Jack Kane Battle Axe SL – Unboxed, Weighed & First Rides

Kane Battle Axe

When I first learned I was going to get the privilege to hop on a Jack Kane Battle Axe SL my initial reaction, after scoping out the website was, I hope they don’t send the one with the flames.  However, when it showed up, with the flamed paint job, I was unable to stop smiling and began building a supply of retorts to potential comments about the paint job because it looks exceptional in person!  My level of anticipation for how it was going to ride went way up from there and it didn’t disappoint.

The Battle Axe SL arrived built and ready to ride with the exception of swapping out the wheelset for a the set that came on the NightHawk SL that will be reviewed in the next few weeks.  I have been able to squeak in about 150 winter miles and can’t wait to get more in.  The Battle Axe SL was put on the scale and subjected to the usual photo scrutiny that everything else we get to ride, so click onward and see for yourself and read our first impressions…

Jack Kane Battle Axe SL Actual Weights

out of box weight

Out of the box, size 56 tips the scales at 6.20kg (13lbs 11oz).  Claimed weight on www.kanebikes.com was a very close at 6.09kg (13lbs 7oz).

pedals and cages with DA wheel set

The Battle Axe SL actual ride weight with 2 plastic cages, pedals a Garmin mount and Shimano DA Carbon Road Tubeless Carbon Clinchers is 7.06kg (15lbs 9oz).  It also now sports an Ultegra cassette instead of the SRAM Red cassette on the Kane Wheelset.

Jack Kane Battle Axe SL

signature and numberingThe Battle Axe SL is the newest offering of the Battle Axe traditionally offering a frame with much more complex lines and a less pronounced wheel well “axe” making the SL more aerodynamic and overall much more clean looking. Jack Kane Bicycles allows the option to custom build many of their frames with the groupo you desire thus offering a wide variety of build weights for each bike, including the Battle Axe SL.  The claimed weight for the Battle Axe SL frame is around 1026g.

The Battle Axe SL was designed to be about as stiff as any other rig on the road without sacrificing ride quality and rider comfort.  One of the most exciting parts of building your Kane bike, like the Battle Axe SL, is you have the freedom of designing your very own paint scheme that truly reflects your personality and riding style!  Another very cool feature is the hand signed and # frame badge on the backside of the down tube at the BB junction!

The bike we received to put through the wringer was a no expense spared build, beyond their top of the line SRAM Red mock build kit.  Ours is spec’d with Kane Custom Carbon 38mm Tubulars wrapped in Tufo Elite Jet tires, SRAM Red groupo, FSA OS 99 Carbon stem, Easton EC90 handlebar, a Thomson Masterpiece seat post and a Selle Italia SLR saddle.  Since the bike we were given was the bike built for the website photos the wheelset was not tensioned to be ridden and tires were not glued on so the bike has been tested with Shimano DA Carbon Road Tubeless Clichers, but those 38mm Kane wheels are super hott.

FRAME & AERO DESIGN DETAILS
tapered head tube and aero fork

One of the more unique features on the bike is the Tapered Head Tube.  The steer tube it 1-1/8” at the top and expands to 1-1/2” at the bottom mated with a proprietary Alpha Q fork.  This allows the front end of the bike to be extremely stiff and very solid when diving into a tight turn on a descent.  This also ensures that the front end of the bike is extremely durable in that it helps distribute workloads and stresses to a larger beffier 1-1/2” area.  Visually it is a subtle transition with the head tube from top to bottom but as you will see from a frontal profile the fork gets its strength from front to back and not its width.

Kane also routed the rear brake cable inside the top tube on the bottom/side of the non-drive side of the bike. The cable exits on the same side of the top tube just before the seat post.  This is a small and simple feature but it helps clean up the overall look of the bike and reduce some of the unnecessary visual noise with one less cable in the way.

