By Brandon Bilyeu
- Precision machined in the USA
- Neat and clean look on bike
- Hollow shaft and small head make for light weight
- Excellent size finder tool on website, guaranteed to fit
- Extra deep 6mm hex socket for excellent tool engagement
- Hexlox Bicycle Security System available
- You have to carry a 6mm hex wrench to remove your wheels
- Long handle hex wrenches could lead to over-torque of axle
Cost: Varies depending on type and size needed, roughly $40-$50 per axle
How obtained: review sample from company
Available: online, retail
Website: Lightning Bolt-On Thru Axles
RBR Sponsor: no
Tested: 25+ hours
Sizing: Available in all thru axle sizes and standards
All Your Thru Axle Needs Covered and Made in the USA
The Robert Axle Project was born when the need arose to attach a trailer to a bike with a rear thru axle. Since starting in 2013, they have branched out to thru axle offerings for every possible need and do all of the design and manufacturing in Bend, Oregon USA.
A few years ago, thru axle technology was mostly reserved for mountain bikes, but with the migration of disc brakes to road and gravel bikes, thru axles are now common in the road scene and the Robert Axle Project has evolved to cover the entire spectrum of bike brands and types. Whether you just need a new axle or want to attach a trailer, The Robert Axle Project has you covered:
- Lightweight Axles
- Kid Tailer Axles
- Bike Trainer Axles
- BOB Trailer Axles
- Cargo Trailer Axles
- R.A.T. Axles
- Naild Axles
- Mavic Speed Release
- Surly Gnotboost and MDS Systems
Finding the right size is easy with the online axle finder. Simply input your wheel/trailer, fork type, bike brand/model, and hub size to get a perfect match.
Lightning Bolt-On Thru Axle – Simple and Lightweight
I tested a pair of The Robert Axle Project’s Lightning Bolt-On Thru Axles on my trusty cyclocross / gravel bike, and can say they performed perfectly in keeping my wheels from flying off, staying tight, and keeping everything stiff. The machined aluminum and black anodized axles fit perfectly and the quality is top-notch.
The Lightning axles replaced a well-used set of DT Swiss ratcheting handle axles that have given me no trouble over the years. So, the main difference is the lack of an integrated handle on Lightning axle. There are definite pros and cons for both types of axles and it really comes down to your specific needs and priorities.
While thru axle installation is quite simple, it is worth noting a few important points that are laid out in the included installation manual. When replacing any thru axle, it is important for safety to check that the new axle diameter, length, and thread are the same as the old axle.
Diameter and length problems will be fairly obvious, but the thread can be a little harder to compare and if the thread is wrong you may damage your fork’s female thread beyond repair. Once you know the size is correct, all you need to do is grease the threads and screw it in to the 12Nm torque printed right on the axle head. Note that the stubby integrated handles don’t provide much leverage so you cannot over-torque the axle. But be careful with long handled 6mm hex wrenches as their long lever allows the application of high-torque with minimal effort.
The Lightning lightweight axles are indeed lighter than axles with integrated handles, but how much depends on your current axle. Some of that weight is offset by the need to carry a 6mm hex wrench to remove the axles (unless you already carry this in a multi-tool). And the one time you find yourself in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire and no 6mm hex wrench you may regret ditching the integrated handles. I threw a spare 6mm wrench in my saddle bag so I wouldn’t be stranded if I happened to forget my multi-tool.
The handle-free Lightning Axles do provide a much cleaner look on the bike and won’t snag roadside foliage/debris that could cause a crash (more important on skinny roads / trails). On the other hand, looking at my scuffed DT Swiss handles I also realized that the big handles provide some frame protection in the event of a fall, the handles hitting the ground before the bike frame. With the Lightning low profile axle head there is minimal protection (depends on frame design), but a higher likelihood of the frame coming in contact with the ground.
If you have plans to crash in the future, there is one consideration on the personal safety front. Thru axle handles stick out much more than quick release handles that fold over next to the frame members. It is a rare occurrence, but I know of one documented case of a serious injury when a rider’s leg was impaled on a thru axle handle during a big pileup in a race. In races and other events where mass crashes are more likely the Lightning axles do provide a safety benefit.
In terms of bike/wheel security, certainly integrated handle thru axles offer a simple and quick way for thieves to remove your wheels. With the Lightning thru axles installed the thief would need to be in possession of a 6mm hex wrench to ruin your day. If you need extra security you can also get a special version of the Lightning axles with a magnet that are compatible with the Hexlox security system. The Hexlox system blocks the 6mm hex hole with a magnetic plug that can only be removed with a unique key.
Bottom line – a great, high quality thru axle for those that want to ditch the big handles. The pros and cons outlined above should help you decide if they would benefit your bike setup. Trailer and trainer axles are also available to maximize the versatility of your bike.