Box Components might not be a brand you have considered when looking at a new drivetrain. The typical brands that are more likely to come to mind are probably SRAM and Shimano. Well, that should change, especially if you’re considering a great value drivetrain like SRAM NX Eagle or Shimano SLX. The Box Two drivetrain comes in as a serious competitor in this price range. Box Components was founded by the great Toby Henderson, a cycling legend and all-out badass. While Box Components makes lots of great high-end BMX race products, it’s newer to the mountain bike scene. The second rendition of their drivetrain options is very impressive!
For a shifter, rear derailleur, and cassette, a Box groupo comes in at a very competitive $239 or $257, depending on cassette option, which comes out cheaper than Sram NX Eagle! While Box does make their own 11-speed chain, any 11-speed chain will work and costs anywhere from $23 - $55. There are two Box Two cassette options, 11-46t or 11-50t. The 11-50t manages to get the same range as NX Eagle, which is impressive considering that NX Eagle is a 12-speed groupo while Box does it with 11 speeds. I would be surprised if you could notice that one gear missing. Another huge advantage to the Box Two is it’s over 100g lighter than NX Eagle. That is damn impressive!
In my opinion, it’s the Box Two rear derailleur is what makes the Box drivetrain system great. There are two versions of cage length, a wide cage and an X-wide cage. The wide cage fits cassettes up to 46t and the X-wide cage fits up to 50t. We have been riding the X-Wide cage and it's been performing flawlessly. Coming in at $107.99 and a very light 284g, the price to weight value is very good. That is even 10g lighter than the more expensive SRAM GX Eagle rear derailleur. My favorite part of the rear derailleur is the fact that it has an adjustable clutch. I think that is one thing SRAM lacks and the fact that Box figured that out and made it user-friendly is a huge benefit. The pulleys run on bushings, which helps bring the cost and weight down without sacrificing much performance. The last cool feature that no other rear derailleurs offer is the pivoting cable arm. If the cable happens to get caught on a branch or snagged in storage, you have a better chance of not tweaking or snapping something. It’s small but could save your ride or weekend.
The Box Two 11 shifter is the workhorse of the group. Nothing too fancy but it works well and we have had zero issues thus far. It has nice ergonomic thumb paddles, with the downshift paddle being able to be pushed by the thumb or pulled by the index finger. This is similar to Shimano, and while I don't miss it when riding SRAM, I do find myself shifting with my index finger while climbing or cruising with my hands in a resting position. The actuation of the shifter feels very similar to NX level or SLX level. It's a bit flexy and has some play, but at $40.49 for the shifter, it’s great for that price. One other neutral factor we have with the shifter is it can only use the provided clamp band, meaning it can’t be clamped onto a brake of choice and needs to sit on the handlebar on its own. SRAM can use Matchmaker and Shimano has their I-spec system, but Box doesn’t play nice with either system. It would be great to see an option to pair the Box shifter with brakes and clean up the cockpit. It’s not a huge negative but something to consider when looking at the Box Two shifter.
The Box Two 11 cassettes come in two versions, an 11-46t or 11-50t, you have the option of what range you want or need. We tested the 11-50t cassette, as it compared more closely to NX Eagle. With the same range, the Box Two 11-50t cassette is 55g lighter for only a few more dollars at $107.99. Again, a very impressive positive for the Box Two groupo. When riding the Box Two cassette, I didn’t feel that there were too many huge jumps between cogs or found myself between gears too often. The fact that there is 454% range with 11 speeds and I couldn't tell I wasn't riding a SRAM Eagle 12 speed cassette with 500% range really sold me on the Box Two. It also uses a more standard splined Shimano HG style freehub body, making it a great upgrade for many entry level bikes out there looking to get higher performance without a huge dent in the wallet.
While we did use the provided Box Components chain, any 11-speed chain will work and if you don't mind mixing brands, KMC makes fantastic chains at all price levels.
There is also an amazing warranty that no other drivetrain manufacturer offers. Called “Shift Happens”, Box claims they will make things right with a lifetime warranty policy. Should a Box product fail, they will stand behind their product with two-lifetime warranty policies. If the product breaks or cranks, they will replace it. If the product has a manufacturer defect, they will replace it. With a warranty form on their page, anyone can get this warranty done quickly and easily. That is customer service! Box is so proud of their warranty that they even have an ad running of a rider crashing mid backflip, and up pops the “Shift Happens” slogan. If you weren't sold before on Box, there you go, Shift Happens.
Who should use the Box Two drivetrain? Anyone who wants great performance at a reasonable cost. You will most likely have a different setup from all your friends. Even just in the three months that I had the Box Two installed, I got 20 or more questions about it, from all types of riders asking why or how it’s different or better. The fact is it looks different but performs exactly as you would want. It is a really cool, small brand that has the balls to go up against some industry giants, and that is enough for me. Fitting right into the boutique niche of bike brands, getting a Box drivetrain is a sure way to make your bike stand out.
The Box Two drivetrain is a killer performer for the low cost of this group. With an 11-50t cassette, a lifetime warranty, and the small brand feel, we love riding the Box Two drivetrain and look forward to more Box products like this rolling through. Lighter and cheaper than its competitors, Box has made a killer product that we hope gets the praise it deserves!