At A Glance
The man behind Box Components, Toby Henderson, became a racing legend on downhill bikes and BMX’s and is now well on track to legendary status in the world of bike components. Still a fairly small and fresh company, Box isn’t afraid to take on some formidable competition and are impressively confident that there is room for a third player in the drivetrain game. Taking on the dominant duo of SRAM and Shimano in a patent filled minefield is an admirable move for sure.Buy Drivetrain on
After a respectable first effort with the Box One derailleur and shifter combo, it hasn’t taken them long to hit back after what must have been a steep learning curve with an affordable 11-speed drivetrain, the Box Two. At a price point of $269.99 for the 11-46 cassette with derailleur, shifter and chain, the Box Two drivetrain package sits somewhere close the SRAM NX and Shimano SLX offerings.
The rear derailleur is available in two options, the medium length ‘wide’ for use with the 11-46 cassette and the long caged ‘extra wide’ for use with their 11-50 cassette. It uses 3-D forged aluminium for the linkage plates and upper pivot body to help with impact resistance, glass-fibre/nylon composite for the main knuckle which houses the clutch system, and strong aluminium for the pulley cage.
Although it doesn’t look light, it weighs in at a respectable 284g for the wide and 290g for the extra wide, which is considerably lighter than other mechs in its price range. The cable arm is hinged in an attempt to deflect upon impact without drastic consequences, a nice little touch. Another feature which Box is proud of is their adjustable ‘Tri Pack’ clutch which allows users to fine tune the clutch using an Allen key, something which Shimano users will be familiar with but is not featured on any SRAM derailleurs.
A newly designed shifter brings Box away from their unique ‘push push’ design to a more recognised twin paddle style unit. This is a thumb and index finger style shifter similar to the Shimano style, which weighs 132g and costs an attractive $44.99.
The cassette is a good looking block with ramped teeth and a gradual linear progression to allow a smooth and consistent gear change throughout the range. Box two cassettes are available in the 11-46 (which we are testing), and a big 11-50 monster to offer more gears for those who want them. Both are compatible with a Shimano HG freehub which makes it a nice compatible option to mix in with both SRAM and Shimano 11 speed set-ups. The cassette is split into three parts, two of which are connected to an aluminium spider. The largest cog on each option is machined from 7075-alloy aluminium, while the rest are steel.
Rounding off this attractive looking drivetrain is a chrome, nickel plated 116 link chain made from heat treated alloy-steel. It weighs 255g, costs $24.99 and reminds the owner who it’s made by with a neat Box logo stamped on every link.
On The Trail
Initial set up was nice and easy thanks to its compatibility with a Shimano HG hub, the cassette slots on just like most of us are used to and the same spline tool is used to torque the lock-ring into place. The shifter comes with a cable-ready to go which helps speed up the process, the less time spent faffing means more time riding! The only niggle was that the lower limit bolt access is slightly impeded by the pivoting cable arm on the derailleur, not a problem with workshop tools but a bit of a hindrance with a trail multi-tool for those rare trailside adjustments.
Sadly at this stage there is no matchmaker clamp to create that seamless integration between shifter and brake lever we have come to like with SRAM and Shimano, so the cockpit can become a touch busier, and the adjustability could be an issue depending on how the shifter marries with brake lever you run. I use some SRAM Guide RE’s and was able to find a shifter position that worked well for me.
The rear derailleur looks sturdy and very distinguishable from that of its rivals, perfect for those who want to make a statement and be recognised for trying something different. The adjustable clutch is something I really like and found myself using fairly regularly from the off. A 2.5 Allen key is used to remove the cap with the red circle to access the clutch adjustment. Using a T25 key you can tune it towards the type of riding you’re doing. Tighten it up for minimal chain slap for those days where descending is the main game, but at the price of a pretty stiff shifting feel. Loosening it off makes for a much smoother shifting experience, or find your own preferable position with some fine-tuning. It’s just nice to have that option.
Shifting the chain between the cogs is crisp and quiet, totally on par with any low to mid price range set ups from SRAM or Shimano. The 11-46 cassette has a good spread and offers a gear for every situation, unlike some others on the market which leave a bit of a void between the 37 and 46 tooth cogs. The shifter does its job well and hasn’t skipped a shift, although it does feel a touch on the ‘flexy’ side when it’s presses forcefully, but this is only really noticed when the clutch adjustment has been wound in.
Being able to shift down 4 gears in one push is a new experience for me, great for those moments when you hit a sharp climb and totally forget to change in advance, it gives you a chance at getting into the right cog. I can’t help but feel like this puts a lot of stress on the shifter as well as encourage the rider to become less proficient in the art of gear changing. I change gear one at a time, and it works a treat with that approach.
The thing that’s impressed me the most is the robustness of the components, particularly the derailleur. I’ve thrown a whole winter of abuse at it, including a 24-hour race in minus temperatures, and it hasn’t skipped a beat. I’ve clattered it into rocks where in the past I would have found myself scratching my head trying to figure out how to get home, but it takes the abuse and keeps delivering. This is proof that the Pivot-Tech spring loaded cable stay is much more than just a gimmick to stand out in a tricky crowd.
The Box Two 11 speed drivetrain is a robust and solid performer, which holds its own against its heavyweight competition. The racing pedigree which Toby Henderson brings to the party is there for all to see. The compatibility is a big bonus, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more Box components out on the trails in the coming years. If you want an affordable, heavy-duty drivetrain and like the idea of sporting something different to everyone else out there then Box Two is a good shout.
This review was in Issue 58 of IMB.For more information visit BOX Components
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By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.