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Staran, a Gaelic word that means “trail” or “path,” is a brand new bike brand out of Canada that’s working to offer well spec’d bikes, along with great customer service, at affordable prices. Their first–and currently, only–mountain bike is the FSM-140, an aggressive trail bike the company sells directly via their website.  I’ve been riding the FSM-140 for a couple months now, and I’m ready to share my review.

The Frame

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If the Staran FSM-140 frame looks familiar, it’s probably because it is. Staran is using an off-the-shelf design from a factory in Taiwan that also happens to make bikes for larger, well-known brands. (The company did tweak the design in one way, adding a seat stay brace for extra stiffness.) If you’re not familiar with the bike industry, that might sound a little strange or even nefarious, but it’s actually very common. The design Staran is using for the FSM-140 frame is tried and true, utilizing a Horst linkage system that’s been battle-tested and proven on much more expensive bikes.

Is it sexy to use an off-the-shelf frame design? No. Is it practical? Hell yes.

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To be clear, I don’t have any skin in the game here–I’m not trying to sell anyone on this bike, or any other bike for that matter. But as an engineer by education, I can certainly appreciate the fact that there are certain product designs that have been refined and optimized over time, leaving little reason to reinvent the wheel. In fact, most of the proprietary, “bleeding edge” suspension designs you see in the market today aren’t necessarily designed to be better; they were just designed to get around a patent issue on an older, simpler suspension design that works just as well (or in many cases, even better). The Horst linkage is one of those designs.

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Overall, the FSM-140 geometry is very modern; the size XL model I tested has 430mm chainstays, a 67-degree head tube angle, a 1,164mm wheelbase, and a 465mm reach. For a little context, this lines up very closely with the geometry on the latest Specialized Stumpy 650b.

The XL frame I tested features a surprisingly-tall seat tube, so tall, in fact, that the dropper seatpost is barely raised out of the frame at all to fit me. I’m 6’3″ and Staran recommends the XL frame for riders 6’1″ and taller; I would say this is a pretty hard and fast limit. If you’re right on the line, go for the smaller size just to be sure you can get the seatpost low enough. The upshot is the standover height is generously low–about 29″ at the low point. It’s so low, in fact, that our intern was able to straddle the bike no problem, despite being a solidly size-medium bike rider.

Front derailleur mount. Also, not the seat stay brace.

Front derailleur mount. Also, note the added seat stay brace.

The frame includes a single water bottle mount plus internal routing ports for both a front (optional) and rear derailleur. The internal routing gives the bike a really clean look while protecting cables against snags on the trail. There are also mounting points for a front derailleur (not included in the stock build) and for an optional chain guide. The FSM-140 utilizes a press-fit bottom bracket.

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The frame construction is very solid overall, with a thick and consistent paint job to match. In some ways it feels a little overbuilt to me, but then again, I’m not the type of rider who is especially tough on bikes. For those who are–and you know who you are–you’ll definitely appreciate the construction of this frame. To be clear, this isn’t a veiled attempt to call this bike heavy–the overall weight of my test rig, about 28.7lbs without pedals–is actually very reasonable.

Henry Ford is said to have remarked that customers could have any color of the Model T they liked, as long as that color was black. For now, Staran is taking a similar approach with the FSM-140, offering only green bikes. Offering just one color is another way the company is keeping its costs low, which they can then pass on to consumers.

The Components

Staran prides itself on offering a bike build that should appeal to most consumers. In keeping with the idea of simplicity, there’s really just a single build kit, though they are willing to work with consumers who need specific component swaps. It’s clear the company spent a lot of time selecting the components they would choose for their own rigs.

Staran is also notable for not spec’ing house-branded components like bars and stems. This is one area where even the big brands are guilty of cutting costs by masking inferior components, while not always passing on those cost savings to consumers. Utilizing house-brand components also makes it more difficult for consumers to compare bike specs across brands. With Staran, it’s clear what you’re getting–and it’s a lot.

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The Staran FSM-140 utilizes an X-Fusion fork, shock, and dropper post on this bike. While X-Fusion may not be as familiar to riders as other suspension brands on the market, these aren’t low-end components by any means. In fact, the included X-Fusion Sweep RC HLR fork alone retails for $750.

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This was my first time testing the X-Fusion Sweep RC HLR and initially I had some trouble getting the right air pressure dialed in. But once I got the fork setup properly, it ran as well as any other other I’ve tested. The Sweep has both high and low speed compression dials and rebound adjustment, though I definitely missed not having any kind of lock-out on the fork.

Moving on to the shock, I found the X-Fusion O2 Pro RCX to be supple and easy to adjust. Like the fork, the hardware on the O2 Pro RCX shock has a high quality look and feel.

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WTF this remote?

WTF this remote? It’s a ridged joystick that’s equally painful on your thumb or finger.

Staran specs the X-Fusion HILO STRATE internally-routed dropper post that worked great during my tests. Dropper posts can be finicky, and even having one post go two months without any hiccups feels like a success. My one complaint about this particular post is the remote: it’s weird, uncomfortable, and feels cheap. I had a difficult time telling if I was pressing the remote hard enough to get the seatpost to actuate.

