Long Term Test: 2012 Charge Mixer With Shimano Alfine 11-Speed Internal Gearing

Charge Mixer Shimano 11 Speed Internal Main

The past few months, we’ve been tossing this beauty around the office, a Charge Mixer (sized large) weighed with full techs and specs here. Based in the UK, Charge Bikes caters to an audience geared toward functionality and fashion, and twines these attributes into an affordable, durable ride.

Packed in the 2012 Charge Mixer is the Shimano Alfine 11-speed internal hub, the bike’s showstopper. It creates clean lines and a virtually maintenance-free system. It’s built to take the elements with a mechanical hydraulic disc brake and fender combo to handle rainy days. In fair weather, a sparkly black paint job creates a subtly brilliant shimmer.

I don’t use cars, so the Charge received a hearty test. I’ve been riding on expeditions anywhere within the city ranging from massive grocery hauls to miscellaneous errands to picnics to joy rides in the night. On longer journeys of 20 miles or more, the Mixer can hold its own against road bikes with a couple bottle mounts for water haulage.

With aggressive handling and looks, surprising for a commuter, the Tange Prestige steel frame and Alex XD Light double wall rims dampened bumpy roads from point A to point B with some occasional Cs, Ds, and Xs thrown in for good measure. Click ‘more’ to read the full review…

Charge Mixer Shimano 11 Speed Internal TracksThe Mixer fits itself in Charge’s line between the road bike and the fixie/singlespeed group. It has the functionality and gearing of a road bike with the simplicity and style of the SS. Any loss that “hybrid” or “commuter” would imply is made up for with the tech-heavy rear hub. The 11 speed Alfine provides a 400% gearing ratio, and a rapidfire shifter allows for shifting two gears at a time, even while stopped. As great as shifting while stopped can be, it’s a nasty habit and got me into trouble switching back to standard road bikes.

Sold in XS, S, M, and L for $1,300 in the USA from Performance, I tested the largest. When they advertise large, they mean LARGE. I didn’t get custom-fitted for this one and lucked out on pure inseam.

Charge Mixer Shimano 11 Speed Internal Alfine Drive Side

This is my second flat bar commuter, my first being a total failure of a bicycle – I won’t mention any brand names. So, for a few years I was turned off to the concept of flat bar commuters. When this came in, I gave ‘em a second chance, if only for the awesomeness of the Alfine hub.

In my initial impressions, I critiqued the weight of the 29lb commuter. After having it for a while and mashing around town, the weight critique seems superfluous now. After all, this thing isn’t a racing bike and shouldn’t be treated like one. The Charge Mixer is a functional commuter that can haul through town, rain or shine. As far as braking goes, the mechanical hydraulic Shimano M445 disc did not disappoint. With braking power in all conditions, I prefer them to other brakes for commuting. They’ve landed me in no scary situations.

Charge Mixer Shimano 11 Speed Internal Drive Side Rear

Regarding tech and mechanics, the Mixer is simple. The features included provide pure functionality without the owner needing any geeky know-how to make it roll.

The Shimano Alfine 11-speed hub has been simple from the start. After getting the hub properly seated and all parts latched in, which Performance Bike was super helpful with, there have been no serious issues. This is good, because I’d hate to fix the hub on the go. The only maintenance necessary is an occasional change of oil. Located on the hub itself, an oil slot allows old oil to be sucked out and replaced with new oil whenever necessary.

A broad spectrum of gearing is provided, 400% compared to the Shimano 8 speed internal at 320%. Taking it to the mountains, I found gears 1-4 helpful for rough climbs. But besides mountain travel, I rarely used those. In a fairly flat city, I found that I kept it generally between 6-11, 6-7 being my sissy-boy bailout gears and 8-11 my crush-it-all-day gears.

Charge Mixer Shimano 11 Speed Internal Grass

The Mixer frame has the exact geometry of Charge’s Plug and Plug Prestige Fixie/SS bikes, so expect handling similar to fixie frames, with a bit of added weight on the rear. I kept all components stock except for pedals and an optional dark-tinted chain guard. The leather saddle, of all components, struck me as surprisingly comfortable. Sold aftermarket as the Charge Spoon, the pressure relief channel was a plus and comfortable enough that I didn’t need to throw on cycling shorts each time I rode.

With appeal ranging from fashionistas to internal-gearing tech fans, the 2012 Charge Mixer holds strong on all fronts. It glides smooth through city streets in all conditions and looks great doing it. Whether riding to the coffee shop or to work, or to that organic grocery store 10 miles away, the Mixer has the ingredients to get there.

