When my local bike shop, Ride, held a recent demo day, I ran into all sorts of interesting people and saw all sorts of interesting things.
Top of the list was a prototype 650b bike from Charge, rocking a prototype of the Scoop saddle Charge hope will rack up as many sales as their hugely successful Spoon perch.
I caught up with Ash Clark from Charge to get the low down on the latest machine set to join the 650b party.
The steel model we photographed, equipped with a 100mm fork, is a “v1 prototype", one of a handful made so far, but which Clark told us had shown plenty of early promise.
“We’ve got a slightly slacker head angle on it than we have with the 29er bike, which personally I like. It’s a little bit more trail biased," he said.
“We’re almost there, I think. Going off our 29er geometry was a good thing rather than going off the 26 so much. We’re quite happy with it at the moment."
When I spoke to Clark, the 650b remained nameless, but a few monikers are under consideration, including one from Charge’s past.
It's a machine designed for the Asian market where the demand for small frames with bigger wheels makes 650b an obvious solution. Riders in Japan, Malaysia and South Korea are likely to be offered frame-only and complete bike options, the latter equipped with an entry-level Shimano Deore 10-speed set-up with a Rock Shox XC32 fork. This machine will not appear in Europe, North Amercia, or the UK however. “No bikes for this side of the water," said Clark.
The prototype I photographed, equipped with “fairly bulky" WTB rims and a Rock Shox revelation fork cut down to 100mm by TF Tuned, has a steel chassis, but a Ti variant is also under consideration. Although the bike apparently won't be available in the UK, I am reasonably certain that at least a frame-only version will be. Keep an eye on Charge for more.
Chassis aside, the most interesting feature on Charge’s prototype 650b bike was the saddle, itself a prototype of the new Scoop model, set to hit the shops this summer.
Taking its inspiration from the gazillion-selling Spoon, the Scoop has a base made from a mix of polypropylene and nylon fibre to save weight, and two rail options: chromoly or Ti.
While the swoopy silhouette makes the Scoop a looker, Clark is proudest of its underside, one he describes as “really clean" and refreshingly free of “bumpers, bolts, staples, and clutter".
Clark declared the saddle “amazingly comfortable". “So far we’re really pleased with it," he said. “There’s plenty of flex in it." Coming to a shop near you this summer, expect to pay £44.99 for the chromoly-railed version and £59.99 for Ti.
The final item of interest on the Charge stand was Clark’s commuting steed, a 2012 Filter Apex ‘cross bike with some, ahem, bespoke alterations to accommodate a Di2 Alfine hub gear Shimano had asked Charge to test.
“I took my old 2012 commuting bike, drilled some holes in it, and did some internal cable routing. A bit Steptoe and Son really, but it turned out quite nicely," he joked.
While Charge has no plans to put an Alfine Di2-equipped model into production – Clark describes the bike as a ‘mess around’, all part of a healthy process of experimentation – it is by no means the end of the line for electronic shifting on Charge bikes.
“We will be looking to do something a little bit more special with the Di2 system for Eurobike," he revealed.
If you don't recognise the colour of the Charge Knife saddle mounted on Clark's Apex, or the handlebar tape, that's because they're new.
Dom Thomas of Genesis Bikes was another of Ride’s distinguished guests. While the Genesis rack was filled with model year 2013 machinery likely to be familiar to Bike Magic readers, Thomas let slip a few details on machinery to be unveiled this summer.
The High Latitude LT, a 650b machine Thomas described as a “medium-level steel frame for aggressive riding" will be revealed later this year at a venue to be confirmed.
Thomas revealed some of its distinguishing features, which include a 130mm fork, dropper seat post routing, a low bottom bracket and a short chainstays. Watch this space.