Starling Cycles Mega Murmur review

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The Starling Mega Murmur, as you may be able to guess by the name, is the bigger travel Murmur. 165mm of rear travel paired with 170mm travel forks up front.

  • Brand: Starling Cycles
  • Product: Mega Murmur
  • Price: frame form £2,150
  • From: Starling Cycles
  • Tested by: Benji for 2 months

Pros

  • Capable
  • Comfortable
  • Beautiful

Cons

  • Not cheap
  • Relatively long seat tubes on larger sizes
  • Öhlins requires considered set-up

In a market that is utterly swamped with dual-link carbon fibre flavoured mountain bikes, the Starling Mega Murmur is clearly an outlier. The frame material is not all that rare in this age of steel resurgence with many countries aside from the UK now joining in.

It’s the pure single pivot design that is the rarer aspect of Starlings. I can only think of three other brands offering single pivots (Orange, Marino and Egerie-Velo). There are probably others, leave comment below if you know of some.

Anyway, my point is that if you want a steel single pivot enduro bike from a UK brand, Starling Cycles is your only option. Lack of choice would usually be a bad thing. Thankfully, the Mega Murmur is totally brilliant so I’m fine with this monopoly.

I’m going to get my provisos in early however. This is not a bike for un-tall riders. It’s also arguably not a bike for bikepark heavy hitters. And both of these issues are entirely excusable. Small and medium riders can look at Starling’s other models (may I recommend the Starling Twist mullet?) And heavy hitting bikeparkists just may be better served by any number of super stiff chassis A.N.Other bike brands out there. Starlings are not about shcralping built berms or crazy G-outs. Starling mountain bikes’ natural habitat is er, natural habitat.

Another proviso is that I’m not sure that the Starling Mega Murmur is an enduro bike. I realise it has more than the 140-150mm travel window that we’ve grown accustomed to denoting a Trail Bike, but after riding the Mega Murmur for a couple of months, some of my best times on it were long trail rides. Sure, it’s a blast on trad winch-and-plummet enduroings but it’s more than that. Long travel and long geometry now suit long rides. It’s fine.

“What about weight?” you may ask. I’m not saying it’s entirely irrelevant but it’s not as simple as ‘heavier is badder, lighter is betterer’. The proof is in the riding. I’ve ridden light bikes that are punishing and inefficient. I’ve ridden ‘heavy’ bikes that are a joy to be in the saddle of after several hours of slog.

The 16.2kg Starling Mega Murmur power-pootles along with the best of them. There is so much less buzziness business passed into your body it’s remarkable. Clearly, not all of this buzzkill is the frame – the coil rear shock, 31.8mm cockpit and lovely Sensus grips will be a factor – but the long tubed front triangle is doing a lot of pleasantries here. The skinny rear stays may get all the attention/credit but it’s principally the front triangle at work in my opinion. The reduced amount of fatigue is very much a real thing and one that is particularly noticeable and welcome when you’re over the 20km mark on rides.

A quick note: after a couple of perplexingly arduous initial rides, I took off the rear Michelin Wild AM2 tyre (and removed the Cushcore). With a lighter and better rolling rear wheel set-up, it was like the bike had it’s handbrake finally let off. Also, don’t fear damping with coil shocks; run more rebound and low speed compression (LSC) than you would with air. But more about that later.

As well as the frame feel there’s the overall geometry of the Mega Murmur that helps it be such a faithful friend on the fells and in the forests. The modern reach, decently-long-for-once chainstays and actually steep seat angle all combine to make for a very nice position to execute some mountain biking.

I would say that the head tubes are possibly on the short side but this is generally offset-able by running some high rise handlebars (which would also suit the general aesthetic and vibe of the bike, no?) And being super picky, on the XL and XXL sizings I think knocking a bit off the seat tube lengths to enable massive dropper insertion would be welcome.

