Weight: 1.5kg (3.4lb) / Sizes:
S, M, L / Tange Ultimate Titanium Tubing 3AL 2.5V / No seat collar
We’re featuring the Charge Titanium Duster here for several reasons — this is how it comes, as a frame, not a complete bike. It’s also brand new, meaning we’ve no previous experience and we’d like to take our time to assess the durability and quality of the frame but at the same time still give you a taster of what’s on offer. Like the frame tests we’ve done recently, we’re planning to build the Duster up with components of our choice; kit we know well which will allow us to concentrate on the frame. We may even get a few of the other titanium frames on the market built in the same way for a shootout, like the Marin, Commençal, Merlin and Litespeed.
It’s no coincidence the Duster Ti is £999. Nick Larsen at Charge aimed to build a frame that was every bit as good as a Merlin but for less money.
The Duster starts life as a set of Tange Ultimate 3AL/2.5V titanium tubes. The 44mm down tube is double-butted but has also had some ‘biovalisation’ work to it, meaning there is a vertical bias at the head tube and a horizontal bias at the bottom bracket to increases stiffness. The 31.8mm top tube is also double-butted while the seat tube is plain gauge.
Charge worked up several prototypes before settling on the final design for the rear end. You’ll notice it doesn’t have curved or S-shaped stays like say a Merlin. This is because after extensive testing Larsen believes the straight stays are stiffer but still offer a resilient ride and the elusive titanium ‘feel’.
Both the bottom bracket shell and bullet style dropouts are custom made. The disc mount is also built into the latter before being welded to the stay for extra strength and durability. Up front Charge specs a custom head tube with tapered reinforcement, a common feature on all its frames.
Finally, the frame gets hand cut decals, which have a lacquer finish to resist abrasion, two bottle mounts, no seat clamp (which we see as an oversight) and is available in three sizes. Our medium tips the scales at 1.5kg (3.4lb).
If we had to rate the Charge Duster Ti without having built it up or ridden it we’d give it 10 for value. There are not many titanium frames of this quality for this money. However, we’ve got too many unanswered questions to do that — what’s the geometry like? Is the rear end stiff? Does it have comparable or better ride characteristics than a Merlin or Litespeed? Will it last?
So our plan is simple: we’ll give this frame to Jamie, our new member of staff, who like most of us always wanted a titanium frame. We’ll get him to build it up, ride it and then print a full test later in the year. We’ll even get him to post updates on the website.