Charge’s long-awaited Freezer Ti cyclo-cross frame will be available “from January”, the Frome-based firm’s product manager, Ash Clark, has told RoadCyclingUK.
We first saw the Freezer Ti in prototype guise at the dealer and press show of Charge’s UK distributor, Cycling Sports Group (CSG), in August 2012. Fast forward 12 months and the frame, which has space-age 3D-printed dropouts, is almost ready to go into production.
Charge have collaborated with the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) who have made the world’s first 3D-printed, titanium dropouts using an “additive layer” manufacturing process which is tipped to revolutionise manufacturing.
The process starts by taking a three dimensional CAD model which is sliced, by computer, into very fine layers. These are then melted onto a layer of titanium powder using a laser. Once the first layer is complete, a fresh dose of powder is added and the next layer melted on top. Layer-by-layer, the finished product emerges.
3D printing allows for a far higher degree of complexity – the dropouts are hollow, have the Charge logo printed on the inside, are made with zero wastage and couldn’t be manufactured using any other method.
The Freezer Ti gives us a glimpse into the future of manufacturing thanks to those 3D-printed rear dropouts. US president Barack Obama has said the process will “revolutionise the way we make almost everything”, by eventually reducing the need for factories and individualising manufacturing . In theory, any product with a digital blueprint can be made locally with a 3D printer.
That’s some way off. The technology is still in its infancy and is, as a result, very complex and very expensive. That complexity has resulted in production of the Freezer Ti being delayed until the new year, while each frame will cost approximately £2,000 and will be available in limited numbers – just 50 frames worldwide, of which half will stay in the UK – due to the amount of dropouts than can be made on the machine bed at EADS.
Dropouts aside, the frame, dressed in SRAM Red and Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes at the CSG show, is impressive. It’s made from double-butted 3AL-2.5V tubing with biovalised profiles to improve stiffness at key points in the frame.
There’s also a tapered headtube, wishbone seatstays to reduce cantilever brake flex, plenty of mud clearance and toptube-mounted cables so you don’t snag the cables when shouldering the bike. We’re looking forward to seeing the finished product.
Charge Scoop available in eight colours
Meanwhile, we’re currently testing the latest addition to the Charge saddle line-up, the Scoop, and CSG’s show gave us the chance to see more of the eight colour options offered.
The Scoop, to recap, takes its inspiration from the popular Charge Spoon. It has a very similar shape to the existing saddle but is lighter as it’s essentially only made from three parts: the base, a lightweight foam and a waterproof microfibre cover, which has been vacuum-bonded over the foam.
Charge say that allows the foam to be very soft, plus they have been able to use a very thin base, which in turn offers more flex – the key to making it a comfortable long-distance saddle, according to Charge boss Nick Larsen. Turn the saddle over and the base also has a remarkably clean finish.
The Charge Scoop is available in two rail options – chromoly or titanium – for £39.99 and £59.99 respectively. Claimed weight is 245g for the ti-railed model and we weighed our chromoly-railed test perch at 257g.