At A Glance
Choice. Choice can only be a good thing yeah? In the world of mountain bike drivetrains and derailleurs, we have a choice, just as long as it's one of two, and it starts with the letter S, but is that all? Surely we should be demanding more options for changing gears. It has been a long time coming, but Box are here to try and address that issue and see if they can get a piece of the pie.Buy Drivetrain on
Back at Eurobike, I was lucky enough to be handed a pre-production set of the Box One PushPush shifter and rear mech for testing and over the last few months, it has been put through its paces. We have the 11speed rear mech and corresponding shifter which come in at 264g and 124g respectively and retail at $175 and $75.
Features of the rear mech include a Cam Clutch design to keep chain tension high, and a spring loaded cable guide, which will move to prevent damage to the mech. It will also handle cassettes up to 46t of any make.
The Push Push shifter uses a single paddle system, whereby shifts to easy gears are done in a traditional thumb push, but to drop into harder gears, the whole lever is pushed into the body. All this is housed in a carbon and aluminium body giving a solid feel to the construction. I've been running the set up on a SRAM drivetrain, and simply swapped out the shifter and mech and hit the trail.
On The Trail
Set up was easy, I took a new SRAM set up on a bike and installed the mech and shifter as normal. The shifter has a simple rubber cover on the cable port to thread the cable through, and attachment to the rear mech is all pretty standard. Indexing again was simple, and once the stops were set, it was ready to go.
Now the most difficult thing with the Box components is re-training your brain and right thumb. Although we have a choice of two major shifter brands, they share similar systems for actuation, and this leads to a few confusing moments with the Box set up. Shifting down for climbing is simple, and with four gears at a time it's easy and quick, but what is more tricky is convincing your thumb to push inwards. The lever paddle is well designed to allow this to happen, and in no way does it feel wrong, or biomechanically awkward, it is just muscle memory, and this takes time to sort out. Thankfully, it didn't take too long before it was second nature.
The clutch on the system isn't very strong, and chain retention is an issue, but as a pre-production unit, things are likely to change in this department, and I look forward to trying the future versions. This has meant I have run it with a chain guide to keep shifting and chain retention reliable. With the risk of dropping a chain removed, the shifting has been clear and precise, the only issues being that of the user; me, getting confused. The click from the lever is subtle, not overly strong, but it feels good in use. I would maybe make the inward thumb push a bit stronger and more purposeful, but I never found any huge problems on the trail.
Mud and the poor weather did little to upset the shifting more than normal, and with virtually no adjustments, the system has stayed accurate and reliable for the whole test period. It certainly does a good job of matching up to the performance that its price suggests, though options from the competition will give good shifting for less money. It will take time before Box can have its own trickle down effect and produce high-quality budget options, but I'm sure this will happen.
I look forward to getting a final production version and giving it some more time but, for the moment it will be staying on my bike as I've certainly grown to love the shifter, and have no hankering for anything more familiar or traditional.
I have had trouble free, accurate shifting for the past few months with these components, and once my thumb was re-programmed, it has been a simple and intuitive affair. I like the shifter, and I feel it is an excellent piece of design, but I will need convincing of a stronger clutch on the future versions of the rear mech before I would use one without a chain guide. It'll be hard to justify buying this set up over and above the two big S’s, especially on cost, but if you're looking for something different and want to break from the mould, then Box is just what you've been waiting for.Buy Drivetrain on
This review was in Issue 45 of IMB.For more information visit BOX Components
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.