Strutting on the saddle
Hmm. White bikes: not sure. Do they need a wash after every outing, like a white blouse? And isn’t swanning around on a white frame a bit disrespectful to ghost bikes, the white-painted bicycles left at accident spots as macabre memorials to fallen comrades? That said, the Charge Tap looks pretty snazzy, eh?
So snazzy, in fact, that I worried about it being pinched. Having swapped the mean streets of London for the more civilised strassen of Berlin, I live in a one-lock city and enjoy not lugging two R800 gold-standard locks around. But with the Tap I could take no chances. It is a peacock of a bicycle, an albino show-off that seems destined to be stolen, resprayed and offered on eBay for R1?700.
Charge is a British brand that has built a reputation for solid, fashionable bicycles since it started five years ago. Its enormously popular, single-speed Plug was arguably the prime catalyst for the resurgence in courier-style, stripped-back bicycles when it came out in 2007.
The Tap is an upgrade of the Plug, with a slightly higher price tag. The main thing you get extra is gears: eight of them, tucked away in the Shimano Nexus hub. I have a Nexus hub on my real bicycle and cannot praise it highly enough: it slips from one gear to the next like shaved legs between silk sheets. Best of all, the whole mechanism is hidden from the elements, so you will never get oily ankles. Or rather, you would not if Charge had gone the whole hog and added a chain guard.
Charge has already added mudguards, considered by many serious cyclists to be the devil’s work (yawn). To purists, fitting mudguards is the bicycling equivalent of going tenpin bowling with those sausage-shaped gutter-guards: it is cheating and it spoils the aesthetics. I have no such qualms, though I had problems getting the Tap’s mudguards to sit straight—and they kept rubbing against the wheel with a subtlety that drove me nuts.
Another qualm was that it was not the right geometry for me. I am—I think—an averagely proportioned 1.60m woman and even the extra small and ostensibly unisex Tap was too big for me. With a bit of saddle adjustment I could touch the floor, but it was a bit of a stretch to reach the brakes.
The handlebars were also weirdly wide and out of keeping with the courier look. And the rough grips hurt my hands if I rode for more than half an hour.
But the Tap is a decent bike for riding to work as well as longer weekend jaunts. You can attach a rack to the back, it is light and nippy and it ought to require minimal maintenance, if regular washing.—