Microshift Centos is another groupset more than capable of giving the household names a really good run for your money. Designed to compete and be compatible with Shimano’s venerable 105, it shares many similarities- good enough for racing and audax duties but practical for the less glamorous worlds of winter training and even commuting. The high lustre finish, low weight, robust build quality and ready spares availability mean it’s a winner on every level. If you're looking for a mid-range groupset to build up a bike, or you want to replace a 105 component without paying 105 prices then Centos is worth a look.
Starting at the levers, these bear passing similiarity to Shimano’s with nicely scrupled hoods providing a very natural cruising position for long periods while shifting is courtesy of two different sized, yet intuitive paddles positioned behind the brake lever. The right hand lever paddle is designed to perform multiple shifts under load and even under provocation skips along without missing a beat- the same is true for its shorter sibling, albeit one shift for every prod.
For me the a slightly top-heavy look to the otherwise shapely brake lever was a minor detraction but that's probably just me. Changes feel very snappy-complimented by a very audible click, which either charms or infuriates depending again on personal taste-whether you were raised on the positive engagement of Italian components or the softer, action of the Japanese.
To my surprise, at 397g pair they have a small but distinct weight advantage over their rivals while modulation and feel are generally excellent with either dual pivot or cantilever braking systems.
The rear mech is a real looker too with its CNC machining, super smooth ceramic jockey wheels and high lustre finish. Ours is the short cage version with a maximum 27tooth capacity but there’s a long cage sibling intended for triples should you live near some very challenging climbs, fancy some occasional ‘cross or riding up, down and around the Great Wall of China. Experimentation reveals a happy marriage when commanded by 105 shifters should crash replacement or more gradual upgrading of the training mount call for drivetrain a’la Carte.
The lack of carbon or similar exotica pushes the weight to 209g but then it probably wouldn’t be dressing the best bike in any case. Turning our attentions to the front mech reveals a nice, if slightly unremarkable design that works very well on most set ups so long as you stick religiously to the eighteen tooth maximum difference. Provocatively introducing a 20-tooth variance saw it grumble but in my experience, this only presents difficulties when people try and save money by coercing components intended for doubles on to triple set ups. 88g is pretty competitive and it should be stout enough for ‘cross (although in my opinion eight speed is the optimum for mud plugging – 10 shows a greater tendency for clogging in more challenging environments).
Taken to the tarmac it’s a very simple system to use with some very minor (read likeable) quirks. The action is very light without feeling remote-somewhere between Shimano and old fashioned Modolo. Gear changes are very audible-some might think indiscrete but I really warmed to the gentle whirr and click along the block. In common with more expensive members of the Microshift family, shifting remains consistently dependable whether cantering up the climbs, dancing on the pedals for every last ounce of momentum or just trickling along.
Changing from small to large ring had a sense of delay at the lever but devoid of cage rub, was largely forgotten after the first ten miles and didn’t present any operational difficulty-although it s the only minor blot on an otherwise immaculate copy book. A month isn’t a very log time in terms of judging a groupsets’ longevity- a witch’s brew of salt; slush, rain and sleet would really test its mettle but initial impressions seem favourable and there’s a hell of a lot of bang for very modest buck-perfect for those situations where you want a good looking, great performing groupset without pushing the boat out too far.
Impressive and keenly priced mid range groupset
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Make and model: Microshift Centos 10spd groupset
Size tested: n/a
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?
"Ideal for those on a budget or not wanting to wreck super expensive groupsets on cross bikes or winter trainers/commuters".
Remarks from the importer and largely mirrors my own feelings-a great little groupset.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
CNC machined aklloy construction, sealed cartridge bearing jockey wheels (rear mech)maximum 27 tooth capacity (double as tested) 18 tooth maximum varience front, seem fully compatible with 105 STI shifters should the need arise. Ready spares availablity through uk importer.
Generally to a high standard.
A month isn't sufficient to arrive at a firm conclusion but it looks suitably robust for a few season's hard service.
Very competitive. 397g levers, 209g rear mech, 90g front.
Very pleasant to use.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The Centos is a rival to Shimano's benchmark 105, remarkably simple to install and a delight to use. Shifting is quite positive but could never be described as clunky, although the audible click will possibly charm and infuriate in equal measure. Despite deliberately sloppy shifting under load, it's never misssed a beat, although I took a little while adjusting to the longer throw at the front mech. Modulation and feel are similarly impressive with dual pivot sidepull and cantilever brakes, the finish should retain its looks and wouldn't look out of place on higher end builds either. That said, I remain of the opinion that (for reasons of clogging) 10spd set ups aren't optimum for cyclo cross.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Performance, quality of finish, modulation and feel-very hard to find a chink in the group's armour.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Unreservedly
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Heart ruling head it's a nine but objectively borderline 8/9 out of 10.
Age: 36 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)