Having once been perceived as the pinnacle of mtb technology, the hardtail has now become a solid base to the sport – the trusty workhorse ready to be wheeled out at any time, no job too small, no job too big. The versatility of a hardtail is what makes it such an attraction to so many riders as their only bike and a must have in any riders armory.Words
: James McknightPhotos
In the beginning of time a grubby, smelly caveman created the wheel. From that, through an evolutionary mishmash of good and poor ideas came the bicycle, then sometime around the 1970’s someone invented the ‘mountain bike’ – the exact beginnings forgotten through a haze of drugs and love somewhere in the USA. Since the birth of our sport there has been a surprisingly rapid progression in technology, especially when you consider the laid back hippies that were and still are, responsible for the development of most of the major brands and through its so far short lifespan, mountain biking has conceived some good and some terrible products.
Riding day in, day out on varied trails necessitates a sturdy bike capable of taking the hits whilst providing a comfy ride, not weighing too much, able to rail turns and float the odd jump. Quite a tall order and perhaps impossible to find a vehicle capable of all the above without a little compromise. I recently got myself a Charge Blender hardtail and was pleasantly surprised.What Makes a Good Bike
Having ridden many bikes of different breed, designed for different purposes and marketed with countless titles pasted to their names – freeriders, downhillers, all mountainers – I now feel I have assessed what a ‘good bike’ encompasses;Angles
– subtle but very important in the makings of a good bike are the angles, get the head angle wrong and kaput. Fortunately the Blender is spot on (68degree head angle) making it a stable ride yet light feeling and fun. Bottom Bracket
– put it too far from the bars and its difficult to get the power down, put it too high loses traction. It must be a real cause of headaches for bike companies choosing the ‘perfect compromise.’ Thank god then that Charge have bothered to get it right.Components
– when buying a full bike you want to get components capable of taking the abuse that the frame has been designed to deal with. Read on.Rocket Science
– it may not be, but it is surprising how many companies can’t cope with the brain processes that it takes to design a bike. From my point of view it seems that a lot of the big brands are quick to throw out new product ranges every year, with no clear thought of how a bike will actually work when in practice.Charge Blender
It comes as a pleasant surprise that Charge and their team of riders have gone about it in a good fashion from the outset, the Blender that I bought appears to have been well thought out, tried and tested in a realistic environment and not just shoved out there as a profit making exercise.
The bike I bought was the lower key model with cheaper components, called the Blender Mid funnily enough. With daily hammerings I thought it may be a risk buying the bike with cheap components, and admittedly I made several changes, thinking about it only one change infact is that I swapped the Suntour forks for the more robust RockShox Argyle and by default had to change the front hub. That aside I have been ‘stoked’ and even ‘pumped’ on the components – chain device, small ratio cassette, strong wheels and quality finishing kit are the makings of a solid bike and a set-up that I would usually have to piece together myself.
The frame itself has been bloody well thought out with everything where it should be – the bottom bracket is in the perfect position making this beauty capable of tearing corners to shreds and getting the power down feels oh so good. Being steel she takes the hits for you giving a much more forgiving ride than any Alu frame I’ve had, but she ain’t too heavy, which is a nice surprise. Angles are spot on as mentioned previously.The Test Lab
Living in South Spain has its advantages to a mountain biker, particularly when working for a mtb company (yes I’m a smug git), the rocky loose trails and rugged mountains around Bubion serve as possibly the biggest test of any bicycle. Hammering bikes through rocks at speed, clattering down through tiny streets and hucking on a daily basis (switch-backs is Canadian owned – it comes in the job description) puts a lot of stress on components and frames, ask anyone that has been here and they’ll tell you.
So after several weeks of abuse, I can tell you now that I love this bike. The only niggle so far is a slightly bent rear mech – vulnerable at the best of times and this one is a cheapy so I’ll soon be replacing it. Aside from that I have had so much fun on it ripping round the mountains hitting rocks, corners, jumps and anything else I can throw at it at full charge with no fear of the bike being past its limits as I have felt riding other bikes recently, this bike’ll go faster down the rough stuff than a 7inch unidentified tank bike that I have been riding simply because of angles, lengths and thought put into the layout of the bike. These guys have fully taken their time to create a rider's bike, and that is refreshing to say the least.
One thing that this bike does exceedingly well is to rail round corners with what feels like endless grip, I can’t put it down to the tyres as they are designed for rolling (Kenda Small Block FR, Short Tracker Rear), not ultimate grip. All I can imagine is that Charge have done their homework and lined everything up just right, I can’t describe the grip that the bike has for a hardtail, it truly feels like mistakes are down to the rider only and I think it would be hard to push this bike to its limits on a regular basis.
: Charge Blender- Sanko Japanese Cro mo TubingSize
: One size fits all – Top Tube 21.7inch, Seat Tube 15inch.Colour
: Marzocchi Dirt Jumper 3- 100mm travel- coil sprung- preload and rebound adjustBrakes
: Tektro Auriga Comp Hydraulic Disc brakesLevers
: Tektro Auriga Comp HydraulicHeadset
: TH Hammer with oversize Cro mo lower cupStem
: Truvativ Hussefelt 31.8 40mm reachHandle bar
: Truvativ Hussefelt 31.8 50mm riseGrips
: Snafu poly gripsShift Levers
: SRAM X-GEN 8sp right hand onlyFront Derailleur
: - N/ARear Derailleur
: Sram SX-4 medium cageChain Wheel
: Truvativ HUSSEFELT 36TCrankset
: Truvativ HUSSEFELT 1.1 36T*170LCassette
: Sram PG-850 8-speed 12-23TPedal
: Wellgo LU-A52 9/16" cro-mo axleBB
: Truvativ HowitzerRims
: SUN Ditch Witch 32HTires
: Kenda Small Block - Eight 2.35 front- Short Tracker 2.1 rearFront Hub
: Joy Tech Disc 32h BlackRear Hub
: Joy Tech 32h Black 8sp/135mmSaddle
: Charge StoolSeatpost
: Micro adjust Alloy- Black 27.2mmSeat Clamp
: ClampCharge Blender
Price: Frame 249Pounds Sterling; Blender Mid 629Quid ; Blender High 899Squid.Available from
United Kingdom: Hotwheels International
t: +44 (0) 1202 732288
Japan: Love Bikes
t: +81 (0) 42 476 8454
Portugal: First Time Lda
Charge Bikes Website:
To conclude, without going into too much geeky detail, basically as you can probably tell I love this bike and to be honest I’ve been blown away by its quality for a reasonably cheap mountain bike. I haven’t had so much fun on a bike in ages and I get the feeling that’s going to continue for as long as I own this lovely piece of steel tubing.
James Mcknightwww.switch-backsdh.com www.K9industries.com www.howies.co.uk www.sixmotion.net
Shots taken by my friend Pete Derrett, keep an eye out as you’re going to be seeing a lot more from him this year!