Charge Cooker Maxi£1,199.99

Trail-riding fat bike

BikeRadar score3/5

Fat bikes are a strange breed. While their original raison d’etre was for riding huge, snow covered slogs, they’ve rapidly gained traction for riding normal trails – and that’s where the Cooker Maxi fits in.

Charge is a demon for spotting a niche when it turns up. The Cooker Maxi manages to offer the look and feel of a proper fat bike, but comes in as a complete package for money that barely gets you a frame and fork from more niche manufacturers.

Frame and equipment: skilful corner-cutting

It’s achieved this by cutting down on the specialist kit. To give enough clearance for the 4in wide tyres, the extra wide bottom bracket does require special cranks, but they’re FSA Comets matched to SRAM’s X7 group, so you get a full 2x10-speed setup with a normal range of gears, just like on your trail bike. Instead of a super wide spacing on the rear hub, it uses a standard 135mm rear hub at the back and one of matching width up front.

The frame is made from Tange steel, so while the chunky tyres are anything but delicate, the slender tubing almost is, though at nearly 17kg, the overall weight is high. Both the frame and rigid fork are bereft of the usual number of braze on additional mounts for racks, guards and other adventure add-ons. Charge rightly assumes that most people buying a bike like this are in it for the novelty and grin factor.

Out on the trail, the cooker maxi's kooky handling calls for careful tweaking of tyre pressure:

Out on the trail, the Cooker Maxi's kooky handling calls for careful tweaking of tyre pressure

Ride and handling: a leftfield experience

There’s certainly plenty of that. From the moment you feel the sheer amount of rotating mass in those densely treaded Vee Rubber V8 tyres through the initial resistance to movement and the rumbling, bouncing progress it begins to make a short while later, it’s obvious the Cooker Maxi is anything but normal. Cornering is an odd affair, with the lack of edge tread and weight of the tyres naturally conspiring to tighten any turn. You have to be wary not to let it tuck under and they need constant input to stay on line.

It’s instantly apparent that there’s a choice and compromise to be made in terms of tyre pressure. Too much and you’ll violently rebound off smaller obstacles, not aided by the lack of compliance in the frame and fork, despite the double butted tubing. Drop the pressure and that improves, but the additional drag becomes palpable and cornering response gets even odder as the sidewalls distort. Trying jumps and pops that a more normal bike would lap up becomes entertaining simply because of the utterly unpredictable nature of the Maxi’s response. Much like the rest of the bike, it’ll have you either loving or hating it.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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