Box One MTB Derailleur & Shifter - What's the deal?. A lot of you guys have been waiting for this—a close look at the Box One.
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 1x11, 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 1x11, 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.
For the full transcript, turn on closed captions.
Check out the Box One here: http://www.boxcomponents.com/custitem_itemcat_main/MTB/custitem_itemcat_sub1/Drivetrain
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