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Verdict: 
Disappointing quality lets down what is a good alternative to Shimano's upper-mid-range 105 11-speed groupset
Weight: 
1,104g
Microshift Centos 11 groupset
4 10

Taiwan's Microshift Centos 11 groupset is priced and specified to take a fight to Shimano's 11-speed 105 groupset. Unfortunately the build quality isn't up to that of the Japanese giant, as evidenced by rattles and jammed shifting, and with Shimano's current discounting the pricing is not attractive. If it fits your specific use case, the ergonomics straddling Shimano and Campagnolo might work for you.

As we found in our May 2017 comparison of 105 5800 with Ultegra, Shimano RRP has scant relevance to what you can obtain the products for online: RRP for 105 5800 shifters is £225, but online they're typically £137 from a UK seller. With the Microshift shifters' RRP of £198 but nowhere near the wide distribution and market muscle that Shimano has, you are hard-pressed to find a Centos 11 price lower than £145 – and that's from a Taiwanese eBay seller. I did find one UK seller offering the Centos levers for £120, but that's possibly a one-off low price.

> Find your nearest dealer here

> Buy this online here

While we're talking prices, the Centos 11 front mech is £31.99, the rear mech £48.49, and the 11-25 cassette £46.99.

Weight-wise, for the whole groupset Centos and 105 are pretty much on par – so kudos to Microshift for achieving parity with Shimano there.

Standard setup

Microshift's website offers little in the way of instruction for setup – its videos refer to previous models with external shift cables exiting the lever at the side. I run a cycle service business and have installed/maintained many road bike groupsets, and found the installation of the Centos 11 levers was easily done following standard practice.

Microshift Centos 11 groupset - shifter 2.jpg

Microshift Centos 11 groupset - shifter 2.jpg

The clamp bolt is located on the top of the hand grip area and is accessed by peeling the hood forward, which does make it a bit of a pain to get to – you definitely need a ball-ended hex key. This also makes it near-impossible to torque accurately, even if you knew what the torque spec was; I couldn't find it referenced anywhere.

Microshift Centos 11 groupset - shifter 4.jpg

Microshift Centos 11 groupset - shifter 4.jpg

One point of note is that there's a brass ferrule installed in the shift port, so you need to pay attention to ensure you prepare the gear cable outer nicely for a flush fit with the ferrule.

There's a port marked 'cable' with an arrow, where the gear cable inserts. This is easily accessible and would make for easy maintenance in future, when you need to replace it. Brake lever reach is adjusted from the top underneath the rubber hood. There's nothing special about the derailleurs, again installation as per Shimano. Bolts come Loctited, which is a nice touch.

Mix and match

Microshift has made all Centos components fully compatible with Shimano, so the cable pull ratios for gear and brake are identical. A meta-analysis of online comments from Microshift customers shows a lot of successful mix-and-matching going on across 11-speed Shimano groupsets of varying ages.

(Note: cable inners and outers used for this build were made-in-the-UK Fibrax, both Shimano-specification/compatible. Chainring was a compact Shimano Tiagra 4600, chain was Shimano HG601 105 11-speed.)

The 11-speed 11-25T cassette is indistinguishable from the Shimano version, uses the same lockring tool, and performs just as well. It's about 40g heavier despite being drilled out to save weight. Two other options – 11-28T and 11-32T – are also available.

Microshift Centos 11 groupset - rear mech.jpg

Microshift Centos 11 groupset - rear mech.jpg

So far, pretty much on par with Shimano 105 5800 on price and weight.

Four gears at a time

The major feature of the Centos 11 groupset is the shift lever operation. You can shift into larger sprockets/easier gears four at a time, with a sweep of the large lever. This does mean pushing the lever nearly 90 degrees from its home position, so those with smaller hands might not be able to realise this benefit, particularly from the drops. Using the thumb button you can quickly dump three gears at a time with one press – this is the standout trick of the Centos 11.

The thumb lever is quite prominent, and can be easily accessed from on the hoods or in the drops. So to go from smallest sprocket to largest you need three full sweeps of the large lever; to go from largest sprocket to smallest it's four presses of the thumb lever. Shimano takes four sweeps of the large lever to get from smallest to largest sprocket, and it's 11 separate clicks to get back into the smallest.

