One year with Microshift Advent

posted in: Cannondale, Microshift, Vintage | 0

Well actually 18 months or so, and sorry for some blurry photos, I’ll improve this in future articles.

Until a few years ago I haven’t been a friend of one-by drivetrains. Michael even warned me, that the wear of SRAM 1×11 is too high for everyday use. So I kept bomb proof 3×8 and 3×9 setups. In early 2019 Microshift announced the Advent 1×9 drivetrain. Starting with a no frills setup with 11-42 cassette (11-13-15-18-21-24-28-34-42) and a push-pull thumb shifter that was obviously derived from the Marvo and R10 shifters and using a derailleur that seemed to be an evolution of the XLE 11 design from 2018 (Shimano compatible with clutch). Same for the three lever brifter aimed at the gravel crowd: a derivative of the SB-4xx design with the nice possibility of getting a left shifter converted to dropper post control.

Having used Microshift R8 brifters on the road bike for some years and in love with their high spring loads (dirt and mud does not cause misshifts) I was looking forward to riding Advent sooner than later… So I emailed Messingschlager to ask when they’d stock Advent. I got a call from the guy being responsible for Microshift who just told me that people wanted 11 speed and they’d only stock Shimano campatible stuff from Microshift. So in later 2019 I ordered at a parts discounter that was getting Microshift parts from other EU Countries. Price was €99.99 for cassette, derailleur and shifter together.

The bike

The bike I installed the Advent on was a 1997 Cannondale. I got the frame for free since it was flooded with sewage (yes, a shitty frame that needed lots of cleaning). Since I only got a frame, I did not have old components to watch for compatibility. I built a wheelset using Novatec hubs and DT 535 rims plus Schwalbe Big Ben Plus, used a stem with some rise and a quite wide handlebar. Brakes are Magura HS22 I bought used – the ultimate no frills setup for everyday usage.

For the rest of the drivetrain I went for a KMC X9 chain, chinese 104mm BCD crankset and a cheap 40 teeth narrow wide chainring. Installation of Advent is dead simple. No fancy gauge required, just make sure to keep the chain length on the short side and activate the clutch only after finishing adjustment.

Riding

At first I was sceptical whether the large jumps in would be annoying, but the last 7 gears are exactly what was common in the 1990s at 3×7. And at around 23% relative the jumps 28-34-40 are not significantly more than the 15-18 jump. One reason for keeping max jumps at 4 teeth for many Shimano groups was derailleur parallelogram slant – this lead to 11-36 as typical maximum for 9 speed options over long years.

Jumps in cadence when shifting the Advent 11-42 cassette

Having ridden the bike several months as a “workhorse” I decided to use it in the Alps in August 2020 to ride some tours. There I used a 34 teeth chainring, OK for many climbs, albeit still heavy work at 15% with a kid in the trailer and slow on the downhill (I probably should not speed with kids in the trailer anyway). Microshift since reacted by offering a 11-46 cassette and providing the more upmarket 1×10 Advent X with 11-48.

Wear and tear

My first chain cracked at 2000km, I ran 3000km on the second chain. At this point the aluminum 42 started to show some wear resulting in less precision downshifting under high loads. I killed the third chain in holiday on Rømø with sand and saltwater, so the cassette might have lasted 7000-8000km in total.

In this time the guide pulley got some axial play, I replaced it by a 12 teeth narrow wide pulley with sealed bearings that was intended for SRAM derailleurs. This significantly improved shifting precision. When I replaced the cassette I went for the cheaper (and 70g heavier all steel version).

It should be noted that Advent “eats” shifting cables due to the not ideal line the cable exits the casing. Use lots of dry PTFE to properly lube and replace the cable when wear is obvious.

In winter 2020/21 I involuntarily tested the robustness by slipping on a cast iron plate covered unter snow and bendig the derailleur hanger, the derailleur itself just has some scars.

Product range in 2022

In spring 2020 Microshift announced the more upmarket Advent X, improved in weight and less focused on uncompromising robustness as an alternative to Shimanos and SRAMs 1×11 drivetrains. With the advent of Advent X, some innovation like a redesigned “trail trigger” shifter (push-push that allows to brake while upshifting) trickled down to Advent as well as the aforementioned 11-42 cassette. Shifter options now are:

  • Push-pull
  • Push-pull without sealed bearing (OEM only)
  • Trail trigger
  • Trail trigger pro (added silicone padding)
  • Thumb shifter
  • Brifter for drop bar

Cassettes include:

  • 11-42 all steel
  • 11-42 with aluminum largest cog
  • 11-46 all steel

There are two cage lengths and for OEM a derailleur without clutch is available. For touring/bike packing, even an 2×9 version is available – Microshift just raided their parts bin for the matching parts to extend Advent for 2x. A niche surely, but nice to know a solution exists.

Price and availability

Microshift is currently changing distributors in Europe, so availability currently is not very good. Since Decathlon sells some Advent equipped bikes, they usually stock spares, which means the standard parts (shifter and all steel cassette) are easily available. Pricing is typically around 100€ for the small groupset (shifter/derailleur/cassette).

In the meantime many more bike companies like Marin (also drop bar), Giant, Cannondale are offering Advent on entry level trail MTBs and commuters. Unfortunately in some cases like Giant the Advent is only available in very price sensitive markets (Eastern Europe), while the Germanic language area gets Shimano.

Conclusion

Due to the high spring loads and the missing gear indicator I would not choose Advent for a kids bike – in the meantime Microshift is offering a children specific groupset called Acolyte addressing these issues. For the long tours in the alps with steep ascents and descents, Advent X with 11-48 seems to be better suited, especially if the bike is not abused as my Cannondale is. When upgrading an old bike compatibility might be an issue: shifter and derailleur must match, cassettes use the standard 9 speed spacing. But since they are just 23€ it makes no sense so save 3€ by buying a Chinese cassette.

In my case I am very happy with the value for the money of the Advent – and especially its robustness and durability. It fits my usage profile perfectly. If you need a durable 1x groupset with plenty of shifter options (drop bar, flat bar, thumbies) for a bike that is really beaten, opt for the Advent.