AJ, our Boss Of Bikes spent some time with the Riese and Muller Charger 4 to see what’s new, improved and shiny about the Charger 4 over the hugely popular Charger 3.
THE KEY CHANGES
- A larger 750Wh battery gives a longer range (previously 625Wh)
- Bosch Smart System brings a host of new options (and developing) via phone app.
- Touring (chain and cassette), Vario (Enviolo manual or automatic & Gates belt) and now Rohloff and Gates belt option.
- PowerMore 250Wh range extender compatible
- Bosch 2.0 ABS option
BATTERY AND RANGE
At first glance it doesn’t look much different from the Charger3, the slightly longer downtube accommodates a larger 750Wh battery giving you a range of 60 to 75 miles depending upon terrain and gearing options amongst other things. This is phenomenal mileage from a single-battery bike.
The head unit has also changed slightly; the bike is available with a Bosch Intuvia 100 or a Kiox 300, which provides more information and a colour screen. Both head units are vastly slimmed down versions of their namesake predecessors. The Kiox comes fitted to the excellent Riese and Muller adjustable cockpit stem.
Apart from some minor specification changes over the Charger3, probably caused by slight changes in suppliers’ equipment ranges over the past year, the bike remains largely unchanged apart from the Bosch Smart System upgrades mentioned above.
One thing to note is that although the Bosch Gen4 Performance CX motor is mechanically unchanged, they have changed the electronic plugs, which means there is no backwards compatibility with the older Bosch System 2.
The first belt driven option is the Enviolo hub gear. This hub has a smaller range of gears than the Rohloff and is slightly heavier whilst lending a little more resistance to the drivetrain. The hub however has proven to be extremely durable, especially now Enviolo has launched a new shifter, which seems a far better design than its predecessor and the Charger4 is now also available with the automatic gear change, which I really like. The automatic option is now fully integrated into the Smart System and cadence can be easily adjusted from the Bosch controller.
For longer hillier rides, however, I would recommend the Touring option. Yes, it is costlier to run in terms of maintenance and replacement cost, but you get a wider range of gears, lower weight, less resistance when pedalling and a lower initial cost.
The excellent Rohloff Speedhub E-14 system is now finally available to order from Riese and Muller and this gives you 14 gears spread over a wide ratio with the Gates belt drive. Meaning low maintenance and the same range of gears as the 11 speed chain and cassette with a couple extra thrown in to keep your ratios close together. The Rohloff’s proven reliability on long, long tours means it won’t let you down either.
The Charger 4 comes with a 100mm travel suspension fork which varies depending on whether you choose the standard or GT version of the bike. The standard version has a slightly lighter but potentially less durable sprung fork with lockout whilst the GT has a more responsive and tougher air fork which also has a lockout. So, if you intend to ride off-road, the GT option is a no-brainer, especially with the wider, higher-volume tyres and the GX option with knobbly off-road Schwalbes.
The braking is handled competently by Magura, with a dual-piston brake on the front for more stopping power and an ample single piston on the rear.
We found the old Bosch ABS a little cumbersome and pricey but the new Charger 4 has the new and improved Bosch ABS 2.0 (Anti-lock braking system) option available, which we did not test on this model. The pricing of this new system is significantly less at £373 and makes it a more attractive option than previously. ABS could be a useful addition for newer, less confident cyclists but is less useful for those who realise that if they don’t ease off the brakes, they’ll either skid the rear wheel, or they’ll fly over the handlebars. Many of us learnt this the hard way as kids!
THE BOSCH SMART SYSTEM
Apart from these changes, the ride quality, which is well-balanced and assured, has not changed from the Charger 3. If you’re wondering why the Charger 4 was released, I think essentially the answer is the Bosch Smart System. When the Smart System was released, it all seemed a bit hasty, the software was glitchy and felt like it had been rushed to market, but a year and a half later, the developers at Bosch have been busy polishing the operational side of the system and adding new features.
The Charger4, like all Smart System bikes is compatible with the Bosch Connectmodule, which gives you a GPS tracker and alarm, plugged into and powered by the motor and covered by the design cover at a cost of £145 (with ongoing £35 annual subscription after the first year).
You can now also order the Bosch Powermore 250Wh range extender battery. This plugs into the charging socket on the bike frame when you need a bit more juice—increasing the potential range to 100 miles with the main battery at 750Wh.
For the user, the system brings the benefit of being able to change a lot more settings from the new eBike Flow app on your mobile phone. This saves the hassle of going to a shop for updates and settings changes; you can even tweak the different power modes available. The upgraded electronic ‘lock’ feature is also enhanced; you can turn it on and off from your mobile and can choose to either use your phone or your head unit as the locking device, meaning you cannot ride the bike without it.
The new Smartphone grip can now be used to give you full mapping with the aid of your mobile phone (if you have opted for the Kiox head unit). Simply remove the head unit and install the grip in its place and your phone will do the rest, running the easy-to-use Flow app.
But I think my favourite piece of software trickery is the Automatic power setting mode. Now call me a Luddite but I don’t want to spend the whole of a bike ride distracted by pressing buttons when I can be enjoying the view, feeling the wind and sun on my skin and the blood pumping through my legs.
The automatic system seems really ‘smart’ if you’ll excuse the pun and adapt to give you the power you need when you need it and doesn’t seem to drain your battery too significantly.
RIESE & MULLER CHARGER 4 VS CHARGER 3: THE VERDICT
I’ve been pretty hard on the Charger4 but is it a great bike and better than the Charger3, which was itself a favourite companion on road and trail? The answer is undoubtedly yes! But you do question the wisdom of Bosch releasing a system with no backwards compatibility to its existing hardware and software platform, an action, which has forced electric bike manufacturers like Riese and Muller to redesign their flagship model.
Thankfully this redesign has been a success, and the Charger4 is a real credit to the brand. Riese & Muller have maintained the Chargers rock solid handling and surefootedness while adding more range and features provided by the new Bosch Smart System. The range extender battery and Rohloff integration have also turned the Charger into a real Grand Tour contender. So if you’re looking for range, quality and durability in a bike and only want to own one e-bike that can take on pretty much all types of terrain and also carry the shopping home, then you still cannot go wrong with the new Charger.
The author, AJ, our Boss Of Bikes and he’s kind of a big deal (according to him)! He’s been a bike tech for the past 10 years and has been messing about with bikes since he can remember. He has a keen eye for detail and is very patient and meticulous when fixing bikes. He rides a Riese and Muller UBN 5 almost everywhere with his trusty Vaude panniers and ABUS helmet.
Watch the hugely versatile Charger 4 Vario and Charger 4 Mixte being ridden by Dan and Rufus in beautiful Devon with some big hills!