Starling have definitely been championed by us here at Dirt, with the clean, simple look and steel construction they swooped into the office as a breath of fresh air.

The early 27.5 Swoop was a pinner from the off and this, the Murmur 29er, has many of the same characteristics - we were keen to see how it compared to the best of the long-travel 29ers from the big boys.

Joe has now been custom building frames from his shed in his garden for years and the brand has gone from strength to strength. A new premises and bikes being built in higher volume abroad gives far more scope on sales but with the custom built frames still available and a choice of any build kit that you can think of there is definitely still no doubting the D.I.Y credentials of this brand

The Reynolds 853/631 tubing is a name that anyone that knows bikes should have heard of. It is a high quality raw material and really helps give the Starling that feel of something special. With the offer of build kits defined by the customer there is no real price that can be stated for a build but £2040 for a custom frame with no damper or £1850 for the factory frame built overseas with a RockShox unit is not something to frown upon.

Specification

Starling Murmur Spec

Frame Large Starling Murmur 29. 145mm rear travel. 148mm boost rear wheel
Rear shock Fox DPS. 145mm travel
Fork RockShox Pike RC. 150mm travel
Wheels Stand Flow 29” Rims on Stans hubs
Brakes Shimano SLX. 160mm rotor front and rear
Crank Middleburn RS7 crank
Rear mech Shimano XT 11 speed

The bike that we had been given was Joe’s personal ride and had a relatively inexpensive build. A mix of Shimano, Fox and RockShox it did the job more than adequately. There is no bounds to what can be built with a Starling though, it’s just wallet depth dependent.

This bike is not what was photographed as it was unavailable at the time.

Opinion

Steel has always been real but Starling Cycles have really taken it to the next level with super simple design, custom geometry and sorted suspension. All things that any mountain bike rider wants.

The all important part of the Starling is the way that it rides. The Murmur is such an easy bike to lose yourself in and just get faster and faster the more you trust the grip on offer. Unlike like Intense Carbine that was just a touch on the stiff side, the Murmur has flex dialled in. This comes from the chassis - the narrow tubing and built in flex to the steel frame aids the grip no end.

After taking all twelve bikes to Bike Park Wales and lapping Rim Dinger (I’m sure those who have been there know how rough this track is), the Starling was definitely the most forgiving through the rough, with very little fatigue taken on even after several runs on other bikes. It looked after the body with a very low amount of energy used despite the undeniable speed through rock and root sections.

This is the second encounter that I have had with the Murmur. The first was against the clock against five other similar bikes, of which it was the top dog. There really is no doubting that it is as fast as it feels.

With all of these 29” bikes, climbing ability should always come into the conversation. The nice steep 76.5 degree seat tube angle really helps the Murmur climb well. This is a very similar number to the Orbea that was praised for its climbing and descending ability.

The only real downside on the Starling that we had was the components. Not that they were cheap, but more that they were slightly tired. Starling is not one of the super powers like Specialized who can send fresh new bikes. It would be great to ride a fresh build with some higher spec parts to really get the full feel. This did not spoil the whole experience but when putting it up against the likes of the solid Orbea Rallon or even the super impressive Vitus Escarpe it was just off the top step.

All in all, when it comes to looking for something a little different tailored to your size shape or needs, it really is a great piece of kit. If you aren’t feeling so brave to make changes to geometry on the custom model, there are plenty of positives on the Factory Starling Murmur. Put a sorted build kit on this frame and it will compliment the steel chassis. All in all a great frame with plenty to give. It definitely makes a podium spot.