Steel Bike Showdown - Tony and Joe's Steel Single Pivot Enduro Bikes

Steel Bike Showdown - Tony and Joe's Steel Single Pivot Enduro Bikes

This week's bike check is a twofer - we've got not just one but two single pivot steel enduro(ish) bikes. In the modern mountain bike world where carbon rules supreme, steel bikes are having something of a renaissance. Carbon is amazing, it's true, but there are many great reasons why some people are going old school and turning to the ferrous metal. Steel is widely available, easily recyclable and re-useable, it's easy to work with, it's easy to repair, and it has a ride quality that takes the sting out of the trail. Steel may be seen as somewhat of an antiquated construction material, but these builds both prove that it can make for a fully modern machine.

Coincidentally, both of our mechanics Tony and Joe happened to build themselves each a steel single pivot bike this summer, so in this bike check we're putting them head to head to see the differences in their builds, since they're both pretty unique in their own ways.

Joe Starling Murmur

Joe's Starling Murmur

Let's start with Joe's Starling Murmur. Designed and made in the UK, just like Joe, Starling is a pretty niche company with something of a cult following. While it certainly stands out from the crowd here though, it's a more well-known brand on the other side of the pond. Joe picked up this early Murmur frame used in the UK in a sad state, with some poorly done repairs and a lot of miles on it. He brought it back over to Canada where he had Em at WZRD Bikes in Victoria repair the frame properly and give it a new lease on life and a fresh paint job. 

This frame was custom made for its first owner, so has slightly different geometry to the standard bike, with a 63º head tube angle, 440mm chainstays, 500mm reach, 1280mm wheelbase, 342mm BB height and a mystery seat tube angle. Rear travel is 135mm and it's matched up with a 150mm fork.

Starling Murmur

Starling Murmur

Joe built this bike with descending in mind, while still being pedalable, so while it's only 135mm rear travel, he went for a coil shock for off the top plushness, and a Lyrik Ultimate up front rather than a Zeb, because the Lyrik is plenty stiff. That rear coil is an Ohlins TTX22M running a Sprindex spring, for infinite spring rate adjustability and primo damping control. Despite being lower on travel than the bikes he usually rides, he says it's really planted, and one of the most fun bikes he's owned.

The frame was originally painted with a silver front triangle and a pink rear triangle. Joe decided a freshen-up was in order and while he went for the same colour on the front, he wanted to change up the rear with a British Racing Green type colour. It worked out really well and Joe has done a god job of colour coding this with his grips, fork, bottle etc.

Starling Murmur Sram X01

Getting into the spec, things get a little weird, especially in the drivetrain department. Joe is running an 11 speed Sram XX1 drivetrain, because it's pretty damn robust, smaller and less susceptible to damage, and is one of the best shifting drivetrains of all time. The trade-off is range, and admittedly Joe doesn't spend that much of his time climbing, though he's paired that derailleur with a 10-46t Garbaruk cassette to give it a more useable climbing gear. For those unfamiliar, Garbaruk is a polish brand that CNC's drivetrain expander components in house, and is newly available in Canada. The cranks are Race Face's latest Turbine which are relatively light, stiff and inexpensive, paired with a 30t steel chainring, for longevity.

Hope brakes

Being that Joe is from Old Blighty, he obviously has a love for British bike parts, just one reason he opted for the Hope Tech 4 V4 brakes - the Barnoldswick brand's most powerful anchors. Hope brakes are well renowned for their reliability, serviceability and availability of spare parts. 4 pistons make them powerful, yet they still have great modulation, plus they're available in a variety of colours. Sweet.

Industry Nine Wheels

For wheels, Joe custom built a set of fancy but solid wheels with a set of Industry Nine Hydra hubs laced to DT Swiss EX511 rims. The Hydras are the North Carolina brand's highest engagement hubs, perfect for ratcheting over janky North Shore obstacles, and EX511s are about the best and strongest aluminum rims money can buy. To keep things classy yet understated, Joe used silver spokes and black brass nipples, because he's a classy boy. Finishing off the wheels are some Continental Kryptotal tires, keeping things rubber side down. Hopefully.

Oneup EDC Lite tool

Some other small but neat details include the starling cutouts in the headtube gusset and swing arm brace, an integrated seat clamp, the swing arm gusset that's the perfect size for a OneUp EDC Lite tool and a OneUp V2 240mm dropper, because Joe is a leggy boy. Finishing things off is some British Burgtec finishing kit in the way of bars, stem, and pedals, plus a Cane Creek Hellbender 70 headset. Oh and check out that WZRD Bikes top cap, nice.

