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Charge bikes are arguably the coolest bike brand out of the UK at the minute offering an infectious mix of exciting design, excellent marketing and the West countries finest riders to boot. The Juicer Mid is the more affordable version in the Charge classic road portfolio. Coming in at a Cyclescheme-friendly £950 for 23lbs of steel with a Tiagra groupset it might be hard to see why this bike is so appealing, however as I found it was love at first ride. Actually it happened before I had finished setting it up.
There are many good reasons why racing bikes are not made in steel anymore. Numerating the problem of material selection for a light and stiff bicycle frame always yields one answer – carbon. However in some cases this method has some flaws. Maths doesn’t do emotion. Nor does it understand the joys of tractor beaten, frost bitten roads on my favourite “tour of East Anglia’s potato and turnip farms” (training whilst back at the folks place for Christmas). The last bike I rode was the Boardman Pro Carbon and while that is a fantastic machine I can honestly say what a treat it has been to ride a steel bike. I couldn’t have had a bigger switch in bikes yet instantly the Juicer was a pleasure to ride and – based on the times of my usual routes – surprisingly quick despite the obvious weight penalty.
Handling is good and much more comfortable at slower speeds than more twitchy aggressive geometries, without losing stability whilst on the rivet. Out of the saddle the position on the hoods is comfortable and stable. Thanks to the combo of Charge’s most excellent Knife saddle and a triple upfront you hardly ever have to get out of the saddle except for sprinting. The triple might not be super cool but personally having 133m elevation between my desk and my bed meant it came in handy on the commute.
The vibration dampening is excellent, as you would expect from steel. The springyness of the material really enlivens the ride and combined with a more traditional geometry it was a real pleasure to sit up and enjoy the view rather than my usual HRM based self destruction. It was so infectious I almost stopped for cake on a ride, I then realised having never done such before 1) I didn’t know where I could find cake in the wilds of Suffolk and 2) I had no money, so I duly carried on my way cakeless.
The mudguards are a really solid fitting set and look great on the bike, they don’t rattle or scrape or any of those bad mudguard related annoyances. They also work pretty well too, well enough that like a kid in wellies I rode through as many puddles as possible. My only gripe being the front is just a little too short meaning the water gets dumped on to your feet through the deepest puddles.
The main point that I want to stress about the quality of this bike is the selection of components and attention to details which are so often ignored. I have read a lot of people on popular forums slating the value for money of this bike, but hear me out. The groupset is a groupset. Sounds silly but you get a full set of Tiagra, which in my experience works a lot better than mixing a cheap cassette with a 105 rear mech and a crank from another manufacturer for the same price.
Yes compatibility in cycle drive train is good, but there is something that just works about using a full Tiagra set - it's designed as a unit. I would note that it took some getting used to switching back from SRAM to Shimano. The much quieter shift is sometimes missed and the up-shift lever is a little small in winter gloves, especially if you use a lobster style mitten. Other attentions to detail include the well selected FSA finishing kit, the compact drop means anyone could sit on the drops comfortably without 6 weeks of intensive yoga and pilates. The bar tape is a decent quality padded offering again from FSA. For many manufacturers bar tape is a cost saving exercise but it really makes a difference to how the bike feels straight out of the box, thanks Charge. Finally my favorite bit of attention to detail and why I fell so deeply in love with this bike before riding - the bottle cage bolts (sad I know). For once they are not ridiculously short to reduce the published weight of the bike, you can actually fit bottle cages and a pump simultaneously with the ease, praise the lord!
Shimanos R500 wheels are a great choice again. I am a firm believer in Shimanos cup and cone gospel and they have faultlessly spun without the need for readjustment of any kind. Plus they come with excellent QR’s. Albeit not the lightest of wheels, but a dependable and very serviceable set nonetheless. Continental are usually my tyre of choice but a couple of flints caught these ones napping, leaving me to play my least favorite roadside game, the “Topeak hand shuffle”. Whilst inflated the grip was good in most conditions, I wouldn’t go as far to say confidence inspiring on the iciest of days but no 23C will ever be that. Personally for this style of bike a more relaxed 25C would be a better choice I think.
