To say I was skeptical when Archer Components sent me its D1x Trail programmable shifter to try out is the understatement of the year — or at least the month. In truth, the small white box sat on my desk for weeks. Then coronavirus hit and when we vacated the GP office, I left that little box behind.
Around the same time, I got more and more into mountain biking — still one of the great socially distant outdoor activities. And this confluence of events finally got me to appreciate this funky little upgrade.
See, the more I hit the trails, mostly testing the excellent Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9.0 LTD, the more I realized that one of very few beefs I had with the bike was the sometimes clunky shifting. The universe seemed to be saying, hey idiot, why not open that little white box?
So on one of my rare trips to the office, I threw that box in my bag and took it home. Now, as I’ve admitted before, my technical know-how is not exactly robust. But after watching Archer’s overly simple install video, followed by a longer, cheekier South African one, I had a clue what to do. A bit of blood, sweat and gears later, I had replaced the stock mechanical shifting system with this fancy, remote-controlled electrical one.
And here’s where things really got interesting, because the coolest thing about Archer’s set-up is the way you program it using the Archer app. Essentially what it lets you do, once you’ve paired the app with the system, is calibrate exactly where the derailleur moves with every shift, micro-adjusting so that the chain sits perfectly on every gear.
How does that fine-tuning play out once you hit the trails? Pretty damn magically. The super-smooth and precise shifting gave me a newfound confidence in my riding, enabling me to tackle up-and-down single-track more aggressively than ever. It also made normal street cycling much more pleasant. That’s huge for me, as I normally ride 13 road miles just to get to my “local” mountain bike park.
But it’s on actual trails where the D1x really shines, living up to the title of this story. If you’re struggling to get motivated to hit them, or just feeling slightly dodgy on them, upgrading from standard shifting to this system is like adding NOS to your bike’s proverbial engine. At the tap of a couple of buttons, you can upshift and downshift, triggering a turbo boost that will get you stoked to rip around.
Granted, the little white box isn’t cheap. The D1x Trail with Standard Remote (the product I tested, which is currently sold out), runs $369. The D1x Trail with Micro-Adjust Remote, which lets you adjust individual gears on the fly, goes for $399. But considering it really does transform your bike, it’s an upgrade worth pondering.
The only pro tip I will add from my own experience is, the night before you’re going to ride, make sure the remote and the shifter are fully charged up. Otherwise you’ll be stuck with just one gear, a decidedly less appealing sort of bike transformation.