By Sean Methven
Tester: Sean Methven
Height: 5′ 11"
Country of Origin: U.S. of A.
Price: $715 (Frame only)
Weight: 5.1lbs. (Frame only)
Sizes Available: 22.125"(tested), 23.125" (top tube measurements)
Roots…a word that best describes the look and feel of the SuperCo Charger. Yes, the design fits into the category of new-school dirt/street shredders that have taken a strong hold on the mountain bike market over the past few years, but the majority of these bikes, whether you 26" purists like it or not, are grounded in the world of BMX (in which myself and many others in the bike industry got their start). The dirt jumping/street riding genre is helping to attract new and young blood to the sport, hopefully creating lifelong cycling participants. It’s one of the major reasons that this growing category is so important to mountain biking and why so many of the big companies are jumping in with both feet.
SuperCo’s company roots also run deep. Chris "Doc" Boudreaux, a former World Cup trials rider, got his inspiration for bicycle design from some of the most influential trials riders of the early ’90s and spent the better part of that decade honing and perfecting his craft on trials, BMX, and downhill frames.
SuperCo’s foundation and design roots shine through on one of the best-riding hardtails I’ve ever thrown a leg over. Not only does the bike make use of modern materials like True Temper steel tubing, but it also takes a new-school approach to mountain bike geometry, which allows for a shorter rear triangle and cleaner lines. Heritage and style still shine through with handmade craftsmanship and classic tubing shapes that stand the test of time.
The Charger’s main intended uses are dirt jumping trails, parks, and street shredding. The frame is made of True Temper tubing for durability and the well-known ride quality that only steel can deliver. The frame’s construction details, tubing diameters, and internal butts are all designed for an engineered "tuned flex," which allows the bike to feel like it snaps out of berms and off jump transitions better, while allowing a minimal amount of forgiveness for landings that went wrong.
The most intriguing features on the bike include a 1.125" machined headtube that’s ready to accept any "Campy" style integrated headset, a mid-sized BMX-style bottom bracket, horizontal micro drop-outs, and a slack downhill-like seat tube that intersects the down tube just in front of the bottom bracket. This feature, along with the laser cut and machined chainstay yoke, allow for enough tire clearance to make the rear end as short as 15" with a 26" wheel and a 2.35" tire. SuperCo is one of only a few companies offering such a short chainstay on a 26"-wheeled bike, and this is the key feature that helps separate their designs from the competition. The overall effective seat angle still puts the saddle in a fairly normal position but doesn’t affect the actual top tube lengths SuperCo set out to achieve on this frame.
Unless you ride a ton of BMX or trials, the feeling of such a short wheelbase takes a bit to get used to, but once the adjustment period is over, the snappy and tight geometry can really be taken advantage of. The short rear end gives a nice feeling of "pop" for hopping over street obstacles like benches and ledges, and allows for minimal energy exertion to spring off lips. The 12.125" bottom bracket height keeps the bike’s center of gravity nice and low, thus aiding its turning ability, and the 9.75" seat tube length allows for a low saddle height, keeping it out of the way during moto whips for the vets and tailwhips for the groms. It also gives a nice visual line that runs down the top tube all the way through the seatstay, a very modern and clean look. A 70° head angle is the one feature on the bike that isn’t on one end of the spectrum or the other. It’s a nice, happy medium that works well at low-speed street riding or high-speed dirt jumping. All this geometry adds up to create a well-balanced frame that feels at home in the air and on the ground. As mentioned above, the shorter of the two frames (measuring 22.125" at the top tube) was the perfect size for 95% of the terrain I rode, and only when I got the bike outside of the frame’s true intended use did it start to feel a little sketchy.
The handbuilt True Temper frame and ingenious approach to a shorter rear triangle are all spot-on and appeal to the boutique/custom bike enthusiast in me. The mid-sized bottom bracket, machined head tube ready for "hiddensets," and horizontal micro drop-outs are a direct tie into the BMX world and add a unique look and interesting style to a category of bikes that are starting to blend together.
The only minor flaws I could place on the SuperCo Charger are the odd-sized 29.8mm seatpost and the fact that the bike only has a singlespeed option, thus limiting some consumers looking for a multi-speed set-up on their dirt/street machines. The ultra-snappy, super-short wheelbase that makes popping off lips such a treat is also a slight curse when it comes to high-speed cornering on less than well-groomed berms and trails—it starts to feel a bit sketchy on rougher terrain and can lead to some pretty wild ways to slow down or stop out on the trail. I found myself cutting through bushes or needing to scrub grass stains off my shoulder more than once. Then again, what short hardtail doesn’t feel sketchy when bombing down rocky trails? Do yourself a favor and stick to the bike’s true design intention where you’ll seldom run into this type of problematic terrain.
SuperCo offers the Charger in a multitude of colors: Gloss Black, Ultra Violet, Charger Blue, Snow White, and Clearcoat (tested). The availability of two frame sizes will pretty much cover every rider out there, and in most cases the shorter of the two options will get the job done nicely unless you’re over 6′ or you like the stability of an extra inch of wheelbase. SuperCo also offers a 24"-wheeled brother named the Satellite for the 24" wheel enthusiasts and smaller riders, which features very similar geometry and materials to the Charger, for a few bucks less.