For 2013, culinary preparation fanatic Charge has dramatically streamlined its range and subdivided it into just three categories: Plug for on road, Cooker for off-piste and the Grater range for everything in between.
This does mean that the rather iconic Charge Mixer, one of the first Alfine-hubbed urban bikes to ever appear in the UK, is no more. But Charge hasn’t abandoned the Mixer’s ethos entirely and the Grater 3 tops the brand’s hybrid range, with an Alfine eight-speed offering.
It has to be said, when it comes to naming bikes and bike parts, it’s hard not to have one or two preconceptions about such uncomfortable sounding monikers. We’re thankful we’re not being made to perch on Charge’s ‘Knife’ saddle, but the Grater does sound, well, rather abrasive. The bike that arrived for testing, however, was a bit of a smoothie, immediately winning favour with its pearlescent grey paintwork and a set of mudguards that are unusual, beautiful and very useful, all at the same time.
The Grater’s single-ring set-up is driven by the Shimano Alfine eight-speed gear hub. Truvativ chainset aside, there’s a full matching groupset here – sprocket, hub gear and shifter – for a tried and tested long lasting and low maintenance set of gears.
The Alfine eight, despite the relatively low number of gears, gives a really useable spread, though the gaps between them can be quite large, particularly the larger jump between gears four and five. By opting for the fairly small-ringed 38t Truvativ chainset, Charge has kept the gearing pretty low. This means it’s easy to keep the Grater moving briskly through the urban jungle, even on the occasional killer climb, but fitter riders will find themselves topping out of gears on the flats and being forced to cruise without pedalling on the downhills. It’s a laid-back, low-effort kind of ride.
Alfine and dandy
But then again, the Grater has a rather more relaxed attitude overall than its predecessor the Mixer. Gone is the Mixer’s tight, fixie-style geometry in favour of more relaxed angles and a slender, wider bar. Fat, puncture-resistant tyres, hydraulic disc brakes and a rust-resistant chain add to its low maintenance appeal, plus those rather unique mudguards that elegantly blend into the bike’s styling.
Contact points did split opinion. The vaunted Charge Spoon is a classic budget saddle that has won much deserved acclaim, but the thin, dense and textured Griddle grips left us with sore, numb palms after long rides.
The frame is cleverly built with a hub gear in mind, so it has an eccentric bottom bracket to make removing and refitting the rear wheel, plus tensioning the chain correctly, as hassle-free as possible.
Just because the Grater’s styling is all practicality with a dash of urban elegance doesn’t mean it’s sluggish on the road, though. The ride has the feel of a really quite efficient and sporty hybrid, though the ride position is very upright, as you’d expect.
The Grater actually rides exceptionally light for a hub-geared bike and other than being able to shift through five gears from a standstill, should you wish, you'll forget the Alfine hub is even there. The light feel is aided by the very skinny bar which makes things feel nice and lively up front, although many riders might want to cut down the generous width a touch to get it through the shed door more easily. Charge has bountiful experience in the urban hybrid market and it really shows here with the Grater. At this price, it's a potent combination of practicality and longevity, with a dash of urban chic.