Microshift are a relatively unknown entity for most UK mountain bikers. This is their Marvo XE derailleur kit, which is compatible with existing Shimano nine-speed transmission, so if you’re resisting the switch to 10-speed, this is an option.
Mountain bikes need transmissions that can cope with high-pressure ‘crash shift’ circumstances, shifting must be precise and able under full load. Our Marvo XE kit performed without fluffing, ghosting or hanging onto shifts when clean or caked in mud, when cruising or grinding out granny gear climbs.
Fitted to our fantastic Yeti ASR-5 (previously running 09 SRAM X0) the Marvo XE shifting was clean and less ‘clunk clunk’ sounding than the X0. Equally, it wasn't the near silent rear shifting of new XT or XTR Shimano setups.
Some people might actually prefer this halfway house approach to shift sensation; smooth but not silent or silky not agricultural in feel. We certainly found it easy to feel and detect shifts and found it a system that we could easily live with.
Visually and from a quality perspective, this kit is a lot like the Driven transmission, SunRace’s top-line component range, and is equal to Shimano or SRAM. Price-wise Microshift are buying their way into the market, pitching their XT/X9 quality Marvo XE at Deore/SLX level prices, so if pennies are scarce, you don’t have to let your shifting suffer.
So, to the bits that could be improved. Firstly, the front mech isn’t as reined as the best offerings from Shimano or SRAM. This is partly due to the simple cage architecture, which doesn’t pick up the chain as fast, and partly down to the feel of the shifter (which we’ll come on to) and the power generated by the spring.
The front mech does work on our X0 double crankset and works well in a ‘getting it done’ way. It’s much like a Shimano Deore or SRAM X-Gen, but no better, and not the slick, magic instant weightless feel of SRAM XX or Shimano XTR.
The weak links are the shifters. With 1990s-style push-push paddles they’re neither as slick, ergonomically dialled or intuitive as the best of the other S brands, but that doesn’t make them bad. They are robust and reliable, just not as modern feeling. The unremovable indicator windows got in the way of our Avid Juicy brakes too.
Right now we'd pay the extra and pair our Marvo XE mechs with a pair of Shimano Deore shifters. In short, we’re happy to integrate Microshift’s Marvo XE into our Shimano nine-speed setup in the preference order: rear mech, front mech then shifters.
It’s easy to ignore new transmission brands like SunRace or Microshift and/or regard them as inferior to the Shimano and SRAM stuff you know, but that would be being ignorant of what is their perfectly acceptable off-road performance.
Front mech: (5/10) You really can’t complain about this dependable mech for the money
Rear mech: (7/10) XTR good looks and SLX durability make the rear mech a solid buy
Shifters: (4/10) Well-made nine-speed shifters. A shame indicator windows are fixed
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.