After what seemed like ages in prototypes, updates, and refinements, Box came to market with a unique take on the modern day mountain bike drivetrain with dedicated 1x components. By their own admission, "Box Components was created with a rebellious vision and towering objective: to chart new courses and promote forward-thinking products".
The most obvious change from the norm is the unique single-lever shifter which handles both upshifts and downshifts. Pressing forward on the lever shifts the drivetrain to an easier gear, and then pressing in on the lever with the tip of your thumb shifts into a more difficult gear. This will, however, change in their Generation 2 offering to a more standard two-lever shifter. Unconfirmed, but it seems there may be some intellectual property issues with the current shifter. Shifting to easier gears can be done four at a time, but only one per shift when dropping to harder gears.
The rear derailleur comes with the now-common "clutch" tech. Box calls theirs “Cam Clutch technology,” and it’s always on and engaged. It lacks SRAM's "locked" button that helps with rear wheel removal, though. It does have "Pivot Tech" which allows the derailleur to swing back when it suffers a hit, in an attempt to keep the derailleur or the hanger from breaking leaving you stranded mid-ride.
The Box Two cassette is made of hi-tensile steel and 7075-T6 aluminum, the 11-46T cassette features a 418% percent range. Two aluminum carriers hold the largest seven cogs while four individual cogs are separated with aluminum spacers and each cog features ramped teeth for improved shifting. The cassette is compatible with all major 11-speed chains and traditional MTB freehubs, but it is not compatible with SRAM's XD driver. Claimed weight is 480g with the lockring.
As mentioned above, there is a generation 2 shifter and derailleur on its way that will add some durability and updated specifications. Most notably the shifter reverts to something a bit more standard and the rear derailleur gets a stiffer clutch. They have added a downhill specific Box Two 7 speed 11 - 24 cassette and Box One DH 7 speed shifter.
Box Components offer a lifetime warranty against breakage that covers nearly all of their products.
- Box Two CassetteR 1,800
- Box One ShifterR 1,450
- Box One DerailleurR 2,950
On the Trail
As the shifter is about to be changed, I won't spend too much time on how their system performed. It's actually a pity as shifting was good and unique amongst the S'es. If only different for the sake of being different, as there is not much to fault in how the brands shift. Set up with a SRAM XX1 crank and a 32T Absolute Black direct mount chainring, I have not suffered any dropped chains and shifting has stayed direct even in wet and muddy rides. Other than the shifter, it was quite striking just how much of a non-issue it was riding a brand new offering. One going up against established brands who have been fine-tuning their art for decades. Jumping between bikes with different shifters, there is a short adjustment period while you go looking for the second shift lever.
Much like the shifters, the derailleur does an excellent job of shifting the chain across the cassette. Moving up or down the cassette felt quite effortless and was accurate in the most trying of conditions.
Finally, the 11-speed Box Two cassette. I feel that Box would have made a much bigger impact had they launched with a 12-speed offering. That would have put them in the opposite corner to SRAM and a fight in the big league. Maybe for some this won't be a major issue, but for those looking to upgrade their current drivetrain, it's not simply a decision of which brand. If you go Box you can only go 11 speed. Whether that would be a stumbling block is up to each rider, but they would have done themselves a huge favour by launching 12-speed from the off.
Ratio peeping shows a SRAM 11 speed 10-42T cassette with a 32T chainring can be quite evenly matched by Box's 11-46T cassette using a 36T chainring.
As an upgrade kit they are up against SRAM's 12 speed offerings with GX Eagle coming in at a great price point and offering a wider range. Shimano offers similar gearing (11-46T cassette), but not the unique appeal. What Box Components do offer is a solid product that feels well-developed and R&D'ed, so if you're looking to replace some components on your current Shimano drivetrain then Box is certainly worth a look - especially if you're okay with 11 speed and would like something a bit different without skimping on performance and features.