Prime 9: "9 is Fine"
Today, Box Components rolled out a wide-range, budget-friendly 9-speed drivetrain, along with an 8-speed youth drivetrain. If you haven't heard of Box, well, they've been around for a bit. Founded by Toby Henderson, Box has been making components ranging from handlebars and wheels to titanium bits. Oh, and a high-end seven-speed DH drivetrain that has been racing on the DH World Cup circuit under top riders, including Mick Hannah.
Henderson has been working to shake things up in the drivetrain market. Last year, we reviewed the 11-speed Box Two
drivetrain and were told the top-tier Box One was in the making. Somewhere during its development, the decision was made to go from 11-speeds to 9. That's not a typo. Box claim there's less chance for things to go wrong, and their 9-speed sells for 626.99 USD. That said, it wouldn't be surprising to see a high-end 11 or 12-speed group from the brand in the future but for now, let's talk about the Prime 9.
Box One Prime 9 Drivetrain Rear Derailleur
: Adjustable limited-slip clutch, forged construction
Weight: 293g (Actual)
Price: $174.99 USD9-Speed Cassette:
HG compatible, unibody construction, 11 x 50
Spacing: 11, 13, 15, 18, 22, 28, 34, 42, 50
Weight: 368g (Actual)
Price: $359.99 USDTwin shift lever:
Multi-release lever, up to 3 downshifts in one throw
Weight: 140g (Actual, with cable)
Price: $74.99 USDPRICING UPDATEDContact: Box Components
Box One follows in the wake of Box Two, the brand's first full jump into the drivetrain business. Taking what they learned from Box Two 11-speed and the high-end Box One 7-speed DH drivetrain, Box One brings an affordable, wide-range, 9-speed drivetrain into the ring with the mindset that less is more, saying, "9 is fine."Prime 9 Derailleur
The Box One Prime 9 derailleur is a sturdy piece of mechanical engineering. Box claim that fewer gears mean a better chain line and less shifting. This is said to decrease wear and increase derailleur life.
The derailleur has a forged aluminum inner and outer cage, a hearty finish, and sealed-bearing pulleys. Box's tri-pack limited-slip clutch helps to keep the chain in place and minimize slap. The clutch emulates a multi-plate type similar to those used in motorcycle transmissions. Riders can tune the clutch friction with an Allen key to increase or decrease friction/resistance. The durable looking changer is backed by a limited lifetime warranty.
Box's Tri-Pack multi-disc clutch (under the orange cap) is user-adjustable. The Pivot-tech cable-stay helps to keep the cable in a comfortable position leading into the derailleur.Prime 9 Twin Shifter
The Box One Prime 9 shifter can drop down three shifts with a single push of the thumb lever - that's over half of the range in one push. Helpful if you find yourself faced with a sudden uphill. The shifter's release lever operates by a push. It weighs 140g with a cable and sells for $74.99 USD. Box also offers a single shift version.Prime 9 Cassette
Box's One Prime 9 cassette sports an 11-50t range and is manufactured from 7075-T6 aluminum and chromoly steel. All nine cogs are one piece of chromoly steel riveted to a splined aluminum spider. Box calls it "Unibody construction" and the cogs have a black DLC coating finish for durability. Gearing is: 11, 13, 15, 18, 22, 28, 34, 42, 50, and the cassette mounts up to standard Shimano HG freehub bodies. It weighs 368g, including the lockring, and sells for $359.99 USD. Interesting fact: if you take away the lockring, the Box cassette weighs a couple of grams less than SRAM's top tier XX1 Eagle cassette.
The one-piece cassette mounts right up to any HG freehub body and is very minimalist.What about a Crankset?
The absence of a crankset from the Box One groupset was purposeful. One-by drivetrains minimized the technology required for cranksets, so it didn't make sense to develop a dedicated one for Box's drivetrains. Most narrow-wide cranksets will work with the Prime 9 systems.
Prime 9 First Impressions
I managed to get my hands on their top tier, Box One Prime 9 derailleur, shifter, cassette, and chain a few days ago and mounted it up to get some first impressions. The Box One Prime 9 group came in nice packaging and was extremely straightforward to install and dial in. It's worth noting that if you're using SRAM's matchmaker clamp and shifter mount on the handlebar, you'll need to jettison it for a non-matchmaker clamp.
I've only had the group for a short time at this point, but I can say that the shifts are smooth. The jumps between gears, especially to the larger cogs, are a bit noticeable - exactly what you may suspect a wide-range 9-speed cassette to be. While pedaling, the drivetrain is smooth and quiet. There's minimal chain slap and the clutch on the derailleur seems to do its job well. I've experienced no dropped chains thus far.
The feel of the shift lever is solid and by no means does it feel like a budget shifter. The ergonomics are nice and the action bears a feel to the style of shifting that you get with Shimano's shift pods but, it's a push, similar to a SRAM shifter.
The big win in my mind is the weight of the cassette. The Prime 9 One does have bigger jumps in gearing than SRAM's Eagle, however, that cassette weighs much less than some of its competitors, although it is a bit pricey. Its 368g weight is actually pretty damn close to SRAM's 12-speed XX1 Eagle that weighs a mere 8g less. If you don't need 12 speeds, that is an impressive reduction in grams and a slight reduction in dollars.
In the coming months, I'll put some more time on the group and we'll do a more in-depth review.
The original pricing we were given was incorrect. The first look has been updated to reflect that with the correct pricing.