Axon produce a range of lightweight, quick-folding single-speed e-bikes with small batteries clearly designed for zipping about the city, where the need to take the bike with you wherever you go is just as important as performance.
There are eight models in the range spanning the £999 to £2,280 price bracket but at first glance it's hard to tell them apart as they all use the same tiny frame design. (The range is soon to be cut to six with the discontinuation of the Eco models.)
The large price range reflects differences in battery size and brake spec as you go up the range. S models have independently operating throttles so are not road legal in the UK. (They still have a 15.5mph assist limit like the road legal models though.) Even so, the second top model in the range tested here, the Pro 7, still only has a pretty modest 252Wh battery.
All models also have a neat in-seatpost battery that is removable and unplugs at its lower end to remove for charging away from the bike if needed or if you want to leave it parked without risk of battery theft. Unusually they also all feature magnesium frames - a lighter material than aluminium but the very chunky frame members used here mean the 15kg ish weight of the bike is actually similar to the Flit 16 we tested a year ago which uses aluminium and a similar size battery.
Once you get the knack of folding the handlebars and frame at the same time (necessary to stop the various things catching on each other) it's a pretty quick and very neat fold. The 70x60x32cm folded size can't beat the Brompton's 60x60x28cm though, despite the Axon's very short wheelbase and its marginally smaller 16" wheels.
Still, it's an eminently portable and compact package and the magnet system does a reasonable job of keeping the two halves together - as long as you keep it vertical as tipping it horizontally is likey to result in it unfolding itself... The best systems use a very positive clip system, like that deployed on Tern's BYB non-electric folders or some method of securing front and rear forks together so the front ones can't twist - as the Brompton and Flit 16 manage to do.
The hinges look solid, are adjustable for tension should any play develop in them, and feel like they will stay securely shut whilst riding. They do have plastic levers though. Metal would have been far preferable, especially as they project from the folded package, inviting breakages.
On the road
The Axon Pro 7 uses cadence sensing so the power kicks in in response to the pedal cranks moving (rather than from pedal pressure which is what you get with the more bike-like and efficient torque sensing systems).
Cadence sensing can work well if the control electrics are programmed appropriately but on the Axon Pro 7 power only kicks in after two full pedal revolutions, which can take several seconds. It also takes a while to stop powering you forward. This is a pity as this unpredictable 'go stop go' power delivery rather spoils an otherwise fun-to-ride bike. Axon say this is a safety feature in case you leave the power on as it will then stop power engaging if you turn the pedals whilst folding the bike. Whatever the reason, the torque sensing or even throttle options (technically illegal on public roads in the UK) might well be more fun, efficient and practical to ride, though I haven't had the chance to test ride either of them.
Once you are up and running the bike nips along on the flat and up moderate hills very well and its short wheelbase and lively steering geometry make it great for nipping through urban traffic.
Hit a steep hill and heavier riders will slow noticeably and the bike was pretty well off the pace of the better hub motor systems on our mile-long climb. On our mini ultra-steep climb of 15%-plus, we couldn't get enough momentum going to make the motor work up the hill.
Comparisons with other bikes here feel a bit unfair as the Axon is designed above all else to be light and foldable with a usable amount of e-power. Rather than competing with heavier, more powerful machines it seeks to carve its own niche. And as already noted, it may be that the throttle enabled or torque sensor options transform its performance - they would certainly be worth a test ride.
I kept the power setting at a maximum three out of three all the time as the lower settings are only effective at lower speeds. I estimated the 252Wh battery would take my 11 stone frame around 15-20 miles sticking to the lower slopes of West Yorkshire's Calder Valley, without tackling any of the super steep hills around.
The frame feels stiff and well built, though there was a little flex when pulling hard on the handlebars up steep hills, but nothing too alarming. As a single speed there's nothing to say about the gears other than that the chosen ratio tops out at around 16mph which is a little limiting if you want to step on the pedals with a following wind or downhill. The (presumably budget priced) Nutt branded hydraulic disc brakes performed superbly with great modulation and excellent stopping power.
It's a small 'cockpit area' and the fact that I needed the seat at its max allowable height means it probably won't suit very tall riders (I am 5ft 8in).
It's also notable that both front and rear forks are single sided, allowing you to change an inner tube without removing the wheel. Axon say the wheels are not meant to be removed by the end user so you need to remove the caliper units to change brake pads when they wear out .
Hardwired lights and an electronic horn are practical additions for busy town traffic and the minimalist plastic mudguards and kickstand just about do what they are intended to.
Value for money
There's lots to like about this bike including the quick and compact fold and light weight and the super hydraulic brakes. What I felt was poor power delivery and plastic hinge levers and the high price are reflected in the scores. Despite all that, it's an interesting attempt at a super compact and fun e-bike and with a lower price and torque sensor it would be on anyone's shortlist for a nippy around town e-folder (note the torque-sensored Max Pro is discounted at some retailers).
There is an increasing amount of competition in the single-speed e-folder space right now with the likes of Flit (pricier but more sophisticated all round) and MiRider (heavier and folds less well but a star performer when ridden). Halfords also recently started stocking the interesting looking Xiaomi Mi Smart - we haven't tested this but the price is certainly eye catching. Like the Axon range, all of them to a greater or lesser degree look to fill the gap between e-scooters and other small e-micromobility devices and larger, heavier, multi-geared and more powerful e-bikes. It's a niche area of e-bikes that looks certain to grow as relatively light, compact and manoeuvrable e-bikes are so handy for moving about busy towns and cities.