Starling Swoop first ride review£1,500.00

Hand-built steel enduro frame

The man behind Starling Cycles, Joe McEwan, has been grafting away in the shed at the bottom of his garden for some time now, applying his passion for bikes and aerospace engineering background in a bid to craft some seriously lust-worthy, bespoke handmade trail slayers.

Starling Swoop spec overview

  • Head angle: 66 recommended
  • Down tube length: 760mm maximum
  • Seat tube length: 340mm minimum
  • Head tube length: 110mm minimum
  • Chainstay: 430mm
  • Bottom bracket: -10mm drop, 73mm threaded
  • Wheel size: 27.5"
  • Shock: 155mm travel, 216x63mm and 140mm travel, 200x57mm
  • Brake mount: IS

Starling Swoop frame and equipment

The Starling Swoop
The Starling Swoop

There’s nothing overcomplicated or fussy on the Swoop. Its clean lines come courtesy of the skinny steel tubing, which Starling claims helps give a lively ride. At the rear, the Swoop employs a simple single-pivot design, with the main pivot sitting just ahead of the bottom bracket and in line with the chainline. A coil-sprung EXT Storia shock — which is no longer an option — takes care of the 155mm (6.1in) of rear wheel travel.

The bespoke frame is lovingly crafted with standout details
The bespoke frame is lovingly crafted with standout details

As each Swoop is handmade, Joe is able to tailor the bike’s geometry to order. The chainstay and bottom bracket drop remain fixed (at 430mm and -10mm respectively), but you can choose the down tube length, which in turn affects the reach. Seat tube height and head angle can also be altered. External cable routing and beautiful detailing throughout the frame really underline the practicality and quality on offer.

Both Swoops we’ve thrown a leg over are equipped with Funn build kits, available through Starling. If you aren’t keen on the Funn wheels there’s also a Stan’s option. Starling can provide X-Fusion or Fox forks and shocks, depending on your budget.

Starling Swoop ride impression

The Swoop is a lot of fun on the trails
The Swoop is a lot of fun on the trails

One ride in and it was clear this handmade frame could easily compete with much of the mainstream competition. Joe has got the key ingredients more or less sorted. The suspension balance front to rear — after a bit of tinkering — coupled with the chassis stiffness, relaxed geometry and simple yet effective single-pivot design, delivers a blend of traction and that all-important feel and feedback through the bike in just about the right quantities. Throw it down a steep, root-infested hillside and the Swoop can more than hold its own as your speed increases and confidence builds.

The stability and pace carried when the trail opened up was staggering, and the traction through loose, roughed-up turns was plentiful

Though our 5ft 8in test pilot felt a little stretched aboard the longer Swoop, with its 480mm reach (we tried a shorter bike with a reach of 450mm, which we felt more at home on), during particularly tight, steep turns, the stability and pace carried when the trail opened up was staggering, and the traction through loose, roughed-up turns was plentiful. The supple stroke of the EXT shock helped keep the rear wheel glued to the ground, but it’s a set-up better suited to hammering down and pottering back up.

We also tried the bike with air-sprung X-Fusion dampers front and rear, which made the Swoop feel more efficient on the climbs and a little more lively on the descents, even if you have to work a bit harder to maintain traction.

Starling Swoop early verdict

Beautifully made frame with custom geometry that really beasts it on the trail.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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