The “Axe” in the Battle Axe SL is slightly more pronounced and slender than the previous Battle Axe models.  The curvature of the back of the seat tube is not as tight to the wheel as other models but helps reduce drag over a traditional seat tube still looks great!  Also very noticeable in the frame upfit between models is the more simple design feature in the top tube and rear triangle.

battle axe vs battle axe sl

The other major change to the rear triangle has been to transition to a Unified Chain Stay system with Bowed, not stepped, seat stays on both sides of the wheel.  This bowed design also allow the seat stays to absorb more of the constant feedback usually transferred directly to the seat post and in turn the saddle with other bikes.  That coupled with the unified chain stays allows the rear triangle to be extremely stiff which transfers the maximum amount of energy from your pedal stroke to the rear wheel, guaranteeing that all the work you put in pays maximum dividends.

front and rear profile shots

One of my favorite looks on the Battle Axe SL is from behind!  The front’s not bad either and actually the bike is barely there from either vantage point.  The head tube appears much bigger from the front than it does from either of the side angles and in many ways acts as the anchor for how this bike handles and always seems to feel planted.  From the back the bike seems slightly tapered from front to back, larger in the front and more narrow in the back, primarily due to the afore mentioned head tube but it also adds to the aero qualities that allow this bike to feel like a rocket strapped to spandex!  The Battle Axe is sleek and cuts through the open roads just as its name suggests.  *Notice the narrow front fork as mentioned above in the segment about the head tube.*

aluminum dropout

The only part of the frame that is not carbon is the Aluminum drop out.  The reason behind this is simple and sensible.  You break a drop all you need to do is have Kane replace it!  This minimizes turnaround time for repairs and maximizes ride time!  Plus it’s way cheaper than buying a new frame.

The down tube, like the rest of the frame, features oversized tubing and large junction points throughout the design also prove to maximize stiffness.  The top tube has a slight triangular shape that isn’t really detectable from looking at a glance but noticed as soon as you grasp the top tube.  The intersection at the BB30 housing is true to the rest of the bike and large and very strong while still symmetrical.  Kane does a very good job of make large intersections appear very smooth and not overly cumbersome.

bb and downtube symmetry

One last little Kane design feature for all of their High-Modulus bikes is showing off the 3k carbon weave.  It, like the aluminum dropout, adds a few grams but 3k weave more than makes of for the weight in strength and rigidity.  Personally, I think the visible carbon integrated to your custom paint design helps make these bikes look that much better!

naked carbon integrated into paint scheme

First Impressions

My first ride on the Battle Axe SL was also my first ride ever on a SLR saddle and it is super light but a far cry from the Fizik Arione I have ridden for the past 4+ years.  Despite the discomfort from the saddle on the first ride the bike’s stiffness and strength still were more than evident.

Ride two on the saddle my body began to adjust and the saddle was a non-issue and I got to fully enjoy what the Battle Axe SL had to offer.  The handlebar is also slightly more narrow than what I have become accustomed to but it didn’t have any effect on how the bike handled, it still dove hard and sure into turns without feeling squirrely at any point.  I ride a bike with a large BB and a SRAM Force Crankset, very similar to the SRAM Red Crankset and BB on this bike but there is a noticeable difference in power transfer both climbing and sprinting.  This leads me to believe that much of that difference is attributed to the BB junction and torsional stiffness of the frame.  On climbs I noticed that pedaling was very fluid, efficient and empowering.  I felt like everything I put into my pedal stroke was forced directly to the pavement and felt like I had worked less than normal on one of the most familiar climbs I do.  I had also crossed over to a Compact Crankset a little over a year ago and this bike comes fitted with a standard set of chain rings.  This didn’t seem to affect my ability to climb the same long sustained climbs faster and with less effort than before with my Compact.

On false flats, when it is usually easier to stand and power up and get over with than it is to just sit and roll over I noticed the same transfer of power.  At no point did I feel like the bike was wasting any of my energy.  Descending is confidence inspiring on this bike.  The first real descent I rode was about 3 miles long with the last 1/3 of a mile between 15-18% with tight twisting turns and it felt like I was on rails. I felt like I looked like a moto GP racer navigating a chicane.  I was able to move the bike under me effortlessly and lay it from side to side quickly and with kind of poise that can get you in trouble!  Having a 14lb bike doesn’t hurt when you are climbing or trying to maneuver a bike more quickly and aggressively than you have felt comfortable doing on other bikes.

