Full test of the budget Microshift Advent 1X10 drive train
Words and photos: Mike Blewitt
Microshift do things a little differently in the drive train world. With the majority of drive train manufacturers pushing hard to add more gears and an ever wider range to their group sets, Microshift have taken the approach of creating reliable and value-focused components that mean you can spend your pennies on other areas of your bike or life.
Having tested the 1x9 Advent drive train last year, I was already impressed at the ease of setup and the low maintenance required. By using a standard HG freehub, the 11-42 cassette mounted on just about any wheel, and the movement for each shift wasn't so small that having the cable tension or B-tension adjustment off a little didn't really make much of a difference. But, 11-42 is a little narrow for many of us, and the new Advent X drive train delivered a 1x10 system with a 11-48 cassette, still running on an HG freehub with a suitable chain and chain ring.
A closer look
Microshift have two tiers for the three parts that make up the Advent X 1x10 drive train. The main differences are weight for the derailleur, ergonomics for the shifter and weight for the cassette. In fact the 11-48 cassette uses an aluminium spider for the larger sprockets, which means the confirmed weight is 415g, which is about 200g lighter than the SRAM NX 11-50 cassette that was removed for this one to go on. The two largest sprockets are alloy, which also helps keep the weight down. The cassette teeth are ramped to aid shifting and the spaces between the sprockets is refreshingly wide – which should help keep the drive train running even in goopy mud.
The 322g rear derailleur has large 13t jockey wheels with tall teeth to keep the chain running smoothly, and there is an adjustable ratchet clutch. Microshift claim this design is less susceptible to gunking up with dust, or drying out and failing to work. With a cover that is easily removed with a Philips head screwdriver, it is a very easy unit to service. The limit and B-tension screws are easy to reach even with an Allen key on a multitool, and the cable clamping is really straight forward without any funny cable placement required.
The shifter suits sitting inboard of your brake lever, and the lever position falls easily to hand. The two levers on the 120g are push-push style, like SRAM, but unlike Shimano you don't have the Multi-release option. That's a pretty small difference, and really only noticeable if you have spent a lot of time on Shimano's higher end multi-release shifters. The shifter runs on bearings and is therefore as smooth as you'd expect, and in terms of ease of action I'd say it feels very much like Shimano XT level.
Setting up and riding Advent X
This was easy. With the long term Norco Optic C3 as a starting point, I removed the 12-speed chain, shifter and derailleur. I fitted the shifter and used the same Jagwire outer that was already in the Optic frame. Limits were easily set and a new Shimano 11-speed chain was cut to length. After a couple of spins on the barrel adjuster and getting the B-tension close to the 48t the bike was good to go. That's right, the 10-speed Advent X parts, 11-speed Shimano chain and SRAM Eagle 12-speed chain ring all got along just fine!
Out on the trail I barely noticed a difference compared to the stock SRAM NX parts that had been removed, in terms of gear range. The shifting did feel a little more stable, and I do think the clutch on the Advent X derailleur does a really good job with the ratchet design. Also, with a lot less weight moving around on the freehub I do suspect that played a role.
At the shifter, the feedback was really good. The rubber pads meant that keeping contact was easy, even on a sweaty gloveless ride. I have been spoilt with some of the latest high end shifters from SRAM and Shimano for adjustments, as the Advent X shifter can only be moved in and outboard with the shifter clamp, or around the bar in the same manner. There are no further independent adjustments. But that was ok, the levers fell where I needed them to. It might depend on your brake levers and how they clamp as to whether you can still get the ideal position.
The lever throw to shift was ever so slightly longer than Shimano 12-speed and SRAM Eagle, but not to any detrimental effect. As the cassette sprockets are ramped, you can feel as the chain engages and gets pulled onto an easier sprocket, with the slightly longer throw you really can 'feel' shift a bit more than some drivetrains. And if you're familiar with the challenge of managing a drivetrain through foul conditions, that might be something that you really like.
After plenty of riding the black finish on the cassette is showing some wear, but the teeth aren't. Cassette life should be similar to any other mid-range cassette and it really would depend on how you ride, where you ride, and how well you look after your bike.
Overall, I have been impressed yet again with what Microshift have produced. 11-48 is a really good gear range, and as there is a well-entrenched weight weenie inside of me, the cassette weight and range makes this a really attractive option. Even if you're looking at upgrading from a Shimano 11-speed group set and don't want to spend too much, this is a winner. With Shimano having released 3 new Deore group sets that offer 11-46 1x10, 11-51 1x11 and 10-51 1x12, Advent X is still appealing thanks to the lower cassette weight and higher end finishing of the shifter. Given you don't need to change from an HG splined freehub, the Microshift Advent X 3-part drivetrain should be a very attractive upgrade for an older bike that needs to go to a single chain ring system, or for a new build where you would rather spend money on performance items like suspension, brakes, wheels or even the frame itself.
- Top performance for a sensible budget
- Very easy setup and maintenance
- Compatible with lots of chains and chain rings
- Light weight cassette for the price
- No mix and match with Shimano or SRAM 10-speed shifters or derailleurs
- Only comes in black?