Reviewed: Dropper Posts
Six of this year's most sought-after up-and-downers tested by Gear Editor Ryan Palmer
Gear editor Ryan Palmer reviewed six of this year’s most sought-after dropper posts as part of our annual Bible of Bike Tests gear guide, putting the posts through their paces on Sedona’s steep descents and punchy climbs. You might be surprised to read what he singled out as one of his top picks.
When Fox set out to design the D.O.S.S.—or Drop Off Steep Shit—the suspension company decided to go with a three-position design in favor of the infinitely adjustable design of many other droppers. Many complaints of three-position posts come from users not being able to find the intermediate position, but Fox thought around that by designing a lever that has two paddles. Hitting the black one gets you to the midpoint, while pressing the silver one gets full drop, either 100 or 125 millimeters, depending on the model.
The D.O.S.S. is a solid performer. Like the Thomson post, it hasn’t needed any readjustment or tinkering. The one we have still feels exactly the same as it did when it was new nearly six months ago.
Functionality is great but we’re stumped as to how the giant, ugly lever made it past the drawing phase, let alone into actual production. The only way to position it so it doesn’t look like Optimus Prime’s big toe is by putting it under the bar on the left side. But that’s only if you’re running a single ring. In this position it works really well.
Considering the fact that the midpoint is easy to hit and it’s in a good spot (40 millimeters down), we’re pretty okay with the three-position thing. It’s nice knowing exactly where the post will stop.
Sometimes a product comes along that reminds us that we’re gear snobs. You’ve probably never heard of 9point8 or the Pulse dropper post, and neither had we before the company reached out to us. When the package arrived, we scoffed at the heavy, clunky-looking seatpost and poked fun at the miniature brake lever used to actuate it. There’s no way a couple guys with a metal lathe could come up with something better than the likes of SRAM or Thomson, we thought.
And then we ate our words. As it turns out, the tiny brake lever is genius. Why have our thumbs been doing all the work? Don’t they have better things to do, like the thankless job of holding onto the bars for us?
While everyone else is trying to decide between indexed points or infinite adjustment, 9point8 did both. Pulling the lever a small amount steps the post down in 5-millimeter increments, while a longer lever throw allows for infinite adjustment throughout the post’s 100-millimeter stroke.
The seat angle is adjusted separately from the rail clamp, so your perfect angle isn’t lost when making an adjustment. And there are two heads available with zero or 25 millimeters of offset. We didn’t expect it, but the Pulse rules. These forward thinkers came up with something that really gets down. It better—it’s the most expensive post we tested.
KS LEV Integra
Last year I pointed to the Kind Shock LEV as my favorite dropper post because of its smooth, frictionless infinite adjustability, smart ambidextrous lever and placement of the actuating mechanism on the seatpost instead of the head, allowing for zero cable movement. Since then, internally routed droppers have almost become standard. If your frame allows internal routing, the LEV Integra is worth checking out. It’s durable, reliable and has a tool-free cable attachment so you can disconnect and reconnect the cable at the seatpost end quickly and easily without affecting cable tension. This comes in handy when traveling. Between shifters, bulky brake levers and suspension lockout levers, it can be challenging to find real estate for the all-important dropper lever. While I will gladly give up front shifting altogether to put mine in the right spot, others might not agree. Luckily, the svelte lever can hide between nearly anything that might be hanging off your bar. The only issue we’ve seen so far happens when adjusting post in the frame for different riders, which we do a lot during the Bible. If the cable housing isn’t fed through the frame properly while setting the seat height, it can pull on or push against the actuating arm, throwing off cable adjustment. The LEV Integra is offered in two diameters and three travel options, from 100 to 150 millimeters.
Specialized Command Post Blacklite
At an average of 165 bucks less than the other posts in this test, the Specialized Command Post Blacklite is a bargain by comparison.
The Command Post has been around for several years and has undergone some significant changes for 2014, starting with the head clamp. It’s still a single-bolt design, but unlike the previous clamp, it hasn’t rotated on me yet. The head is also much cleaner looking, and has lost some weight from last year. Performance has been vastly improved, with a significantly lighter lever feel and lower friction in the actuation. Like the Fox D.O.S.S., it’s a three-position deal, offered in 75-, 100- and 125-millimeter travel options. The middle, or Cruiser position, drops you 25 millimeters down on the 75-millimeter-travel post and 35 millimeters on the two longer travel versions. The other thing worth noting is that the cable can be easily disconnected at the seatpost head—no tools required. We haven’t been on the new Command Post long, but previous models have required frequent relubrication of the seal head to keep it friction-free over the long-term. Regardless, this newly refined dropper from Specialized is a huge improvement. I’ve always liked the Command Post enough to not take it off the bike it came on, but now I’d actually recommend putting it on one, especially for the price.
Thomson Elite Dropper
In the mid ’90s, Thomson seemingly came out of nowhere and took the stem and seatpost market by storm. Nearly every bike either came with, or was quickly upgraded with, the Thomson combo because they were elegant, stiff and reliable as hell. Thomson engineers had never made anything besides nicely shaped chunks of aluminum, so they had their work cut out for them in attempting to build a dropper as reliable at their static counterparts. When the Elite dropper finally came out, I remember thinking: too little, too late. We’d been testing the KS LEV and were convinced that its zero cable movement was just about the coolest idea ever and that any post with the cable attachment at the head was behind the times.
Behind the times, maybe, but perfect nonetheless. The Elite is incredibly easy to set up. Cable tension isn’t a finite adjustment on this post. Just pull the cable taut, snug the bolt and it’s ready. I installed the post last June and haven’t touched it since.
Movement is precise, nearly frictionless, and dampened to just the right speed. You don’t have to wait for it to come up, but it won’t tenderize your bits either. If the Thomson post has an air valve I have no idea where it is because I haven’t needed to look. And this dropper definitely deserves the Thomson name. Look out soon for an internally routed version.
RockShox Reverb Stealth
The RockShox Reverb is likely the most popular adjustable-height seatpost on the market. It’s so popular that there are several manufacturers wrongly spec’ing the Reverb, and I have a suspicion it’s because they think they’re giving the customer what they want.
That sounds negative, so let me explain: If your bike has Shimano brakes, unless there’s a void where the front shifter used to be, there’s no good spot for the lever. If the lever isn’t conveniently accessible, what’s the point of having an adjustable post?
That sums up our biggest complaint with the Reverb; a couple avoidable ifs. For the most part, the Reverb Stealth is every bit as good as the original. Even though it has been around a while, the Reverb is still the only hydraulically actuated seatpost, and despite the seeming complexity of a hydraulic system, the switch can be bled faster than changing the cable and housing on other posts. It may not be an issue for you, but we think a lot about connecting and disconnecting the cable. In this instance, the hydraulic cable is a bit of a hassle. SRAM does make a hydraulic quick connector, similar to the chuck on an air compressor hose, unfortunately according to SRAM, it’s an add-on option only, and we haven’t actually seen one yet.
The Reverb Stealth is a fantastic dropper available in multiple post lengths and travel options up to 150 millimeters.