The Seven Axiom SG is a great all-rounder from the ultimate titanium boutique brand. When it comes to top-end hand-built titanium, the Americans still have the cachet, and none more than Seven. Revered outside America in a way few other US bike brands are, Seven's build quality and attention to detail is legendary. They also make off-the-peg models - as tested here - with more custom options than some manufacturers' custom bikes...
Seven was set up in 1997 by Rob Vandermark, former R D designer at Merlin Cycleworks. Ever since, the brand has invoked a sense of quality a cut above any other titanium bike in the world. There are 11 road models in the range with the Axiom in the middle ground between the out-and-out performance of their carbon bike and those expressly intended for century/sportif rides.They build anything from cyclo-crossers to tandems, and while virtually all Seven bikes are bespoke at no extra cost to the consumer, we took delivery of their Signature series frame that uses a set frame geometry for a given frame size. The 12 sizes available range from 49-59cm and all have well judged top-tube lengths for their given size. While this Axiom is designed to suit a rider less than 180lb, Seven say there are many satisfied customers who have specified this tubing who weigh more. All their bikes, custom or off-the-peg, can be tuned for stiffness or comfort - indeed their Signature bikes offer a number of custom options including choices of tubing and top tube length.
Seven use their own Argen double butted 3AL/2.5V grade titanium and the flawless welding and attention to detail are to the same standard as the recently tested and similarly priced Merlin Extralight and Litespeed Ghisallo. The laser-etched head-tube badge is a sight to behold and there is a distinct 'rightness' to the placement of all the cable stops.
Previous experience with titanium frames shows that there are often minor handling anomalies that can be highlighted by shaking the handlebars vigorously on fast, technical descents. The almost complete absence of flex in the top-tube and downtube is proof of the superior refinement of the Axiom to anything we've previously tested made from titanium tubing. The compact frame design means that the long seatpost soaks up high frequency vibrations before they get through to the rider, and Seven deserve credit for creating what are simply the most comfortable forks that we've tested. This makes the Axiom great for both century and club rides and distance racing where its comfortable ride would help to minimise fatigue. While the steering geometry is slower than average based on a trail figure of 7cm, the Axiom has a rare quality for titanium in being particularly stable on fast descents and instilling confidence on difficult, bumpy surfaces.
The distributors for Seven in the UK, Sigma Sport, have chosen sensibly with their finishing kit as it is well priced yet light enough to bring out the best in the frame. The highly polished lustre of the Shimano Ultegra equipment integrates well with the appearance of the frame, and the non-series Shimano compact chainset has good-looking but somewhat heavy solid aluminium chainrings. A popular trick amongst the more astute manufacturers is to use a shim inside the seat tube. That way a smaller diameter seatpost can be used to give a little fore and aft flex to take the sting out of poor road surfaces. Seven have applied this to great effect using an Easton EC70 carbon seatpost. ITM Millennium oversized 'bars and stem err on the stiff side, which is good, but if cost and value for money aren't crucial, carbon parts could bring the bike under the 17.9lb one tested here.
The Axiom has been specified for riders up to 180lb, so it is appropriate that it is fitted with wheels that are tough enough for a medium-to-heavyweight rider. The choice of Mavic Ksyrium Elite is as much based on their appearance as it is one of economic consideration, but we feel that they are at odds with the performance of the frame and cycle parts with a light to medium weight rider on board. For most riders the DT 1450 wheels costing £450 are more appropriate, have long lasting cartridge bearings and have a healthy weight saving.
The Ksyrium Elites are shod with the Michelin Pro Race - very long lasting tread and grip is very good, if not one of the best in wet conditions.