Those relatively long 455mm chainstays then. Do they make the bike harder to manual? Yep. The bike still manuals though, it just takes more oomph. And in the real world, I’ll take the minor hit in manualing in exchange for the major gains everywhere else. I’m not just talking about climbing chops either (although long chainstays are a massive win for steep uphill pitches), I find longer chainstays corner significantly better. It’s like having some sort of Matrix-style “I know kung-fu” moment. Not to mention how much better the bike holds intended lines on cambers and such.

Another good move in terms of geometry – and one that again goes against prevailing trends and received wisdoms – is the relatively high BB. As bikes get longer – and cornering improves as a result – Starling have correctly worked out that we no longer need super low slung BBs. Raising the BB has two benefits. Firstly, fewer pedal strikes (further assisted here by the speccing of 165mm Hope cranks). And secondly, you feel less ‘lost’ in the middle of the bike. With a higher BB you have more control in your front/rear tyre contact balance and bias.

The longer stays did make their presence felt when tipping slowly into really steep sections (the back wheel stays higher, for longer, on the lip of chutes) but eventually that trait was solved by – you guessed it – higher rise handlebars. The Mega Murmur is not a bike you can timidly tiptoe down tekkers but that’s not the way to approach sketchy terrain anyway. Go high, start wide and you’ll be handsome. As a taller rider, the Mega Murmur doesn’t feel like a big bike in a ponderous or topple-over way. It feels like a big bike is the sense of more balance, more time, more confidence.

As the Starling Mega Murmur isn’t offered as a complete bike, I’ll not go into much detail about the build of our test bike. Suffice to say, the Hope Tech4 V4 brakes were as great as always. The Shimano SLX drivetrain worked fine. The 31.8mm Hope Carbon bars offered a comfy feel but were too low for me. The Sensus grips were lovely. The 185mm travel BikeYoke dropper was fine.

The Starling wheels were sturdy and clearly built for abuse and some lighter wheels would have been great to be honest. Similar to ditching the draggy rear Michelin tyre, a set of suitably swift wheels would unleash even more zip to the Mega Murmur.

I will go a bit more in-depth into the Öhlins suspension. Partly because Starling offer Öhlins forks and rear shocks with their framesets, and partly because well, suspension is important.

I don’t really get along with 38mm stanchion forks. As a lighter rider, I find it possible to ever access the full travel on forks such as the Fox 38 or RockShox Zeb. The different air spring designs used in 38mm forks aren’t for me. So the speccing of the 36mm stanchion 170mm travel Öhlins RXF fork was great. With that said, I still run less pressure than recommended to get the fork to work to my liking, especially in the ramp chamber (I ended up running an off-the-chart 120psi). I am not Loic Bruni. Rebound was set to a couple of clicks from fully open. Ditto LSC. Once dialled, the fork was exceptional. Supernatural levels of traction without feeling vague.

The rear TTX22 M.2 coil took a similar amount of faffery. I always forget that coil shocks can withstand having more damping dialled on compared to air shocks. It takes me awhile to dare to close some circuits but in the end I ran the rebound about halfway and a couple of clicks on the LSC.

And then… I never touched either of the suspension units ever again. No climb switch use. No rebound twiddling for different sections. No LSC ramping for steep stuff. I just left everything well alone and rode the bike, confident in the knowledge that it was set for everything.

Was there a bit of a mismatch between the air front and the coil rear? Perhaps a little. But it was manageable. If it was my bike I’d very probably go for a coil fork.

Tempting as it is to dial everything to minimum and experience the magic carpet ride of unfettered coil, the actual experience is just not so great. It feels like something is loose. A properly damped coil rear shock is just the best. Traction and support in abundance. Consistency. No weirdness. I also had zero instances of harsh bottom out. Agricultural as it may seem in 2024AD, there’s not a whole lot wrong with a bottom out bumper.

Which all brings us back to the elephant in the room (if ‘the elephant in the room’ is the correct phrase here). The way the Starling Mega Murmur looks.

