Forme has always presented the Axe Edge range as its more sportive-biased offering. But take into account the classic race bike geometry of parallel 73-degree angles, 180mm head-tube – shallower than a traditional sportive design on our 58cm test bike – and finish off those dimensions with a wheelbase that’s under a metre, and what you’ve got is a machine more than capable of bouts of agility and speed.
Highs: Swift performer with some real component highlights
Lows: The brakes are average and the front end suffers some vibration
Buy if: You want a raceable British speedster at a decent price
Elsewhere there’s a mix of snappy-shifting Campagnolo Veloce, driven by a compact (50/34) FSA Gossamer chainset, and stopping duties being performed to an adequate standard by Forme branded units fitted with decent cartridge pads. The brakes lack the feel of Campag’s own Veloce units and can’t match Shimanos 105 or Ultegra units seen elsewhere on Bike of the Year test bikes.
The 4ZA Cirrus wheels are a step apart from the normal Mavic, Shimano, or Fulcrum and are none the worse for it. They’re admirably low weight for an affordable wheelset and come shod with Schwalbe’s Lugano tyres, which have continually impressed us with their wet weather performance in particular.
Under hard out-of-saddle efforts we did find that a bit of brake rub could be induced at the rear, but a few turns of a spoke key on the unevenly tensioned wheel cured this bit of an irritation quickly.
We’ve tried the Axe Edge before, and we’ve always found it to be a swift ride. (In this year’s guise, it’s lighter and cheaper than it was last time out.) Some of the speedy nature comes from those light wheels, but much of it results from the frame itself. It’s undoubtedly firm, yet the rear isn’t so stiff as to become uncomfortable. You get planty of feedback through the seat of your pants, but this never develops into jarring discomfort – even on the roughest surfaces.
Up front the slender fork stays steadfastly free of side-to-side flex, yet offers enough fore-and-aft movement to smooth out bigger hits. We did, though, experience a fair amount of vibration through the rigid aluminium 4ZA handlebar – and this became more noticeable as the miles stacked up. Some of this is down to the stiff cockpit, but we think it could be countered pretty effectively by changing the thin budget bar tape for a thicker gel-infused comfort tape from the likes of Fi’zi:k or Specialized.
The Axe Edge Comp is a steed we undoubtedly enjoyed riding: it’s a highly capable all rounder, albeit one that lacks the refined ride of the top machines in the Bike of the Year test. We’ve seen, though, that the Axe Edge Comp has some serious discounts from some big online sellers, and with a chunk knocked from the already great value RRP it’s certainly a bike worth serious consideration.
This article forms part of Cycling Plus magazine’s Bike of the Year 2014 Awards. Cycling Plus is available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.