Wednesday night and up to the big city on a tip-off that Charge were giving London's beautiful bike people the chance to see some of next year's bikes and bits at an invitation only do with “no bike journos” the door policy, well I like a challenge, and a free drink so off to London…
To an address next to a trendy bar just off Regent's Street, bikes in the window, and the large Charge banner, tell me I'm in the right place – as an extra clue there's a crowd of Plugs parked up outside too. Blagging my way past security on the door first face I spot is road.cc's man about town, TR McGowran, (this must be hot!) and it would seem that my tip was only slightly out – averagely beautiful people are allowed in too… the same thought obviously crosses the man about town's mind as he spots me.
Charge certainly can pull them in with a high powered crew of designers, and journalists from the mainstream press come to catch a sneak preview of some of their latest saddles, handlebars and pre-production version of their 2010 bikes – which will be in the shops when they are officially launched to us bike press types at Eurobike at the start of September.
For Charge and most of the assembled crowd the Lazy Susan and Steamer (it's male counterpart pictured above) were the big news of the night (we coverd them yesterday) but the standout bike for me was the final version of the Juicer, Charge's steel road bike. We saw the prototype last year at Eurobike, that was made from Tange Prestige tubing – but a mountain bike diameter so though undoubtedly a looker it was a chunky one and was also carrying probably a little too much weight for the projected price point.
The new version has a much slimmer road profile Tange Prestige tubeset and looks a hell of a lot svelter as a result, an unscientific hoik off the stand revealed it to be a much lighter proposition than the prototype. No official weights yet, but I'd say we're looking at the 19-20lb mark, possibly a shade lighter.
There are two versions: the Mid and the High. Both come with Shimano groupsets – the high gets 105 while the Mid has Tiagra including a 53-39-30 triple at the front turning an 11-25 cassette at the back. That's a set up that should give you a big enough top gear for the flat while equipping you to climb up anything – I'm a big fan already although some purists will no doubt be offended.
In every other way it is a very classic looking machine with full mudguards and Charge's trademark Old Skool level top tube and pencil thin rear stays. The triple equipped Mid puts me in mind of those mahogany legged old French dudes who pedal past you on the Galibier on their old triple-shod steel bikes leaving British roadies puffing up behind pushing their carbon road bikes with their 53-39 doubles while slithering about on their Look cleats.
Other high points are the FSA Vero Compact handlebars and the Shimano R500 wheelset. Ugrades for the Juicer Hi include and FSA Omega Compact 'bars plus a Colle Rollen wheelset with a special Charge only polished finish, Tektro R730 brakes replace the R538s on the Mid. The mid will sell for £949.99 and the Hi for around £1199.99.
From understated elegance to something a little more in yer face: the Charge Griffin: this bike is the first fruits of Charge's collaboration with outdoor clothing designer Jeff Griffin and features their Straw 'bars (Charge's version of the Fixie inc Car Scratcher bar) plus a special Griffin version of the new Bucket saddle (more on that below). Colour scheme is predominantly blue and white with colour matched tyres – blue Vittoria Zaffiros, and chain – white Charge Masher. Hubs and spokes are colour-matched too. Like the other Plugs the Griffin boasts a Tange singlespeed frame with and a 42T Sugino Messenger RD2 crankset matched up with a 16T rear cog. The Griffin is yours for £569.99.
Bars and saddles
Also on show were two new saddles and those nifty Straw 'bars that featured on the Griffin and a host of other bits and pieces – many of which will be available from next week.
First up, a blast from the past… the Bucket saddle. If it looks familiar to old timers that's cos it is – this is Charge's homage to the Selle Italia Turbo saddle and it's a pretty exact copy: in fact they bought the original mold. just like the original Turbo the Charge Bucket is available in a variety of colours – although the orange version is only available from Wiggle. Unlike many modern saddles there's no hole in the Bucket and at £16.99 it won't make hole in your wallet either.
The bucket is aimed primarily at the fixed scene but anyone wanting a bit of retro cool should check it out.
The Knife, on the other hand is a much more contemporary offering – basically it's a slimmed down version of Charge's highly regarded Spoon saddle. Again it's available in a range of colours, and again the orange one is only available through Wiggle. Aimed at road riders and cross country mountain bike racers it's the same shape as the Spoon but drops weight courtesy of hollow titanium alloy rails and a nylon base and just basically being slimmer. The Knife will set you back £49.99, same as a Ti-railed Spoon.
Last but not least the Straw Bars: a bit like the legendary Fixie inc Car scratcher but thanks to the friendly bullet end caps they (probably) won't scratch anybody's car. They're available in a range of colours and at £19.99 are likely to be coming to a fiixed gear rider near you (assuming there are some in your neighbourhood). There's also a riser version, the Spit; both are available in Black, Blue, Purple, Red, Silver, or White.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.