinyard: indeed, might be more interesting and relaxing arguing about things that make us happy, it's an opportunity we don't get often now days even if it’s half the world across....
  • 1 0
 @adespotoskyli: I'm not saying any of that.....again, people pick bikes based off of manufacturers guidlines and when I and EVERYBODY else says "size down" its a "size down" from what the manufacturers suggest, full stop.

Your logic can be used both ways, why wasn't Sam on a size XL back then if what you say is true about longer bikes being better?

Just like young truckers use rule of thumbs and learn from pro's like yourself, they don't need to copy you exactly but it's worth considering. I race and compete, not a 'pro' but want to find a bike that feels like those bikes did 4-5 years ago, that was my sweet spot and personally seeing the pro's follow sim logic and seeing how RAD is in the ballpark also, it's worth a shot....I may hate it, I may love it, maybe it won't make a difference....

I agree with @Svinyard at least this is something we enjoy Smile
  • 1 0
 @adespotoskyli: Such a RAD topic to argue about.
Let's not forget that "RAD type" sizing is all about dynamic riding - so riding style really matters in what size bike works best for you.
Personally I see "dynamic" as just mountain biking; and I can see why some people would want a bigger bike.
For me, once I adjusted my cockpit to try to be the RADDEST, my XL Troy felt better than it ever has. Then I bought an L Murmur with same reach and 10cm less stack and its just so RAD to ride.
And also technique is huge in riding - I'd say just as important as in skiing...And I also learned some key points in riding technique from Lee (and Alex) - particularly "row/anti-row." So these guys really changed mtb for me in a really good way.
  • 1 0
 @RadBartTaylor: sam hill maybe didn't know any better back then, he got what manufacturer probably suggested, thing is, point his medium nuke is longer than xl of that era. Regardless he is still fast no matter if he down size from manufacturers suggestions or stick to what the label says all in all he knows that's the best for him. If you need a bike from 5 years ago buy a used one, plenty out there!

I still didn't see any pro suggesting rad or publishing his rad measurements of his bike, you say they downsize, not all of them but what about rad? You know how much bang on or roughly close they are? Pretty sure you have no idea, not even them I bet!

but what I see are pros adjusting bar/fork height to fit the course that alters the rad significantly as I already measured all of the bikes in the shed, according to rad no one bike fits me, downsize, upsize the whole thing is a mess. L that are to small, L that are quite big and xl that are pretty close but with a broader rider recomendation from the manufacturer. Wich is the correct size? I know which one fits me better though as I've tried them all



Point is there's no definitive size guide for people, variations are huge, if you take a M mondraker dune from 2016 and a spesh enduro are far appart, dows downsize guide works for both options? I guess not, so the rule of thumb doesn't apply, nor the recomendations of manufacturesr

Rule of thumb can apply in standardise forms, not in between variables you even don't know or don't take in to account.
  • 1 0
 This might be one of the biggest bikes on the market in xxl. nice to see being 6'7, not many bikes fit me.
  • 1 0
 Do you think the murmur would have climbed differently with an air shock rather than the coil?
  • 3 1
 no, tried it, works just aswell. did motmre than 300k vertical on it
  • 3 1
 My dad and me own two identical frames that are similar (in the aspect of being single pivot and made of steel, though they are from curtis and not starling) to the murmur. I run a Jade DH, he runs a vivid air, and we've swapped and noticed no difference in climbing performance whatsoever.
  • 2 0
 I found that air climbed noticeably better than coil on the murmur. IMO with natural flex of steel an air shock feels nice and poppy and balances it out.
  • 4 2
 Murmur and Element for the win
  • 2 4
 I find the conclusions taken to be right but also somewhat wrong(owning one).

The wrong : Kazimer says a big guy might not like it for reasons but the big guy IS starling's bread and butter customer - all the way to 6'8"!! They nail it for the big guy. Then the timed test, this bike has maxgrip dhr and assegai. I assume that front is maxgrip too - that combination along with the super plush coil both ends just isnt what xc riders do and there is certainly a decent climbing component to the timing - it is a trail test after all. If anything were begging for different parts for this test, this is it tho you cant argue they don't play to the strenghts of the frame.

The right : on rails while turning, soft feel, good tech climbing, indeed a fairly long bike (tho everybody else has mostly caught up). maintenance is a dream. Also, too bad on Alicia not quite fitting.
  • 6 0
 @zeedre, all of the bikes had controlled tires installed to eliminate that as a variable during testing.
  • 2 3
 @mikekazimer: ah - seemed like such a perfect explanation for the timing - still not buying the big guy problem tho. Smile
  • 3 2
 Hopefully this review helps put to rest the whole "single pivots are inferior" falsehood.
  • 4 0
 200 years of the orange 5 being in existence should have semi answered that one
  • 3 1
 Wise men measure bike not by lap 1, but by lap 21.
  • 3 0
 Sexy thing... :-p
  • 2 0
 Nice not Niace
  • 2 0
 Niace
  • 1 0
 Kinda think I'm a fan of this bike. Not sure though.
  • 1 0
 I'm sure that I am a fan of mine
  • 2 0
 So cool!!! Want one
  • 2 0
 Are you around Oslo!? Norsk? Jeg bor i Ås. I shall receive mine (L) within a week, if you want to try it, welcome!
  • 1 0
 @pierre-adrien: tusen takk! Have too many bikes too be honest Wink
Jeg bor i stavanger
  • 1 0
 air shock would definitely make for more climbing snap
  • 1 0
 and less traction
  • 1 0
 Drink every time Levy says "a little bit different".
  • 1 0
 if that seat tube was just 2" shorter! C'mon!!!!
  • 1 1
 @phutphutend: sweeeet! thanks!
  • 3 2
 Starling are cool. I'd like to see them bring out a down-country bike
  • 2 0
 They do custom travel, so you could put one together. I have considered understroking mine which would bring it down to 127mm travel. I think it runs better with a 140mm fork anyway.
  • 2 0
 The frames are super versatile and can easily be run with any shock length and stroke. Just balance out front and rar suspension.
  • 5 4
 Steel is very much, Real
  • 2 2
 Nope, it's fake.
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