I, for one, think it’s possibly the nicest looking mountain bike ever made. It’s beautiful. Not everyone will agree. And that’s totally fine. I really am not a fan of people buying bikes because they look nice. Indeed, I am in no way recommending this bike because of how lovely it looks. I am not interesting in riding pretty bikes that handle ugly. I am typically the opposite and like to think I have a good track record of bigging up ugly bikes that handle well.

But… But. If a great handling bike also looks great to the eye, who am I to not declare it such? The Starling Mega Murmur after all is not a cheap proposition. This is an expensive bike project. Not unusually expensive for a mountain bike project these days but expensive nonetheless.

I would say that were you to splash the cash on a Mega Murmur there are numerous little touches that would give you a little bit of joy each time you encountered them. Certainly for a longer period of time than the allure of a certain type of carbon weave lay-up. Look at the new asymmetrical head tube gusset. The numbered stainless steel dropper cable port on the seat tube. The X-brace on the swingarm uprights. The external cable routing (yes!). And those starling (the bird) cut-outs. Just nice for niceness’ sake. Functionally pointless but endlessly pleasing.

To get all function over form for a minute, the latest versions of Starling’s frames feature a few new aspects that are worth going over. The main (okay, only) pivot is held by a new casting that looks neater. The pivot bearings are now housed in the swingarm (as opposed to in the main frame previously) which makes for a wider interface as well as making bearing maintenance a lot easier. The head tube has been reinforced. And finally, the seat tube has an aluminium insert to ward off seized seatpost syndrome.

Overall

The Starling Mega Murmur is a totally brilliant and beautiful mountain bike. It’s unique but not purely for the sake of being unique. Single pivot works well. Steel tubing works well. The Mega Murmur is not a beardy weirdy oddball outlier than only contrarians should consider. The Mega Murmur is an excellent modern mountain bike that highlights that Starling knows what’s important and knows what works.

Starling Cycles Mega Murmur specification

  • Frame // Reynolds 853 steel, 165mm
  • Shock // Öhlins TTX22 M.2 Coil, 230x65mm
  • Fork // Öhlins RFX36 M.2 Air TTX18, 170mm
  • Wheels // Starling wheels w/ Hope Pro4 hubs
  • Front Tyre // Michelin Wild AM2 29×2.4in w/ Cushcore insert
  • Rear Tyre // Michelin Wild AM2 29×2.4in w/ Cushcore insert
  • Chainset // Hope Evo, 165mm, 32T
  • Brakes // Hope Tech V4, 203/203mm
  • Drivetrain // Shimano SLX, 10-51T
  • Stem // Hope TR, 40mm, 31.8mm
  • Handlebars // Hope Carbon 31.8mm, 800x20mm
  • Grips // Sensus Lite Lock-on
  • Seat Post // BikeYoke, 185mm, 31.6mm
  • Saddle // SQLab
  • Weight // 16.2kg

Geometry of our Large size

  • Head angle // 64.1°
  • Effective seat angle // 77.2°
  • Seat tube length // 440mm
  • Head tube length // 110mm
  • Chainstay // 455mm
  • Wheelbase // 1,270mm
  • Effective top tube // 628mm
  • BB height // 28mm BB drop
  • Reach // 485mm

Review Info

Brand: Starling
Product: Mega Murmur
From: Starling Cycles
Price: frame from £2,150
Tested: by Benji for 2 months

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Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

More posts from Ben

Viewing 2 posts - 1 through 2 (of 2 total)
  • Starling Cycles Mega Murmur review
  • Speeder
    Full Member

    A great review. I’ve not ridden one of these but it reflects my experience of a Swoop over the last 8 years. :yes:

    Great bikes. :good:

    1
    noneoftheabove
    Free Member

    The too-low BB is the only part of my Bird Aether I would change, although I quite like sitting lower in the frame. It is definitely good to see bikes built for ‘natural’ stuff.

    Also massive +1 for non-carbon and external routing – I really don’t see the real-world advantage to hiding all the gubbins, although maybe I’m an aberration as I don’t really care what a bike looks like if it rides nicely.

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