In a similar vein to the Genesis Croix de Fer recently tested, Charge's Filter Hi is a do it all commuter, light tourer and part time crosser. Drop bars, discs, huge tyre clearances, mounts for mudguards and rack all tip a nod to the mile muncher who's happy to keep the pedals spinning whatever the weather.
While it never really went away steel is back en vogue and Charge is certainly running with it. Every one of their road models is made from it with the Filter Hi specifically using Tange Infinity tubing, a seamless, double butted cromo. Steel is always renowned for the way it rides and the Filter Hi's Tange frame is no different. It's a supple feeling, almost elastic while still feeling stiff enough for purpose meaning you can spend hours in the saddle without taking a battering.
As mentioned above there is a full complement of mounts for guards and rack while the mount for the rear disc calliper is on the seatstay to provide clearance if you do fancy a bit of load carrying. The fork is a Tange steel cyclocross version even though with its thin straight legs it's hard to believe it'll resist all the forces under hard braking from the disc.
The geometry is pretty relaxed at 71.5° for the headtube and 73° for the seat (54cm/medium) and this leads to a very stable predictable ride. Even on descents the Charge turns in with little fuss and holds a line very well regardless of speed, I had it up nudging 45mph at one point and apart from a bit of under steer from the tyre everything was pretty drama free.
The Charge comes in just a penny shy of the usual thousand pound bike to work scheme limit and for your cash you get a decent amount of kit. Tiagra groupset with an FSA Omega chainset, Pro-Max DSK-715 cable operated discs, Alex XD Lite rims and Kenda Kwick Tracx 28mm tyres. The finishing kit is all Charge logoed stuff, alloy oversized bars and stem, alloy seatpost and their highly regarded Spoon saddle. There are only 4 sizes in the range XS-L with top tube lengths of 51-56cm.
The majority of the test miles were done commuting in all sorts of conditions. Flood water up to the bottom bracket, high winds, snow, no matter what, we've got through – with varying levels of success I might add. The gear cables are run along the top of the top tube, ideal if you fancy a go at a bit of cyclocross as it makes the bike easier to shoulder but it also keeps everything out of the road spray and mud.
One component that has stood out through all of this is the disc brakes. Whatever your view on a drop bar/disc combo the amount of modulation and performance in crappy weather makes them the perfect choice for this style of bike. Being able to control your speed downhill in two inches of snow unlike the cars in front of me, even when you're on slick tyres was the highlight of my January. The Pro-Max callipers use the same pads as SRAM's BB5 so a ready stock of replacements should be easy to find whether at your LBS or online. The rotors are 160mm front and rear and as I've mentioned modulation is very good as is the overall performance wet or dry, you can pull up very quickly with very little chance of a lock up. The rear cable runs below the down tube but is fully enclosed from the lever to calliper while the front runs down the fork leg. Small braze ons the length of the cables keep things tidy.
This sets the theme with regards to the rest of the kit, it's all functional with a proven background and is there to be reliable rather than flash. The Alex XD wheels took an absolute pounding crashing through invisible water filled potholes in the dark with a bit of rough canal path chucked in for good measure and not a single complaint. This is all with the Kenda tyres pumped up to their max 85psi pressure. Kenda's Kwik Tracx tyres seem to offer very little in the way of rolling resistance and corner way better than I thought they would. They're still in great nick as well even after 1000 miles of back lanes and canal path showing no signs of cuts or a single puncture. The reflective sidewall is a nice touch for night riding as well.
Shimano's 10 speed Tiagra provides a decent level of shifting for the cost. As I've mentioned on other bike reviews the shifting can be a little vague and the gear indicator is pretty pointless but it doesn't mind getting covered in road crap and continues to work pretty well when it does. Experience shows it lasts well too especially as a winter groupset. An Omega compact deals with shifting at the front and as with all of FSA's cranksets it's a decent performer and matches the Charge with its silver finish. Rather than the usual 50-34 combination this uses a 46-36 paired with an 11-28 cassette at the rear, the gearing may sound low but I didn't once wish I had a 50 on the front. Due to the 25.8lb/11.7kg weight of the bike, speed is scrubbed off as soon as you hit the slightest incline, and having the 46 on the front means you can just flick up and down the cassette for small increments rather than the huge 16 tooth jump provided by a 50/34. You will run out of gearing at about 30mph but it's a sacrifice I'm happy to make especially if you're load carrying.
