Box One MTB Derailleur & Shifter – What’s the deal?

Box One MTB Derailleur & Shifter – What’s the deal?


The mountain bike drivetrain market is dominated
by Shimano and Sram, and has been for quite some time. In fact, they are the only two viable options
right now if you want a 1×11 or anything remotely high end. Can’t anyone else make this stuff? Specialized makes their own dropper post,
and Cannondale has been making crazy suspension forks for years. What’s stopping them from making their own
drivetrains and bringing those profits in house? Well, it probably wouldn’t be worth it. Drivetrains are complex, so they’re not
only expensive to develop, but very risky to sell. Anyone bringing a new product to market would
be jumping in the ring with Shimano and Sram, who pretty much have it figured out. Both companies are selling the best mountain
bike drivetrains ever made, seemingly one-upping themselves every year. To realistically compete with them, you would
need to go all in on research and development. If you could bring a viable product to market,
you would then be faced with the task of keeping up with their product cycles. It would take a group of crazy people, with
huge balls to even think of doing that. So, it’s actually fitting that a company
with roots in BMX would have the guts to drop in. Enter Box, who only started making mountain
bike components fairly recently. Their 1×11 drivetrain, the Box One, is set
to hit the shelves in the first quarter of 2017. Although Box does make other drivetrain parts,
the Box One is compatible with Shimano and Sram cassettes. Just the derailleur and shifter would set
you back about $250. That’s not cheap, and with their very established
competitors offering a wide range of options in 1×11, consumers are going to want some
tangible reasons to go with the relatively unproven Box One. Well thanks to you guys, Box sent me a derailleur
and shifter to test out. Let’s take a close look at the Box One,
install it, and go for a ride. We’ll start with the derailleur, which seems
kind of big and heavy. Still it feels rugged, and I could see it
taking a lot of abuse. It has a clutch, which is always engaged,
and a cable stop which pivots when impacted. They call this “Pivot Tech”. While this does seem like it would absorb
side and rear impacts, it’s worth mentioning that Sram’s cable stop doesn’t stick out
in the first place. Of course, it also needs this little plastic
wheel to get the cable going in the right direction. Shimano’s solution is to position their
derailleur further under the chainstay to keep the whole thing out of harm’s way. All three companies have significantly different
approaches to protecting their derailleurs, all of which are quite innovative. Because the Box One is meant to be used as
a 1×11, there doesn’t appear to be a long or short cage version, just one size. It has less ground clearance than my Sram
XO, but only by about half a centimeter. Yeah I went metric for you guys. So at first glance the major plus sides to
the Box One derailleur are that it’s simple and robust. The downsides are that it’s pretty big and
kind of pricey. Let’s move on to the shifter. This is where things start to get really interesting,
because the Box One “Push Push” shifter only has one switch. Shifting into bigger gears is done just like
Shimano or Sram, by pushing the lever forwards with your thumb. To upshift, you push that same lever laterally
with the tip of your thumb. I don’t know if this is better or just different,
but it’s certainly innovative. Alright let me show you guys something really
cool, but first I need to rebuild my Sram GX shifter. I’ll just remove these little screws and
take this little plate off and ghhaaaa!!! I’d rather buy a new one than open this
can of worms. Now let’s say you’ve had a particularly
rough season on your Box One, and you want to get it running like new. The whole assembly literally drops out of
the shifter into your hand. Presumably, you could recklessly clean this
entire thing in degreaser, re-lube it, and get it working like new. A user serviceable shifter will certainly
win Box some brownie points. When installing the Box One, I needed to take
my grip and brake off to get the shifter on. It doesn’t have a two piece clamp, but no
big deal. It nested under my Sram Guide brake lever
nicely. I should have brought a new cable housing
though, because I needed a few extra inches to reach the cable stop. So, my cables will be a little messy today. The rest of the installation went ridiculously
smooth. I set the limits, adjusted the B screw, and
tightened the cable to find it shifting perfectly. I’ll chalk this up to good luck. Time to hit the trails. Most experienced mountain bikers could tell
the difference between Sram and Shimano with their eyes closed. Shimano has a heavy clunky feel, while Sram
has a light clicky feel. I actually like both of them with a slight
preference for Shimano. On down shifts, the Box One feels more like
Shimano than it does Sram, but the long lever feels totally different than both companies. Needless to say the lateral upshifts would
be a new experience to anyone. I found it effortless to prod at it with my
thumb, however I wouldn’t want to push it any harder. If things weren’t working optimally I could
see this being annoying, but I don’t know for sure if that would ever be an issue. I got used to the Box One almost immediately. At no point during my ride did I reach for
an invisible lever. Maybe it was because I was excited to use
it and consciously thinking about it, or maybe because I’m used to demoing lots of different
components. The clutch seemed to work fine, and my bike
wasn’t any noisier than usual. I had no problems shifting, and no regrets
about putting the Box One on my bike. That morning, it performed as well as anything
I’ve tried from Sram or Shimano. I liked it. It just feels fun and enjoyable to use. This video was a first ride, but I’ll follow
up in another month after I’ve put this through the ringer. So far I see no compelling reason to strip
your bike of Sram or Shimano and replace it with Box. Still if you’re building something new it
might be worth considering. Clearly Box is keeping its ear to the trails,
and providing features that many riders want. Some of us are early adopters who are keen
to try anything new, and some of us are pragmatists who want something really robust and easy
to service. Like Sram and Shimano, some riders will like
the way the shifter feels more than others. Some not so much. For riders who don’t care about a few bucks
either way it often comes down to nuances like trigger action. My final judgement will come down to hopping
from one bike to another over the course of the next month. What will Sram XO feel like after I’ve ridden
the Box for a week? What will XTR feel like after riding Box? I’ll let you guys know, but for now I’m
enjoying the Box One and looking forward to riding it a lot more. Competition is good for consumers, so I’m
hoping this brave new product lives up to its promises. Thanks for riding with me today, and I’ll
see you next time.