As advertised the bike is very stiff and responsive but in no way is it abusive nor does it provide a harsh ride.

When it comes down to it the Flames have grown on me a great deal.  The Battle Axe SL is a blast to ride, I can’t wait to get another couple of hundred miles on it and compare it to the NightHawk SL Jittery Joe’s Team bike we have in.

Comments

CaseoftheMondays - 01/17/12 - 6:41pm

This article needs some QC. How many times can you use “extremely” or “climbs” in a sentence of paragraph?

CaseoftheMondays - 01/17/12 - 6:43pm

Also

“Since the bike we were given was the bike built for the website photos the wheelset was not tensioned to be ridden and tires were not glued on”

WTH? Who builds a wheelset but doesn’t tension them to be ridden?

wv cycling - 01/17/12 - 7:15pm

So correct me if I am wrong…. Does Jack Kane just take HongKong/Chinabikes and just paint them?

matt - 01/17/12 - 7:30pm

Is it just me or does the seat-tube look like an 2006 Madone?

bike skeptic - 01/17/12 - 7:42pm

Something about the way this article reads just leaves me uneasy.

Also:
“One of the more unique features on the bike is the Tapered Head Tube. The steer tube it 1-1/8” at the top and expands to 1-1/2” at the bottom…”
Unique? Really? I think now it would be harder to find a straight head tube than a tapered one.

burt - 01/17/12 - 8:16pm

Looks like a fast, fun bike, but I’m left wanting to know more about the manufacturing process with regards to the frame. I would love for a website or print magazine to tell us what factories the frames are being made in. If we were able to establish, as consumers, the different Asian factories we might be able to better compare the quality of the products.

CarbonRDR - 01/17/12 - 9:14pm

Good article, everything about this bike seems amazing. I just went to the kanebikes.com website and you can get the battleaxe painted anyway you want with any components you want. full customize-able down to the saddle and everything! It’s like build-a-bear out of carbon fiber! Maybe I can get my wife to buy me one for Christmas

Gillis - 01/17/12 - 9:46pm

Who is “Sand”? (“posted by Sand”–at the top) I don’t see anyone by that name in the contributors list at the right.

Sorry, but this review reads very generic, like something out of Bicycling Magazine.

Marc - 01/17/12 - 10:58pm

“Proprietary Alpha Q fork” indeed, True Temper ceased production of all composite parts in 2009.

openmold - 01/17/12 - 11:00pm

My first thought also…06 madone with a new head tube mold.

John Willis - 01/17/12 - 11:16pm

god this bike sux

Gillis - 01/18/12 - 1:17am

I went to the website and it reads as hokey as this review. On Jack’s “about Jack Kane” page and
i found this line that I keep shaking my head at:

“While steel bikes had their hay-day (and still very much do in some circles), road vibration issues and weight restrictions began to shift the industry to aluminum.”

wtf? road vibration issues with regards to steel!? weight restrictions?!

It also mentions a bunch of other stuff like shop and industry experience since 1973 but doesn’t back it up with any hard evidence. It all sounds very manufactured.

Xris - 01/18/12 - 1:18am

@burt – http://www.canadiancyclist.com/dailynews.php?id=23257

This was posted a little while ago. It’s an interesting read. I didn’t know a good chunk of Colnago was made by Giant!

SMW - 01/18/12 - 5:42am

its a RedNeck bicycle – it looks hideous!!!! , and that paint job …pff!!!!!!

Phlatalbert - 01/18/12 - 8:19am

Is there a warehouse full of failed project ones and broken dreams?

spokejunky - 01/18/12 - 8:34am

@wv cycling the frames are made in China and are molded carbon. To my knowledge the only frameset made stateside is the K Team Race SL. My advice is to stick to the K Team Race SL or K Team Carbon if you want a Kane. That is all..

