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Charge Plug 5 review

26 Jul 2016
Verdict:

The Charge Plug 5, top tier in the diverse Plug series, is a titanium-framed, fat-tyred adventure bike.

Charge may be better known for its single-speed town bikes and aftermarket saddles, but the British brand is expanding and has some major changes and additions to its product lines. While the Cooker range caters for mountain bikers, and the Grater for the leisure cyclist-cum-commuter, the Plug range’s boundaries are a little harder to define.

The Plug 0 is a single-speed, bullhorn-handlebarred affair while the Plug 1 gains cantilever brakes, drop bars and rack eyelets. As the range develops, disc brakes emerge alongside double chain rings, until we arrive at the Plug 5 – an all-singing, all-dancing titanium affair costing, as near as makes no difference, £2,500.

Frame

charge plug 5 rack mounts

That outlay gets you a double-butted titanium frame with carbon fork, a SRAM Rival 1x11 drivetrain and SRAM HRD hydraulic disc brakes. The build comes with Alex disc rims and whopping 42mm Maxxis Roamer tyres, laced to in-house Charge hubs. Charge finishing kit is also employed for the bars, stem and seatpost.

Given that Charge reckons the Plug is good for anything from simple commutes to epic adventures, we put it through its paces in a good range of riding experiences. Commutes, group rides, and a touring weekend in the Peak District were all covered, and the Charge proved its capabilities as a do-it-all with aplomb.

charge plug 5 headtube

The frame is listed as double-butted 3/2.5 titanium on Charge’s website, which means it’s blended with 3% aluminium and 2.5% vanadium. That’s completely normal, and the decision to make the frame titanium (as opposed to steel) is a welcome choice, not least because of the difference in weight, but also in the ride quality itself, with the Plug 5 offering the subtle classiness of titanium – a quality that’s hard to define, but noticeable when felt. There’s more verve than most steel frames are able to offer, but without the harsh rigidity you can get with carbon. If steel is real, titanium is real with zeal and that’s evident in the Plug 5.

Both out of the saddle efforts and seated, big power pushes felt a lot speedier than on your average ‘adventure’ bike, with the frame offering a really solid pedalling platform on which to put the watts through. The fork, meanwhile, with its exceedingly chunky nature and accompanying stiffness, performs as you’d expect in guiding the bike through corners: confident and firm.

Tyres

charge plug 5 rear derailleur

We were originally a little suspicious of the 42mm Maxxis tyres, thinking that a tyre this wide might be of more use if it were knobbly, or alternatively kept slick and trimmed down a little. Does the 42mm slick have a bit of an identity crisis? While the jury is still out to an extent, we certainly came around to them, finding them very stable and secure on both tarmac and gravel roads.

With a few extra psi the Charge could keep up with all but the fastest roadies, but with a little air let out it felt fun, bouncy and truck-like in return, able to steamroller anything in its path. We did swap the tyres out for a set of 25mm Vittoria Corsas during the test, and while the bike certainly felt a lot more ‘roady’, it lost that element of stability and also the fun that the Maxxis’ were able to offer.

Groupset

charge plug 5 chainset

The 1x11 SRAM Rival drivetrain is well engineered, and also well placed, on the Plug, cutting down on weight and boosting simplicity with the negation of a front derailleur, but not compromising on gear ratios by nature of the 10-42 cassette.

Admittedly we found ourselves spinning out when really putting the Plug through its paces at speed, but there were no issues at all when going uphill thanks to the 42.

Elsewhere, there are smaller details to happily remind the user that this is indeed an adventure bike, such as the ability to carry a luggage rack at the rear, as well as eyelets for mudguards. The fact that both brake and gear cables remain cased for the duration of their routing on the underside of the downtube and the rear of the fork blade is another hint that this bike has been designed to withstand being ridden through all sorts.

charge plug 5 shifter

If there is a sticking point, we see it being the price. At £2,499 the Plug 5 isn't cheap, especially not considering that for most buyers a bike like this would likely be a ‘second’ bike to accompany a more specific road model. It’s the titanium that you're paying for, and we have to say that in many ways it’s worth it, so we think the Plug 5 will find many a happy owner – first, second, third bike or otherwise.

Don’t let anybody tell you that Charge is only good for fixies and town bikes. With the Plug 5, it's proven itself to be capable of so much more.

Spec

Charge Plug 5

Frame

Double butted titanium. Carbon fork

Groupset

SRAM Rival 1x11

Brakes

SRAM Rival HRD

Chainset

SRAM S350 40t

Cassette

SRAM XG 1150 10-42

Bars

Charge Compact Lite

Stem

Charge Lite

Seatpost

Charge 3D Lite

Wheels

Alex Draw rims, Charge Lite Disc hubs, Maxxis Roamer 42mm tyres

Saddle

Fabric Scoop Flat Elite

Contact

chargebikes.com
Price: 
£2499

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