Charge Duster 11

£1600 available from www.chargebikes.com

Rad. That’s the only word I can think of to describe the Charge Duster 11.

Rad. That’s the only word I can think of to describe the Charge Duster 11. The paint job? It’s Rad. The ride? That’s Rad. Gearing? Rad. There’s not many hardtail mountain bikes made from steel with a Shimano Alfine 11 hub around. The minimal look of a single speed but with a choice of 11 gears wide enough to get you up and down most terrain without wanting any more.

Made from Tange Prestige steel tubing the main tubes look thin. Really thin up to any equivalent Aluminium or Carbon frame and the seat stays even more so. Like pencils. Comparatively. There’s a fair amount of flex too, enough to make you wonder if it’s just going to bounce down the road and waste all your pedalling effort. However nothing prepares you for the direct feel and excitement you get in return for jumping on and pedalling off. Bombing down some local trails I found it smoothed them out nicely and the steering is just so immediate. The geometry helps but the tubing is the key factor to it’s enjoyable ride.

One thing that attracts me to this sort of bike is I think they make ideal camping bikes. You can tackle a variety of terrain and internal hubs are generally trouble free which make them ideal for long distance multi day riding. The Tange tubing though is just too flexible for it to take a heavy load which I assume is why Charge have not added eyelets for panniers. The Alfine hub is simple to setup and align and the internal hubs neat trick is that you can change gear when stopped without any pedalling. Great if you’ve stopped at the lights and had to change down. It’s not so good at changing down gears when climbing and the lever didn’t feel as good as a low end Shimano derailleur setup. I had a few scary moments when the gear slipped and my legs just span silly fast, not good, and other times the gear would grate. This was due to the alignment slipping a bit and may be down to the test bike having seen a bit of abuse. Most of the time it was smooth and quiet. Ah, that’s something you’ll notice straight away. No noise from a freewheel. It’s a bit heavier than a derailleur setup but not majorly so.

The Duster comes with a decent finishing kit, brakes are good and the suspension is comparable to other bikes in this price range. The amber wall tyres along with the metallic fleck paintwork immediatly made me think back to the late 80’s. It’s got that vibe. It’s Rad!

Verdict

The Charge Duster 11 is a simple jump on and ride the hell out of it kind of bike that will make anyone smile. I used it to commute to work on too and that was no hassle thanks to the internal hub and comfortable setup. Riding the trails during the summer it excelled. If you get bored of the hub you can set it up as a single speed easily enough with the help of the eccentric bottom bracket. At £1600 it costs more than you think it would but is comparable to other manufacturers and can now be found with a good discount. Looking for a hardtail that's easy to live with, bags of fun to ride and distinctive? This is it.

Rating

Review date: 12 January 2013

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Comments

  • By David Hall

    Outstanding work once again guys. Love this rig. I’ve always contemplated going back to my roots and building a ‘retro’ mountain bike since my agenda is fire roads and hardpack so the simplicity and ease of this and the ‘vibe’ as you mention would be perfect.

    Reply

    • By Dan Post author

      Thanks David, you should definitely build one and you’re right, they’re perfect for that kind of terrain. Let us know if you do, would love to see it.

      Reply

  • By simon cave

    I just read this review of the Duster and was wondering if you could advise me whether it is good at climbing hills (road or bridleway (etc.) without the derailleur set-up. Thank you for any help.
    Simon

    Reply

    • By Steve

      A lot would depend on your fitness, the range of the hub is pretty good but you might struggle on longer steeper climbs. Do you know what gear you push on different climbs?

      Reply

  • By Wayne

    I really want to build a duster skinny for a retro looking rigid bike. Problem is I am 100kg!! Bike will be used for commuting and light cross country. Will the frame hold up under my fat Ar$e?

    Reply

    • By Steve

      Hi, Hmm. Yes it would take 100kgs but, I’m not sure you would enjoy it that much. If we presume that at 100kg you have some good strong legs then I think you might find the narrow diameter tubes a bit noodley and not really give you a very direct feeling with the bike and terrain. Our Dan reviewed this bike and he is (compared to you and I) on the skinny side so his subjectiveness will yield a different result. Bloody nice looking bike though!

      Reply

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