I drafted a few deep, philosophical analogies to lead us into this review, but I scrapped them all. The Murmur isn’t about the clever wordplay or fancy sentence structure that typical Bike intros normally traffic in. The Murmur is about riding your damn bike. It’s unapologetically minimalist in its design and has as many pivots as characters that make up the punctuation at the end of this sentence. But don’t let that deceive you. The Murmur is simple, but not simplistic—in fact, its ride is more complex and nuanced than that of most bikes.
Its manufacturer, Starling Cycles, is a small operation based out of Bristol, England, run by engineer-turned-frame-builder Joe McEwan. Starling offers four models, including two trail/enduro bikes, a singlespeed jack drive DH rig and a snazzy mullet build. In a word—niche. But on the same token, not at all niche—McEwan has designed each of his creations to be approachable and familiar, bikes that anyone can jump on and feel instantly at home. They’re meant to be elementary in design and execution, putting usability and durability ahead of fashion and extravagance. And hey, in the case of the Murmur, that turns out to be a pretty radical combo.
It’s not very often that a bike’s core ride quality stands out in such stark relief against the stuff we normally obsess over. Stuff like geometry numbers, travel lengths and even frame stiffness—although all those are certainly contributing factors. I’m talking about how a bike feels. The Starling Murmur does not feel like any other bike I’ve ridden.
For the most part, that’s because the Murmur is made from steel. Yes, steel. The material that the mainstream mountain bike industry abandoned almost 30 years ago. Most of Starling’s front triangles are made in Bristol out of Reynolds 853 tubing, with the rear ends produced in batches in Taiwan. This particular Murmur is made entirely in Taiwan because the front triangle is actually stainless steel.
The single-pivot suspension performs better than I anticipated, especially while climbing. Pedal bob is barely noticeable. Tension on the chain keeps the bike high in the travel and, on smooth terrain, the Murmur is very efficient. Its 77-degree seat angle plays a part in making it a very comfortable climber, and it paired well with the 515-millimeter reach on my XL test bike.
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Starling Murmur 29 Stainless
Frame and Öhlins TTX Coil Shock | | £2,442 ($3,191)
MAY 30, 2020 4:53 P.M. LAKE POWELL, UTAH
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APRIL 29, 2018 10:55 A.M. BORDERLINE TRAIL, POST CANYON HOOD RIVER, OREGON
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A LIFE-CHANGING DAY DEEP IN THE WOODS
SANTA CRUZ’S ICONIC CANVAS MOONLIGHTS AS A METAPHOR FOR A TRANSFORMING TOWN
A RETURN TO GLOVES THREE DECADES LATER
FRAME AND CANE CREEK DB AIR SHOCK | £2,049 ($2,678)
To all the newbs I’ve loved before Don’t ever change
And now for something completely different … well, half different.
Ian McEwan: Machines Like Me
FROM BEING THE ENFANT TERRIBLE of British writing, producing such shockers as The Comfort of Strangers and Black Dogs, earning him the soubriquet Ian Macabre, McEwan has become something like the grand old man of British letters, producing 17 books, winning multiple awards, including the Booker (for Amsterdam, one of his least convincing novels), with at least five, by my count, of his novels being adapted for the screen.