Photos: Morgan Meredith
Emerging mountain-bike component brand Box marked its entry into the sport with a display of its new bars, 4-piston brakes and rear derailleur this week at the Sea Otter Classic. But, it was the parts that weren't in plain view that could be the most interesting as the BMX brand breaks into the industry.
Tucked away in the company van was a prototype of a new Shimano-compatible clutch rear derailleur with cage damping for a 2 x 10 drivetrain. The derailleur works with the Box shifters, which have a changeable lever that allows for either a short, compact lever or a longer clicker. Pricing will be comparable with Shimano XT.
Box's engineering product developer, John Calendrille (remember the Vivo rear derailleur? He designed that.), also showed a large-range cassette and rear derailleur that are in development as Box's answer to the current one-by drivetrain trend. The 10-speed cassette offers an 11-42 range to provide an extra-low climbing gear. As built now, the first four cogs are made of steel, the next three of titanium and the final three of aluminum to help keep weight down. Calendrille said Box is still working on a front-ring solution to complete the system, and is toying with several ideas that are different from both SRAM's narrow-wide ring and Shimano's proprietary tooth shaping on its new XTR.
Figuring out how to develop an effective one-by front chainring solution that offers riders a new advantage and doesn't violate competitors' patents is something Calendrille spends a lot of timing thinking about.
"It's a tough challenge," he said. "There's definitely a balance we have to work through."
Calendrille expects the one-by drivetrain and the clutch rear derailleur to be available in early spring 2015. Box's first products to hit the market will be the carbon fiber X-trail and XC handlebars, which come in widths from 700 to 780 millimeters and a 35-millimeter diameter for $140. An 800-millimeter DH bar is also planned. A range of aluminum 45 to 65 millimeter aluminum direct-mount stems called Cusp will also come out by the end of the year. A carbon-fiber XC stem will come later.
So why try to play in a category that is already dominated by drivetrain giants Shimano and SRAM? Simple, Calendrille says.
"We really felt like the industry is ready for a third. But we want to be different, we're not a me-too," he added.
Box Components launched about two years ago as a BMX components brand run by Toby Henderson. It is part of the Cycle Sports Group in Anaheim, California.