When we received an email inviting us to the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Would there be bearded ladies? Elephants on unicycles? Strange creatures that are half monkey and half fish? Seeing as the email came from Cycling Sports Group, the distributor behind brands such as Charge, GT, Cannondale and Mongoose to name but a few, some of this seemed a bit fanciful – but even so we headed to the velodrome at the National Cycle Centre in Manchester to take a look at what’s new for 2013…
The big news from Charge is the release of a aluminium framed version of the 29in wheeled Cooker. It’s called the Faucet – which office ‘merican Sarah tells us is what you should call the tap – and it shares the fast handling geometry of its more expensive brethren but is substantially cheaper,prices start at £599.99 for a complete Faucet bike and going up to £799.99 for the Faucet Plus. Both use a butted 6061 alloy frame with semi-integrated 1.125in headtube and have some nice touches, such as the dropouts with tidy Post Mount brake mount.
The most affordable Faucet comes with a Suntour fork, Pro Max hydraulic discs and Shimano Alivio/Acera 9spd drivetrain. Finishing kit will feature plenty of Charge bits, including the much loved Skillet saddle – and the production bikes will feature the rather cool looking and exclusive to Charge WTB Prowler SL tyres in a retro-tastic skinwall finish.
For a few dollars more, the Faucet Plus gets a Rock Shox XC30 fork, Deore/Alivio 10spd drivetrain and fancier WTB wheelset on Shimano hubs.
Cooker Ti complete
At the other end of the spectrum the Cooker Ti 29er is now available as a complete bike rather than a frame-only. The Tange Ultimate 3Al 2.5V double butted titanium frame is covered with a SRAM X9 drivetrain, Reba RL Solo Air forks, Elixir 7 brakes and tubeless ready WTB rims and tyres. Finishing kit is a mix of Charge and Crank Brothers bits’n’pieces. It’ll cost £2,999.99. All the charge frames are still available on their own and Cookers are available with your pick of tapered or conventional headtube.
Other nice things we saw were the rad purple flip paint finish on the Juicer Hi road bike, which also comes with rather neat ‘hidden’ black mud guards so you can pretend you’re winning a Tour Stage when you’re really commuting. We also liked the look of the eccentric bottom bracket equipped Cooker singlespeed as a winter/’these days’ summer bike and the simplified range of good looking Charge city bikes got us thinking about living in a sunny city and letting the wind blow through our hair on the way to the shops.
Last year’s Griddle grip gets a new colour for 2013 but if, like us, you’ve been mourning the loss of the much-loved Sponge grips, Charge have something that may fill the gap in your hearts with their foam Skillet grips. They’re thin, have a single lock-on style clamp and apparently are designed to be worn without gloves, as is the wont of designer Nick Larsen. They’ll cost a mere £14.99 and lots of colours will be available.
If you’re a lady who doesn’t fancy the ladies’ Ladle saddle but wants a bit of girly colour then the very popular Spoon saddle now comes in a pink’n’white flavour, but it’s equally good news if you just like pink and white.
Yellow and orange are next year’s big colours. You heard it here first.
We’ll finish off with a look at the future. Charge have been working with EADS, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, to use their very latest additive layer manufacturing – that’s 3D printing – to make hollow titanium dropouts which can be seen here on this prototype of the Freezer Ti frame.
By using titanium powder and building it up layer by layer, shapes and designs that are extremely hard to create with conventional techniques can be produced simply with an absolute minimum of material. The technique is used at the cutting edge of aerospace manufacture where it’s used to create shapes that were previously impossible “ridiculously cheaply” apparently.
Be warned that the aerospace industry’s ‘ridiculously cheap’ is the bike industry’s ‘eye wateringly expensive’, so when these frames become available at some point around 2014, they’ll be limited to a run of around 50.