Box’s unique 9-speed MTB groupset, Shimano GRX, Genesis Croix de Fer 853 and Epic Bleed Solutions

This week's most intriguing lockdown distractions

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It’s day 25 of the UK’s giant social experiment to see who can tut the loudest in a supermarket aisle, and despite the BikeRadar editorial team being confined to quarters for the foreseeable future, the bike industry is continuing to launch products. 

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This week we’ve ogled ultra-lightweight wheels from DT Swiss and the latest addition to Orbea’s long-running line of Orca road bikes.

We took a close look at our own Alex Evans’ quirky Marin commuter and videographer Felix Smith’s well-used Lauf Anywhere gravel bike

We also learned that the 2020 Tour de France is officially postponed and, perhaps controversially, you crowned Fabian Cancellara’s 2014 Trek Domane Classics as the coolest ever Paris–Roubaix bike

Box One Prime 9 X-Wide groupset

You could be forgiven for thinking there are only two component manufacturers in the world of mountain bikes but, alongside Shimano and SRAM, there are numerous smaller players making interesting or quirky things.

Box has been in the groupset game for around three years, making a variety of 1× setups. 

The One Prime 9 X-Wide groupset aims to combine the range of a typical modern 12-speed setup with the simplicity and, in theory, the durability of a 9-speed drivetrain.

The set includes a shifter, a rear derailleur, a huge cassette and a chain with a combined DLC/nickel coating.

We’ve weighed these parts as follows:

  • Derailleur: 291g
  • 11-50t Cassette (including lock ring): 378g
  • Shifter (including inner cable): 141g
  • Chain: 315g

At $627 / £627 this set might not sound like a bargain, but this is the premium option from Box. 

It includes the lightest, prettiest and apparently best performing version of the brand’s 9-speed cassette, featuring an interesting construction with a reinforcing disc riveted to the back of the sprocket assembly.

Most of the money is in that cassette which retails for $360 / £360 on its own. 

The next level down, the Box Two Prime 9 X-Wide, is just $270 / £270 for an equivalent setup, and there are cheaper options still. 

In addition to the 9-speed drivetrains, Box also offers a super-budget 8-speed groupset, a 7-speed downhill-specific drivetrain, and more mainstream 11-speed components too. 

We often get comments on BikeRadar along the lines of “I was happy with my old 9-speed kit, it just worked” and it looks like Box is here for those riders. 

We’re excited to put these components to the test if and when life returns to normal. 

Shimano GRX RX600 levers

GRX RX600 levers
The RX600 levers are 105-equivalent.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

Shimano’s gravel-specific GRX components made a big splash when they launched last year

Shimano was finally going to offer proper 1× gearing options for drop bar bikes, as well as ‘super-compact’ (or whatever you want to call them) 2× cranks that are a better match for the tan-wall tyre equipped chill wagons all your favourite influencers are now building. 

The funky new Di2 levers deservedly garnered a lot of the attention, but it’s the more affordable mechanical components that are most interesting to those of us who enjoy cobbling together a bike build. 

GRX doesn’t have equivalents for every road component so, while the mechanical derailleurs (RD-RX810 and RD-RX812) are Ultegra-level, the cheapest 11-speed levers are these 105-equivalent ST-RX600s. 

GRX RX600 levers
The overall shape is quite similar to standard 105 levers.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

The levers weigh 305g for the right lever and 316g for the 2× left lever. A brake-only left lever is available as well, for 1× setups.

Why would you choose these over the shinier and slightly lighter Ultegra-equivalent RX810 levers? 

At RRP the RX600s are around £120 cheaper for the pair, and the difference will be greater if you’re buying them bundled with brakes because the RX600s are usually supplied with the nominally Tiagra-level RX400 calipers, while the RX810s come with matching Ultegra-level brakes.

On the other hand, the RX600 levers lack the free stroke adjustment offered on the RX810s. There’s an external reach adjustment screw, so you can alter the initial lever position, but you can’t change the bite point. For many riders, this won’t actually matter, of course.

GRX RX600 lever reach adjustment screw
Reach is adjustable via the hex screw on the side of the lever body.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

As ever with Shimano components, RRP is somewhat notional because street prices are often significantly lower.

  • £169 per lever

Genesis Croix de Fer 853 frameset

If any bike is an institution, the Croix de Fer is surely it. 

A sensible steel do-everything road bike and tourer, the CdF as it’s affectionately known is arguably the OG British gravel bike, dating from a time before ‘gravel’ was a thing.

Yes, it’s meant for the road primarily, but healthy tyre clearances and can-do versatility mean CdFs are put to all sorts of uses, from everyday commuting to long-distance adventuring. 

This is the latest Reynolds 853 version of the bike and sports thru-axles and flat mounts for the brakes. It’s available as a frameset only, including a hefty steel fork, although a carbon one is available as an upgrade

This medium frame weighs 2.4kg with all its hardware on our scales, while the fork is 1.3kg.

I’m going to be building this frameset up with the GRX components above and finding out how it stacks up in a world of dedicated gravel bikes, watch this space…

  • £899.99

Epic Bleed Solutions Shimano road kit

Bleed kit
Epic Bleed Solutions offers kits for just about every brake system on the market.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

Brake bleeding is one of those jobs a lot of riders dread, and I’m sure many of you would rather leave it up to your local bike shop. 

The principles are pretty straightforward however, and a kit like this one from Epic Bleed Solutions will make life much easier because everything you need is included, right down to the 7mm spanner required in the case of Shimano’s road levers.

This particular kit is noteworthy in that it also includes the adaptor needed for the latest generation of Shimano road brakes, something that some kits on the market omit.

Road lever adaptor
This little adaptor is essential for the latest Shimano road brakes.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

Epic offers kits for just about every brake system on the market, as well as various other useful brake related odds and ends. 

If you’ve been putting off  a bit of brake maintenance, lockdown could be the perfect opportunity…

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