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HomeCyclingStarling Cycles' Future Improvements & the Challenges of UK Manufacturing | Interview

Starling Cycles’ Future Improvements & the Challenges of UK Manufacturing | Interview

Starling Cycles is a UK producer of metal mountain bikes, most well-known for his or her aesthetically-pleasing executions of the standard single-pivot suspension platform. The model has come a good method since its fledgling backyard shed setup in 2015. For the time being, Joe has seven present manufacturing frames to his title. The entrance triangles of most of those frames are fabricated in-house, at their Bristol workshop. In the meantime, nearly all of the swingarms are manufactured in Taiwan.

The Swoop 27.5″, the Twist Blended-Wheel, the Murmur 29″, and the latest MegaMurmur path and enduro bikes kind Starling’s “core” lineup. However, additionally they manufacture some reasonably extra “uncommon” fashions. These embrace the wildly enjoyable Roost Hardtail, the Beady Little Eye (a 90mm journey mixed-wheel single-speed), and the Murmur Stainless. In addition they supply a customized body constructing service for anybody after one thing particular.

However, Joe is one thing of a tinkerer, and is seemingly at all times working away on particular initiatives. A few of them he labels “workouts in R&D”. Others are just so area of interest {that a} restricted manufacturing run is the one viable possibility. Excellent examples of the latter embrace the Spur – a high-pivot 170mm journey gearbox-equipped enduro bike – and the Sturn – a single-speed high-pivot downhill bike with a Jack Shaft drivetrain association.

Earlier this yr, we stopped by the Starling Cycles HQ in Bristol, to search out out what founder Joe McEwan has brewing for the corporate’s future.

All pictures from Bikerumor, except in any other case said

joe mcewan interview starling cycles workshop steel bike manufacturing future mtb geometry technology
Joe McEwan outdoors his new workshop in Bristol, England, with a one-of-a-kind Stainless Starling Twist mixed-wheel enduro bike

Interview | Joe McEwan on What’s to Come for Starling Cycles

Bikerumor: This yr, you launched the V3 Murmur, Twist and Swoop frames. Throughout their growth, did you ever take into account shifting away from the single-pivot suspension platform and if that’s the case, for what causes?

Starling Cycles: I like single pivot! With fashionable coil shocks it rides nearly as good as multi-links, if not higher in lots of instances! I wish to have a vertical shock sitting near the seat tube: for aesthetics, commonality in manufacture between sizes and extra body house. However I can’t see methods to obtain this elegantly with no linkage, so it’s a compromise too far!

Bikerumor: You could have dabbled in the usage of gearboxes, particularly with an Effigear unit on the Spur – a motorbike you say is the perfect descender you’ve ever made. Do you suppose the gearbox mountain bike will ever make it into the mainstream, and do intend to deliver a gearbox-dedicated body to manufacturing?

Starling Cycles: The Spur gearbox bike we made was wonderful. The suspension efficiency and silence made it essentially the most wonderful descending bike I’ve ever ridden. However, there’s a little little bit of drag which implies it’s best suited to a extra gravity oriented bike. I don’t suppose meshing gears at low revs will ever be as environment friendly as a sequence, somebody extra educated on drivetrain methods can agree or disagree, little question.

starling spur 29er steel high pivot gearbox mountain bike 170mm travel
The Starling Spur is a 170mm journey high-pivot enduro bike with a 9-speed EffiGEAR gearbox. Credit score: Starling Cycles.

We had some manufacturing difficulty with Effigear, largely attributable to Covid provide chains, however it appears they’re on prime of it now, so we could also be providing the Spur once more someday quickly!

When it comes to the gearbox, in home we now have a design and are manufacturing a prototype 2 velocity field, primarily supposed to trial the expertise.  Subsequent variations could have 4 gears.

starling cycles demo rail hq bristol
Starling Cycles has a fleet of demo bikes on the Bristol HQ. They’re free to demo if you’re choosing up and dropping off in Bristol. A postal demo service can be accessible at a value of £100.

Bikerumor: In your workshop, there’s a metal eBike hanging from the demo bike rail. Will we be see a Starling Cycles eMTB within the not-too-distant future? In that case, are you able to give us any information on the way it will materialize?

Starling Cycles: The metal ebike by no means actually labored out. It’s fairly difficult to accomodate the complicated shapes wanted for motors and batteries and suspension in metal. However, I believe as motor and battery expertise permits for extra compact methods, I would have the ability to do a Starling ebike and nonetheless hold the elegant design I worth a lot!

freeflow starling jack drive prototype emtb
Starling Cycles’ prototype eMTB with high-pivot jack-shaft format and a prototype pressure wave motor from FreeFlow applied sciences. Credit score: Pete Scullion.

However, there may be additionally the counter level that Starlings undoubtedly don’t appear like ebikes. Whereas, with many fats tubed carbon bikes it’s difficult to inform. So, if you’re on the prime of a hill on a Starling, everybody is aware of you pedaled it as much as the highest!

However, I’m additionally engaged on a parallel venture beneath a brand new model to develop a reasonably particular ebike, so hold your eyes open for that one….

starling braided theromplastic emtb frame prototype starling workshop tour
This braided thermoplastic body designed in collaboration with the Nationwide Composites Centre was an train in R&D. The intention? To develop a brand new excessive quantity, low price, high-quality manufacturing course of for carbon fiber bike frames that’s much less environmentally damaging than present strategies.

Bikerumor: Final yr, you teased a carbon eMTB with braided, thermoplastic tubes, developed in collaboration with the Nationwide Composites Heart. Are you able to give us an replace on that venture?

