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Archer Components D1x Trail Shifters and Remotes offer electronic shifting compatible with any derailleur or bike, bringing the benefits of wireless shifting to your favorite drivetrain combo. We've been testing the system this summer to find out what works best and where it falls short. Find Miles' full review here...
write miles arbor
timeAugust 26, 2021
I will admit that I was not familiar with Archer Components until their D1x Trail kit showed up on my doorstep about six months ago. I've used wireless shifting in the past, but I never fully embraced the idea, which is probably why the Archer wasn't really on my radar. As it turns out, California-based Archer Components has been dabbling in the wireless shifting space since 2018, first with the D1x shifter and remote, and more recently with an updated D1x Trail kit and Drop Bar-specific DBR remote.
While it's easy to dismiss wireless mobility as an unnecessary technology, it has some benefits worth considering. Looking at all wireless/electronic drivetrains, I see two big advantages over traditional mechanical shifting. The first is the accuracy offered by wireless shifting, which not only feels great to use, but has the potential to reduce wear and tear on other drivetrain components. The second is the ergonomic advantage of an electronic gear lever, primarily a benefit to your hands and fingers. Both our Neil Beltchenko and ultra-endurance athlete Lael Wilcox commented on how the easier shifter engagement helped them keep their hands on long rides and trips freshness.
So, what is the Archer D1x Trail? In short, it's an electronic shifting kit that can be integrated into almost any drivetrain. The kit includes a wireless remote that replaces the mechanical shifters, and a shifter that mounts to the chainstay or seatstays to control the derailleur itself. Both the shifter and remote are powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and are programmable to work with most cassette/derailleur combinations. Archer positions the D1x as having several advantages over standard mechanical shifting and other electronic shifting such as AXS and Di2, including the ability to adjust individual gears, compatibility with more affordable mechanical derailleurs, and the ability to Reduced cable stretch.
I've been experimenting with the Archer kit for almost six months, mostly on my Hudski Dogler for local rides and some longer gravel tasks. I recently swapped it out for my old Kuahara Cascade to see how it would perform with the old derailleur.
installation and setup
Installing the Archer D1x kit is a fairly simple process, and once you've done it, you probably won't need to look at the included instructions again. With the mechanical shifter, housing and cable removed from the bike, the Archer Remote can be adjusted by clipping onto the handlebar in one of three positions. The Archer includes a standard 22.2mm handlebar clamp as well as a MatchMaker compatible clamp and bolt for those running SRAM brake levers.
The Archer D1x shifter mounts directly to the bike's chainstays or seatstays, as close to the rear derailleur as possible without interfering with any suspension pivots or chain. A rubber cover that also doubles as a handle is pulled back to reveal the inner workings of the shifter, and the shifter cable can slide over the drive nut of the shifter and out from the end of the body. Two plastic P-straps wrap around the bike frame and are held in place with two aluminum retaining clips. All that's left is to install a small portion of the derailleur housing, connect the derailleur cables to the rear derailleur, and you're all set.
- The size and shape of the gearbox works better on some bikes than others. Depending on the shape of the chainstay, the location of the cable guides, and other factors, it may work better to position the shifter on the seatstay (as I do for my Hudski Doggler).
- Closing the drive unit's rubber cover can be a pain without rubbing alcohol. While it's unlikely you'll need to remove the cover while riding, I can't imagine how it would be sealed off the trail side.
- The P-clamps are supposed to be trimmed after tightening, but if you need to remove the shifter then they become an instant disposable since there is nothing to grab to secure the shifter to the frame. I didn't cut mine to adjust and tighten as needed.
Once the shifter and remote are in place, it's just a matter of downloading the app and following Archer's instructions to pair the components. The app makes it easy to select the number of cogs you have and uses micro and macro adjustments to dial in the derailleur position for each cog. Disconnect the app from the shifter and you're good to go.
move with archers
My biggest gripe with the Archer D1x system is that you can't turn it on with a remote at a bar. I can't count the number of times I've jumped on the bike to try to change gears, only to get off and open the shifter next to the derailleur so I can ride. It also requires holding down tiny rubber buttons that can sometimes get stuck inside the plastic housing of the shifter if pressed too hard. Once the shifter is on, you can press either of the remote's shifter buttons to turn it on, at which point the two components will automatically pair. A few times, I had issues with the last step and the remote communication with the iPhone app, but eventually everything started to work.
While riding, the Archer D1x system worked well. With their standard batteries (Archer later released the Sprint battery with 50% faster shifts), I wouldn't necessarily say the shifts are faster than modern mechanical drivetrains. It's precise, though, and once you dial in the index, it doesn't hang around from ride to ride. In the time I've used it, I've had to pull out the app and dial in the shifter a few times. The real selling point is the flexibility to mix and match components that the system offers, and the ergonomics that the remote offers that require very light movements to switch. I was pleasantly surprised to experience all the same benefits after installing the kit on my 1980s Kuahara Cascade. Paired with Shimano Exage Mountain derailleurs and an extremely worn drivetrain, the Archer D1x gave me the best shifting experience I've ever experienced on this bike. Clearly, Archer did not discriminate.
If shifting quality deteriorates, a fine-tune remote allows the rider to adjust the derailleur position on the fly, or it can be adjusted by using a smartphone app. Most of the time I prefer the latter, as I like the visual reference of the cassette directly in front of me, which allows you to ignore the remote and focus on the derailleur position.