Specs:

  • Frame: Tange Prestige, Seamless, Double butted cro-mo
  • Fork: Charge Whisk, Tange Prestige cro-mo
  • Brakes: Shimano M445
  • Levers: Shimano M445
  • Headset: FSA TH-875
  • Stem: Shield, 31.8mm
  • Handle bars: Shield Urban flattie
  • Pedals: Wellgo Alloy trekking
  • BB: Truvativ GXP outboard
  • Rims: Alex XD-Lite, Double wall, 32H
  • Grips: Charge Griddle lock-on
  • Tires: Charge Coaster, 700x32c
  • Saddle: Charge Spoon
  • Seatpost: Shield, 2 bolt
  • Seat Clamp: Shield, bolt type
  • Shift Levers: Shimano Alfine 11/s trigger
  • Crankset: FSA Vero Single
  • Cassette: Shimano 20t Cog
  • Front Hub: Shimano Deore, HB-595
  • Rear Hub: Shimano Alfine 11/s internal

Read full tech and initial impressions to get an up-close look at the Mixer. Check it out at Charge and get it in the US at Performance Bike.

Comments

slow joe crow - 05/22/12 - 1:22pm

Weight should be a consideration in a commuter, if you have to lift it a lot. I muti-mode commute on light rail and when you have to hang your bike on a hook, the difference between my 30 lb. commuter and 20 lb. cyclocross bike is very noticeable.
On the plus side, the 11 speed Alfine appears to be a bargain since the whole bike costs less than a Rohloff hub. I would like to see what an Alfine 11 bike would weigh with a lighter weight frame (7705 Al or higher end steel), and some lighter components.

WV Cycling - 05/22/12 - 2:30pm

Have the Alfine 11 in the back, and SRAM’s Hammerschmidt crank (ISCG tabs be damned) in the front and you have the ultimate ninja Dirty Dozen “single speed” (appearance only) bike.

560%, no?

Champs - 05/22/12 - 5:26pm

I don’t know what I’d do with even more range than the 350% spread from 50×12 to 30×25 on my (35lb) commuter. Even then, the granny is mainly a chain catcher, except on climbs over a quarter mile.

Adrian - 05/22/12 - 8:14pm

Joe, you’re not going to find any decently affordable steels in the prestige weight range. SL is 0.9/0.6mm butting, just like prestige.

the wrench - 05/23/12 - 12:23am

Sure, buy a bike from Performance to commute to your organic grocery store. “I dont use cars.” Honestly when you’re distracted by the latest brand of skinny jeans or Apple product 30 years from now I’ll still be commuting by bike dressed in my street clothes and bright yellow cycling jacket while you try to ride whatever stupid, heavy, and impractical bikes neo- hipsters favor at the moment.

PDXbiker - 05/23/12 - 4:08am

wrench, I can see myself 30 years from now dressed in my street clothes and bright yellow cycling jacket commuting on this bike. And I’m not even a neo-hipster, whatever the fk that is.

Vodalous - 05/23/12 - 12:45pm

@PDXbiker

I think the issue is that the reviewer used Performance bikes to help him dial his set up in. Performance is a mega-chain (seewhatIdidthere) rather than a “local bike shop.”

I’m not a neo-hipster but I would never actually buy anything from places like Performance because they’re big chains who are squeezing the little bike shops out of existence. Their huge purchasing power means they can offer ridiculously low margins in comparison to what other dealers get through their wholesalers.

Gillis - 05/23/12 - 2:19pm

@Vodalous: Seattle got a Performance bike store nearly 10 years ago and it hasn’t shuttered the doors of any LBS’s. In fact we probably have more shops now than ever before. Admittedly I can’t say what it’s like elsewhere, but here it hasn’t been a problem.

ML - 05/28/12 - 2:03pm

I believe Colin was only pointing out that he doesn’t have a car in order to push the point that he put a lot of wear into the bike before reviewing it.

This is a good review considering his intentions were to review the Charge Mixer, a bike that you can’t buy at a LBS … at least not that Charge advertises on their site.

If this were a question of buying a Fuji from your LBS vs. Performance, I could see the argument.

There aren’t that many out-of-the-box bicycles outfitted with the Alfine 11 – trying to find one under $1500 is another challenge. I agree with purchasing from your LBS and supporting them as much as possible, but if the price is right (for a large purchase) and there aren’t that many alternatives available, I don’t see any issue with purchasing from a big-box store.

The captin - 08/29/12 - 12:39pm

You know. Here in northern va I have found that most of the LBS seem to be snob shops. The great ya like crap if you are not spending 2-3k or more. We bought my girls cervelo p2c at fresh bikes and after waiting 5 months to get it they roll it out of the back for the first time ever and it has a big damn chunk of paint missing from the down tube. Like the dropped a wrench on it or something. They blamed it on use and refused to fix it or get another bike for her. They won’t even work on her bike anymore. We started using performance for our bike needs and have had much better luck. The people are nicer and we found the one here in falls church has some of the best staff ever at any of the bike shops in northern va we have been too. They have not really wrecked any of the LBS as more of opened up since in the past ten years but they all seem to be snob shops.

As for the charge. It’s sweet. Love the rear hub. But just wish the ride was a little bit more up right and it would be spot on. To the other poster above, shimano does not recomend using any front cranks at all that not single speed with the alfine 11 as it will over tq the hub. Hell they even void the warranty if you do.

