Charge Plug £400

Charge’s retro roadster goes back to basics

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

Charge’s Plug is a neatly packaged retro classic, mixing contemporary graphics and urban messenger cool with a stripped-down design that your grandad would recognise instantly. It makes for a tough all-rounder that’s both a great style statement and an enjoyable trip down memory lane.

Ride: solid performer on road or trail

If you ride it fixed straight away, the first obvious thing you’ll notice is that you can’t stop pedalling. On the open road there’s a lovely fluid spin that you can power up surprisingly steep stuff, and it bowls along backroads beautifully. The kickback will catch you out just when you least expect it, though, pushing you out of the saddle as you forget and try to stop to clip in. Your knees will see some whole new strains during emergency stops or steep downhills, too. Think of it as an automatic car and keep braking unless you want to accelerate, and you’ll soon get the hang of it; there’s always the freewheel option… Whichever you choose, the actual ride of the Plug is as solid as you’d expect from its simple construction. It’s certainly no springy, twangy ultralight steel Bambi, but then as long as you can handle the occasionally bruising results you can hammer down seriously rough trails or tatty Tarmac as hard as your nerves and tyres let you.

Frame: no messing plain gauge steel

The frame is certainly a no-nonsense piece. The steel tubing is just plain gauge pipe, not internally butted or tweaked in any way. In road bike terms, all the diameters are stout, too, making this a tough bike that’ll take a lot of knocks. The rear brake cable is secured with neat chromed clips that not only look totally retro, but can easily be removed for an ultra-clean minimalist aesthetic if you’re confident enough in your ‘?xie’ (?xed riding) skills to go brakeless. Lack of gear hanger, mudguard, chain tensioners, rack and bottle cage mounts also keeps the lines totally pure, but means the Plug loses practicality points. There are lighter, carbon-forked alloy framed competitors for the same price, too.

Equpment: tough where it needs to be with a dash of cool too

Charge has gone proper no-frills retro with the transmission, using large flange track hubs with a screw thread either side for mounting freewheel and fixed cog. Chunky Alex rims create a tough city or country cobble-proof outside edge, and the Kenda tyres are heavy duty. We did pinch-puncture them a lot off-road, though, so you’ll definitely have to add ‘pedalling bunny hop’ to your fixie skill resumé to avoid a lot of pumping. Sugino’s single tooth crank works fine, the chain hasn’t stretched – despite some severe torque – and the Tektro brakes are powerful enough to save you when backpedal pressure just isn’t going to work. The real spec highlights are the Charge Spoon saddle and broad cowhorn bars, both picked out in brown for instant retro appeal.

Summary

Charge’s Plug is a simple road thug that needs a firm hand and secure fillings to tame it. Fixed riding takes some getting used to, but this is a great way to start learning old-school skills in true retro style. Versatility takes a back seat to looks, though.

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