If you purchased a bicycle in the past two decades there’s a very good chance that it came equipped with a Shimano or SRAM drivetrain. While microSHIFT may not be as well known as Shimano and SRAM, the Taiwanese company has been designing and manufacturing shifters, derailleurs, and cassettes since 1999. With a product range spanning city, road, and mountain bikes, microSHIFT’s latest addition–ADVENT–is a versatile, affordable 1×9 system designed for maximum durability with minimal maintenance.
What is ADVENT?
microSHIFT refers to ADVENT as wallet friendly 1x, and with an MSRP of $125 (9-speed shifter, cassette, rear derailleur), that’s a pretty accurate description. While the group doesn’t include a chain, 9-speed chains can typically be had for $15-$20. You’ll have to supply your own crankset, though, or if you’re converting a double or triple, a 1x chainring. For drop-bar setups, microSHIFT offers compatible 1×9 levers with the option of a dropper seatpost remote control.
With the popularity of 10-, 11-, and 12-speed drivetrains, why would microSHIFT choose to go with a 9-speed system? Price is certainly one reason–it should come as no surprise that, all things being equal, manufacturing nine cogs is less costly than ten, eleven, or twelve sprockets. But according to the folks at microSHIFT, improved durability and reliability were two of the main factors for making ADVENT a 9-speed system. With a 9-speed drivetrain, the wider chain distributes the wear over a larger surface, which translates into improved durability. Adding more cogs to a cassette reduces the distance between cogs, making tolerances tighter. Factor in a bent derailleur hanger or dirty cable system and the result is often degraded shifting. ADVENT delivers the wide gearing range you’d expect with a modern drivetrain, but is more forgiving than systems with greater numbers of gears.
ADVENT 9-Speed XPress Shifter
microSHIFT offers two versions of the ADVENT 9-speed trigger shifter: the SL-M8195-R that I tested (130 grams including cable), and the SL-M819-R. The difference? Both shifters function the same way, but the M8195 features sealed bearings for smoother operation and a lighter feel. While I wasn’t able to test microSHIFT’s plain-Jane M819 shifter, the M8195 definitely required less effort than the 10- and 11-speed units that it replaced. The lighter touch doesn’t translate into mushy, or vague shifting, though. Thanks to the unit’s audible and tactile feedback, there’s no guessing if the chain has made its way to the next cog. And if you’ve ever found yourself unexpectedly overgeared at the beginning of a climb, you’ll appreciate the ADVENT’s ability to downshift up to five gears with one swipe of the (thumb) lever. Shifting to smaller cogs, however, is limited to single gear changes via the smaller trigger. The ADVENT’s ergonomics are good, and I didn’t have any experience any incompatibilities pairing the shifter with Shimano or SRAM brake levers. Cable changes don’t require any disassembly of the shifter, but the cable entry port isn’t sealed like the competition’s pricier units.
ADVENT Clutch Rear Derailleur
The rear derailleur is one of the first components that a gearing nerd notices. Although the 378-gram ADVENT unit may not win over any weight weenies, the budget-friendly mech doesn’t look out of place next to its costlier competitors. There’s more to the ADVENT than just modern aesthetics and low price. For one, it’s the only off-the-shelf, 9-speed rear derailleur that’s equipped with a clutch mechanism. Whether you ride mountain or gravel bikes, a clutch is essential for reducing chain slap–or worse–chain drop. Unlike most clutch systems that rely on one-way bearings and friction sleeves, microSHIFT’s clutch utilizes a ratchet-and-pawl design (the same technology found in freewheels and freehubs). While I haven’t found a need to adjust the clutch on my test sample, microSHIFT claims that it’s easily done using only a screwdriver and a TORX® key (which is something I plan on testing for my follow-up review).
