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Archer Components D1x Trail with Standard Remote

8
£287.00

VERDICT:

8
10
Wireless shifting for (some of) the masses, in a very well executed, robust package with huge potential
Wireless shifting on any bike
Relatively cheap way into the tech
Drop bar remote coming
No software update ability
Some app connection issues
Weight: 
235g

The Archer Components D1x Trail brings wireless shifting to any bike with any mech and any number of gears. Initially designed for flat handlebars but with a drop-bar version on the way, there's a big market here for users and bikes of all types – especially when wireless shifting usually costs three to four times as much.

Wireless shifting has been around a few years now, but still carries a hefty pricetag – SRAM's cheapest AXS rear mech and under-bar thumb shifter is just under £1,000, and you still need another £230 of 12-speed cassette and chain.

The cost is high mostly because fitting a powerful, fast, waterproof and shockproof motor (and its control mechanism) into a tiny, vulnerable space is hard. Basically, unless you're minted and ideally married to a mechanic, it's a non-starter.

> Buy this online here

The D1x Trail takes a fundamentally different approach, by retro-fitting wireless control to existing mechanical parts.

2020 Archer Components D1x Trail with Standard Remote 4.jpg

The big difference is that the motor isn't in the mech, but in the D1x shifter – a box that mounts on the frame and pulls a standard 1.2mm cable through a standard housing. That means the mechanism can mount pretty much anywhere on your bike you run a shift cable to, and doesn't have to shrink into a mech.

2020 Archer Components D1x Trail with Standard Remote 6.jpg

If you want D1x shifting on a drop-bar bike under the tops, the shifter is compatible with SRAM's Matchmaker mount, so many adapters are available.

Measuring 13 x 5 x 2cm and weighing 235g including shifter, remote and batteries, the D1x is a pretty compact package that won't stand out on your bike. Installation is straightforward, and do-able by anyone with a modicum of ability and a few tools.

2020 Archer Components D1x Trail with Standard Remote 2.jpg

Archer has a good video explaining the process, and the included lengths of outer cable, ferrules and short inner cable all go together easily. There's no need for grease on the lead screw – it can mess things up if regular grease gets on the potentiometer.

The app

The D1x app is excellent, with an intuitive setup that walks you through gear selection and fine-tuning the mech position over each ratio to ensure perfect shifts. It needs pairing every time you access the shifter, and while you shouldn't need to do this often past the initial setup, it would be nice to see them remove this step.

2020 Archer Components D1x Trail with Standard Remote 3.jpg

The app tells you the battery level for both shifter and remote, in five increments. You also get a battery indication from the shifter at startup. Archer says, 'Green means go, red means charge after this ride, and flashing red means charge before you go.'

Full custom

There are many configurable settings such as number of shifts, the micro-distance for each shift, and the number of 'Quick Shift' steps (up to five) the mech jumps when either button is held down. You can swap the buttons for up or down shifting, set an overshoot distance and duration to force tricky gears to change, and even choose a 'get me home gear' to default to if the battery runs out.

There's a Low Power Mode, which disables the auto-shutdown timer (5, 15, 30 mins or never), which doubles the battery life... unless you forget to turn it off when you stop, and it goes flat. Choose whatever suits your memory!

To ride, you just hold the shifter button to wake the system, then hold either of the remote buttons until the LED flashes green, then orange, to say it's connected. That's it.

2020 Archer Components D1x Trail with Standard Remote 7.jpg

I did experience a few occasions where the phone app didn't want to pair with the shifter – turning my phone's Bluetooth off and back on sorted it. Hard to tell if it was the app, the shifter or my phone to blame, but in general my experience with D1x was solid, particularly in the middle of nowhere grinding through freezing bog up to my ankles.

It's good to know D1x can handle that sort of nonsense, especially as Archer says the unit's firmware can't be updated.

Installation

Probably your biggest challenge will be working out where to fit the shifter. Under the chainstay seems the most popular, judging from the photos online, but for me exposing £300-odd of hardware to rock or root strikes isn't appealing.

2020 Archer Components D1x Trail with Standard Remote 5.jpg

Most bikes should be able to accommodate it on the seatstay, and while you'll likely need your own outer to reach, any standard shift housing and ferrule will work. It takes less than a minute to peel back a rubber cover and swap inners, too – the app even has a setting for changing the cable.

The power cells

The two AA-sized batteries in the shifter are actually 3.7V 14500 Li-Ion cells, so are definitely not replaceable with standard 1.2 or 1.5V AAs. Likewise the AAA-sized 10440 cell in the remote is 3.7V.

That's not a big issue, though – Archer sells a Trailside Battery Kit comprising the three batteries, a 1.5mm Allen key for the remote, and four spare screws in a little zipped hardshell case. They're assuming you have a coin, screwdriver or 4mm hex to undo the battery cap.

> road.cc’s top 10 tech stories of 2020

The included two-cell charger (44g) is again specific to these 3.7V Li-Ion cells, and takes a 5V input (short cable included). The micro-USB connector means that, on a long tour away from mains for weeks, you could recharge using a battery pack or dynamo hub.

Claimed life on a full charge is 'up to' 80 hours, and that proves more than enough to make charge management easy.

Weatherproofing

Waterproofing is IP65 so you should be okay with general splashing, washing and blasts through rivers, but submersion will allow water into the drive tunnel and could cause issues. The circuit boards are 'conformally coated' for protection, but the tactile switch is not IP67 rated and in the event of water ingress the unit will shut itself off. Once it dries out, the unit should return to normal operation.