Microshift Centos 11 groupset - shifter 5jpg.jpg

Microshift Centos 11 groupset - shifter 5jpg.jpg

This to me is the raison d'etre of the Centos 11: more shifting bang for your buck. The ability to rapidly accelerate through gears without clicking all 11 sprockets, from in the drops with your thumb instead of fingers (thereby not compromising sprinting grip) is really the selling point of Centos 11. Does that limit the attraction to criterium racers? Possibly.

For front shifts, again there's quite a lot of throw required to get into the large chainring. In the smallest chainring there are two trim positions headed towards the large ring, and once there, one trim position down before you drop to the small ring. Once back in the small ring, there are then trim positions either way. The front mech is braze-on or clamp type, 34.9mm with 31.8mm adapter.

Microshift Centos 11 groupset - front mech.jpg

Microshift Centos 11 groupset - front mech.jpg

On the road I found the front shifting to be perfectly adequate, but I have large hands. On the turbo trainer doing a workout that required repeated front shifts under maximal load, I found the occasional missed shift up into the large ring, which was frustrating when you only have 12 seconds to ramp up to maximum watts and hold it before going back to idle. I should note here that my turbo-bike is steel framed with not the stiffest bottom bracket in the world, so under full gas (circa 900W instantaneous power according to a meter) there's a fair bit of flex going on. This is likely to impact shift quality while being highly unlikely to occur out on the road.

Microshift Centos 11 groupset - shifter 3.jpg

Microshift Centos 11 groupset - shifter 3.jpg

On the road I quickly adjusted to the different shifting layout. Shifts were more of a Campagnolo feel, where the feedback through the lever and buttons is more prominent than Shimano. The feel of the hoods was comfortable and the slightly more SRAM-esque upper hood section made for nice aero-position grips.

Rattle and jam

Two aspects of the Centos 11 were disappointing. Firstly, a tiny rattle came from both levers when my hands were off them and on the tops or drops. This sounded like a minute washer was vibrating in each lever, a disappointing annoyance that didn't go away despite checking the cables and installation setup. The issue was definitely not down to a sticking brake or shift cable not fully retracting, which is a common cause of lever rattles.

Secondly, and more seriously, I found an occasional jam in rear shifting using the thumb lever. When in the second or third-largest sprockets, trying to shift into smaller ones, the thumb lever would refuse to move. A simple shift using the large lever into the next-largest sprocket up freed the mechanism allowing shifting back down the range. This would happen maybe once or twice an hour. After a lengthy video demo of both the rattling issue and discussion of the sticky shifting with a Microshift engineer in Taiwan, I returned the lever for analysis and a replacement lever was installed. This lever had the same washer vibration issue and the same thumb lever jam issue – although not as frequent as on the first lever.

An analysis of other Microshift Centos 11 reviews – journalistic and end-user – reveals largely positive experiences, and none identify specific issues with the Centos 11 groupset – although, that said, it is a fairly new release. But we can only review what we've got in as fair and impartial a manner as we can, and unfortunately our review sample and its replacement didn't perform in the manner that we would expect. Microshift was very helpful during the process, and I look forward to testing any future versions of the Centos 11 groupset to see if the issues are solved.

> Find more road.cc reviews of groupsets here

No doubt should you purchase a lever from a UK reseller and suffer either of these issues a warranty claim would be justifiable, but it's time off your bike and an annoyance you don't need. Microshift advised that the rattle issue would be resolved in 'the next generation of design'.

My overall impression is that if Microshift sorts out the two quality issues I found, the Centos 11 is a decent option compared to Shimano 105 if you are looking for a different shifting layout and function. If you are a criterium racer then the ability to quickly dump a lot of gears could well be the competitive edge – but if the lever jams you'll be left cursing.

Verdict

Disappointing quality lets down what is a good alternative to Shimano's upper-mid-range 105 11-speed groupset

road.cc test report

Make and model: Microshift Centos 11 groupset

Size tested: 11-speed, 11-25

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

It's for people looking for an alternative 11-speed shifting layout to Shimano.

Microshift says: "Reach new levels of efficiency with microSHIFT's Centos 11 and the iconic WHITE version. With advanced technology including microSHIFT's unique dual-control lever system. Centos 11 brings the 11 speed joy accessible for everyone."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Shifter: SB-R512B £197.99

Centos 11 Dual Control Levers for 2 x 11s with inner cable route design

Anodized cold forged Aluminum brake lever

Shift & Go Technology implemented: Shift-Down Max. 3 gears, Shift-Up Max. 4 gears

Color Option: Anodized Black / Piano White

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Series

Centos 11

Model No.

