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 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).
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
The 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.
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.
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.
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.*
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.
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!
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.