Charge is a bicycle company based in Somerset that built its very fine reputation in building MTBs. But recently the team behind the sharply labelled brand has switched its attention to bikes for hitting the Tarmac. The Plug is the first of three models to be released.
As you read this the first batch of Plug bikes are filling the stores at Charge’s base. Read on to find out how we got on when we tested the bike recently.
The company produces all its bikes out of steel or titanium, with the Plug being made from tubes of plain gauge Tange steel, all TIG welded together. The use of plain gauge tubing as opposed to something more fancy has helped Charge get this bike under £400.
The simplicity in the tubing is carried throughout the frame. There’s no braze-ons for unnecessary frivolities like bottle cage, rack or mudguard mounts. Indeed, backing up this desire for simplicity, and keeping the rear brake cable in-situ, are two old-school style stainless steel cable clips, removable should you feel the urge to strip the bike of the rear brake.
There is some minor evidence of tube manipulation - the head tube is externally butted, bulging out around the headset bearings. Charge's own, and amusingly named Whisk fork props the front end up and keeps the front wheel tracking straight and true.
Available in three sizes, I opted for the large, and the 56.6cm top tube gave a good stretch for my 6’ height. The traditional sloping top tube looks smart and traditional, often an important criteria for bikes like this, but does restrict standover clearance. The horizontal dropouts are long enough for plenty of scope should you want to change sprockets and chainrings without having to resport to shortening the chain. Tyre clearance front and rear is huge, so bigger tyres wouldn’t be a problem.
The frame is finished with a very deep layer of paint which, from a glance, suggests the work of a higher price than £399 should. The location of the decals defies convention, further helping to make the Plug stand out when jostling for position at the traffic lights.
For the price the Plug is clearly not going to be dripping with top-drawer components [what about the bar tape? -ed.], but the parts that are hanging of the frame work more than acceptably. Bars, stem, seat post and saddle all bear the Charge logo, and all found no complaints. The bullhorn shaped Slice bars take a little getting used to if you’ve not used them before but they’re surprisingly comfortable. The bar tape wrapped around the bars matched the Spoon saddle, which I found a pleasing fit.
Braking duties fell to the Textro levers and callipers, bringing the Plug to a satisfactory halt. Sugino Messenger cranks, fitted with a 42 chainring, provided, with a 16t sprocket, a good ratio for our mostly flat commute.
Wheels consisted of Formula hubs (with that all-important flip/flop rear hub), laced to Alex DM18 rims. Fitted with 28mm Kenda Kwick Roller Sport tyres, they were a durable and reliable set of wheels that resisted even my best efforts to get them all out of shape in the sizeable potholes scarring the roads on my regular ride through London. The tyres, while not the fastest performers, shrugged of any attempts at puncturing. I would probably be tempted to change to lighter tyres if I was to ride this bike day in and day out, if only for quicker acceleration from the lights to beat all the Bromptons.
The Plug is a lot of fun to ride. It’s not a point and shoot bike, but rather a bike for cruising the streets, carving rather than flicking through traffic. This is even more noticeable if, like me, you’ve been riding a 15lb road bike over the weekend and then hop onto the Plug come Monday morning and expect the same responsiveness – the Plug needs a different, more relaxed mindset to match the steady ride.
Solid and dependable, it can be ridden over the roughest roads you might care to point the bike over, safe in the knowledge it won’t be thrown off course or result in a flat tyre – it just won’t happen with the Plug. The bullhorn handlebars are ideal for heaving the bike up to speed, and make for a stretched out, almost aero position, when cruising along at top speed.