The Duster SS is Charge’s first single-geared cross-country mountain bike, and it's one of the best off-the-peg singlespeed offerings we’ve tried.
A quality steel frame and fork make it less punishing than most, but still leave the emphasis on picking the smoothest lines you can find to maintain momentum.
Handling is superb; it can be a bit of a struggle on steep ups and a bit frustrating on pedally downs but its very pleasing on fast-rolling singletrack. Generous mud clearances and a low-maintenance parts setup make the SS an ideal winter/second bike.
Ride & handling: Tough, simple and classy rigid-forked singlespeed
The beauty of a sprightly singlespeed bike is the silent simplicity. The simplicity of a rigid fork can be a curse as much as a blessing, depending on your attitude.
You’ll need to use all your upper body suppleness to temper the punishment as you steer, hoist and ﬂick your way through the rocks and roots, especially on descents when you’re braking at the front and the fork is trying to ﬂex back.
The long reach stance of the SS works well with the rigid fork though, allowing you to ride ﬂat-backed on rapid singletrack and to climb fast and efficiently – sometimes just because you have to in order to keep the 2:1 gear turning.
Tyre grip is superb, but most of the rigid bike fans on our test team use WTB’s 2.55in WeirWolfs for the softening effect of their extra height and fast rolling character.
Frame: Sprightly chassis with good attention to detail
Charge are one of the few companies to use Tange’s excellent steel tubes. The SS uses double-butted Tange Infinity so you get the sprightly ride feel that characterises top-quality steel tubing.
None of the tubes use fancy profiling, just clean lines with reinforcements where appropriate: the head tube is ﬂare-butted for extra strength around the Cane Creek headset cups and there’s a tidy open-end gusset underneath the down tube.
There’s a forward-facing seat slot to keep the spray out and two sets of bottle bosses. We like the neat cowled dropouts and bolt-pinched (so no creaking) eccentric bottom bracket too.
A grey paintjob complements the SS's subtly understated clutter-free looks, and the rigid forked geometry is dialled in to accept a 100mm-travel suspension fork if you prefer that approach.
Equipment: Low-maintenance kit will keep you rolling
All the Duster’s componentry choices are tough middleweight items, resulting in an overall bike heft of just under 25lb (11.3kg) before you add pedals.
The wheels are well-built offerings with a one-sprocket cassette hub, wrapped in grippy soft-knobbed 2.1in WTB ExiWolfs.
Other parts highlights include the Truvativ rock-ringed crankset and Auriga Comp disc brakes – they’re cheap but very good, although they take a few rides to develop a real bite.