Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Microshift White Groupset Review.

(First I apologize for using stock pictures, my digital camera decided, after over 8 long years of surviving debaucherous trips to the beach and graphic design class mishaps, to crap itself. You've been a soldier Fujifilm 2megapixel Finepix.)

Here is what we've got to work with, plus housing and cables that are included.
Well, I've finally been able to put some (cold) miles on the CAAD8, and, more importantly to this review, the Microshift White groupset. I feel like this is an important review for anyone who is thinking of building their own "budget" bike, mainly because of the value minded pricing on the Microshift groups on ebay. Of course, if it works like crap, then it's not worth it at any price point now is it? Follow through then, and consider my opinion before making your future group choices.

Again, as I said in a previous post, I ended up paying $261 (shipping included) for my set on ebay. Included in the package was everything you see above plus cables, housing and an extra set of "hoods" (white ones and black ones) which was a nice little surprise, because everyone wants to look "pro" with white hoods.

I admit, when I first ordered the White Group I had only mediocre hopes for it. In the pictures it looks...well... cheap. And why wouldn't it look cheap, it IS cheap. A quick search on ebay shows that new Dura Ace 7900 brifters (only) are selling at somewhere between $350-$400. Even Shimano's "budget" minded race set (105) is selling for over $200 new. (again, for brifters only) Admittedly "White" is not Microshifts top end set (Arsis Carbon is, about $100 premium) it's more of the "Ultegra" of MS. Of course you could compare to both SRAM and Campagnolo as well, but I've always been a Shimano man, so that's where my comparisons will come from.

The Brifters
White Hoods included!! Score!
So, lets get the bad out of the way. You aren't going to be able to adjust the reach on the levers... which is a minor complaint that generally women (and some men with svet hands... myself included) have. The next complaint is the cable routing for the shifters, which is to say that it is not internal. Again, this isn't a deal breaker by any means, but Campy, SRAM, and even Shimano have moved almost all of their lines to "hiding" the housing under the bar tape. That said, I still like Dura Ace 7800 shifters better than 7900 ones, and I have always thought it was because of the internal routing "gumming" the shifts just a tiny bit. As for the good stuff, let's talk about the shifting paddles. I suppose the closest comparison is SORA, or possibly Campy's Ergoshift. (although no thumb triggers)  In the picture above it's easy to see the large lever, but you have to look a little closer to see the smaller one sticking down. (easier to see on the right side of the pic) If you are like me and coming from Shimano, this will require a break in period to get used to it. (I still try to push the whole brake lever in to shift down) Both paddles on the rear shifter are firm and responsive, and once tuned right I've had absolutely 0 shifting issues. The front paddle to shift down (the button) is nice as well, but pushing the longer paddle in to get an upshift is not something you can do without putting some effort into it... you really have to push that sucker in. I couldn't get it "tighter" with any adjustments unfortunately. A big plus to these guys is the ability to "dump" your gear with ease. I could drop 5 gears on my cassette with one long sweep of the downshift lever! Braking is pretty much a given at this point with modern brifters and the White's are no exception. Cable pull is fine and I could lock them down on command. Realistically when it comes to shifters you just want them to work... nobody has a good ride when they are hitting the lever and hear the "clicking" of your chain not quite making it to the next gear. Well, at least at this juncture I can say that the White's have been excellent.

Shifters Rating: 7/10

Rear Derailleur

I promise it's not made of cheap plastic... even if it looks it
Besides the shifters, the rear derailleur is the place where you can really tell when something sucks. I'm happy to say that the White does NOT suck. Setup is easy and straightforward, and even with someone like myself who runs an arguably short chain (I always use the line through the pully bolt method, which always ends up being a link or two short in most people opinion) the White didn't do much more than grumble at strange gearing combos, (looking at you 50/28) stretching happily to an awkward looking angle. Quick shifts up and down were concise, and after some tuning (mainly due to cable stretch) I could grind up and down the cassette at breakneck speed without complaint.  I suppose it's worth mentioning here that the White RD (and set in general) is NOT a quite set. If you remember the first couple of years of SRAM's stuff... yeah... it's louder than that! Loud can be a good thing (I've had to look at my Dura Ace before to make sure it shifted) to some people, and it can be a deal breaker to others. It's not as "clunky" as Campy nor as sharp as SRAM... somewhere in the middle. You certainly won't be sneaking up on anyone on this kit.


Rear Derailleur Rating: 9/10

Front Derailleur
Insert Andy Schleck joke here
Oh the front derailleur. Such a simple little piece of the whole setup... never glamorous, often overlooked (or even left off!) but nonetheless essential to most of us. Tour's have been lost on faulty FD's. (Well... in reality lost to faulty user error most likely, but SRAM Red's old FD's were crappy) The MS follows tradition in that it does what it has to do... which is move your chain from big to little (and vice versa) without any issues. So far it has done so flawlessly for me. I admit that in general I'm a bit of a worrier... I usually run a chain catcher with my FD's. I'm sure I'll end up getting one for this bike, but at current I don't have one and have not (yet) paid the price for such blasphemy. The White FD is basically just a copy of everybody elses FD's... which is a good thing, basically across the board they all work great. The only gripe I have is that the adjustment screws are pretty tight on the inside (seems tighter than Shimano's... I'll not mention Campy's glory in placing the screws outward facing... well I guess I just did...)

Front Derailleur Rating: 9/10

Other stuff

Of course cables and housing are about what you'd expect. Nonetheless, it's a nice touch that my little UPS box didn't require a trip to the LBS to pick up small parts. Even the caps were included. I'll mention again that I was extremely excited that there were two choices for hoods in the box. (let's be honest, Hudz for most sets will set you back at least $30, and white always has a premium price!) The box also included instructions for installing everything...if reading instructions is your thing. I glanced them over and was moderately surprised to see that the English translation was actually pretty good, (Good lord, try to read the nokon manual in the terrible broken English it uses) so if you need a little reference, you aren't totally stuck out to dry.
Another seemingly silly thing that is a big deal to most people is the color options! Yes, I know it's called "White" and all the pictures I've posted are indeed of the white White group. Well, it comes in plenty of other colors as well (Black, White, Red, Blue, Yellow and Green - although the green is Team Exergy's kit color... I do not think it's for sale to you and me.)

Overall: 8/10

I think the days of "cheap" Microshift may be heading to an end. A couple of manufacturers (Felt comes to mind) are already speccing bikes with it, and more than one team (Cofidis and Exergy) are using it in big races... and why not. If it works as good as what the big boys are putting out, why not save some cash, whether you're just a weekend warrior or racing for the big purses.

Microshift is not for everyone. If you want the hottest cutting edge groups, you should look elsewhere. If you have a Campagnolo Tattoo, move on. If you'd rather piece together used Dura Ace / Ultegra / Force / Athena, that's fine too. (I've done that one a couple of times myself) But let me say that you should at least *consider* Microshift. You get a LOT of bang for your buck on race ready equipment.

I hope everyone had a very good Thanksgiving. It's time to get back to training!

-Christopher Morelock

2 comments:

  1. Did you have any problems ? How did you use many miles ?

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    Replies
    1. Hi,

      No. I've had no problems out of the White Group, and I've put a good portion of 2013's miles on it. Day to day riding, quite a few criteriums and some road races. (along with a few sprint triathlons) It has held up quite well, still going strong.

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