Schooner - 01/18/12 - 8:56am

It’s hard to pick a favorite part, it could be the word “hott” used to describe an unrideable set of sample wheels, the atrocious paint and graphics, the mixing of Red & Dura Ace parts, the fact that the bar, stem & post are all from different companies…
But I think it has to be when the author has some close-up shots of the headtube, where the right-hand photo is simply a mirrored image to try and show the “other” side of the bike. Nevermind that the brake is now reversed, as are all of the graphics on the stem & headset.
Yikes.

guyonnabike - 01/18/12 - 9:22am

This review reads like it was written by a hack. It is quite possibly the worst piece of garbage I have seen on this site yet. And the bar is pretty low.
It isn’t just the writing. The writing, while poor, is only eclipsed buy the terrible photos.

Could the bar be rotated up more? Try and see?
Saddle that is nose down? Check!
Photos that don’t really show anything – the front and rear shots.
Supper crappy mirroring job done in MS paint. Check!

I think my favorite part of the entire review is this:
“From the back the bike seems slightly tapered from front to back, larger in the front and more narrow in the back, primarily due to the afore mentioned head tube but it also adds to the aero qualities that allow this bike to feel like a rocket strapped to spandex!”

Aero indeed.

Ginger - 01/18/12 - 10:07am

First, from the Kane website, it should be “heyday” not “hay-day.” Their proofreading must be just as non-existent as it is here.

And seriously? Come the hell on. This isn’t a review. A guy rode a bike and he liked it. There’s no evidence that he has the depth of knowledge required to provide actual insight. He “switched to a compact” a while ago, but the standard rings on this bike didn’t seem to hinder him? Okay… so what? Are we reviewing the grouppo or the frame? And if the reviewer can’t account for that difference and factor it out as a non-issue, what business does he have telling anybody what the bike is like.

A tapered headset, for example, is so ubiquitous that you’d be hard-pressed (see what I did there?) to find a carbon road bike without one these days. Christ, Giant has already gone through multiple iterations and found that bigger isn’t always best. They went way up – to 1.5″, I believe – then came back down until they found the right amount of deflection. Oh, and on that note… built to be comfortable, but stiff? Thanks. That one hasn’t been around since the dawn of the carbon era. Laterally stiff, vertically compliant!

WTF is “the Axe” in the Battle Axe, anyway?

Did anybody even bother thinking that maybe the claims about the wheel cutout/flare might just be bogus manufacturer hyperbole? Or… you know… that most of what the manufacturer claims should be subject to scrutiny?

This isn’t a review. It’s a write up about something that a guy got sent by a bike company and his impressions. There’s very little evidence of reviewer qualification. There’s very little actual information. How did an entire “bike review” go by without a single mention of geometry?

I’m sure this is annoying. “Go elsewhere,” I might be told. But BikeRumor is a great place to get snapshots of new things, to get little bits of ‘insider’ info I might not find out about somewhere else just a quickly… but please, don’t go this route. I’ve read several of these review type pieces lately and, frankly, they’re awful. Please, leave reviews to people with more experience on the bike than reading articles, to those that understand sentence structure and don’t describe things as “hott,” and leave the shilling for somebody else. BikeRumor is better than this.

Tyler (Editor) - 01/18/12 - 11:57am

All, we appreciate the comments and criticism. Sand is a newer writer for us. He’s an excellent rider, we’re working on his writing and this post was published before editorial review. We’ll smack him around a little for you.

Gillis - 01/18/12 - 1:14pm

He’s a new writer, you gave him a bike of questionable origins to survey and then didn’t review his work?

:/

Hugo - 01/18/12 - 5:26pm

Well, this is my first post and correct me if i’m wrong but apart from the “aero” seat tube and custom paint job this frame/fork are exctly like the Marin Stelvio Frame/fork, i just picked mine from the garage and i can’t spot any more diferences!

Vodalous - 01/18/12 - 8:19pm

150 miles is like what – 2 rides?

Jason - 01/19/12 - 12:57am

Bike looks strangely similar to my Marin Stelvio….

tc1609 - 01/19/12 - 2:24pm

Tyler – Thanks for your response.
I second Gingers point of view.

I don’t know Sand or wish that you “smack him around” at all. Please don’t take this as arrogance, but the point you use to defend the faith you put in him, is at total odds with my own experience.

