British company Charge started out in 2004, with three off-road bikes, designed in the UK, built in the Far East and sold at highly competitive prices. The Plug was conceived in 2006, influenced by the customised courier bikes lean-locked all over the pavements of London. The aim, Charge says, was to build a distinctive bike that had classic looks.
Charge says it was a conscious decision to spec all-silver components, going against the trend for black (or white). The idea was that the Plug would provide a blank canvas for riders to customise their bikes. Charge particularly wanted the frame to be as clean as possible, so there are no cable stops, mudguard eyelets or rack mounts.
The Plug is made of Tange plain-gauge steel tubing. That’s right — it’s not light, but it’s very tough. The skinny-look tubes disguise the bike’s actual heft. Although the Plug vaguely suggests velodrome, geometry is quite different from a track bike’s. Built for the street, the size medium we tested has a 54.5cm top tube — something that puzzled us, but the idea is so the rider sits more upright in traffic.
The seat angle is a common or garden road bike’s 73deg, but the head angle is slacker, at 71deg.
Charge wanted the Plug to handle more predictably in traffic and most importantly to avoid toe overlap. The bottom bracket, at 27.2mm, is low enough for you to get your feet down whenever you’re not doing track stands at the lights, but high enough to avoid grounding pedals when cornering. Rear dropouts are spaced to 120mm.
The chromoly fork is straight, and while the head angle is slack, steering is positive and direct.
The Plug comes with a flip-flop hub, so you can run it fixed or singlespeed, 42×16 (70.8in) for both, which is a ratio that will get you up the hills, but will require you to twiddle on the flats and downs. The crankset is a Sugino RD2 Messenger with 170mm cranks and an industrial-looking solid chainring.
The wheels are Alex 32-hold rims on attractive large-flange Formula hubs. Supplied tyres are Kenda 28mm — a bit unnecessarily thick and heavy, and you’d probably want to swap these for something faster rolling, unless you’re regularly riding through a bottlebank.
Basic Tektro front and rear brakes are supplied, with old-school top-tube cable clips, so that if you’re running the fixed sprocket and want to take the back brake off, there are no redundant bosses.
The Charge Spoon saddle, which is apparently a massive commercial success on its own, matches the leather-look bar tape on Charge’s own bullhorn bar.
The bar and brake set-up takes some
getting used to — you don’t have access to the levers when you’re on the horns — and fixed fashion has moved on from bullhorn bars to flat bars anyway (as found on the Plug Grinder and the Plug Freestyler).
The Charge is incredibly good value for money at £499. For a bike at that price, expectations would usually be low, but actually it’s a great bike that looks cool and rides well. We haven’t had ours for long enough to find out, but judging by the amount of Plugs you see out and about, they are perfectly suited to hacking in and out of work, every day, all year round.