First Ride Exclusive - The Starling Sturn - Pedal Progression


27 April 2018

First Ride Exclusive – The Starling Sturn

When your bike company is called Starling, you’re not short of potential names based around birds for your creations! The Sturn is the latin based badge on the latest prototype from the mind of Joe McEwan, owner of this intriguing and relatively new bike company based in Bristol. Making the move from aerospace engineer to welding his own bikes in his garden shed full time, Joe has gone from strength-to-strength and his bikes have had some great reviews which have pulled in orders for his bikes from around the world. Now working from a shiny new unit in the centre of Bristol, I was lucky to be invited out to have a first ride on his foray into the world of downhill bikes.

It looks complicated but it’s actually very simple! A single pivot with four big bearings and a spinning axle through the middle. This axle is then driven by a regular crank just below it via a short bmx chain. This is a great way to enable a single speed bike as there is no chain growth unlike other designs.

The bike is built from steel and looks incredible. It’s also a rocket! With 29″ wheels and 200mm of travel it’s a serious bike and needs a big hill to get it up to speed. We went over the bridge to Wales for little play, mainly to check the design worked and that it didn’t have any unusual quirks or issues, but also to get pumped and check out some good riding. Apart from buzzing the tyre on the seat at full drop which was easily solved, the bike felt perfect, the suspension was balanced and the geometry perfectly poised for attacking the fastest of descents.

It was a privilege to be able to test ride a brand new bike that had never seen dirt and I was stoked to see Joe happy as the hours spent on CAD drawings and in the welding stand piecing it all together came to life and were putting smiles on all our faces! We were out with another few guys who owned Joe’s bikes. Rob has a custom XL Mumur and Pi who has a Swoop. Pi works for Joe building swingarms as well as running his custom rack and frame company ‘Clandestine’ from the same unit as Joe. This made for a cool photo opportunity with 4 bikes all built by Joe out for a ride at the same time.

I’ve never been one for long bikes, with most size larges that I’ve ridden having the minimum seat height too high for my tastes. With the Sturn (and Joe’s 29″ trail bike the Mumur), I was able to fully appreciate the brilliance of a truly long, low and slack bike for the first time without this trait that I’ve grown to loath so much. The Sturn was a monster and the level of composure I could keep when hitting turns and rough sections was on another level to anything I’ve experienced before. Riding the Mumur, with it’s similar DNA, was also a revelation. With horses for different courses, I can confirm that as well as steel being real (:P) the hype around Joe’s bikes is also valid!

While the Sturn is a true downhill race bike, I’ll always be a fan of a shorter wheelbase for messing around on, popping wheelies and trying to make shapes in the air. With my downhill racing days over I’d be excited to see a shorter bike with this design and some smaller wheels for those of us not seeking podiums. I’m sure the Sturn will see some of those though under tester Brett Wheeler out in Portugal and perhaps you as well if you’re reading this and want to get your hands on a truly unique race bike. Get in touch with Joe at Starling and put your name down on his long list of customers!


Check out the Starling Cycles website here


Written by: