Starling Cycles | Bristol, UK

Joe McEwan is building his dreams in a shed

Homemade Bikes | Starling Cycles – Bristol,UK

On a suburban street in Bristol there’s something brewing and it’s not just the tea. A guy called Joe has a simple philosophy based on two things. A passion for riding bikes and the ability to make them. One fuels the other, he couldn’t build bikes without knowledge from a career in engineering and he would never have bothered if riding didn’t light his torch of a weekend.

Working as a stress engineer in the aerospace industry Joe knows a thing or three about breaking metal components. He’s taken that knowledge and trust of steel to form the basis of his bike designs, his steeds are named after the birds that roost above his shed. Joe started out after a course with legendary frame builder Dave Yates. After another course at the Bicycle Academy in Frome he went on to build a singlespeed full susser and now his latest trail bike. Here’s Joe’s story.

In the beginning

It was all files and hacksaws, Joe’s basic skills were learned from an artist and he developed them from the bottom up. After investing in a table top lathe, pillar drill and steel for a homemade jig he was up and running. It might have taken a few hundred quid to get to where he is now but it’s all about honing his design.
Tweaking the angles, adjusting the pivot and fiddling with suspension curves are what keeps Joe walking back down his garden with a brew in hand.

Joe is a man of precision, he has spent countless hours in his shed refining the design of his bikes, he’s precise but also impatient, he’ll be the first to admit it. Taking the time to perfect the details is high on Joe’s agenda and once that’s in place he will be able to make more frames and faster. From building his daughter a balance bike to fabricating the front triangle to mate with the swingarm from a Cannondale Prophet Joe is starting to make his mark.

I moved into my new house and had my hut that I converted into a workshop then just started to make things

Starling JMc004


• 26” Singlespeed Local Woods Bike;
• 120mm front forks;
• 90mm rear travel;
• 67.5° head angle;
• 415mm chainstays;
• 1110mm wheelbase;
• -25mm BB drop;
• Singlespeed with main pivot concentric to BB;


• No chain growth – singlespeed with no tensioner;
• Swingarm and cranks run on same axle for no seizing of pivot bearings;
• Large 44mm OD bearings for both drivetrain and pivot;
• Bearing standard parts, not bespoke;
• Columbus Life and Aerospace 4130 tubeset;
• 25.5lb weight as built w/o pedals.


One thing you notice about Joe is that he is a realist, he’s not planning to take over the world but if you want something simple and a bit different then a custom build from this man could suit you down to the ground. You don’t need to build your dream in weaves and glue, you can do it cold hard steel for under 30lbs, easily.

The main mod’s Joe is going to make will bring the bike bang up to date with the current bikes rolling through the Dirt doors. Wider rear spacing, a bigger seat tube and re-adjusting geometry. Joe’s plans to build a load of rear ends, as they take longer, then build front ends to match and set those to a customer’s spec. It all seems like a pretty good idea to us, especially if you have become wound up replacing 27 bearings when you have been on a few muddy rides.

Starling JMc007


• 27.5” Enduro Trail Race Bike;
• 150mm front forks
• 150mm rear travel
• 66.3° head angle
• 435mm chainstays
• 1190mm wheelbase
• -15mm BB drop


• Single pivot with linear shock rate
• Main pivot aligned to chainring with position optimised for neutral anti-squat
• Integrated upper chainguide
• Columbus Life and Aerospace 4130 tubeset
• 30lb weight as built w/o pedals

DH cranks, 1st generation Gravity Dropper (8yrs old!) and 2kg wheelset.

If you want more info or to get in touch with Joe then check out

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