Charge Bikes and Fabric 2018 - First Look
Two of the most stylish British bike brands, Charge Bikes and Fabric, owe their direction and success to the design-conscious and highly ambitious Nick Larsen, the founder and director of both a bike brand and growing saddle and accessories brand that have each carved their place in the UK market. At the first UK edition of the Grinduro, an event formed by Giro that mixes gravel riding with enduro timed stages and ridden by competitors on everything from fat bikes to gravel and mountain bikes, the two brands unveiled their latest 2018 products. I was there to ride this unusual event, and to take a closer look at what you can expect to see from these two brands soon.
You can check out more about Charge Bikes from this industry insider article.
Charge Bikes - Steel Frames and 29" Wheels are Back
Charge launched back in 2005 and have enjoyed success over the years in different areas of the cycling market, most noticeably with the Plug, which tapped into the fixie scene before evolving into a more traditional drop bar road bike in recent years. Mountain biking has and always will be close to founder Nick’s heart, and the Cooker has been the mainstay mountain bike offering, a hardtail that has evolved and been refined over the years to keep up with industry trends. The big news for the 2018 Cooker is the switch back to 29” wheels - the Cooker had previously been designed around big wheels before going down the 27.5” Plus path two years ago. Charge feels 29” wheels are right for the style of riding its hardtails are designed for, and that’s arguably old school cross-country, with a side order of fun. Add to that the fact that 29” wheels are back in fashion and 27.5” Plus growth has slowed somewhat and it could be good timing for the switch. The two smallest frame sizes get 27.5” wheels.
Charge showed us prototype frames, and while they’re still making a few refinements before they’re production ready, they provide a good indication of what the finalized bikes will look like. The brand switched to aluminum frames two years ago, but it’s back to steel tubing, a material that it feels is what Charge is best known for and this style of hardtail. There's still a massive appetite for dependable steel hardtails here in the UK. The new frame is made from skinny tubed Tange Champion No.3 steel and features a tapered head tube and Boost rear axle. The seat tube is designed to accept a 30.9mm dropper post with stealth routing, and a threaded external bottom bracket is a welcome sight. Cables are externally routed, which, while perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing as internally routed cables, does provide easy maintenance.The geometry is slacker than last year’s bike and intended to give the Cooker all-round appeal. It’s designed around a 120mm fork with a 67.5-degree head angle, 640mm top tube on the size large and 435mm chainstays. Charge is still finalizing the production frames so we’ll have more geometry details and the size range nearer the time of the full launch.
The company won’t be officially releasing the bikes until the start of 2018, which does mean a bit of a wait if you want to get your hands on one. That also means it hasn’t firmed up the final specs and prices yet, although we do know there will be three or four builds, with a rigid and singlespeed option alongside the SRAM 1x11 versions pictured on this page, with WTB tires and rims and RockShox forks. We'll have more details nearer the full range launch at the end of the year.
A resurrected name, the Cleaver has been reborn as a klunker/hack bike intended to put the fun back into cycling. It was developed off the back of Nick Larsen building a bike for the Hack Bike Derby, an invitational event that challenged frame builders to build a bike evocative of mountain biking’s early klunkers and race them down a hill in Somerset in the UK.The Cleaver follows the design direction of that style of bike, with a steel frame built around 26” wheels with a twin-tube downtube and 800mm wide swept back handlebars, and just one gear and a coaster brake (a front brake will be sold with production bikes) and bear trap pedals - watch out shins!
It’s a bike that you shouldn’t take too seriously, it’s intended to be fun whether that’s hooning around the woods pulling massive skids or bombing around town - it would be the ultimate pub bike for sure. And at £399 it’s not going to break the bank either. I can see a space in my garage for it already…
Fabric's 2018 Range Gets More Affordable
Launched by Nick Larsen a few years ago off the back of the success of the now iconic Spoon saddle, which first saw the light of day in 2007, Fabric is intended to house his ambition to create a separate accessories and components brand. Fabric aren't just about pretty products, although smart design is obviously high on the agenda, but also about offering a functional advantage over other products currently on the market, and a large part of that comes down to seeking out suitable manufacturing partners That’s why they’ve worked with footwear manufacturers to develop the novel Cell saddle with pyramid air pockets, and aircraft manufacturer Airbus to create the ALM, a titanium printed leaf sprung saddle, rather than just relying on the traditional bike factories.
For 2018, Fabric has produced the new Scoop Sport, which at £29.99 is their most affordable saddle ever, and is intended to make owning a Scoop more accessible. It looks like a regular Scoop, with the same vacuum bonded upper and three-piece design, but it has a slightly different construction with a polypropylene base, instead of the nylon found on the more expensive Scoop saddles in order to keep the cost down.
Proper air pressure is critical for getting the best performance out of your tires and bike, and the new Acubar Pressure Gauge (£44.99) is Fabric’s solution. It’s a high precision gauge that is accurate up to 0.5psi and has a range of 0 to 40psi. It can be used with a regular pump or on its own to check pressure, with a dump valve to bleed out the pressure. According to Fabric, the use of high-quality steel springs and pushing their manufacturing partners to deliver the highest quality possible allowed them to achieve such a high level of accuracy.
If you need a new track pump the Stratosphere Sport Track Pump (£30) uses lower grade materials, but at no expense to the high-quality appearance, to offer a more affordable version of the premium pumps it launched last year. It has a long hose with a thumb lever head and is rated up to 160psi.
Pinkbike's Paul Aston was impressed with Fabric’s novel Cageless Water Bottle two years ago, but for 2018 there’s now a regular water bottle called the Gripper (£9.99). With bottles making a comeback in certain corners of mountain biking these will have some appeal. Available in two sizes, 600 and 750ml, the bottles have a very squeezable plastic with a smart gripper finish around the top, to prevent slippage. The opening is wide enough to allow easy cleaning and the closable nozzle delivers a very generous flow of liquid.
More at www.fabric.cc
Photos ©Russell Burton