Charge Bikes have a reputation for doing things with a certain style so it should come as no surprise that they've produced their own range of bike wear that you'd be happy to wear when you're not on your bike too. Among the garments in their first collection are trousers, shorts, a technical wool jacket, long and short sleeved technical t-shirts, a hoodie and a packable, lightweight windproof. All the clothes are made from technical fabrics and all will carry the Surface brand name.
Centrepiece of the range is a pair of jeans made from a fabric they are calling 'Liquistretch', a water-repellent material with a four-way stretch – that gives more in the vertical than the horizontal plane for comfortable pedalling – and just as importantly, looks like a normal trouser fabric.
Cut is classic jean-style but for extra riding comfort without the usual seam at the back – instead, the back panel is a one-piece yoke construction. No point in keeping water out if they get you all sweaty in the process so as well as being waterproof, they are also breathable – the material's weave being much tighter on the outer layer to help prevent water getting through, but more open on the inner layer to let sweat out. For a demonstration of their water repellency, check out the shots of Charge boss, Nick Larsen putting them through the spilt beer test – we were impressed.
As well as the jeans, Charge have produced a pair of shorts in the same material. The cut is similar to that of the jeans… but shorter, tailored but not too tight, and sizing is such that they should look good on chunkier gentleman too – particularly those with cyclist-sized thighs.
The other eye-catching item is the Surface wool jacket, technical woolen riding jackets may be rare, but they aren't new – Rapha produced a limited range of jackets using Scholle treated wool. The difference here is the price list price on the Rapha jacket is over £300– the material being used here is very similar to that used by Rapha, but Charge have bought it in industrial quantities cutting the price massively – the Surface jacket will sell for around £120.
The woolen outer layer of the jacket is made from a treated wool, and according to Charge the result is 'hydrophobic' wool that is bonded to an inner layer which is much more like that off a standard weatherproof jacket with a mesh lining – like the jeans, the jacket is breathable, and the equivalent of a Burton snowboarding jacket apparently. For extra help in shifting unwanted moisture and heat, there are eyeletted vents under the armpits. Cut is is a relaxed cycle-specific shape – this is a jacket that looks smart and stylish – off the bike no-one need ever know you're a cyclist.
Another garment that has all the detailing you'll need for on the bike but which doesn't shout about its technical capabilities off it is is the the Surface Hoodie. This is made from a synthetic material – a softshell material Charge are calling Polysnug, and it shares many of the characteristics of the classic softshell: warm, breathable, while being reasonably water-resistant without being waterproof. Cut is tailored with a number of cycle-specific touches such as longer sleeves and a very slightly dropped tail at the back.
Polysnug is also the material of choice for a range of long- and short-sleeved t-shirts, there is a choice of a classic t-shirt cut or a range of shirts with zipped collars and three pockets at the back – which we could see being a hit with all kinds of cyclists particularly for those who like doing big day rides, but don't necessarily want to get all Lycra'd up.
Final garment in the Surface range is a simple, packable Pertex windproof – not the most breathable material ever, but it does the job and it will keep all but the sharpest downpours at bay too.
Price haven't been confirmed yet, but expect to pay around £60 for the jeans and £50 for the shorts. The Polysnug wool jacket is likely to cost around £120 with the Pertex windproof coming in at around the £40-£50 mark and the t-shirts at £25 for the shortsleeve and £28-£30 for the long. Charge are aiming to have the jeans, shorts, and jackets in the shops before Christmas, with the t-shirts following in the spring. For more information check out www.chargebikes.com.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.