Dream bike Pt.1: The Starling vs The Peacock

Top 5 things I like

I like bikes… I think that’s a fair assessment. I seem to spend rather large portion of my time with them either at the forefront of my mind, or at the very least, my monitor.

As my favourite tannin-stained mug would suggest, most days, the draw of t’internet box pulls me in on the latest and greatest bikes every manufacturer has to offer, much like the proverbial peacock trying to out-preen its rivals. From the forthcoming year’s models (confusingly somehow being released the summer prior), the latest win from the EWS and their subsequent pro-bike check, and of course, those artisan steel beauties, hand-built from our very own fair side of the pond. Enter the Starling Murmur from far left-field, sitting pretty somewhere in the middle of the buzz, the bravardo and the beautiful. (Also… please send bacon.)

My social media feeds seem to display a spattering of content from various channels. Strangely, a post from Dirt Magazine caused my to quickly backtrack my rolling scroll to allow my brain to process what my eyes had caught. Since my earliest days of riding (phrased to entice romanticism of a time long-past, whereas in reality the truth is more like my mid 20’s) I always had a bit of  a penchant for skinny-framed steel bikes. The route cause of this seemingly being my admiration of the fantastic On One 456 Summer Season; a fancy that’s still with me and I at least hope, will never go. Note: Tim, I’ve still got my eye on your mk1 456SS! But, this wasn’t another boutique hardtail adorned with the fanciest sliding dropouts money can buy, but a particularly clean and sleek looking long-travel, full suspension, 29er!

To say I’m in the market for a new bike is a little predictable, almost like saying I’m in the market for breakfast tomorrow, but this one’s different; not another niche singlespeeder or hardcore hardtail, but the next BIG bike, the bike I’m going to be carving up a LOT of miles on over he next few years. I’d spent the previous months trawling the web for something that ticked all those boxes, some for better, some for worse. It was looking increasingly likely that the best course of action was going to be to buy a bike with my head rather than my heart; buy a bike that did the job well, didn’t kick up too much of a fuss, and didn’t attract much adoring attention from other riders. But this was… different.It wasn’t another carbon 650b enduro rig with more angle changes than a drunk cartographer, it didn’t have high-modulus mono filament Euro deigned flux capacitors, and it wasn’t by any initial stretch of the word, sensible.

Realistically, I’d already made the decision, and really just needed some reassurance that I wasn’t about to do something very reckless with a respectively large wad of capital. Firstly, read the review…

The key question, will it be any good? Well we’ve currently got the one on test and it’s blowing us away. We won’t say too much now, but it’s proving to be a bit of a curveball and very, very fast.
Dirt Magazine, 2016

Check! Sounds like they like it at least, but is it what I need? Is it what I want? Long travel 29er – check, slack and sexy, check check, full blown custom ‘enduro’ geometry – megacheck, not another European direct-buy rig (side rant) – big check! The fact that the money isn’t going to reward shareholders, but is in fact going to someone who’s made their dream a reality, and still builds bikes out of his garden shed is certainly a plus for anyone trying to be a little more ethical day-to-day. It all seemed a little too good to be true, and although the article gave some useful insights and some beautifully shot photos of the fully-built bike, the pedant in me had some questions that needed answering.

Starling Murmur Frame

Lucky for me, the sole proprietor of Starling Cycles Joe McEwan, was just an email (or 12) away… sorry Joe! Not only does he provide some of the quickest replies I’ve ever seen to crazy people like myself badgering him for weights, dimensions, axles, spacing, geometry changes (and so on for 11 more emails), but was patient and thorough in every reply. So what else did I learn? The bike weighs in at an incredibly respectable 30lbs, there’s shock options for changing rear travel, and he can offer some incredible deals on full-builds with FUNN components and Fox forks and shocks at the business ends.

Go with the heart not the head, it always works for me!
Joe McEwan, Starling Cycles

Slowly but surely over the course of a very long email chain, the dream became a reality. My plans of riding every demo event over the next 6 months, visiting every local bike shop and direct-buy website, and generally bugging everyone around me, were like the aforementioned starlings, out the window! For now, the deposit is paid, my frame’s in the queue, and next comes the tricky bit; I’ve actually got to decide how I want the frame to be built. Oh and the colour of course. I’m thinking British racing green… or maybe candy blue, or grey, murdered out black? Neon? ……. Ah shit.


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