In the early
to mid-1990s the aftermarket drivetrain world was full of options, with anodized and CNC'd works of art available from the likes of Precision Billet and Paul Components. However, function didn't always follow form, and those upstarts soon faded away or shifted their focus onto other products as industry giants like Shimano and SRAM took over with their less expensive, more reliable offerings. Now, nearly fifteen years later, there is a decided lack of entrants into the drivetrain world, with most companies seeming to be content offering components like chainrings and cranksets that play nicely with offerings from the two big S brands. BOX Components, a branch of Promax, is looking to change that, with a prototype version of their new drivetrain and four piston hydraulic disc brake on display at this year's Interbike trade show.
We first learned about BOX's new drivetrain
at the Sea Otter Classic, but at that time they only had a shifter on display, and hadn't committed to bringing a rear derailleur to market as well. John Calendrille, the man behind the iconic Grunge Guard derailleur protector prevalent in the mid-1990s, is the brains behind the new drivetrain, which is intended to come in at a price point and quality level similar to Shimano's XT components. The hope is that the new drivetrain will be ready by the spring or early summer of 2014, but Calendrille stressed that they are not rushing anything to market, focusing instead on bringing a fully refined offering to the table right out of the gate.
The way that the shifter lever functions is what makes it stand out – it's a single lever, thumb actuated affair that is pushed forward to shift up through the gears, or is pushed directly inwards using the flat portion at the end of the lever to shift to harder gears. BOX had a bike on display with the shifter installed, and the lever action was very intuitive, only taking a few shifts up and down the cassette to
get the hang of it. BOX will be offering different length shifter levers, and users can further customize the positioning by adding or removing a triangular chip behind where the shift mechanism attaches to the bar mount. This level of adjustability will help ensure that the ergonomics of the lever work with a wide variety of hand shapes and sizes.
The design of the ten speed rear derailleur isn't as groundbreaking as the shifter, but its claimed weight of 235g (for comparison, an XT rear derailleur weighs around 255g
) and low profile design should help it be a competitive alternative. The derailleur uses a 30mm wide main pivot and a sturdy looking aluminum arm to affix it to the bike, features intended to add stiffness and strength. A clutch mechanism is currently in the works, and several different cage lengths will be offered as well.
Prototype Four Piston Disc Brake
BOX also had what they hope will become the crown jewel in their disc brake lineup on display, a prototype version of a high end four piston disc brake. The DOT fluid powered brakes were designed by Brian Berthold, a mechanical engineer with extensive time spent working with F1 and Indy race cars, along with a lifetime of mountain biking and moto experience to draw from. During the design process, Berthold's biggest concern was modulation, a crucial factor in making the power that comes from a four piston design useable. He decided to go with two different diameter pistons, which isn't a new concept, but the pad design is where he took things a step further, using a different compound for the front and the rear portions of the pad. This is supposed to create a better ramp up of power for more control on long, sustained sections of braking. The aluminum caliper has extensive machining to promote air flow to keep the system cool in order to prevent overheating and brake fade.
The brake lever has an adjustment dial on the front of it that adjusts the position of the entire lever and master cylinder assembly. Traditional reach adjusters tend to move the brake lever at an angle away from the handlebars, so that at their furthest reaches the outer end of the lever is no longer parallel to the handlebar. BOX's design solves this issue, keeping the lever parallel to the bars throughout the whole range of adjustment by having the whole unit slide inside the portion that extends from the handlebar. There will also be the option to attach the lever directly to lock-on grips, but the lever can also be mounted the traditional way anywhere on the handlebar as well. It's worth noting that the lever pictured here is still very much a prototype, arriving only a few days before the Interbike trade show began.Pinkbike's Take:
|Maybe it was the fact that they didn't use the word 'enduro' when discussing their new products, but BOX Component's offerings were a refreshing breath of originality at Interbike. From the way the shifter actuates to the unique sliding brake lever adjustment, we came away intrigued. Production is still months away, but hopefully by next summer we'll be able to see how it all turns out. - Mike Kazimer|