Direct-path cable routing for rear derailleurs is nothing new, but ADVENT derailleurs feature what microSHIFT calls, precisely tuned derailleur kinematics. In plain English this means that shifting (response) remains consistent across all gears. While it may sound like technobabble, it really works. With the derailleur’s clutch engaged, shifting from the 34t cog to the 42t cog required no more effort than shifting from the 13t to the 15t sprocket. Even multiple gear changes (example: 15-18-21-24-28) were performed with noticeably less effort than what’s required with competitors’ systems. The (shifting) action is so light that, on more than one occasion, I found myself double-checking that the ADVENT’s clutch was turned on.
ADVENT 11-42T 9-Speed Cassette
microSHIFT may be known more for their shifters and derailleurs, but the ADVENT cassette has the features you’d expect for dirt and gravel riding. An 11-13-15-18-21-24-28-34-42 spread provides a 382% gear range while still maintaining compatibility with standard, 8/9/10-speed hubs. Ramped and profiled teeth deliver smooth, quiet shifts, and the black ED finish gives the ADVENT a modern aesthetic. The cassette utilizes forged carbon steel cogs for strength and durability, and the alloy 42t cog helps keep weight down (my sample weighed 445 grams including lockring). microSHIFT also offers an all-steel version for riders who want maximum durability or prefer to save a few dollars. While the ADVENT cassettes lack the alloy spiders/carriers found on pricier models, the cassette’s pinned construction proved reliable and creak-free during my test period.
How Does It Work?
I tested microSHIFT’s ADVENT components on two very different bikes. One of the test rigs was my Jeff Jones 29-plus MTB. On that particular bike, the 9-speed ADVENT components replaced a SRAM 1×11 drivetrain. The other test setup was a 27.5 hardtail e-bike that’s been converted into an all-weather commuter. The e-bike’s 1×10 drivetrain was a mixed bag of FSA (cranks, chainring), Shimano (Deore shifter, SLX derailleur), SunRace (11-42t cassette), and KMC (X10 chain) components. Both test bikes were fitted with new KMC X9 chains, Shimano SP41 housing, and Jagwire die-drawn, galvanized cables.
My Jones combines 135 mm rear spacing with an offset (Boost) chainring for added tire clearance, and as such, riding in the lowest gear can be somewhat noisy and prone to chain derailment when backpedaling. Swapping out the SRAM drivetrain with the ADVENT components didn’t completely eliminate the aforementioned issues, but the bike ran noticeably quieter and smoother with microSHIFT’s 9-speed drivetrain. The biggest difference, however, between the 11- and 9-speed setups was the latter’s reduced effort when shifting to larger cogs. Due to limited dexterity and strength in my right thumb, I occasionally finish long rides with some discomfort (in my right hand), but that wasn’t the case with the ADVENT drivetrain.
Like most e-bikes, my pedal-assist commuter’s motor puts a great deal of stress on the bike’s drivetrain (especially chains and cassettes). While microSHIFT didn’t design ADVENT for e-bike use, I figured it would be a good torture test for the budget 1×9 system. After more than a month of daily riding (in all kinds of weather), I’m happy to report zero missed shifts or dropped chains (even when using the highest level of pedal assist). And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the ADVENT drivetrain shifted with noticeably less effort than the 10-speed setup it replaced. For paved-road use, however, I would have preferred tighter gaps between the smaller cogs, but that was less of an issue when riding dirt or gravel where maintaining a specific, sustained cadence isn’t as important.
Who Is It For?
If you’re in the market for a wide range, 1x drivetrain, and don’t want–or need–more than nine gears, microSHIFT’s ADVENT group should be at the top of your list. Whether you’re building up a new bike, or making the switch to 1x, ADVENT works as well as, and in some cases, better than components retailing for much more. And with the reasonable cost of consumables (chain, cassette), it’s a smart choice for high-mileage applications or use in less-than-perfect weather.
It’s difficult to verify microSHIFT’s claims of reduced maintenance and improved durability after only two months’ use. So rather than hypothesizing about ADVENT’s long-term performance, I plan to continue using these components on my commuter, and will report back after 4-6 months. Stay tuned…
Disclosure: microSHIFT provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.