Few brands pay more attention to being on-trend than Charge, and with the Filter Hi the English velo fashionistas have created a crisp-looking steel cyclo-cross/commuter bike that manages to be both contemporary and retro. While not all the trimmings are that practical, it's a smoothly versatile ride.
- Highs: Super-stylish all-round steel roadster that mixes the latest disc brake technology with retro British charm
- Lows: Hefty weight, and tight fitting mudguards – even when using narrow tyres
- Buy if: You want a stylish alternative commuter, light tourer or winter bike and aren't interested in taking it off-road
The mix of clean single-colour tubes with chrome-effect details and car-sticker-style GB logo evokes all the right feelings of British greatness. For those who know their steel plumbing history, Tange also have a rich heritage, particularly in mountain biking. While the main tube diameters are thin, the actual wall thickness of the butted Ultimate tubes is enough to give the bike a more direct ride feel than you'd expect.
While the steel frame and fork weight look sky high compared with alloy bikes in this category, the fact that there's no front mech rub or obvious softness between crank and back wheel is enough to encourage your efforts. There's also less twang and twitch through the tapered fork if you really haul on the brakes, and steering accuracy and speed is snappier than on a lot of retro steel rides.
The unsurprising flipside is a more jarring ride quality on cyclepaths or off-road sections. Most of the buzz transmission we felt through our hands could be blamed on the thin, unpadded cloth bar tape, but thankfully Charge have now upgraded this to their gel-backed imitation leather, which also matches the saddle.
With their tyre and mudguard choice, Charge have steered the Filter firmly in an urban rather than all-terrain direction. The reflective strip tyres, alloy 'guards, rear reflector and blackout regulation white-painted tail are a nice cosmetic touch, and great for winter commuting.
The 28mm tyre size means a firm ride on rougher surfaces, though. Despite the small size, clearance under the mudguards is limited, meaning we never achieved a rub-free fit for long. Gravelly tracks meant a constant scrape as grit was dragged around.
The disc brakes stop consistently whatever the weather, though, and mounting on the chainstay rather than seatstay means no interference with rear rack mounts. The 2011 Filter Hi was priced at £1,199, so at £999.99 the 2012 model represents great value.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.