Charge Plug Grinder review£549.99

Simple all-weather commuter

BikeRadar score4/5

The Plug is an old favourite at BikeRadar – one of the machines that brought the cool side of fixed bikes to the masses – and the Grinder adds the extra versatility of colour-matched mudguards, making it a viable commuter bike all year round.

The ride in this spec takes a little getting used to, and the steering feels steeper and snappier than the 71-degree head angle would suggest. We put this down to the narrow flat handlebar and 11cm zero-rise stem counteracting the relatively relaxed geometry.

At first we had reservations about using a bar that’s not quite as wide as our shoulders, but we soon found ourselves cutting through traffic, the super-narrow bars making gridlock a fun challenge rather than a stop-start chore. To coin a cliché, the Grinder turns on a sixpence.

The plain gauge frame keeps it solid and surefooted, while the tapered chromoly fork keeps smooth over rough surfaces – the fact there was little or no noise from the full guards is testament to this.

The saddle is Charge’s Spoon, a favourite of ours, and the drivetrain is as simple as it gets. The 42T chainring and 16T rear cog combo give a 71in gear, spot on for fixed. The rear hub is flip-flop, meaning that the hub has threads on both sides.

Tektro R536 brakes, controlled by cyclo-cross-style levers, offer competent stopping power, if not the all-out braking power of high priced models, though the short levers do offer good modulation from one-fingered pulls.

We used the Grinder for the daily grind and on weekend jaunts of anything from a couple of towpath miles to the pub to 20-mile-plus runs. It’s great for most of these things; the only downside is the bars. While great in traffic, their narrowness means there’s little choice of hand position, something you start to notice after 15 miles.

One other niggle is with the mudguards. If you get a rear puncture you’ll need to undo the stays to remove the wheel, which is a bit of a faff. Fitting something akin to SKS’s Secu-Clip releases would be a perfect and simple solution.

The wheels are simple Alex rims built onto large flange Formula track hubs, which are themselves a simple cup-and-cone design but they work well and are straightforward to maintain. Tyres are Continental Sport Contacts, hardwearing and with reasonable puncture protection.

Yes, this is a cool-looking bike – which is the first thing that impressed us – but there’s substance here too. It’s superbly designed, the geometry works, the equipment is solid and workable, and the ride exciting and, above all, fun. For short urban commutes up to about 10 miles it’s great and, put simply, we want one.

Charge plug grinder: charge plug grinder
Charge plug grinder: charge plug grinder

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