In my profession I have the privilege of meeting cyclists of every ability and experience level and have noticed frequently how naturally talented riders have the least sensitivity towards the functional differences in equipment. Thus inherently making them a poor primary choice as product reviewers. (Their tendency towards high intensity mileage/power does however make then good product testers i.e. how might this product wear or fail under high usage) Some of the reoccurring traits in talented riders that I have observed are 1: Adaptiveness – the ability to make anything work, and 2: Tolerance – to physical pain and mild discomfort to the point where it becomes normal, and un remarkable. A functionally fit and healthy human body is capable of absorbing and overcoming extraordinary physical challenges. Challenges that the majority of the road bike buying community are less than capable of.
My point is that, the ability to ride a bike well, in itself, has no bearing on an individual’s capacity to detect the meaningful differences in cycling equipment that are relevant to the majority of cyclists. True physical talent would be one of last pre-requisites on my shopping list for the perfect cycling product reviewer.
I hope that Sand is one of the less common “excellent riders” that possess the sensitivity that will enable him to feel and describe all the nuances that make one bicycle different from another and that you are able to teach him the rather large wealth of practical and technical understanding that this article suggests he is missing.

I write all this to you at the immense risk of sounding like a ponderous ass, only because I truly have enjoyed your website from its earliest days and would very much like to keep enjoying it in the future. I know that perhaps the increasing popularity of your website means that you want to take it more main stream, but I hope that this doesn’t come at the cost of quality. I’m sure you can gauge from the responses to this post that your readers enjoy the higher standards you usually attain, and would encourage you to keep pursuing excellence.

Thanks again for a site that has consistently engrossed my attention. Here’s to keeping it that way.

The Rude Awakener - 01/21/12 - 11:59am

that is one f*** ugly bike. No offence.

Zane - 01/27/12 - 11:53am

Hi BikeRumor Community,

This is Zane Schweer, the Brand Marketing Manager, for Jack Kane Custom Racing Bicycles. As a growing company, we truly appreciate everyone taking the time to comment on our Battle Axe SL review. We are very gracious for this opportunity. I would like to address a couple of the remarks.

Why our wheels were not tested (at this time): Everyone knows that proper and excellent review analysis comes from removing as many variables as possible. This was a frame review and we wanted to have our frames reviewed on their own merits. Testing a bike on unknown wheels would add a variable not pertinent to the review. We provided BikeRumor with proven and known Shimano Road Tubeless wheels so they could provide as accurate reviews as possible for you.

In addition, as you all know wheels greatly affect ride quality. To be able to properly compare wheels, one would need multiple sets of wheels. One of the great things that separates Jack Kane Racing Bicycles from the rest is that we custom build up every bike with components complimenting each individual rider’s riding style. In the case of this review, we felt strongly that to give readers the most accurate insight into our bike was a test with a known wheel.

Our Carbon Frames and Frames: In the mid-2000s carbon molds were very expensive. As a small company, we chose to utilize proven open molds. However, instead of being a company that simply used an open mold and put our name on it, our frame line up was comprised of aluminum and aluminum carbon bikes too. With these combinations we were (and are) able to have free range of geometries, materials, tubing, and design. Over the past couple years as we have further grown, our Nighthawk SL and Battle Axe SL frames are not open mold frames. They use tube to tube construction. We control every angle, tube thickness, carbon lay-up, and design. They are designed by us for us. We have quality control. We have warranties. We have your back.

The benefit of being a built-to-order company is that we can mix components as we please for our riders. We are not confined to one certain company. We build our bikes to our rider’s needs. We do not have an assembly line putting on parts. We wanted to make this bike extremely light. In our eyes, every component serves a precise purpose. Riders may love a brand’s handlebar, but hate their stem. With us, we can mix and match and get it right the first time. Ultimately, our goal is to listen to our customers, collaborate and then build an outstanding ride that is unique to them.

Not a fan of the flame design? Our galleries have loads of non-flame bikes too. We would love for you to step up to the plate and let us paint your design. Every bike is designed by our customers. That is what makes us so unique. You will not get a mass-produced paint job that thousands of people may own.

