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
Interesting component. Bravo to Archer. Thanks for the review. Once the price comes down somewhat, it may (perhaps) offer a significant alternative to other , established companies such as Shimano, Sram, Campy, for those who have perfectly working bikes with mechanical shifters.
Thomas D Horne says
I get the “1X” in the product name, but could.It be used with a cable operated front derailleur for double or triple chain rings?
Jim Langley says
Thanks for the question, Thomas. Archer didn’t say anything about that or whether they have any plans to make a system for front shifting. Since it’s a cable puller that you could attach maybe under the down tube; and the Remote would be pretty easy to attach anywhere, maybe it would work as is. But you would want to check with Archer to see if it could be adjusted correctly for front shifts before spending any money.
Mitch Hull says
Should work fine with multiple front chain rings if your current system does—-most are completely independent.
I’m really excited by this system’s ability to micro-tune each cog. I use a Campy 11 speed shifter and Shimano 9 speed cassette and can’t get flawless shifts on both big and small cogs, it’s either one or the other.
The idea looks useful and an excellent video. Maybe getting a bit picky, but need to ask. With DI2 on road bikes with 2 front chainrings there are very small adjustments made to the front derailleur as one moves closer to the upper and lower ends of the cassette. Presumably this keeps the chain aligned without needing to adjust the front derailleur. How do you think the D1X would work on the rear only with 2 front chainrings? (I am thinking of not having to do rear micro adjustments when changing the front chainring.) Would it work smoothly? Do you know someone with experience doing this?
Jim Langley says
Di2 is a complete wired system with the components “talking” to each other. When shifting the rear derailleur, the front derailleur “knows” what’s happening and it auto trims – because it’s connected the two derailleurs are connected to each other.
I don’t think you’d want to try to fit an Archer Shifter into the setup. It would mean removing the Di2 rear derailleur and installing a cable rear derailleur and the cable rear derailleur would not be able to communicate with the Di2 system so you’d lose your auto front trimming.
Hope this helps,
Mark Dehanke says
Jim, is the Archer system compatible with (in specific) Campy 10 speed?
Jim Langley says
Based on my testing and on the comments I’ve read from other testers, I think it would work. You would be using your chain and derailleur and cassette so none of that changes. And Archer’s Shifter has the micro adjustments to dial in the shifting. You would just need to figure out how to attach their Remote to your handlebars.
Hope this helps,
Mark Dehanke says
Jim, thank you Sir!!
Have you tried the XShifter?
It is cheaper at only $249 with Free shipping.
I have found it works well.
Will Haltiwanger says
I paid for the XShifter at the beginning and never got anything. Some of the orders went directly to the developer, not Kickstarter, and we got dropped. Glad you had better luck.
Robert Ray says
I’m still trying to figure out why electronic shifting seems to be so “cool”. I got a Shimano Di 2 Ultegra system on my new Trek Domane, and think I still like my Shimano Dura Ace set up on my Specialized Robiax better It shifts just as well, is easier to adjust, cheaper to fix, and doesn’t require batteries and charging. What’s not to like about all that?
Will Haltiwanger says
I agree with you. I recently got SRAM 2 x 12 and have had many more dropped chains than I did with my old Campy triple. It cost a lot. The batteries are another thing to deal with, or get stolen. Plus I miss the options for gearing. I got the wide range gearing and found that rather than having 12 speeds to use I have 8. I am in my 70s, rarely ride with groups and am happy to coast if speeds get much over 20 so the smallest cogs are of no use, but there aren’t any choices in cassettes that would start with a 13 tooth instead of a 10. Will probably switch to a 650 wheel to gain a bit of low end, but that won’t move the needle much. Seriously considering going back to mechanical where there are many more choices and I know how to work on everything.