John W. - 12/03/12 - 12:58pm

As this is most likely my next bike – in part because of this fine review – here’re my two-cents.

1. There is no other bike with this value/price ratio. Even at full price. The next closest is another great deal, but quite a bit more, the Spot Brand Acme at $2200. The Mixer can be had for $1200. With a rack, with fenders.
2. Any Performance Bike shop is only as good as the people who work there. After a lot of shopping in San Francisco (where there are dozens of LBSs) I bought a Diamondback Insight for my daily commuter from Performance. The first one I bought outside the City and it was set up perfectly. And I mean perfectly. Everything was aligned and adjusted, and the bike was flawless. It was stolen, and I had to buy another one (ouch!), but it was set up at another location. It was 90% set up, and I had to take it back a couple of times to work out the kinks. But, the people at both were rabid enthusiasts – just like you and me. Great people. I spent a lot of time at the local shops and had less-than-enjoyable experiences at most of them. One in particular tried – hard – to sell me a bike that simply didn’t fit. The others didn’t have what I needed.

Much of the money they make at each location goes back into the local economy. They employee real locals, pay taxes and provide alternatives. They carry many of the same bikes you find elsewhere and the people are great. If – and when – I can afford that next ride, I’ll hit the shops again, but I know, now, where not to go, and Performance is high on the list.

The only issue I’d like to see fixed on the Mixer is a swap to, or at least an option for, a belt drive. That would take a frame redesign, etc., and I know for a fact Charge won’t be doing this any time soon. And, of course, at this point in drive history, it would add cost. The next one will be a belt.

One last thing: I ride everyday. Rain or shine. I use my bike like it should be used. I don’t pass judgement on other people’s rides or their choices. Unless they are a**holes and run lights and thread through crosswalks, they are on two wheels and that’s all that counts. You all can ride what you like, and so can I. Enjoy the fact we can and move on.

Peg - 12/29/12 - 7:14pm

“I kept all components stock except for…..an optional dark-tinted chain guard.”

GREAT review! Colin – could you please elaborate on what type of chain guard you got and source. Much thanks!

Mark Serlin - 08/27/13 - 6:29am

In the UK we have Evans Cycles, a mahoosive chain store, and they squeezed out Two Wheels Good (our LBS in Crouch End). I for one was glad to see them go. They had great mechanics but were terrible snobs. I took one bike there for a service and it got stolen from them. They didn’t bother to tell me. When it was days overdue for return I phoned them up and they finally admitted my pride and joy was gone, and that they hadn’t bothered reporting it stolen to the police because it might affect their insurance premuims :( Now admittedly it was “only” a Trek – with custom carbon forks, custom wheel, and a ton of personalised bits (lights saddle etc) all of which took me months to get right – but it was *my* Trek. So they tried to make me accept some cheapo donkey of a Trek bike as a substitute. When that didn’t wash, finally they paid me out what my bike had cost me, after making me wait weeks and hassle them 3 times for the cheque. Good riddance. Evans’ mechanics may not be as good but they are polite helpful and friendly.

PS Great review, really want the 2013 version, and thanks for the tips on sizing!

Andre Lee - 09/16/13 - 11:58am

I have a Spot Brand Acme Alfine 11, with carbon chain to replace a stolen Tour de Suisse Speed Drive with Alfine 8 and sprocket (16 gears). I’m sticking with internal hubs for the foreseeable future. I never thought changing gears while I’m stopped a light would make such a difference but it works well for riding in DC traffic. Quiet as heck. I sneak up on friends all of the time. I’m bigger 191cm, 100Kg. Bike is weighted right for me.

McTyke - 10/18/13 - 5:28pm

I bought one of these recently from Evans Cycles via the Internet (no stockists here in the north of Scotland) and it arrived within 1 week, everything perfectly set up, only the pedals to attach and handlebars to adjust. Having said that, the cheap and nasty pedals (Wellgo alloy) got swapped straight away, as did the Charge Griddle grips (too thin and hard), and I also swapped the stem which is very short. I’m surprised The Captin (08/29/12) wanted a more upright position – this bike has a short wheelbase (and therefore some toe overlap) and the position is very upright. Any more so and it’d be like riding a unicycle!

The Alfine 11 hub is a revelation, much nicer than my older Nexus 8. When it comes to servicing, being able to change the oil without removing the wheel and taking the hub apart is a major improvement. The gear ratios (mine came with a 39/20 chainring/sprocket) are nicely spaced and the range is more than adequate for my 6 mile commute that includes some hills.

The handling is quite entertaining and requires concentration, but it’s very enjoyable and encourages you to go fast. The Prestige steel frame seems to do a good job of smoothing out poor surfaces and combined with the excellent Spoon saddle and 700x32c tyres produces a comfortable ride. The weight certainly isn’t an issue once on the move.

A note about sizing: I got the small size frame and it was the right choice for me. I’m 68″ tall, 32″ inside leg, and I have an inch or two of standover clearance.

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