The new MicroSHIFT Advent group is fully modern and ready for today’s trail and enduro rider. It offers a wide range cassette, clutched rear derailleur and slick shifting. All for just $125 with a bring-your-own cranks option. Well, and a 9-speed chain, too, but we’ll get to that. We’ve had a set for a few weeks prior to the official launch, and it’s impressive. Here’s the full review…
MicroSHIFT Advent Actual Weights
The complete Advent group consists of just the rear mech, the shifter and the 11-42 cassette. Actual weights are:
- Shifter – 129g with cable
- Derailleur – 379g
- Cassette – 447g with lock ring
The cassette is a definite chunk, but it also appears to be extremely strong thanks to forged steel cogs on the main cluster with an alloy 42t upper cog. If you’re looking for a budget group that can take a beating for a park bike or similar, this should be near the top of your list. No sense in breaking expensive stuff, and the increased gear steps aren’t an issue on the downhills.
How does it work?
Pretty darn well, actually. Kudos to MicroSHIFT for taking a step back from the more-gears-are-better mindset and just making something simple and affordable. The fact that it punches above its weight class in performance makes this group a steal if you don’t need precision cadence steps.
They designed the cable entry port to streamline the entry angle, but it only keeps it straight if your bike runs the shift cable down the seatstay. For bikes running that cable along the chainstay, there’ll still be a bit of a bend in it. The cable came included, but I used some standard SRAM housing I had laying around and it feels fine.
The heart of the group is the new rear derailleur, which uses a disc-plate type clutch rather than the traditional roller bearing. In the schematic above, the two black plates outside of the red ratchet serve as the friction plates that slow things down when the chain’s trying to pull the cage forward. The ratchet catches on pawls to lock into place and “drag” the surfaces against each other, but then lets it release and spin back freely to the starting position.
Skip to 1:01 to see what’s special about their pawl-and-ratchet clutch design. They say this is not only more durable than a roller clutch, but it’s also super simple to repair or adjust.
MicroSHIFT doesn’t make the chains or cranks, so it takes a bit of mixing and matching to use the group. I bought the least expensive SRAM 9-speed chain I could find at our local bike shop, then used a SRAM Force 1 crankset with Wolf Tooth Components 1x CX chainring. Out back, the shifting was quick, quiet and smooth. I haven’t had any problems with skipping or jumping, and the range is basically what we’ve come to expect from modern mountain bike groups, just without the massive 50t bailout gear.
Not part of the group, you’ll need to consider how a 9-speed chain will work with modern 1x chainrings. A good narrow/wide tooth profile will help prevent the chain from coming off. In this particular setup, Wolf Tooth’s official recommendation is to use a 10-speed chain for tighter retention, but MicroSHIFT’s rep told that the group really needs a 9-speed chain for optimal performance. Since I’d long since given away all my 10-speed chains and didn’t want to buy two different chains, I opted for the 9-speed, but you can see how much room there is between the teeth and the chain plates. So far, though, I haven’t had any problems with the chain flopping off. That said, I’m running this group on a flat-bar gravel/monstercross build that’s ridden on XC style singletrack, not enduro courses.
The shifter also exceeded my expectations. They offer two versions, one without bearings and one with (tested), the latter having very smooth and stable lever throw. There’s no slop or play present, which gives it a much higher quality feel than the price suggests.
The big difference between this and Shimano or SRAM triggers is that upshifts (going to a harder gear) require a finger pull on the front lever. You can’t push it from behind, it’s a one-way release to drop the chain to a smaller cog. In practice, it works really well and is quite ergonomic.
Overall, the MicroSHIFT Advent group is worth a look for anyone on a tight budget, looking to revive an old bike for a friend or spouse, or just give your kids a high functioning, modern wide range kit so they can get up the hills easier. With a blacked out look, there’s little about it that screams “cheap”, and the performance matches groups costing much more. Well done, MicroSHIFT!