Box One Derailleur & Shifter Review

Well over a month ago, I installed the Box One Derailleur and shifter on my mountain bike. I made a video showing my first impression, and now I’ve spent some time actually riding it. So this video is about my experiences, observations, and opinions on the Box One, 1×11 drivetrain.

Let’s start with pricing.
At $250, the Box One is not cheap. Both Sram and Shimano have several products below this price point, all of which perform extremely well. Of course, Box is new to the drivetrain market and it’ll be a while before they reach the economies of scale their competitors have. Early adopters understand this, and they’re willing to shell out a couple of extra dollars to support new technology. So although the competing products are of better value, I think the Box One is priced fairly.

Moving on to shift quality
By this, I mean the ability to precisely and reliably shift gears. Honestly, I’ve never used anything that shifts better than the Box One, only as good or worse. Quite a few people tried my bike in the last month, and all of them said “wow” when they pressed the trigger. In terms of shifting quality, the BoxOne is on par with the very best products ever made.

So, what about chain retention?
Sigh….. Before we go into this, note that Box recommends a chain guide. Personally, I think that a narrow wide chainring and a good derailleur should be enough, but it’s possible that Box Designed this specifically to work with chain guides. I’ve been running it without one though and so far I’ve dropped two chains. Strangely it was while riding chattery XC trails, and not stuff like this. Can we chalk this up to bad luck? I don’t know, maybe it depends on your particular bike or chain line, but even my modestly priced Sram GX almost never drops chains. I can only go by my own experience.

Let’s move on to the shifter
This is the big difference you’ll find between Box and their competition. The same lever is pushed forwards to shift down, and laterally to shift up. This is pretty novel, and I’ve gotten quite used to it. With that said, I do still prefer Sram and Shimano. I have somewhat stubby thumbs, so it takes slightly more effort for me to shift the Box. This is a personal preference, and I’d like to reinforce that the action and shift quality is remarkably good. Another plus about the Push Push shifter is how easy it is to service. All the internals drop out in one piece for cleaning, which is extremely novel. So, I give the lever high marks. It’s just not for me.

I also want to talk about ease of installation.
Here, the Box is pretty much tied with its competitors. It was very easy to get the cable into the shifter, and quite obvious how to adjust the derailleur. Nothing much to report on here. The only thing I would note is that you need to take off your grip to access the shifter.

On to durability.
In the last month I haven’t needed to replace a derailleur hanger, so it’s fair to say that my Box derailleur hasn’t taken any major impacts. With that said, I would venture to say that it’s extremely durable. It’s no featherweight, and every part on it is made of either metal or a nylon/carbon fiber composite. I just don’t see this thing breaking, but I can’t speak from experience.

Lastly, cool factor
Yes, this is important. I think most of us like gear, and when something is novel or unique it can be a plus. The Box One is super cool. Besides the fact that most people haven’t seen one, the shifter has kind of cool retro design to it. I had a conversation with everyone who noticed it, and many of them were super excited that someone else was making drivetrains. Save for a gearbox or belt drive, you’d be hard pressed to find a drivetrain with a bigger cool factor than the Box One.

So in summary, let’s look at the pros and cons
The pros are: Superb shifting quality, a novel shifter with user serviceable internals, a robust build, and significant cool factor.

The cons are: it’s kinda pricey, it has questionable chain retention, it’s kind of bulky, and people with stubby thumbs may not like it.

So, if you’re an early adopter, or you just like the idea of supporting a new entrant to the drivetrain market, the Box One might be for you. You’ll be getting a very well built derailleur and shifter with accuracy that rivals anything else out there. You’ll also be supporting a company that clearly keeps its ears to the trails, and delivers features that riders want.

On the other hand if you’re looking for great shifting on a budget with no surprises, you just can’t beat Sram or Shimano. Their prices are too good, and their products have years of proven reliability.

On a final note I’d like to point out is that this is Box’s first mass market drivetrain, and they got so many things so right. If Box was able to build this on their first try, then just imagine what they’ll accomplish next time. What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for riding with me today, and I’ll see you next time.