Tektro's brakes do let themselves down on occasions, especially in the wet. I would personally change the pad to a stiffer cartridge system, perhaps from the excellent Ashima range.
If you are looking for a dependable workhorse commuter or classic racer then the Juicer Mid is a great starting point, especially for the more style conscious. The Juicer combines classic materials and geometry with a selection of components that work together almost faultlessly. All things considered this delivers a bike that is a much better ride than the spec list initially suggests.
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Make and model: Charge Juicer
Size tested: 54cm
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Tange Prestige cromoly, traditional road geometry
Fork: Tange Prestige cromoly 700C road
Brakes: Tektro R538
Levers: Shimano Tiagra
Headset: FSA TH 857
Stem: FSA OS 190, 31.8mm alloy, black
Handle bar: FSA Vero compact, black
Grips: FSA padded bar tape
Shift Levers: Shimano Tiagra
Front Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra, triple, compact, braze on
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra
Chain Wheel: Shimano Tiagra triple, 50, 39, 30T
Crankset: Shimano Tiagra triple, 50, 39, 30T
Cassette: Shimano HG 50, 11-25T
BB: Shimano outboard bearing
Rims: Shimano R500 wheelset
Tyres: Continental, Ultra Race, 700 x 23C
Front Hub: Shimano R500 wheelset
Rear Hub: Shimano R500 wheelset
Saddle: Charge Knife, black, cromoly rail
Seatpost: FSA SL280, black, 27.2mm
Seat Clamp: Kalloy single bolt, black
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?
The Juicer is designed as a modern take on an old steel racer. Coming with mudgaurds and a triple chainset makes it ideal for serious commuting and equally at home on a hard winters training or weekend ride with cafe stop.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
High quality finish on the frame and fork. Excellently made and paint work is very tidy.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Classic ferrous bike here with a Tange Prestige tubeset
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
A more traditional do-it-all geometery.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Steel is Real! The most comfortable ride of any bike I have rideen recently
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Remarkably stiff in the right places despite the added comfort. Forks are a little flexier than I am used to but the backend feels pretty tight.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Helped by Hollotech 2 style BB the Juicer does a good job of transferring the watts backward.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
There is some toe overlap with the front mudgaurd, however I didn't ever see this when out on the bike only noticed it when stationary.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Livley
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Particularly happy with the bike on the drops. Thanks to the compactdrop bar the Juicer position is very achievable and sustainable getting your weight in all the right places for handling to be great. Nice and stable when on the hoods out of the saddle.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Charge's Knife saddle is an excellent slimmer version of Charge's MTB offering the Spoon. Top marks. Really suitable bartape for the bike - padded by FSA
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Tiagra is a solid setup and although not as refined as higher end groups does a great job at efficient transfer.
Heavy bike and heavyish wheels.
Not as fast as others but the feedback through the steel is great. GRIP IT AND RIP IT!
No problems here
Most comfortable at 15-19mph I reckon.
Easy enough to dice between traffic on the morning ratrace
Bar position is quite high so centre of gravity is against you hear. Most happy when on the drops
The triple cancels out the weight penalty. Everything achievable in the granny but dont expect to get there fast.
Solid runner without the refinement of more expensive groupsets
Can't knock it. Ran fine for 6 weeks
Some penalty against 105/Rival but with a steel frame percentage gain is not so noticeable.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Everything works well together because its a complete groupset rather than a mix of several put together. Compatability is excellent and as a result the finished ride is much nicer. Tops!
Solid runners and very serviceable. Not the lightests though
Wheels are super tough - tyres not so great. I would switch to a mid range set of folders and probably a 25C on this bike
Wheel weight is OK but wire bead tyres let it down
Again - good wheels not great tyres
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?
Several punctures but grip was good throughout even in the recent icy weather.
Compact drop and padded bar tape - LUSH!
Solid Brand name at the price.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
Mudgaurds are good, reliable and solid. A real asset to the bike. Just need to get a frame pump to match now!
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Very much so, a pleasant change
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes Yes YES!
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? A classic bike for the traditionalist or style concious - anyone who is looking for something in that bracket
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
See verdict above
Age: 22 Height: 5\'10\" Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Carrera My best bike is: Rotwild RCC 1.3 Topeak Ergon team
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, mtb,