Luxury Bikes

Vital MTB Staff Build: Starling Murmur – Mountain Bike Feature

NNew Bike Day is always special, and for this editor, today is a little more special than usual. When I started thinking about a long-term bike and component testing platform for 2024, I knew I wanted something less ordinary. I’ve always been drawn to the elegant simplicity of a steel-framed, single-jointed bicycle, and for me Starling cycles really embodies this whole approach. Since this will be my main shorter travel trail bike, I chose a 29″ large Murmur with 135mm travel (the same frame can be upgraded to 150mm with a shock swap). We examined a few color options before settling on a sort of dark bronze front triangle to pair with Starling’s traditional black swingarm (you can also have the swingarm painted, but the “signature” Starling look is the black swingarm). This neutral color scheme goes well with all sorts of color components, which will come in handy as I’ll be using this bike to test a lot of parts over the coming year. For now I’ve built the bike with some of my favorite parts, scrolling down the page to see how it all fits together and looking forward to a long term review to follow at some point. Get out your drool bibs!


The frame

Starling manufactures frames in the UK, where the front triangles are welded from heat-treated Reynolds 853 steel tubing. The swingarms are made in Taiwan from heat-treated chromoly. The front triangles are joined together by soldering, as opposed to the more common TIG welding. Brazing uses a brass filler, which spreads the joint over a larger area and also generates less heat during the welding process, both of which help create strong, consistent joints. It also ensures smooth and good-looking welds. The frames are quite simple but definitely have a “boutique” feel.

One of the things that is on my must-have list of frame features is UDH compatibility, as I definitely want to use SRAM’s Eagle Transmission drivetrain. Starling switched its rear triangle to UDH at the end of 2023 and also introduced a 180 mm rear triangle at the same time. Other nice frame details include bolted main pivot bearings, which make replacing the bearings very easy when the time comes, and a handy little integrated chain guide. All in all, I was thrilled when I unpacked the frame and started assembling it. For those interested, the air shock weighed 16.88 kg (~37 lbs) with pedals and sealant.

Figure 10


Italian suspension specialist EXT has released some great products over the last few months which have found their way into this new model. Version 2.1 of the era has finally unleashed the true potential of this fork and the new Aria air shock seemed like a great candidate to run on the Murmur frame initially. It features a hydraulic bottom-out system and a dual-chamber air spring that allows you to customize the shock absorber’s spring rate progression to suit the frame and your riding style. I have one too Storia Lok v3 steel spring damper available (which actually only weighs 100 grams more than the Aria here), and Starling says that despite its fairly linear frame, the Murmur works great with coil. Initial tests suggest that this is indeed the case. Stay tuned to find out more.

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As mentioned above, I really wanted a frame with UDH compatibility so I could run SRAMs excellent GX gearbox. I paired it with one Hope crank They utilize their recently updated T-Type compatible chainring and Deity’s T-MAC pedals.


Vitals Product of the year 2022Hope’s great Tech 4 brake was an obvious choice for me. I love everything about this brake, from the ample power to the fantastic modulation to the light touch of the lever.



Deity makes great cockpits and my absolute favorite grip (the Supracush), and the silver parts chosen matched this frame color perfectly. I have to admit it looks pretty classy… (I just need a Hope Tech 4 adapter for the SRAM AXS pod to really tidy things up…)


Wheels and tires

DT Swiss supplied a complete wheel build with some new spokes and a few other things we can’t tell you about yet. As for the rubber side, there’s no need to keep it secret, it’s a classic Maxxis DHF/Dissector combination with EXO casing at the front and EXO+ at the rear for slightly flatter protection when the going gets tough. Proven, a great setup for a trail bike!

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I continue my testing of the new Wireless KS Lev Circuit Dropper, excited about one less cable to run (although cable routing is external on Starling’s frame, it’s still nice not to have to deal with cables these days). I paired it with one of my favorite saddles, the BikeYoke Sagma (note: I had to use that Sagma Lite version, not the one with the elastomers, as the rail system on it does not clean a wireless dropper head). Fun fact: For the first time in as long as I can remember, I actually moved my saddle BACK a tiny bit on the rails. After years of asking for increasingly steeper seat tubes, I’ve finally found a frame that allows me to guide the saddle more towards the center of the rails. Whoddathunkit?! As for the rest of the completion kit, I chose Hope for the bottom bracket and headset (big thanks to Hope for the split crown ring that makes installing the headset super easy). Another Deity seat clamp in matching silver, et voilà! That’s a wrap!

On the path

Well, it’s still early days, but I’ve been using this bike for a few weeks now and so far I couldn’t be happier with the results. I’ll have a longer term test done once I’ve got enough miles on it, but in the meantime first impressions are everything I hoped for. Fast and fun, with the little extra bit of steel frame compliance… we’re definitely off to a great start. Stay tuned for more!

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About the reviewer

Johan Hjord – Age: 50 // Years of MTB rider: 18 // Weight: 190 pounds (87 kg) // Height: 6 feet 0 inches (1.84 m)

Johan loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After years of practicing falling off cliffs on a snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Since then, he has mostly ridden bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many mistakes as a rider. His 200-pound body weight, coupled with his unique ability with poor line choices and awkward landings, make him an expert in durability – if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much fine for anyone. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as “none” (although in reality he rips!). Since he doesn’t like most of the trail elements, Johan uses much of his free time to build his own. Johan’s other achievements include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly at 11.

Photos by Johan Hjord (bike shots) and Nils Hjord (action)

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