Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
I’ll understand if electronic shifting isn’t your cup of tea. But before you scroll, you might like to know about this new system from Archer Components because it’s far less expensive than what Shimano and SRAM offer. Plus, it’s designed to fit all bikes using the components already on it. And it offers the same worthy advantages over cable shifting that have made the big S companies’ e-shifting so popular, and which I’ll explain.
And, please don’t be put off by the photos and my video of mountain bikes/biking in this story. I didn’t forget this is ROADBikeRider. This is an overview of Archer Components’ D1X Trail system, which is the kit they offer right now. It’s designed for mountain bikes. So that’s how I used it.
A Road System is in the Works
The system, however, could be used on any bike you can attach it to. Even if you want to upgrade an old 5-, 6-, 7-speed, for example – as a way to resurrect an Old Faithful you can’t even buy parts for anymore.
And, in association with brake-maker TRP Cycling, Archer is working on a road/gravel kit that integrates the buttons for shifting in the brake hood. Also, coming is a kit that attaches to e-bikes and uses the bike’s powerful onboard battery (more power means even faster shifts).
What’s in the Kit?
The two main components are the Remote that attaches to the handlebar and the Shifter that’s strapped to the chainstay. The Remote “talks” to the shifter via Bluetooth. There are no electronic wires to fish through and/or attach to the frame making installing the D1X kit a breeze.
You get 2 rechargeable AA size Lithium Ion batteries for the Shifter and an AAA for the Remote providing 80 hours of run time. Archer specs replaceable batteries like this so that they’re easy to change out and so you can carry spares on rides.
A charger is included, too. Plus the parts to attach the Remote and Shifter and one shift cable, and section of shift housing.
Wait.. What’s the Shift Cable for?
The shift cable is what’s so special about Archer’s e-shifting kit. While Shimano and SRAM electronic kits feature “electrified” shift levers and derailleurs, Archer’s uses what’s basically a cable-pulling and releasing mechanism (their Shifter), so that you can make any drivetrain e shift.
As far as I know Archer is the second company to offer this type of electric cable shifter. The XShifter was first, and launched on Kickstarter. If there was any doubt that it’s a good idea, that’s been put to bed now that SRAM has applied for a patent on a device that in my estimation looks very similar to Archer’s. Here’s the report on this in Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.
Electronic Shifting’s Advantages
Archer’s system is unique because unlike with the big-name makers, you don’t have to buy battery powered derailleurs and dedicated e parts for getting the system to work, like wiring and junction boxes. This is a great thing because those parts are expensive making the cost of electronic shifting prohibitive to many riders. Plus should you crash and bash your derailleur you didn’t just destroy a $400 piece.
Even though Archer’s kit is only $389 or $399 and uses the components already on the bike, it offers the same shifting advantages of the other electronic shifters. There are two big advantages here. The first is that electronic shifting is much less likely to lose adjustment. That’s because the derailleur is moved into a specific position on each shift by a mechanism (a screw drive).
Cable shifting systems hold each shift two ways, with the lever position (or via tension with old friction shifting levers) and with the amount of tension on the cable. It’s the cable that causes most of the problems. So by taking the cable out of the system – or by reducing its length drastically, as Archer has done, you immediately get more consistent shifting and over the long haul.
While that’s a great benefit, the game-changing aspect of electronic shifting, and of a mechanism versus a cable holding the derailleur in gear is how adjustable it is. And, Archer Components’ system takes fine-tuning to a new level with their Micro-Adjust feature.
You access Archer’s Micro-Adjust mode when you first setup the system. For that you use it on their free app (I show using it in my video). When you’re riding, the Micro-Adjust is available with the Remote. (You don’t even need the app when you’re riding.)
Once Micro-Adjust is activated, the buttons on the Remote don’t shift gears. Instead they cause the shifter to pull/release the cable to move the derailleur and perfect each shift. Pressing a shift button in Micro-Adjust mode moves the derailleur .25mm in or out (or if you prefer, up or down).
And, the wonderful thing is that you can use Micro-Adjust on all the cogs on your cassette. This lets you dial in every shift to your heart’s content. This isn’t possible with standard cable shifting. Because when you change the cable tension you change the shifting across all cogs. So you might fix a hesitation due to slack developing in the cable.
But, you can’t fix one cog that’s acting up and making a clicking noise while riding when all the others are just fine. With Archer’s system you can fix the adjustment for that one cog to stop the annoying clicking.
See it in Action
Here’s a video showing most of what I mentioned so that you can see (and hear) how it works.
- Micro-Adjust also means that if you crash and bend the rear derailleur, you can change its position and possibly prevent it from shifting into the spokes so that you can ride home
- Archer has found that people with disabilities love their system because shift buttons are so easy to operate (levers may be impossible for them to operate)
- similarly, riders with carpal tunnel or wrist issues get relief with button shifting, too
I haven’t put a lot of miles on the D1X Trail yet, but it’s already impressed me. As I say at the end of the video, it shifts to me just like the systems from Shimano and SRAM, which is really something considering how affordable and compatible with all bicycles and drivetrains it is.
For now, I have to wait for the road kit to become available to evaluate it. But from what I’ve seen so far, I expect it will be a nice setup. We’ll likely see it first on complete gravel bikes since it’s geared toward single chainring setups – though it plays nice with double chainring bikes, too.
Available models: D1X Trail
Cost: with light touch shift buttons $389/ with firm touch buttons $399
How acquired: Sample from company
RBR advertiser: No
Batteries: Rechargeable Lithium Ion AA battery and 2 AAAs with Micro USB charger
Run time: 80 hours
Low battery indicators
Low power get-home mode shifts into an easy gear
Shifter (operates the existing rear derailleur)
Handlebar-mount Remote (for gear selection)
Hardware for attaching both components (Remote is also also SRAM MatchMaker clamp compatible)
Derailleur cable housing
Free Archer Components app: used for setting up the shifting.
Ride total: 9,821
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.