We cannot wait for what the future holds and we’re positioning ourselves to evolve into a more prominent player within the industry. Our bikes have been ridden to many victories. Our most prominent to date was the 2010 Team Mountain Khaki fueled by Jittery Joe’s professional team that won the overall USA Criterium Individual and Team series.

If you would like to learn more about Jack’s background and experience, we would love to talk with you further. We can only say so much on our website. Our number is 910.455.1011. We hope that when you’re in the market for your next road, triathlon, or track bicycle, you will give us an opportunity to earn your business. We’re here because of you. We want you to test us. We want to help you become a better rider. We want you to trust us (we know this has to be earned). We want to collaborate with you to design your perfect bicycle. We’ll paint it, we’ll build it, but we’re going to let you cause all the ENVY among your riding buddies.

Thank-you for your time everyone — Ride hard this year.

Design. Paint. Build. ENVY.

Zane Schweer
Brand Marketing Manager
Jack Kane Custom Racing Bicycles
910.455.1011
Email: (Please go to http://kanebikes.com/contact/ – It will bring up our contact page with two ways to email us. We want to prevent spam-bots)
http://www.kanebikes.com

Allen - 02/01/12 - 2:00pm

Well, I don’t know Zane but I know Jack well. I’ve been a cyclist for many decades and he even more. Some of these posts are well, stupid. Nobody in the bike manufacturing biz, on a small scale, is going to be running their own carbon weaves, building proprietary molds and having custom labled parts unless they want to go broke. Jack has been building bikes since they were made of Reynolds tubing, he knows how to build hand made steel and aluminum frames and they are tough as hell. I know I raced them.

I’m no Lance Armstrong but I know bikes, bike gossip, bike biz, etc. Yes, almost every carbon frame made will be made (economically) over seas. That fact alone means nothing. Almost everything in cycling is made either in Taiwan or China. Heck even Japanese brands are made in China now. Usually, if someone has a mold made, a few years later the mold belongs to the frame manufacturer NOT the company that originally paid for the mold or run of frames. The mfg. can then sell that same shape frame, made to differing specs, to anyone they choose. That doesn’t mean the original sticker on the frame equals a better bike. There’s virtually no difference unless the carbon specs are changed or geometry. What does change and what you pay for is what happens after that carbon frame leaves the mfg. warehouse. Meaning you pay a lot for a warranty and custom appearance. If not we’d all be riding plain carbon frames…some like that, most don’t.

Jacks frames are reasonably priced, get the job done and have a real solid warranty from a real brick & mortar store. Not some guy with some frame stickers in a garage or basement selling on ebay. Yes, that happens more than you know. He also repairs carbon frames, one of a very few in the U.S. that even knows how. You can talk to him on that number…try calling Trek or other companies (even medium sized) and talk to the owner…won’t happen.

So if you are looking for the latest crazy design, this may not be for you. But if you want to ride more than talk (or type) then his bikes are right for you. I’ve owned and wasted so much money on bikes than I care to mention and to be honest if I really wanted to just get the job done I’d still ride one of Jack’s frames. As it is I’m a bike junkie so I buy whatever is new and hang my laundry on it most of the year but that’s my own problem.

You can say what you want but don’t criticize Ford for not making a Ferrari. If you want ( and I do) to spend $3-5K on just a frame then do it but don’t say everything else is junk b/c it sells for $2K. It’s not. His paint jobs ARE worth the difference in price…he can paint practically anything you want on that frame. Call him….the closest thing to that is Treks Project One and that’s even limited and expensive. Custom paint costs some serious cash. His paint ain’t crap…it’s the good stuff…and if you’ve never purchased paint you don’t know how much it costs. Some of the high end bikes you have no idea what quality of paint is used…it can fade, chip, etc. easily but looks great in the showroom. Anyway, I’m just sticking up for Jack b/c he’s a stand up guy trying to build this entire sport AND business and has been doing it since 1972 (even longer if include his childhood). He’s raced, ridden, built and repaired bikes longer than most of you have been alive…no joke. Give his bikes a chance and you won’t regret it, period.

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.