Starling Cycles: This venture is shifting forward, however slowly. That’s all I can say!

Starling MegaMurmur 165mm all-UK-steel enduro bike at theMoor brewery
The Starling MegaMurmur is Joe’s most up-to-date creation that has made it to manufacturing. This 165mm journey metal 29er is made solely within the UK… extra particulars on that, right here. Credit score: Starling Cycles.

Bikerumor: Mountain Bike geometry has come a great distance within the final 5 years; do you suppose we’ve reached the head of the lengthy, low and slack geometry pattern, or do you’re feeling there may be extra to be gained from pushing this additional?

Starling Cycles: Mountain bike geometry has modified, and we’ve a greater understanding of what’s required for several types of driving. The lengthy, low, slack fits tough excessive velocity terrain, however possibly on the expense of some pop and maneuverability. Personally, the extra I give it some thought, the extra I believe we’d like to consider how we journey and what geometry fits our wants, reasonably than simply pondering making it so long as attainable is finest. There’s an ergonomic side too.

2023 starling swoop 275 v3 trail enduro mtb
The V3 Starling Swoop, Twist and Murmur even have the next BB than their predecessors “so as to add somewhat extra clearance and somewhat extra maneuverability to a really steady geometry”. Credit score: Starling Cycles.

So to attempt to condense my pondering: Longer stays add maneuverability, shorter stays add pop and maneuverability. It is advisable choose the compromise to fit your driving model.

Taller riders want larger bikes, larger bikes want longer stays to stability out the bike. And, the reverse for shorter riders. Longer journey bikes add grip and bump consuming on the expense of pedalling and pop. Shorter journey bikes present a firmer platform for higher pedalling and pop, on the expense of grip and bump consuming. It is advisable choose the compromise to fit your driving model.

starling roost mullet hardtail review stainless steel frame golfy scotland
Solely the Starling Roost hardtail (reviewed right here) advantages from size-specific chainstay lengths; 425mm on the small, 430mm on the medium, and 435mm on the massive. Credit score: Blair Kemp. Nevertheless, the vary of full suspension bikes does supply up chainstay lengths of 435mm (Swoop/Twist), 445mm (Murmur), and 455mm (MegaMurmur).

Wheels/tyres have an enormous influence on how bikes journey. Heavy wheels and difficult tyres for grip and management, the burden truly retains them steady within the tough, however they’re more durable to pedal. Gentle wheels and quick rolling tyres for pedalling velocity on easy terrain and quick climbing, however they’re horrible in tough terrain. It is advisable choose the compromise to fit your driving model.

My most important thought is that nothing is the golden ticket, you at all times want to select the place you need your compromise to take a seat. Though, advertising and marketing tries to inform you in any other case, it’s simply not true! I attempt to present a spread of bikes that permits you to choose the compromise you need with minimal trouble!

starling cycles carbon fiber mold thermoplastic prototype emtb

Bikerumor: Do you’ve gotten any predictions for the place mountain bike expertise is headed within the subsequent 10 years, and the way will Starling Cycles be part of that?

Starling Cycles: I’ve a little bit of a battle on this. I’m an engineer and I like expertise and bettering efficiency. However, we’re biking for enjoyable, even with racing we’re largely doing it for enjoyable, and we had as a lot enjoyable on bikes from 20 years in the past as we do now.

I believe the incremental good points we see now are pushed extra by advertising and marketing and the necessity for change than any precise larger enjoyment for the game. I suppose the actual fact they don’t break as a lot anymore is a constructive. However aside from that, we’d have as a lot enjoyable on a Klunker. I believe the emergence of gravel is partly pushed by this.

So, I believe the pattern for the longer term is much less expertise and extra partaking driving on inventory Klunkers with ‘requirements’ which can be actual requirements!

Bikerumor: What are the key challenges confronted by the small to medium measurement bicycle producers in Britain right this moment?

Starling Cycles: Being a British Producer is just not simple. With out getting too political, manufacturing is simply not valued within the UK. The folks getting cash, with minimal threat, are property brokers (don’t get me began), legal professionals, solicitors, finance, advertising and marketing folks. They add nothing, however take every part. Whereas within the EU and plenty of different locations it’s understood that manufacturing is essential to a powerful financial system and it’s revered. Engineers are revered, not simply seen as bizarre geeks.

British manufacturing can be devalued, significantly with bikes, by firms claiming their merchandise are UK manufactured, however the truth is they’re solely assembled right here from components made elsewhere. We get our swingarms made in Taiwan, however are very clear about it, different firms are a lot much less clear…

We must be happy with what we are able to do right here and shout about it. There’s plenty of nice UK manufacturers doing thrilling issues with manufacturing within the UK; Starling, Atherton Bikes, Stanton, Moulton, Brompton and plenty of extra. The remainder of the world take satisfaction in supporting their native manufacturers. UK manufacturing was killed within the 80s with crap automobiles, so no person buys British anymore! So, we are going to battle on. Sorry, that did get a bit political.

starling cycles front triangles waiting further fabrication addition of gussets swingarm
UK-made Starling entrance triangles ready to satisfy their Taiwanese swingarms made by ORA. The great thing about any metal body is that, ought to it crack or dent in any situation, it’s usually repairable. You realize what occurs to carbon frames that crack… Starling have detailed info on body guarantee, and the repairs they can perform in home, on their web site.

When you had been to order a body right this moment, you’d wait someplace between 8-16 weeks for supply. Starling are working laborious to extend their UK manufacturing capability by way of coaching a 3rd body builder to affix the group, hoping to deliver lead time right down to round 4 weeks.



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