I met up with Joe McEwan, founder of Starling Cycles, on a cold and wet Saturday morning on the Mendips with dark clouds looming above us. We decided to get to it and leave the chit chat for the ride.

To summarize, Joe is an Aerospace engineer and as you would expect has been making his own gear for years. Skate boards, golf clubs, you name it. So why not his own bike?

starling cycles

After taking a short frame building course at The Bicycle Academy, Joe went off to start making his own bikes in the back of his shed. What started as a hobby soon turned into a side business, Startling Cycles.

“I kept getting asked by riders where they could get my bike from and it got me thinking, can I sell these?”

The evolution of bikes is in a constant state of change and many us are willing to throw thousands at the newest components and frames in an often futile attempt to get the perfect spec for our own riding style.

This is one of the key reasons why the market for handmade bikes and frames has seen a big uptake in the last few years as they give riders a unique bike tailored to their own specifications.

My first impressions

This demo rig has a 65.5° head angle with 780mm reach. Frames typically come with either a Cane Creek or EXT Storia shock with Rockshox Pike forks but on this occasion we were using a Fox Float X on the rear. My fat ass needed something a little firmer than what the coils available could offer.

The rest of the bike was pretty much comprised of some great kit from Funn components who I understand have been a big supporter of Joe and his work. Their components only complemented an already solid build.

starling cycles

There is a common misconception that steel frames are heavy, but Starling frames are built from true-temper supertherm and columbus steel tubing which result in a solid and light weight frame. Unfortunately, I don’t have a weight I can share but I can say this. The weight made me feel it was going to suck up the big hits but didn’t make me feel it would be a tank.

It feels very foreign riding any new bike for the first time, especially when you’re on this slack beast, but I was surprised how quickly I gained confidence in the bike. The longer reach and slack head angle made mince-meat of anything in front of me, an optional choice when buying but one I would recommend (in relation to your body type/size) as it suits the rest of the bike geo very well.

After some initial climbing and the first descent, I had my focus shift from the bike to the trail. The rest of the morning was focused on how much quicker Joe was than me on these trails, even though I was on an Enduro beast while he was on my 2012 Giant Trance which is more suited to blue trails.

starling cycles

In short, if you’re looking for an enduro bike that’s not shy on quality, suited to your unique requirements and does not break the bank. Look no further!

Build specifications

Build item Dimension Options
Head Angle (HA) 66° recommended Yes
Down tube length (DT) 760mm maximum Yes
Seat tube length (ST) 340mm minimum Yes
Chain stay 430mm None
Bottom Bracket Drop -10mm None
Seat tube angle 74°effective None
Head tube length 110mm minimum Yes
Head tube 44mm 1 1/8″
Shock (150mm travel) 216x63mm Yes
Shock (136mm travel) 200x57mm Yes
Fork Axle to Crown 542mm for a RS Pike Yes
Seat tube 31.6mm 27.2mm
Bottom Bracket 73mm threaded None
Seat clamp Integrated Option
Head Tube Gusset Yes Option
Custom chain device 32T and 34T None
Rear Axle 142x12mm None
Max tyre 2.35″ None
Brake Mount IS None
Front Shock hardware 25mmx8mm None
Rear shock hardware 32mmx8mm None
Main Pivot bearings ENDURO 16162RS None
Main pivot diameter 12mm None
Dropper Cable Routing N/A Cable or Stealth