There are some neat features that can be toggled on or off via the app, including Low Power Mode, Get Me Home Gear, and Quick Shift. Read more below.
low power mode
Cyclists love low power modes when it comes to electronics. The Archer D1x's standard battery life of up to 80 hours in normal mode and up to 150 hours in low power mode (with Get Me Home Gear and automatic shutdown disabled) is impressive. It's hard to say exactly how many hours of use you'll get per charge, but I'd say the runtime is pretty impressive.
gear for me home
When the system detects that your shifter is critically low on battery, it will automatically shift to the pre-assigned gear you selected in the app and maintain that gear through power outages. This is a very handy feature to keep things going if you happen to die of the battery in the middle of a ride.
Archer's Quick Swap allows you to customize your quick-fire toggles by long-pressing the remote in either direction. Programmed in the app, it can be set to anywhere between up to two and five steps, and stops moving when the button is released. It's designed to mimic Shimano's multi-release shifter functionality, and can be turned off in-app if desired.
Fine-tuning the remote
Archer provides two remote controls. The standard remote requires the Archer Components app to adjust shifting, while the fine-tune remote allows you to dial in shifting on the fly. Simply press and hold the small button on top of the remote, use the two remote buttons to adjust the derailleur position up or down, then press the fine-tuning button to back out and go to the next gear.
Why buy the Archer D1x?
The main selling point of the D1x Trail system is that you can keep using whatever derailleur you have and, depending on your setup, trick it into thinking it's a 12-speed and just buy a wider range cassette. In the event of a major accident, replacing the $130 mechanical GX Eagle derailleurs instead of the $370 GX Eagle AXS sounds like a good idea considering the complete Archer D1x Trail kit retails for just $400 (shifters and remote) good. While wireless shifting may not be fully embraced in the cycling community, it should make it easier to swap out unstable derailleurs when driving into town, as any 11 or 12 speed replacement will work and use the app Can a quick reindex get you rolling? However, this means it's best to keep a fully functional smartphone with you when touring.
The same goes for Archer's Drop Bar dedicated DBR system, which offers all the same benefits and features. Since I'm limited in what I can test myself, I contacted the brand to see some of the configurations they've tried themselves, and here's what Saul from Archer Components came back with:
"With our system, it's easy to use a derailleur with fewer cogs than originally intended. When using a cassette with more cogs than originally intended, it's slightly more difficult. In most cases , you can always add a cog, so an 11 speed derailleur can be used with a 12 speed cassette, but a 10 speed derailleur will be more difficult to use with a 12 speed cassette. The main limiting factor is the length of the derailleur cage. Considering the industry Now, our system also gives you the freedom to use the components you can find, so if the proprietary drivetrain component you need is out of stock, you can use our system to run whatever you need. You can find it."
- 11s Shimano XTR derailleur w/ 12s 50T GX eagle cassette
- 9s Shimano Deore derailleur with 11s freewheel
- 12s TRP TR12 derailleur with 11s 46T E*13 freewheel
- 12s TRP TR12 derailleur with 12s 50T GX Eagle cassette
- 12s SRAM GX Eagle derailleur w/ 13s Zitto cassette
- 12s SRAM GX eagle with 11s 46T e*thirteen cassette
- 11s SRAM Rival derailleur with Box Prime9 cassette
While I think the placement of the two remote buttons could be a little better, the Archer D1x's light action could be a major plus for anyone with hand issues, poor dexterity, arthritis, or an adaptive riding situation. With or without gloves, the buttons are easy to grip, easy to position and operate with just a light touch. I don't think it can compete with the SRAM AXS paddle shifters, which have a more high-end feel, but it's great that it's from a US-made start-up with no big brands.
- Versatile system eliminates many driveline compatibility issues
- More affordable than other wireless systems
- Use your current 11-speed rear derailleur with a 12-speed system
- Optical remote control
- Easily adjust shifting from your smartphone
- long battery life
- Shifting speeds are okay, but not exciting
- Attachment design could be improved
- There may be pairing issues between the remote, gear stick, and app
- The gear lever must be manually turned on before riding
- Test model:Archer D1x Trail with Trim Remote
- Actual weight:Remote (68g), shifter + cable/housing (193g)
- Production place:California, USA
- Manufacturer details:ArcherComponents.com
When the Archer D1x system was released, it offered an affordable alternative to SRAM's AXS line of wireless drivetrains. Since then, SRAM's GX AXS has lowered the price of entry to high-end wireless shifting, but still requires new derailleurs, derailleurs, cassettes and chains. That's a hefty investment compared to the $400 Archer D1x Trail groupset, which, unlike the AXS, is compatible with nearly any derailleur on the market and offers a lot more.
Overall, the Archer D1x Trail kit is impressive. While there's still a lot of room for improvement, including how the shifter attaches to the bike and some pairing glitches I've encountered, Archer has produced an interesting product that's sure to be appreciated by those who like to tinker. Especially in a year when finding an alternative 12-speed Shimano derailleur was nearly impossible, Archer D1x groupsets started to make sense. Another benefit of using a product from a new company like Archer is that they are able to update and tune their kit as standards change or new drivetrains are released, all with a simple firmware update. Since receiving my kit, Archer has released a new set of Sprint battery packs that increase shifting speeds by up to 50%. I'm curious to see how Archer will handle this.
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