Named in typical Charge style after a kitchen implement, the Zester shows the company's off-road roots; it's a flat-barred bike with 700C tyres designed for the urban jungle.
We're told the Zester is Charge's more affordable sloping-top-tubed take on the Mixer and Tap bikes, with similar geometry and modern looks. Costs are reduced by the aluminium rather than steel frame and lack of features such as hydroforming.
There are some interesting spec choices that belie the comparatively modest price. We've really appreciated SRAM's Apex groupset on road bikes, but for many of us it was the first time we'd used it with a flat bar.
The result was that even on our steep local hills and with the Zester's quite heavy wheels we could climb comfortably thanks to the saucer-sized 32T inner sprocket and 34T inner chainring combo. At the other end of the spectrum the 50T outer ring and 11T sprocket mean you can really power along on the flats or descents.
We had no problems stopping on the descents either, thanks to the hydraulic disc brakes. These are powerful and extremely quick to bite, offer loads of control and will work just as well if your rims have been banged out of shape. SRAM's X7 mountain bike hubs have cartridge bearings, ran smoothly during testing and should prove durable. The super wide bar won't appeal to all, but Charge tells us it specced the width deliberately.
They think a lot of off-roaders will appreciate it, while those who like narrower bars can have it trimmed at purchase. This will make the Zester much handier if you like to zip through narrow gaps in traffic. Production models will be a darker blue than our early version, with decals under the lacquer. Component-wise, the only change is that it'll come with Continental Contact tyres.
There's also a similar lower priced model called the Scourer, with Shimano Sora kit and mechanical disc brakes. This looks like even better value but we think the Zester will appeal to people looking for a quirky bike that's practical for day-to-day use with fantastic brakes and good enough kit for climbing and longer rides.