SB-R512B

Handle Bar Type

Drop Bar

Cassette Compatibility

11 speed

Front Shifting

Double

Bracket Material

Engineering Composite

Brake Lever Material

Anodized Cold Forged Aluminum

Shift Lever Material

Cold Forged Aluminum

Trimming Function for Front

Y

Brake lever reach adjuster

Screw Type 0 - 12mm

Replaceable Hood Cover

Y-SB05

Clamp Band

23.8 - 24.2mm

Shift Cable

Stainless Pro Slick

Weight

498g

Color Option

Anodized Black / Piano White

Compatibility

Shimano Dura-Ace R9100, 9000; Ultegra R8000, 6800; 105 5800 compatible

RD-R58S £48.49

Centos 11 Rear Derailleur for 2 x 11 Speed

Full Aluminum

Short Cage

Max. Sprocket: 25-32T

Total Capacity: 35T

Color Option: Stone Black / Ceramics White

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Series

Centos 11

Model No.

RD-R58S

Cassette Compatibility

11 Speed

Cage Type

Short Cage

Front Chainring

Double

Max. Sprocket

25-32T

Min. Sprocket

11T

Total Capacity

35T

Guide Pulley

Engineering Composite with Steel Bushing

Tension Pulley

Engineering Composite with Steel Bushing

Bracket Body

Anodized Cold Forged Aluminum

Bracket Pivot Seal

Y

Plate Body

Resin / Black Painted

Plate Pivot Seal

Y

Outer Link

Anodized Aluminum

Inner Link

Black Painted Aluminum

Link Pin Bushing

Stainless Steel

Outer Plate

Anodized Aluminum

Inner Plate

Anodized Aluminum

Weight

194g

Color Option

Stone Black / Ceramics White

Compatibility

Shimano Dura-Ace R9100, 9000; Ultegra R8000, 6800; 105 5800 compatible

FD-R58-F/B £31.99

Centos 11 Front Derailleur for 2 x 11 Speed

Cold Forged Aluminum Brackets

Cold Forged Aluminum Inner & Outer Link

Capacity 16T

Top Gear Teeth: 50-56T

Chain Line: 43.5mm

Mount Options:

B: Clamp type Φ34.9mm with Φ31.8mm adapter

F: Brazed-on type

Color Option: Stone Black / Ceramics White

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Series

Centos 11

Centos 11

Model No.

FD-R58-F

FD-R58-B

Chainring

Double

Double

Cassette Compatibility

11 Speed

11 Speed

Top Gear Teeth

50-56T

50-56T

Capacity

16T

16T

Route Type

Down Pull

Down Pull

Chainstay Angle

61-66

61-66

Mount Type

F: Brazed-on

B: Clamp Type

Chain Line

43.5mm

43.5mm

Band Diameter

-

Φ34.9 mm or Φ31.8mm adapter

Front Clamp Band

-

Anodized Cold Forged Aluminum

Rear Clamp Band

-

Anodized Cold Forged Aluminum

Outer Link

Anodized Cold Forged Aluminum

Anodized Cold Forged Aluminum

Inner Link

Anodized Cold Forged Aluminum

Anodized Cold Forged Aluminum

Chain Guide

Chrome Plated Steel

Chrome Plated Steel

Weight

95g

-

Color Option

Stone Black / Ceramics White

Stone Black / Ceramics White

Compatibility

Shimano Dura-Ace R9100, 9000; Ultegra R8000, 6800; 105 5800 compatible

Shimano Dura-Ace R9100, 9000; Ultegra R8000, 6800; 105 5800 compatible

CS-H110

Cassettes for 11 Speed

Chrome Plated Sprockets

Gear combination:

11-25T: 11-12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21-23-25

11-28T: 11-12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21-24-28

11-32T: 11-12-13-14-15-17-19-21-24-28-32

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Series

Centos 11

Centos 11

Centos 11

Model No.

CS-H110 11-25T

CS-H110 11-28T

CS-H110 11-32T

Speed

11 Speed

11 Speed

11 Speed

Combination

11

25

28

32

10

23

24

28

9

21

21

24

8

19

19

21

7

17

17

19

6

16

16

17

5

15

15

15

4

14

14

14

3

13

13

13

2

12

12

12

1

11

11

11

Material

Steel

Steel

Steel

Surface Treatment

Chrome Plated

Chrome Plated

Chrome Plated

Bracket Spider

N

N

N

Lock Ring

Steel

Steel

Steel

Weight

301g

311g

371g

Recommended Chain

HG 11-speed

HG 11-speed

HG 11-speed

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
3/10

The levers felt solid enough, but the rattle and jamming was a disappointment.

