Choosing Your Drivetrain

Choosing Your Drivetrain

Posted by Chloee Pham on

What is the purpose of a drivetrain on a mountain bike?
A mountain bike's drivetrain consists of shifters, rear derailleurs, cassettes, chains, chainrings, and cranksets. The shifter, which is usually designed for right-handed riders (although left-handed shifters are also available), controls the rear derailleur, which shifts the chain up and down the cassette as you pedal up or down, moving the chain from low to high or high to low gears. The amount of speeds is controlled by the amount of cogs on the cassette. As you climb or descend, the size of the smallest and largest cogs will give you an idea of how much control you'll have. Your chain is probably the most critical piece of your drivetrain as it transfers power from the cranks to the rear wheel and controls your speed. 

Box One Prime 9 Multi Shifter

Rider: Eliott Lapotre

What type of rider are you?

Which type of mountain biker are you? Do you want to learn some new tricks on your first ride, or are you still excited to learn new tricks on the trail, even after years of riding? You might be a road biker, freestyler, downhill enthusiast, cross-country rider, or a race-only athlete, but your drivetrain is the one that make you or break you. You must weigh the advantages of durability, simplicity, and performance against the disadvantages of material, weight, cost, and other factors. 

Can I just use what came on my bike?

Did you know that many of the bikes you see at local bike shops come with original equipment and are equipped with lower-end components? Many everyday riders do not need the most sophisticated components, so original equipment will do. However, preinstalled bikes equipped with higher-end drivetrains are available at high prices and mainly online with longer lead times. The choice is yours to make.

So, why should I bother upgrading?

There are various factors to consider if you've previously owned a bike with gears. Have you ever installed a new chain, adjusted your derailleur if it started skipping, or adjusted your drivetrain if you know how? Are you going to visit a bike shop after every few rides to make adjustments? Are you able to carry your bike back to the car should your derailleur hanger bend? Every biker’s needs are different but if you prefer a simple, durable, high performing and low-maintenance drivetrain, keep on reading.

Box One/Two Prime 9 Multi-Shift Groupset

Rider: Eliott Lapotre

Will upgrading my drivetrain make me a better rider?

Before you drop off the trail, are you willing to take a tretourous mountain climb? If you enjoy putting a little bit of effort into your ride without getting worn down by the time you’ve reached the top, a higher range drivetrain may be the answer. As a result, you will be a much better rider by getting that great feeling and being inspired to ride more often. In addition, a drivetrain that requires little to no maintenance will help you spend less time in the shop and more time on the trail. Does this sound like you?

What are my options?

Whether you are a cross-country or enduro rider, chances are you'll want to have a low maintenance, easy to use drivetrain. You may pick from 11 or 12-speed drivetrains if you are hunting for an all-mountain or enduro bike, or you can choose from Box's Prime 9™ Technology range of retro-modern 9-speed equipment. There are four product levels in Prime 9’s product line at different price points, depending on how aggressive the terrain is and how much you're willing to spend to upgrade without sacrificing quality. 

Understanding the difference between Prime 9’s different tiers 

Not sure on which Prime 9 option is best for you? If you generally ride enduro, or on trails, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive right in to look at the different tiers Prime 9 has to offer.

Box One Top Of The Line

Our Box One tier is for those of you who just aren't satisfied with anything but the BEST! You like to get up there where the air is thin and the details matter. Every single cog on the 11-50T cassette is steel, yet it barely tips the scale at 360 grams; along with the chain, its surface is Dual-coated with DLC + Nickel and is both beautiful and durable. Your thumb will push a textured die-cast lever on a shifter that's had its hinged clamp whittled away by our CNC machines. Let's finish this package off with a derailleur that flaunts a Fully Adjustable Tri-Pack™ Clutch and super smooth sealed bearing pulleys. Pamper yourself a little; you know you deserve it. This is our best performing drivetrain designed for aggressive terrain.

Did you know that you can mix and match Prime 9?

GT Force Bike Build from Eliott Lapotre with Prime 9 Mix and Match Equipped

Rider: Eliott Lapotre

Want some of the advanced features and feel of Box One but need extra service life? Try out our Box One/Box Two Hybrid Prime 9 Groupset! With this pre-configured and pre-tested option, you'll receive a Box One shifter, derailleur, and chain paired to the durable Box Two cassette. And you'll save almost 250 bucks while you are at it.

Box Two Performance

Our Box Two tier's mission in life is to deliver performance similar to the Box One but without its exotic (and costly) features. You still get the Tri-Pack™ Clutch in our derailleur only it isn't adjustable. The cassette's 11-50T range is equally impressive but we don't cut it out of a single block of steel. The action on the shifter is just as snappy although you don't get the rigid die-cast pull lever. The chain boasts the same unique ability to mate with a wide/narrow chainring except you give up the trick DLC top coat. You're hardly shortchanging yourself with Box Two. This is our most durable drivetrain, like Box One, also designed for aggressive terrain.

Can't decide between the modern basics of Box Three and the long service life of Box Two? Well, you don't need to! With this pre-configured and pre-tested option, you'll receive a Box Three cassette paired to the durable Box Two derailleur, shifter and chain.

Box Three Performance and Value
Our Box Three tier delivers many of the same capabilities of its more famous siblings yet it's built upon a simpler platform. Cassettes are accessible at 11-46T or 11-50T and fashioned with steel spiders. The derailleur exploits our Limited Slip clutch technology without the Tri-pack features. Shift easily with a comparable mechanism, although you'll forgo the hinged clamp and die-cast structure. And lastly, string it all together with a Prime 9 chain but without extravagant coatings. If you're looking to bring your 2/3 by bike into the 21st century, then level up with this group! This is our best all-rounder drivetrain designed for light/medium terrain.

Box Four Value
Lastly, our Box Four tier is for those people who just want less fuss! You're fond of Prime 9, but know 8 is enough, and surely 11-42T is plenty of range for an 8-speed cassette. Our derailleur still has the Limited Slip clutch but now arrives with a more compact cage. The custom 8-speed chain is built for abuse, although it's sophisticated enough to have its own Wide/narrow chainring. Push through fewer gears with a no-nonsense shifter. This combo will transport you to 1 by territory for less than $200. Our 8 is enough drivetrain is designed for light/medium terrain if you don’t need the same range as a Box Three.

And there, you have it! To learn more about the science behind these options and determine which is best for you, visit If you'd like to set up your drivetrain with a simple, easy-to-follow video, see the installation videos on this youtube channel or support page on the website. Alternatively, you can have it installed at a bike shop then leave without the hassle of returning anytime soon. Now that you have the know-how to choose your drivetrain, get out there and ride.

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