Getting Boxed In
Getting Boxed In
Depending on the price point, most electric mountain bikes these days come spec’d with great components. Some keep their costs lower by setting the bikes up with lesser components, and some consumers won’t care. However, more savvy riders prefer better components, and some may even prefer to save money on a bike that they can upgrade to better parts later. This is where accessory manufacturers come in.
Toby Henderson, president of Box Components, started his career as a top professional BMX racer back in the 1970s before moving on to becoming a pro mountain bike racer in the early ’90s. He was there in the early days of both sports, and with 20 years of top professional racing under his belt, he has learned a thing or two about what makes a great bike component.
In 2012 Toby started making parts for BMX racing, then expanded to mountain biking. His products are now enjoying OEM spec for several companies and a good choice for riders for aftermarket parts. And now, he’s expanded into e-MTBs.
Box uses a lot of carbon fiber parts. The obvious advantages are the light weight and incredible strength, but you have to factor in two other things as well: carbon fiber can be laid down in directions that give it stiffness or flexibility, and it can be shaped into any complex shape desired. This allows handlebars, for instance, the ability to have a variety of thicknesses, bends, and even a custom grip shape for better grip and comfort.
“The jumps are bigger, but that means less shifting and less chances to
With their wheels, they have the ability to shape rims in the optimal way to maximize rigidity, grip and reduce the chances of a nipple pulling through on a hard hit.
Box does their own testing, even building test equipment to fit their R&D needs. They do a lot of 3D printing for prototyping and have built Arduino-based machines to test all their components—from finding a breaking point of a product to the tedious tasks of actuating shifters and other components for tens of thousands of times to ensure they’ll stay reliable for years of use.
LESS IS MORE
When riding an e-MTB, we often find that we are shifting two or more gears per shift, especially as the 1x systems usually are 11-12 gears in the back. Riders sometimes think that more choices are better. We actually prefer the 1×9 cassette system from Box. The jumps are bigger, but that means less shifting and less chances to mis-shift. It is a remarkable difference. Also, the range on most 1×11 cassettes is 11-42t, whereas Box’s $110 Two-E setup offers 11-50t, and that 50-tooth large ring is the biggest e-specific gear found on the market today. Mate that with a powerful mid-drive and you can climb all but vertical walls.
It really was a pleasure to ride a bike that required less shifting than usual. We never found anything steep enough to get to the biggest gear in the back, but then again, we also rarely use Eco mode, and that might have made the difference. The $110 rear derailleur is a work of art, and it’s made from a mix of 6061 aluminum, carbon fiber and nylon. It incorporates their Tri-Pack limited-slip clutch to reduce cage bounce and chain slap. It features durable, 3D-forged linkages to improve impact resistance and was tested at one of the toughest events, the Red Bull Rampage. If you’ve never seen this event, check it out on YouTube. It is brutal, and the best in the world ride some of the most insane terrain you’ve ever seen.
The Box Two-E 9-speed chain is also made to take the abuse of a powerful mid-drive system. We used and abused it, and it took everything we threw at it without blinking. The $25 price is about as economical as they come.
The $160 Box One Carbon Trail handlebars felt solid, and the setup they provided on a bike we’d ridden before was noticeably different in the control and feel. They have a 7-degree sweep that is really comfortable. The handlebars come in either a 760mm width with a 15mm rise or 780mm width with a 30mm rise.
We had a set of Box One TR41 wheels that range in price from $699–$799 depending on size. They’re everything from 15×100 to 12×148. They’re tubeless-ready and use unidirectional carbon fiber with aluminum thru-axles laced three-cross with Sapin Race straight-pull spokes for superb stiffness and shock absorption. The rear wheel includes a hub with a three-pawl engagement system that provides instant power transfer and precision-sealed bearings that offer a really smooth ride. Standard wheels weigh 759 grams (front) and 896 grams (rear), Boost wheels are slightly lighter at 753 grams (front) and 896 grams (rear).