Rate the product for performance:
 
3/10

Again, the jamming disappointed.

Rate the product for durability:
 
6/10

They seem solid enough.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
5/10

On par with Shimano 105 5800.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
8/10

I liked the hood feel. Nice.

Rate the product for value:
 
4/10

Given the performance issues, the value is below average. Sort that and with pricing on par with 105 5800 online, it's average.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

If you discount the jamming and occasional missed front shift, it's good. I liked the lever feel.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The ability to drop or pick up lots of gears at once is great.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The rattle is constantly annoying, and the jamming just shouldn't happen.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes – except when it jammed.

Would you consider buying the product? Not with the current issues.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Not unless they were a crit racer, and then with the caveat that jams might occur.

Use this box to explain your score

Let's face it, Shimano is the benchmark. Microshift has made a good effort to match and improve on functionality, but more work is needed on quality.

Overall rating: 4/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 183cm  Weight: 72kg

I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling

10 comments

Avatar
BarryBianchi [419 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

Jamming gears - great product.  And......well, why?

Avatar
HoldTheWheel [29 posts] 9 months ago
3 likes

Hopefully they can sort the issues out and become a bigger player. More competition for the big 3 is good for the consumer

Avatar
Another David [29 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes

The message being, just buy 105.

Avatar
cyclisto [387 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

Wow, this was probably the most negative review I have read for Microshift! I guess that since 11 speed groupsest that are more of a niche product, the less reputable Microshift has little hope. I would though really be interested in a test of their basic 9speed road groupset that could maybe drop the cost of Shimano equiped bikes

Avatar
KiwiMike [1365 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes
cyclisto wrote:

Wow, this was probably the most negative review I have read for Microshift! I guess that since 11 speed groupsest that are more of a niche product, the less reputable Microshift has little hope. I would though really be interested in a test of their basic 9speed road groupset that could maybe drop the cost of Shimano equiped bikes

hopefully not ‘negative’, rather ‘factual’. To give readers the information to decide if they should part with their cash. The tough gig for mS is that even if it had worked flawlessly, the price is still pretty much on-par with Shimano - so unless you really value the multiple thumb-upshift feature, it’s a hard sell. 

Avatar
cyclisto [387 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

@kiwimike I don't either think anyone would like to mess around with a relatively unknown company if it hadn't been the money thing. When I wanted to do a flatbar to dropbat conversion the standard Sora shifters were only found at very steep prices and Microshift was a serious contender. Finally I found a pair of used Sora that weren't even scratched and still work as new. But it is really absurd that a dropbar bike with a road groupset will cost 2-3 hundred more than it's flatbar sibling and similar spec. The bigest cost are the shifters so I am expecting a Microshift OEM bicycle at a sensible price.

Avatar
maviczap [178 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes
Another David wrote:

The message being, just buy 105.

Indeed, especially as it's the same price for the group set right now as they clear stocks for the new 105 which is due out soon.

Avatar
BarryBianchi [419 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes
cyclisto wrote:

 I would though really be interested in a test of their basic 9speed road groupset that could maybe drop the cost of Shimano equiped bikes

Given that Decathlon are knocking out shimano 9 sp Sora bikes for under £500, and a full Ultegra 11sp with cosmic elite wheels and lifetime frame warranty for a grand, I very much doubt it would make much difference.

Avatar
cyclisto [387 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

@barrybianchi
Yes but at 500 you may find 9speed flat bar bikes. With hydraulic brakes.

Brifters from shimano are very expensive when compared to their flat bar equivalents. If you are happy paying overpriced products that's fine.

Avatar
BarryBianchi [419 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes
cyclisto wrote:

@barrybianchi Yes but at 500 you may find 9speed flat bar bikes. With hydraulic brakes. Brifters from shimano are very expensive when compared to their flat bar equivalents. If you are happy paying overpriced products that's fine.

Faulty logic.  There are plenty of flat bar shimano geared bikes for well under £500, and a myriad of non-shimano disc options from literally a few quid up.  The "price" of shimano components isn't the issue per se, it's the purchasing power and profit margins of the producers/sellers/suppliers.  I'm no great defender of Shimano - most of my bikes are Campag, but the idea that a dodgy competitor is going to rock the massive supertanker of a boat is nonsense.  In fact, the sheer size of Shim means that come new models, the outgoing can be had for a snip.