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The Pune based cycling manufacturer Starkenn decided to manufacture their own line of bicycles last year. A low cost premium Indian brand is what Starkenn wanted to be known for and that clearly reflects in the Starkenn Neo 5500V 2015 which I test rode. Here is a detailed review of this bicycle."
Constructed in full alloy, this hardtail frame is very much a no-fuss rigid¾26er, all straight lines, neat bolt-on cable guides and no extraneous detail. Geometry-wise, the thinking is fairly short and steep, with a tight wheelbase. The main frame is a mixture of stout round tubes, including an oversized head tube barrel. The seat tube slants steeply backward from a forward offset footing in a quality bottom bracket assembly to enable very short chainstays that butt onto wide-spaced machined terminals for more tire clearance. In other words, the frame is built for nothing more than flat and easy trails. The SR Suntour front suspension fork has a travel of 63mm which worked well during the test ride on rough city roads and flat trails. A 100mm travel would have opened up the possibility of tackling more challenging trails.
The Starkenn Neo 5500V comes in a full blood red colour with simple graphics. One of the common design features on Starkenn bicycles are the number of places you will see the brand name embossed, you can tell it's a Starkenn bicycle at first glance. The white suspension fork is a neat aesthetic addition to the design. The overall features and frame geometry on this bicycle is as simple as it can get on an entry level Hardtail MTB.
Before test riding this bicycle, I went with an expectation of seeing nothing more than Shimano Tourney at the gearing department. But I was pleasantly surprised by the Shimano Altus and Acera combination at the front and rear for this price. Mixing of Shimano components brings in a balance between providing decent gearing transmissions and keeping the price competitive. There was no evident lag in shifting but the rear derailleurs were noisier than usual. The 21 speed Shimano EF-51 shifters worked efficiently throughout the test ride with no real discomfort to the hands.
As the name says, the Starkenn Neo 5500V 2015 comes with Tektro V-brakes at the front and rear. The excellent quality of the brake pads define the stopping power of these brakes. I am confident that these brakes will perform the same way even on a rainy day. The integrated brake levers were slightly short in length but responded well to constant interval braking.
The MTB handlebar on the Neo 5500V 2015 isn't aggressive. The obvious rise in the handlebar makes sure the rider position is fairly comfortable for urban commutes as well. The handlebar grips were hard and stiff with very minimal padding resulting in a sore palm after a ride.
The Kenda K-905 26'' x 2.125'' MTB tires are fast rolling with impressive traction, enough to roll over the flat trails and speed breakers on streets with ease. The 2.125'' width is responsible for the great ride balance which I felt during heavy bumps. The stock saddle on the Neo 5500V 2015 is shaped perfectly for the sit bones, but I won't be surprised if most riders complain about the lack of cushion padding for a more comfortable ride. The ride quality on city roads were smooth and it will remain the same on flat trails as well. Anything more challenging and one might experience a few teeth rattles.
If you are not pressing about the need for an adventurous all terrain MTB and are limited to choice by your budget, the Starkenn Neo 5500V 2015 is the ideal choice at Rs.20,200. This 5500 VÈs easy riding nature and big-width tires mean less technical trails can be covered in comfort and efficiency.