The sharpest brand on the streets right now and the one that gets most fixed riders hot under the collar is Charge Bicycles. The company, through a range of perfectly pitched bikes, has placed itself right at the heart of the hugely popular and still growing fixed scene that has enveloped London and other large cities across the UK.
Being based in the UK and involving itself in the scene with several supported riders has allowed the company to hold its finger firmly on the pulse and subsequently turn out bikes that instantly become hot property the moment they hit the shop floors.
Combine their ultra-cool style, smartly applied decals and low prices, and it seems Charge is leading the fixed trend. The Plug Racer looks set to continue this movement with the fourth derivation of the original Plug, first released a couple of years ago.
The Racer, then, takes the same TIG welded, plain gauge Tange steel frame and fork, with the exact same geometry, and packages it up with semi-drop handlebars, aero deep section rims and a nifty highly polished chrome finish. As its name suggests, it’s designed for going fast and it doesn’t disappoint. Around London’s street, the terrain it’s designed for, piloting the Racer through traffic, down narrow streets and between buses is a whole lot of fun. Though the frame is essentially identical to the Plug, the change of components and narrower tyres (though at 28mm still wide) gifts the bike a much sportier character.
Though it’s a far sportier ride than the original Plug, the steel frame, despite being a plain gauge item, offers a good level of comfort and, combined with the fat tyres means you can barrel through potholes and sunken drains without worry. It’s built tough, as it needs to be for regular city riding, and the speccing of those 28mm Kenda tyres is a good choice.
Front and rear Textro brakes, with the rear cable housing affixed to the top tube via lovely aluminium clips provide confident stoppage from the high speeds the Racer easily enables. Wheels, Formula deep flange hubs and Shining A350 32-hole rims, combine for a sturdy package that stayed true and will doubtless provide years of maintenance free service. Charge branded white Spoon saddle, Racer Bars and white Plunger grips are well designed and colour-coded to the white rims. A nice touch.
Sugino Messenger cranks, with 170mm length arms for plenty of cornering clearance, are a popular choice on such bikes. Though square-taper bottom brackets are considered old technology these days, this one works faultlessly and is plenty stiff enough. A flip-flop hub is fitted with a freewheel if you’d prefer not to ride fixed.
The Racer is great fun to ride. More fun, in fact, than the standard Plug which we tested previously. The choice of components lends the bike a much more involving ride and it’s infinitely livelier in the handling department, but never, either, does it get edgy or twitchy. In part that’s due to the large 28mm tyres, which also serve to provide a high level of damping which is ideal for the harsh city streets this bike is expected to inhabit throughout its lifetime. It seems to just hover over potholes like they’re not even there.
But the best part of the Plug Racer’s attraction is just how smart it looks. Combine that with the competitive price and it’s a winning package.