Field Test: Starling Murmur – The Steel Rock Crusher


PINKBIKE FIELD TEST

Starling whisper trail


Words by Alicia Leggett; photo by Tom Richards
The Starling Murmur was the bike we were all curious about as we headed to Pemberton to test all of these bikes. We spend a lot of time covering the very latest ultra-carbon bonding machines and speculating on the latest changes and trends, but it’s easy to overlook the simple things, and that’s where the Starling comes in. The Starling Murmur is a beautifully crafted steel, single steerer bike with sleek tubes, 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 485mm reach on the bike. Tested in size L, the Murmur is, in numbers, a true aggressive trail bike – the numbers don’t show the craftsmanship and care that went into creating the bike.

Starling Murmur Details

• Travel: 140mm rear / 160mm fork
• Steel frame (geographic map)
• Wheel size: 29 in.
• Head angle: 64.6 °
• Seat tube angle: 76.6 °
• Range: 485 mm (L)
• Base length: 445 mm
• Sizes: M, L (tested), XL, XXL
• Weight: 34.06 lbs / 15.45 kg
• Price: £ 2,162 (Ohlins TTX frame and coil shock) – note prices have changed since we filmed the video
• Starling cycles

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

While it is 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 specify their Murmurs with components from Ohlins, EXT, RockShox, Magura, Shimano, Hope, Middleburn and others. While there isn’t a full line of brands for every part, it’s safe to say that almost anyone can build a bike to their liking using the parts available. Starling also offers custom frame and swingarm colors.

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

Starling presents the Murmur as both a versatile track option and the enduro rider’s choice, depending on how the bike is built. Each bike is made to order so a few adjustments are possible, such as a non-boost rear end for a bike that typically comes with boost spacing. Plus, custom bikes are at the heart of what Starling does, so Starling will build a fully custom bike for those who want a specific size or geometry.

Just looking at the bike, it’s clear Starling doesn’t skimp on the details. Now forward to see how it rises.

Climbing

The Starling Murmur is a trail bike, but it’s a different type of trail bike than most we’ve 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 certainly didn’t feel gripping on the climbs. Whether or not this is a true negative just depends on what we’re looking for.

I have a feeling that if you try to climb to the top of Murmur, you are wrong. The Murmur is a calm climber without much of a bob, and he excels where traction is hard to come by. The extremely flexible Ohlins shock keeps the bike glued to the ground, and stability on descents also translates into easy tracking on climbs and turns.

We tested the large frame, which had a reach of 485mm, and found it to be quite long, especially on the climbs, and that was exacerbated by the flat handlebars. I had to slam the saddle as far forward as possible to avoid the back pain, and even so, it took some movement forward and backward to feel like I could be out. both on the front and back of the bike when needed. Granted, the bike was a bit big for me as I’m on the lower end of the plus size range. However, reducing the size would probably have caused more serious problems, as the average bike has a 450mm reach, which would probably have been way too short for me. At 5’10 “(178cm) I’m within range for sizes medium and large, according to Starling’s size chart, but I’m caught right in the middle.

Mike Kazimer also thought a taller handlebar would have been more appropriate, but at 5’11 “(180cm) he adapted better to the Murmur’s cut – he didn’t feel too stretched during the ride. seated pedaling.

Descending

The Murmur surprised me on the descents. Immediately when I pointed him downhill he felt particularly stable, predictable and trustworthy. I expected it to be nice and ride well, of course, but most bikes do nowadays. What I didn’t expect was how easy it was to hold tough lines, find traction and point straight downhill. His generally comfortable ride invited him to loosen the braking fingers and allow him to pick up all the straight-line speed he wanted. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a fun bike, but it had more jumps than I expected, with the 445mm chainstays lending to a more balanced feel than the numbers suggest.

Regarding the steel, I didn’t notice any obvious flex, but I did get the impression that the bike had a smoother feel than the other bikes tested, and between the length and the material of the frame, the bike felt pleasantly surfing as it followed. corners. Speaking of proper tracking, the bike had the reassuring tendency to ride exactly where I wanted it, holding a line cleanly and keeping traction where most bikes would like to slide sideways.

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 became hilly and there were short choppy climbs there wasn’t the crisp feeling that would make me want to go through sprints. As a fairly long and soft bike, it’s also not the perfect tool for rides focused on fast and agile handling.

On the way down I didn’t care about the length of the bike at all. As I mentioned in the uphill 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 seem to detract from the overall ability of the bike. At a very reasonable 34 pounds with svelte tubes and thoughtful specs, it also didn’t look like the tank its capacity and frame material would suggest. Instead, it turned out to be a solid choice for off-road riding, a realistic option for those who want a 140mm bike that can double as an enduro machine and a really fun bike to ride.


Wiley C. Thompson