Finishing things off are the Charge components of which the handlebars, stem and seatpost are a weight reducing exercise replacing the 2012 model's FSA items. The anatomic bars are very comfortable providing plenty of hand positions and I found myself using the drops quite a bit. The Spoon saddle is a favourite of mine, I run one on my own commuting bike and even though it's covered around 7000 miles so far it's still looking good. The brown version found here on the Filter ties in nicely with the leather look bar tape. It's not the most padded or comfortable but should wear well. The mudguards are custom for the Filter and although not entirely full length like SKS' Chromoplastics they do keep a surprising amount of road spray off of your feet. Once fitted and adjusted they remain in place and are largely rattle free, tolerances are tight width wise with the 28mm tyres but there is plenty of clearance above which should mean things shouldn't get trapped between guard and tyre.
Overall the Filter Hi is a nice ride, the frame is comfortable and certainly stiff enough for what it's designed for. As a commuter it ticks all the right boxes with regards to guards and rack fittings plus the ability to change to larger knobbly tyres to take on snow or towpaths making it a real four season bike. It is heavy though and while it rolls well on the flat even slight changes in terrain will see you scrabbling around through the gears trying to keep the pace up plus if you have a stop start commute the constant acceleration from a stand still takes its toll. It handles well though with predictable steering and an overall relaxed feel to it, so as long as you're not in a hurry to get to your destination it'll be an enjoyable trip.
Well built, well specced four season commuter and light tourer but on the heavy side.
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Make and model: Charge Filter Hi (2013)
Size tested: 55cm
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Tange Infinty Double Butted Cromo Steel
Fork: Tange steel cyclocross
Chainset: FSA Omega 36/46
Cassette: Tiagra 10spd 12/28
Shifters: Tiagra 10spd
Brakes: Pro-Max DSK-715 discs, 160mm rotors
Tyres: Kenda Kwick Tracx 28mm slicks
Wheels: Alex XD Lite 700c
Saddle: Charge Spoon
Seatpost: Charge alloy 27.2
Stem: Charge alloy
Handlebars: Charge O/S alloy
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Charge say "The steel framed Filter has a more relaxed cross geometry, making it the perfect commuting machine. Seamless butted Tange Infinty tubing keeps the frame light and responsive, perfect for smoothing out the potholes and canal towpaths on your daily grind."
Well I tried all that and it did what it says on the tin, not sure about the 'light' frame though.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Well put together and a good paint finish
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Tange Infinity steel which is double butted and seamless
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Everything you need is here: http://chargebikes.com/products/filter-hi/
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Fit was good, the medium we tested has a 54cm top tube which is pretty much the norm.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, that steel feel is there.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yeah, there were no issues. Its not a performance machine so stiffness isn't such a major concern.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Power transfer is fine - it's just heavy to get moving
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Yes, not really a problem though.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? very neutral
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
handling is suprisingly good from a performance point of you. Very reassuring and predictable.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The Spoon saddle is comfortable while still offering a firm perch.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The bars and stem keep things tight. The fork is stiff and resists braking forces very well.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Tyres = good, weight = bad.
It does accelerate okay but it hurts.
Not what its about but good for its weight.
low gears and good position let you tap it out
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Tiagra is very workmanlike, no frills but it does its job. Hardwearing too.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
The wheels are bombproof and roll well and the tyres are much the same. Dependable if you've got a long trip planned.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
It all works well as Charge stuff always does.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes if it fitted my needs.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Age: 34 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Ribble Winter Trainer for commuting, Genesis Flyer My best bike is: Sarto Rovigo
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!