The batteries and motor are rated to -10°C, though you can't fight the degradation of chemical reactions at low temps, so duration inevitably suffers when it's really cold out there. That said, I had no problems riding in -5° C.

Performance

The shifting isn't as fast as Di2 or AXS, but it still happens in a fraction of a second. Once paired, the shifter works perfectly, and being able to trim gears on the fly is great. You just press and hold the remote's 'micro adjust' button for a second. The LED flashes orange, and you can step the mech in or out to get the chain passing smoothly over the chosen ring. Press the button again and it's done.

> 7 reasons why you should get electronic shifting

My first ride with the D1x (aside from trips to the end of the driveway) was a 200km overnight bikepacking loop of the Cairngorms. The system paired perfectly after each wakeup and never missed a shift, despite sub-zero temperatures and endless mud, water splashes, and bounces over roots and rocks. The remote buttons are easy to hit with two layers of thick gloves.

The 'odometer' in the app tells me I shifted 4011 times over 13 hours of riding – about five per minute. Quite a few rides further on and the batteries are both still at three bars, from their initial full charge.

Value

At £287 the D1x is not cheap, but for wireless shifting it's amazing – three or four times less than the competition. The only comparison is SRAM AXS, which if you aren't already running a 12-speed SRAM drivetrain is going to cost you a fortune – well over £1,000 – to fit. And if you break a rear mech, replacing that alone will cost you more than twice the price of the D1x system.

The big question is, why not stick with cable shifting, when that's worked well for decades? Because it doesn't work well – or at all – for some.

> 29 of the best SRAM Red eTap AXS bikes from Specialized, Canyon, 3T, Cannondale and more

Consider someone with an injury or condition, such as arthritis, that makes regular shifters hard or impossible. Consider amputees and hand cyclists who need to shift, steer and power in one go. Archer recognises this and offers a version with buttons that take far less pressure to activate, specifically for those unable to push hard or without pain.

And as it's Bluetooth, the tech is also open to voice-activated or even automatic shifting based on cadence, speed or power.

Archer is fond of the saying ‘Keep Mechs Dumb’ – and I think this is a key point here. Even if you are just fine with cable shifting, it’s likely your rear mech is quite a lot of cash – like, not far off £100 – hanging down in the rocks and sticks, waiting to be smashed. If you ride hard, and often, your repair bills could mount up. But the D1x lets you fit any mech of the same capacity/chain spec and enjoy 2 to 12-speed or more shifting. Because the indexing steps and pull ratios are all now software-defined and user-configurable, even while riding, so long as the mech can clear the cassette there’s no reason that ancient SGS-cage SLX 10-speed in your parts bin couldn’t be run in place of a £275 SRAM Eagle 12-speed mech.

The mind literally boggles at the options such a system opens up. Freed from the vagaries of shift lever indexing, pull ratios or cable routing, the D1x becomes a hub around which to innovate your own drivetrain mashup. The rise of gravel riding with its need for mega-wide gear ranges and 1x drivetrains has been (until recently) held back by traditional road lever shifter design and associated mech options. The Archer D1x and the forthcoming drop-bar lever remote solves that.

Those pesky ebikes

Ebikes are another huge opportunity. Many feature internally routed cables that go up and over the motors on their tortuous route to the chainstay and rear mech. I'm a bike mechanic with many thousands of hours of experience... yet I cannot change the shift cables on my or my wife's ebike without voiding the two-year motor warranty.

Changing a cable outer involves dropping the motor from both our bikes, a process my local Bosch & Yamaha dealer says is a two-hour job: likely the best part of 80 quid. Wireless shifting dodges that problem.

Overall

Of course, if you can use and maintain mechanical shifting just fine, you don't need the D1x – unless you regularly trash expensive mechs, and want the option to run much cheaper ones with 12 or 13-speed drivetrains. If you want or need wireless alongside a regular mech for any other reason – health, ability, maintenance costs, bling – Archer D1x is currently the only option anyway. Just as well it's pretty darn good at it.

Verdict

Wireless shifting for (some of) the masses, in a very well executed, robust package with huge potential

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Archer Components D1x Trail with Standard Remote

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Archer Components says: "The D1x Trail adds high-performance electronic shifting to any rear derailleur. Get smooth, precise shifting no matter what you ride. Now 1.5x faster with 2.5x the battery life compared to the first D1x. Smoother shifts, longer rides!

"1x, 2x, 3x? SRAM, Shimano? The D1x plays nice with everybody!"

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

The company says:

Compatible with ANY rear derailleur

Up to 80 hours ride time

Sealed electronics

SRAM MatchMaker® compatible

Weight: 235g

Designed, built and tested in Santa Cruz, California

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Very well-build, feels like a premium product.

Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

Shifting is fast enough and accurate, regardless of what you are doing.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

Really well made, and the mounts are solid.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
7/10
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
9/10

The remote is comfortable and easy to use, and the clamp position can be adjusted.

Rate the product for value:
 
10/10

Compared to the alternative, amazing value.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Really well - couldn't fault it on long, mucky rides.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The app, setup and customisation.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Lack of upgradeability.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

Amazingly cheap compared to SRAM AXS, currently the only wireless alternative.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

Pretty much in a class of its own, the D1x delivers across the board. With a more robust connection and quicker shifting it could be a nine, but even so overall it's great.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 47  Height: 183cm  Weight: 77kg

I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe  My best bike is: Nah bro that's it

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L

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