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The FSM-140 ships with a 1×11 drivetrain pairing an XT derailleur and cassette with RaceFace Turbine cranks. These cranks are pretty rad because they can be converted to run two or even three rings if you so desire. I found the gear range to be more than adequate for my riding and experienced smooth, predictable shifts throughout the test.

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The cockpit features carbon, 760mm-wide RaceFace bars, RaceFace Aeffect stem, and RaceFace Love Handles. The included saddle is RaceFace as well–the Atlas–which looks awesome and feels great too.

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Staran managed to get the latest 27.5″ Stan’s ZTR Arch MK3 rims on the FSM-140 and specs wide Continental Mountain King 2.4 tires. The MK3 rims are 24% wider than the EX version, which is great for riders like me who are looking to take full advantage of today’s widest tires. The wheels feel snappy and responsive, despite the burly 2.4-inch tire choice. Staran even shipped the wheels with sealant instead of tubes–all I had to do was add a little air and they were good to go.

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Finally, the FSM-140 is specced with Shimano XT hydraulic brakes which really need no introduction. Most riders will agree these brakes are excellent, so we’ll just leave it at that.

Overall, there’s nothing beyond the seatpost remote I would personally change about the component selection, which I suppose just validates Staran’s positioning. As MTB component mix consultants, Staran seem to have hit the nail on the head with their build.

On the Trail

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Like many mountain bikers, I ride a lot of different types of trails: everything from flow trails to backcountry mountain epics to tight, twisty, unofficial singletrack. With 140mm of travel, the FSM-140 is really designed to make all of these rides both fun and accessible.

I was able to absolutely rail the FSM-140 on my local flow trails where the wide bars, aggressive geometry, and supple suspension practically begged to get airborne. As most of our readers know, a dropper post is pretty much mandatory on an aggressive trail bike like this, and I took full advantage throughout my tests.

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On a nighttime ride at Bull Mountain I set three new downhill PRs–all the more impressive given that it was a dark, wet night.  The FSM-140 climbed really well too, despite not having a true lockout on the fork. But where the FSM-140 truly shined was on the Jake Mountain side of Bull Mountain, where the bike devoured the rolling, flowing trail like a tape measure reeling its flapping tape back home. This was easily the fastest, most in-control I’ve felt riding any bike on this section of trail.

The one place where I found the FSM-140 to be a bit limited was on my neighborhood social trails. These trails are narrow, choppy, and steep in places, requiring riders to quickly shift from behind-the-saddle descents to full-on mashing up very short, but steep, climbs. On an early test ride I found the FSM-140 to be wander-y on these types of low-speed, technical climbs, so Aaron suggested adjusting the bar height with a simple stem spacer stack reconfiguration. This helped a lot, but clearly this bike is at its best on high speed, wide-open trails, not cautiously trudging through soul-sucking terrain.

The Rest

My test bike arrived at the office with minimal assembly required: all I had to do was attach the handlebars, throw the front wheel on the fork, and air up the tires. The bike was simply-packed with copious amounts of bubble wrap, which was a nice change from the miles and miles of tape and protective tubing most bikes ship with.

Staran is a new company, but they seem very eager to offer an excellent customer experience. For now they’re offering 30-day returns, free shipping, and claim the standard build ships in just 3 days. Whether this is sustainable or not, who knows… but it does shed some light on the customer-driven Staran culture.

The company is working on other mountain bikes as well, though they’re pretty mum on what types of bikes they will be. Whatever the company ends up adding, it seems clear Staran will do their homework on both the build and the frame selection before bringing anything to market. For now, Staran’s online, direct sales are limited to Canada, but it sounds like they’re prepared make US sales happen if they get the orders.

The FSM-140 sells for $3,599.99 CAD with free shipping. Thanks to the strong US dollar, that’s only about $2,750 USD, which is frankly a steal for a bike of this quality.

Staran has clearly accomplished their goal of offering a quality bike build at an affordable price. At the end of my test I was sad to have to send the FSM-140 back to Canada, though it’s nice to know that when I am in the market for a ripping 140mm travel trail bike, I should actually be able to afford this one from Staran.

Thanks to Staran for letting me borrow the FSM-140 for testing.

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# Comments

  • mongwolf

    Hey Jeff. I know you wrote that the geometry is quite similar to the Stumpy 650b, but having ridden the bike, what bike or two does it most similarly ride like in your opinion?

    • Jeff Barber

      I guess the Kona Process 134 DL I rode last year comes to mind as a fairly similar feel. Also reminds me a bit of the Norco Optic, though obviously more plush.

  • StaranCycles

    Thanks for the review Jeff, glad you liked it!

    As you mentioned, we will be expanding Stateside. If any American friends are interested please drop us an email and we can make it happen.

  • Scott_Manser

    I took the Staran FSM-140 out for a demo lap during a 24 hour race last June. I’m a big guy (6’8″, 250 lbs). The XL frame fit me well, and this bike took everything I could throw at it. I was pleasantly surprised at how little the frame flexed when I was torquing up hills in a mid-range gear. The dropper seatpost eliminates the need to stop and pull a quick-release before a crazy downhill, and the 1×11 gear setup eliminates one shifter from the bars, making the lever for the dropper very convenient. The bike is well built with value and performance in mind. The Shimano XT shifter and deraillier shift smoothly, even under load. A great weight for a full suspension bike as well! I would definitely consider Staran for my next bike.

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