It’s not often a small brand decides they have a better solution to the current drivetrain standards set forth from the likes of Sram, Shimano, or Campagnolo. A good number of companies today dabble in the drivetrain market with producing cranks and chainrings. Some even have taken a stab at a full derailleur based drivetrain. Most notably as of late is FSA, a company that has skirted around the drivetrain for most of their existance, but can be found on most other critical components of a bike. With their recent release of K-Force WE, FSA stepped into the drivetrain game. How will this pan out for the traditionally handlebar and stem company? Time will tell and hopes of electronic drivetrains going more mainstream will be needed for success. The road drivetrain market has seen others, Mavic for example, but what about something for mountain bikers?
Nearly 5 years in the works, Box Components came out with their answer to shift a bike. With all the rage being anything 1x in the mountain bike world today, Box took this and ran with it. A 1x specific drivetrain, offering a cassette, a rear derailleur, and a shifter.
CASSETTE – Box .two
A very similar product to that of Shimano’s M8000 11-46 cassette, however there are a few subtle differences and one more meaningful. To start, it’s black. Looks fresh, we’ll see how this wears over the coming months during testing. Second, it is roughly on par weight wise to the XT. This cassette is Shimano compatible, meaning it will fit a standard Shimano style freehub body, so any current wheel setup with 9 or 10 speeds will be compatible. Due to the nature of mounting this style cassette, versus the Sram XD standard, it is more difficult to get both low cassette weight and low price. The last, more significant difference is the jump between cog tooth count. The XT essentially takes their 11-42 cassette, and swaps the 42 for a 46, making the 46 tooth a very much felt ‘bail-out gear’. Box designed the cassette around its overall range, meaning you will not have a huge jump between any two cogs in the range. With Shimano jumping 9 teeth, Box is a managable jump of 6 teeth, keeping your cadence spinning smoothly and predictably. Overall tooth count is as follows from Box: 11-13-15-18-21-24-28-32-36-40-46. MSRP $99.99.
REAR DERAILLEUR – Box .one
A rear derailleur has a big job in todays drivetrain world. Not only must it reliably shift a chain across a ratio that reaches 500% change, but it also must help hold the chain on the chainring. All while attempting to hide from rocks and roots that are just itching to steal this precious little gem off the tail end of your bike. The Box .one rear derailleur delivers on these. It’s progressive clutch is a one-way system, keeping the chain tight, but allowing easy and smooth shifting throughout the cassette range. This was a very noticable change from the clutch design of a Shimano or Sram derailleur. Extremely smooth shifting was felt while dialing the system in while on the repair stand.
Another nice feature that shows time was spent during the design process is their Pivot Tech cable entry arm. The arm is designed to flex inwards in the event of a crash or run in with derailleur seeking trail debris. Compatible with a cassette range of 9-46, this derailleur is meant to be used on all major 11 speed cassette options available. MSRP $174.99.
SHIFTER – Box .one
The shifter. This is where it all started and what intrigued us to bring this fresh and hardly known drivetrain in for a test. Using the same cable pull as Shimano (compatible with Shimano 11 speed mountain derailleurs), the Box .one shifter has a very unique means of shifting to higher gear choices. As demonstrated below, you can see the action of shifting is all done with one shift lever, however the shift is done on either of two actions. Rotationally, this is the standard from both Shimano and Sram, and also inwards, which is a Box only design.
This shifter design is intended on leaving more of the hand on the bar for better control and also easier and a more consistant ability to brake. Intrigued by the Box shift style? Being Shimano 11 speed compatible means you can add this to any bike you currently have with a Shimano 11 speed drivetrain. Who knows, this shifter might just make you a better rider. MSRP $74.99
WHAT’S TO COME
The Box drivetrain is installed on a 2017 Specialized Fatboy and will be getting tested over the course of the next few months. We will have an update after this test period to let you know how the system faired through winter fat biking and into spring time dirt. Already know you want it? Drop by the shop to order. All orders will include free install through June 2017!