I’d love to make it easy on myself, and make this mini-review truly "mini" by summing up the Charge Plug with one succinct sentence: "The Charge Plug is an incredibly cool and aesthetically awesome bike that’s extremely simple in its design and function." But the editorial team would be rather pissed at me, and it wouldn’t do enough justice to the bike.
So I’ll expand it a bit.
Charge is an award-winning bicycle company based in the United Kingdom. While their current US distribution consists of mostly urban-cetric bikes (such as the Plug and more townie-style bikes), they do offer everything from cross-country mountain bikes to road bikes, as well as bunch of different components. Charge is distributed by BTI in the US, and they supply many shops around the country (check their site for a retailer locater).
As you’re probably aware, a selection of bike companies gave each of the Dirt Rag/Bicycle Times staff a bike to ride for the week of Interbike in Las Vegas. I picked up the Plug at the end of the Outdoor Demo on Tuesday. Preston and Brian gave me a quick overview of the bike, cleaned it off for me and sent me on my way.
I was immediately struck by the pure simplicity of the bike. A simplicity that transends style, function and attitude. The bike was obviously built to be simple, and that simplicity is the bike’s greatest strength.
Aesthetic Simplicity I have to admit that the look and style of a bicycle is very important to me. Thankfully the Charge Plug is a beauty.
The Plug doesn’t have many graphics on the frame, which makes for a refreshing feel when you look at the bike. I’m a design nerd, and a sucker for this kind of style. I think Matt, our graphic artist, is too since he and I talked about the look of this bike more than a few times. We both appreciate how the few graphics that do appear on this bike are very tastefully, creatively and conservatively placed.
I know the lack of flashy graphics is common on urban bikes such as this, but a lot of these messenger-clone bikes tend to take on a monochrome style that make the bikes look more like some kind of weird art. With its leather-style saddle and taping, sparse chrome bits and conservative styling, the Charge Plug sucessfully bridges the gap between hipster ride and traditional bicycle.
Function Simplicity The cromoly Charge Plug is a very simple bike made to hop on and ride. I initially thought it would have been a good idea to have some fender or rack mounts on this bike. But after thinking about it for a while (and learning other versions of the Plug model do feature such bits), I came to the conclusion there was no reason to include them…again, simplicity is the name of the game here.
The most complicated thing on the bike is the flip-flop rear wheel. One side of the wheel has a fixed gear cog, while the other side has a freewheel. I’m really, really not into the fixed-gear thing, so having the ability to flip the rear wheel to run the singlespeed freewheel is very nice. Despite that, I actually ran it fixed the first day. Sandals as my only footwear for the week, toe clips/straps and a fixed gear don’t mix so well, so I flipped that baby on the second day.
Simplistic Attidude I mean that in the best possible way…there’s no pretension with this bike. You can hop on and ride it without worrying about being part of a clique, or about pissing off that same clique. This bike will earn fans that love the fixed gear scene, and people who hate that scene. That’s rare in a bike.
But enough of all that touchy-feely stuff. We’re talking about a machine here.
As a machine, this bike performs very well. There’s not a lot of bling hung on this bike, and I don’t have a problem with that. The parts collection is a selection of utilitarian pieces that work well, and help the bike achieve the $749 price point. If you’re looking for flashy component names, look elsewhere…or add them later.
The Plug is a snappy, yet stable, ride with a 71/73 head/seat angle. Toe-overlap was no more of an issue than on any other similar bikes I’ve ridden. I have to admit I’ve never ridden bullhorn bars before. It took me a couple spins to get a comfortable balance when getting out of the saddle with a heavy bag on my back with these bars. Once I got it, I liked it.
Thankfully Interbike only lasts a week, but it was a bittersweet moment when I had to give the bike back on Friday. I was glad to be getting out of Vegas, but would have loved to had a couple months to ride this bike around the city (not Vegas, though) to give it a proper flogging…and to have people turn their heads in envy as i ride past.
Note: Much thanks to Kryptonite for loaning me that 30 foot cable and lock for the week. (I’ll get the keys back to you soon!)