Starling Murmur


Tony's Wildwood Cycles Single Pivot

Coming at things from the opposite direction somewhat is Tony's Wildwood  Cycles Single Pivot. Handcrafted in Nanaimo by Jesse Hildebrandt, Wildwood Cycles is a true made-in-canada story. Tony commissioned this bike with custom geometry to his exact spec, building the bike with a pretty specific ride quality in mind for his all-around big day trail riding.

Tony's Wildwood Single Pivot

Tony is a steel bike fan through and through; you might recognize him from a couple of other bike checks, also containing steel bikes. It made sense then, that his first full suspension bike in a number of years be made of steel as well. Not only is steel an easy way to achieve custom geometry, which makes Tony happy, but it also makes it more of a forever bike since they're easy to repair, as I mentioned earlier.

Wildwood Single Pivot

Looking at the two frames, there are some subtle and some not so subtle differences between them, for example the curved seatstays on the Wildwood vs straight on the Starling. Also the most obvious difference that Joe's bike is a couple of sizes larger than Tony's, though both have water bottle clearance still.

Still a traditional single pivot design, making for low maintenance and painless bearing changes, Tony had Jesse make some custom changes to the frame, including a larger main pivot bearing to increase frame stiffness and improve bearing longevity.

Wildwood Single Pivot

For geometry, Tony decided on some progressive, but not completely wild numbers. Running a 64º head tube angle, 462mm reach, 32mm BB drop, 442mm chainstay and a 1230mm wheelbase, the bike should be pretty damn stable without being unwieldy. A 77.5º seat tube angle keeps the cockpit more upright and the front wheel weighted for climbing. 

Super Deluxe Ultimate

Suspension-wise, Tony chose a Rockshox Lyrik Ultimate, paired to a Super Deluxe Ultimate air shock. The Lyrik is stiff, reliable and buttery smooth - perfect for North Shore trail riding, serving up 150mm of travel. Out back is 140mm of travel, the Super Deluxe damping it nicely and providing a hydraulic bottom out control, new for this year.

Wildwood drivetrain

Keeping things wacky, Tony decided to create a hybrid drivetrain, mating a Shimano XT 12sp chain and cassette with a Sram GX AXS derailleur and shifter, combining shifting under load with the precision of the wireless derailleur. We always recommend sticking with manufacturer spec, however mechanics can be a law unto themselves and sometimes it's more of a case of 'do as I say and not as I do' - Tony is happy to own any problems he creates on his own bike and carry out any necessary field repairs.

One other problem Tony wanted to solve on this bike was pedal kickback, since this is something single pivot bikes often experience. You'll notice the Ochain spider on his cranks, which decouples the crank from the chainring and allows a few degrees of movement in the drivetrain before it engages and moves the cranks. This means there's a delay in engagement when pedalling, but means that chain tension has no effect on suspension and eliminating pedal kickback.


Continuing the made in Canada theme, you'll notice the North Shore Billet chainring, proudly made in Whistler. Also the made in USA Cane Creek EeWings titanium cranks that he moved over from his previous Chromag Rootdown build. Special mention goes to the Dward Design titanium bashguard that's delightfully simple but beautiful - made in the UK there are some airmiles on this, but still not as many as other components and it keeps the money in the maker's pocket.

Paul Cockpit

Moving to the cockpit, you'll notice a glut of Paul Components parts, in the seat collar, stem and dropper lever. Made in the USA, Paul Components are one of those old school companies that have been around for years but are still keeping relevant with their approach to manufacturing durable products. We've got some Renthal 31.8mm aluminum Fatbars - one of the original wide handlebars. Tony likes the 31.8mm diameter because in aluminum they're more compliant than a 35mm bar meaning less hand fatigue

Hope Brake

The eagle-eyed among you may have also spotted the same brakes as can be found on Joe's bike - the Hope Tech 4 V4 bakes, though Tony is running the anodized black version, because why not. Shimano rotors keep things cool, and keeping things rolling are Shimano XT hubs custom build on WTB rims with silver double butted spokes.

Aenomaly Switchgrade

Keeping his butt planted is a Specialized Power saddle, one of our favourites, perched on top of an Aenomaly Constructs Switchgrade. The Switchgrade allows Tony to change the angle of his seat on the fly, tilting it forward to give him a better climbing position, or tilting it back for more room when descending. You'll notice the Paul Components seat collar keeping things in place and a OneUp V2 dropper post to make things go up and down.

Wildwood cycles

It's the details that count, and finishing things off are a Chris King headset that'll probably last longer than the frame, and a beautifully made and riveted Wildwood Cycles headtube badge. We love it.

Thanks for reading this week's bike check. We love a good custom bike here at Steed, so for anyone feeling inspired, please don't hesitate to contact us to ask any questions or commission your own custom build. Cheers!

 Steel Single Pivot Bikes