Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Quick gear Review: New Microshift Brifters

I've been riding Microshift White 10spd for about 5 years now (wow... really) and from what little bit of keeping up with the traffic on my site tells me, you guys are interested in it. (and have continued to be) My original review  of the White groupset is consistently one of the most viewed posts I've ever written.

When I bought the White set it was largely a budget concern. I had just built a new road bike and didn't have tons of disposable income to throw at it. If I'm honest with myself, I had planned to upgrade to 7800 / 7900 Dura Ace pretty quickly at the time. But surprisingly, I quickly grew fond of the Microshift look and feel. Other projects took the front seat, and honestly, I just didn't feel much need to spend the money on an upgrade for something that was working fine.

Fast forward to the end of 2016. I was killing time on ebay looking at bike parts (as I'm wont to do pretty much daily) when I ran across some of the updated Arsis 10 speed brifters. They are actually fairly rare since Microshift released them around the same time as everyone (them included) made the jump to 11 speed. I had the itch to try something new, and for a while now I had been looking to put the shifter cables under the bar tape, so perfect opportunity!

The first sighting (of the 11 speed) at the Taipei show a few years ago.

The re-design of the brifters is pretty significant. The original White series brifters (and the entire range at the time) was something pretty closely related to Shimano Sora (at least in terms of actuation) but the newer design instead "borrows" heavily from Campagnolo Ergoshift, most notably with the thumb shifters as opposed to "just" levers, but also in the shape as a whole of the brifter. There is also a bit of SRAM in the texture of the rubber shifter covers. It's pretty evident that Microshift did some cherry picking for the things they liked from the big 3.

Also, still that ancient Nashbar brake ;)

A good view of the textured grip, as well as the actuation of the shifters.

So, how have the new brifters been doing?
Well, let's take a look back at some of the complaints I had about the original "White" brifters. From the aesthetic side of things, having the cables hidden under the bar tape makes everything look MUCH cleaner, I don't think anyone will ever complain that hidden cables look worse.  Since my very narrow (36cm) drop bars aren't internally routed, it does mean that I have added some width to the bars under the tape, which isn't a disaster but also not ideal. I will also, probably until the end of time, argue that shifting is not as crisp with the cables under the tape as it is when they exit the side... I thought the same thing when 7900 Dura Ace came out... but I admit that after a couple of rides I'm not sure I notice any more or if the old curmudgeon in my mind just tells me I notice. Shifting is nonetheless crisp enough to not be able to be upset with it.

There is still no adjustment for reach to the paddle, something I wish they had "borrowed" from SRAM. That was a fairly big complaint (for me) on the White set, and it's still something I'd be happy to have. It is slightly less of an issue on the updated shifters though, as the thumb triggers are (obviously) considerably closer. Since what (I) really wanted from shorter reach was an easier time shifting to a harder gear in the back while in the drops, it is a compromise that was an overall win for me.

Reaching (half) the shifter on the Arsis brifters is possible from most positions in the drops

Trying to get to the shifter on the White brifters was something I basically had to give up on.

Speaking of which, my main gripe was that shifting in the drops was very hard with the White brifters. The new design does a relatively good job of addressing that problem, and while it's still a good ways away from the "ideal" setup (sprint blips for electric shifting obviously being the best solution) it is good enough that I can actually shift down to a bigger gear from the drops. So a big step in the right direction in my opinion.

Overall, you could do a lot worse in a set of brifters. They look nice and clean, work well and won't break the bank if you crash out on them. Perfect crit gear.

Thanks so much for reading! I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock


  1. Hi Chris. I have been looking at microshift too. I didn't know there was a 10 speed arsis with hidden cables. How does the shifting compare to shimano? How much did you get them for?

  2. Hey,

    Indeed, they are pretty rare by my estimation. The way to tell them apart is that they look like the 11 speed version (in build) but instead of having white/red striping, they are solid carbon (and the older design is noticeably chunkier and you can see the external exit for the shifter cable)
    I paid ~$170, and that's all I've ever seen them list for. That's about on par with NOS 105 5700 or used 6700/7900. (Thanks cyclocross)
    As far as comparing to Shimano... quality is fine IMO, I don't have trouble with missed shifts or anything. It really comes down to what you prefer the feel of. I don't think you can go "wrong" either way.

  3. Hi Chris,
    The new team issue Arsis 11 speed as used by Jelly Belly Racing has the same all black carbon looking brake levers.
    Information on this gear is extremely lacking online, from what little I've found people think they are good pieces of kit, but it is a big leap of faith to fork out that much money when the tried and tested shimano 5700/5800 shifters/ derailleurs can be had for almost the same money from UK websites. some youtube videos and a better website would be money well spent by microshift.