Tested : Dru’s Starling Roost Review.

Team Wideopenmag mehcanic Dru was lucky enough to get his mitts on the long-awaited, and anticipated hardtail from Starling, the stainless steel Roost.

Starling Cycles’ Roost in stainless steel really is the epitome of the #SteelisReal look. Dru was the lucky chappy who got to sling a leg over this beast and has given us his thoughts on this beautiful hardtail.

Photos by Ian Lean.

Key Features:

  • Handmade in Taiwan by ORA from high quality stainless steel
  • Designed for 140mm fork, and Mullet setup
  • 64 degree head angle
  • Upto 2.8 tyre clearance
  • M, L and XL sizes
  • Frame or full builds (depending on the availability)
  • Pre orders open now for April 2022 deliver
  • £1220.00 RRP (frame only)
  • StarlingCycles.com

This beautiful-looking bike caught a lot of attention at the Malverns Classic festival, from Starling owners, and other hardtail enthusiasts alike, everyone was excited to see it in the steel.

I had a medium frame, and I’m 5’ 8”. For me the fit was very good, but with no small option anyone under 5’ 6” is going to be out of luck.

I, like a lot of people, love a raw bike. I had a raw, clear coated Stanton Slackline a few years back, I loved the look of it, and when the “rust worms” crept underneath the clear coat, it looked even better. But, this then led to the clear coat coming away in places and causing more corrosion, a steel frame’s worst enemy. Building the Roost from high quality stainless steel means rust and corrosion is never an issue.

The characteristics of the steel are the same as Reynolds 853, used by Joe on all the other Starling frames, and has been a constant choice with other steel frame builders for a long time. The novel yoke design (bottom bracket/chain stay union)  is there, and ties the bike into the rest of the Starling family. All frame sizes have a 76 degree seat tube making for a pretty comfy riding position for all long days in the saddle. All sizes will be Mullet set up, 29” up front, 27.5” out back.

The frame and build that I had on test was not the proper finished article. The cable guide fittings were fitted in the UK, the proper production version will have a better finish than what you can see in the pictures. They will still be on top of the down tube, so out of the way from flying stones off the front wheel.

Build kits will be an option, with options from Ohlins, RockShox, Hope, Funn, Bike Yoke, Michelin, Middleburn and Cushcore. Joe built this bike with the focus of reviewing the frame, and with the current state of the cycle trade with long lead times on even basic drivetrain components, you’ll have to excuse some of the components fitted. 

The Ride

I rode the Roost around the Glentress trail centre, at the Malverns festival, and at my local trails in Cornwall. The first ride was around a very very wet Glentress. The smile I had on my face at the bottom of the first descent said more than enough, this bike is fun. It’s nimble in the turns, super balanced on the trail and in the air. Having the 29” Michelin Wild AM out front meant it went exactly where I wanted it when it came to getting those sneaky local high lines in the corners.

The 64 degree head angle is, for me, bang on the money. Slack enough to inspire confidence, but not so slack it’s a hindrance riding it up a technical climb. The chainstay length is size dependent. The medium sporting 425mm, and goes up in 5mm increments on the larger sizes. This coupled with the 27.5 wheel outback makes it feel nice and nimble in the turns, and means manuals are easy if you’re gifted enough to have mastered them. The reach comes in at 440mm for the medium, so roomy enough to move around on the bike on the descents. All this leads to a really playful feel, but still feels stable enough at speed, egging you on to go faster. Because its not stupidly long or slack its proper comfortable for big days in the saddle.

The Roost felt equally at home on trail centre trails, as it did at my local unsurfaced trails in Grogley. Admittedly, riding a hardtail on off piste trails isn’t for everyone, you’ve got to be a special kind of idiot to enjoy getting beaten up on every ride, or be willing to put in the time to perfect your lines to make it smooth. The Roost does reward you when you get it right though. The playful nature of the bike makes it easy to move it around the trail, to hop that root, pump that compression, manual that roller or get that tight inside line.

If you like to ride steep techy trails, then the Roost still has your back. The front end is high enough to stop you ending up over the front without the need for a big riser bar. The ride quality and feel is great, and as you’d expect it to be from a steel frame, but you do get what can only be described as an extra zing from the stainless. The noise the tubes make when they get a ping from a stone add to the experience. It just feels a little bit more special than your standard 853. 

The stand out areas of the build kit for me were the Ohlins fork, and the Bike Yoke Revive dropper. Starling are now working in conjunction with Ohlins and TF tuned, so speccing an Ohlins fork on your build will be a good option. The Bike Yoke Revive dropper is a new favourite of mine. The lever action was super smooth, and the drop was like butter. The Revive feature is great for bringing your post performance back in the case of air getting passed the twin tube seal (usually caused by having the bike upside down and pressing the lever). Anyone who’s had a Reverb with a failed seal head will have experienced the annoying 10mm drop when you sit on the saddle. Not a problem with the Revive.

Reliability

In the time I had the bike, the only issue I had was the BikeYoke dropper compressing slightly, but it has a built in revive system, so was fixed in a matter of minutes. 

What do we think?

It really is a great all rounder. Comfy for the long rides, but guaranteed to put a smile on your face when you point it downhill, either on a blue grade trail, or a black grade off piste. Starling say you can run 120mm – 160mm travel forks, so it does open it up to being built to suit your needs. I think the 140mm fork is ideal for the geo. You could easily build it up to be a great enduro race bike, or a all day all rounder. I think a few of these will find their way to people who already own a Starling, and are looking for an excuse for the N+1.

We love:

  • The “ting” when you flick the top tube
  • It’s so shiny
  • Great geometry

Could do better:

  • Not a lot to be honest

You can check out the Starling Cycles Roost on their website here.