In Issue #109 of Singletrack Magazine, we put 10 different height-adjustable seatposts through the grinder as part of our Dropper Post Group Test.
An optimist once told me that things could always be better. Prior to that conversation, I had always thought that was actually a pessimistic term. I mean, shouldn’t we just be thankful with what we’ve already got? Are things really all that bad? Can’t we just all get on our bikes, ride off into the sunset, and be happy?
Of course we can. And no one is here to tell you otherwise. There are, of course, plenty of people out there right now riding on fully rigid 26in mountain bikes with cantilever brakes having a whale of a time. Admittedly a harsh, sketchy and forearm-numbing whale of a time. But a whale of a time nonetheless.
Thankfully for those of us who do enjoy riding bikes with modern luxuries like suspension and disc brakes, the majority of bike companies out there believe in evolution and product refinement. Of course a lot of that has to do with today’s highly competitive global market, but it also has a lot to do with those optimistic innovators who believe that things could always be better.
The last time we tested a bunch of dropper posts (what is the collective noun for a group of dropper posts anyway? A gaggle? A herd? A declension? A clan?), was back in 2014. At that point in history, dropper posts had well and truly hit the mainstream. The dropper post had transitioned from a niche product that was a ‘nice to have’, into a necessary trail tool that is now regarded as a ‘must-have’.
Indeed, for most of us here at Singletrack, riding a mountain bike now without a dropper post honestly feels like a handicap. You get so used to having the ability to quickly squash your saddle out of the way that when you have that taken away from you, your bike suddenly feels foreign and awkward to ride. Call us spoilt rotten, but there’s no denying that dropper posts really have transformed the way we ride and they’ve even transformed the bikes we’re riding. As an example, modern trail bikes are now being built with much steeper seat tube angles to improve their climbing ability. And because a dropper post allows you to get the saddle out of the way for descending, you don’t experience any of the downsides that would normally be associated with running such a steep seat tube angle.
In our previous dropper post grouptest, we reviewed six of the most popular options from the likes of Gravity Dropper, KS, RockShox, and Fox. Although we had largely positive experiences from all of those posts we put to the test, the companies behind those products decided they could still do better.
And so over the last two years, dropper posts have undergone significant refinement. Reliability continues to improve, ergonomics are getting better, and there are now more options to choose from than ever before. Some brands have rolled out second and third generation products, such as the latest KS LEV Integra, while others have simply added internally routed options, like the X-Fusion Hilo Strate and the Thomson Elite Covert. Several all-new options have hit the market, including the Highline from Crank Brothers and the Transfer from Fox Racing Shox, both of which are completely redesigned from the ground up.
There are now longer travel options for taller riders to take advantage of, such as many companies’ 150 posts and the 170mm travel Reverb from RockShox. New technologies have also entered the market, with Magura’s wireless Vyron electronic dropper post being the most noteworthy. Adding to that, we’ve also seen a massive influx of budget-oriented dropper posts from new players like Brand-X and Funn Components. Not to mention all of the OEM options popping up on complete mountain bikes.
With all of these new options hitting the market, we decided the timing was right for a dropper post rematch. So we handpicked ten of the newest dropper post options to see how their performance stacks up compared to some of our favourites from the past, and to find out whether things really are better now.
Brand-X Ascend Dropper Post
- From: Hotlines,
- Price: £139.99
“Alongside all of the big names in the world of dropper posts, something new and interesting has arrived: the Brand-X Ascend. Standing out like a sore thumb in terms of price positioning, with the more recognisable brands close to double, we were keen to find out how the budget Brand-X dropper would fare…” Read the full review here.
Crank Brothers Highline Dropper Post
- From: ExtraUK,extrauk.co.uk
- Price: £299.99
“If ever there was a product with the future of the company riding on its success, then the Highline has to be right up there. To date, Crank Bros has had a pretty turbulent relationship with dropper posts, with models plagued by reliability issues and design flaws that have impacted performance and the company’s…” Read the full review here.
Fox Transfer Dropper Post
- From: Mojo Suspension,
- Price: Post: £316 (external) – £369 (internal). Remote: £69
“This is Fox’s second dropper post in its history. The first, the D.O.S.S. (Drop Off Stupid Stuff) post was fully mechanical, with a ball-bearing mechanism, only three positions and probably the biggest bar lever we’d ever seen. While it worked very well, the limited positions and clunky action didn’t win many fans. Fox has stepped it up for this year though with…“ Read the full review here.
Funn Components UpDown Dropper Post
- From: Decade Europe,
- Price: £199.99
“With possibly the best name of any dropper post going, the new UpDown from Funn Components is the company’s first-ever dropper post and it’s claimed to be strong, durable and user friendly. The UpDown dropper does indeed look tough with its all-black finish. It features a neat AL7075 alloy construction and a CNC…” Read the full review here.
KS LEV Integra Dropper Post
- From: Jungle Products,
- Price: £300 – £360
“KS first entered the dropper post market back in 2008 and has since expanded its range of aftermarket and OEM dropper posts, becoming one of the go-to names in uppy-downy posts. Representing KS’s most refined dropper yet, the LEV range was…” Read the full review here.
Magura Vyron eLECT Dropper Post
- From: Magura,
- Price: €400
“This seastpost is electric! No really, it is. The VYRON eLECT dropper seatpost from German manufacturer Magura uses ANT+ wireless technology. Unlike other dropper posts, this one does not use any cables or hydraulic hoses. Instead, the operation is all performed by remote control. The push button remote on the handlebar…“ Read the full review here.
RockShox Reverb Stealth Dropper Post
- From: ZyroFisher,
- Price: £374.99
“Is it possible to refer to something that’s been about for just a few years as ‘venerable’? Granted, the venerable Reverb wasn’t the first ‘modern’ dropper-post to enter widespread consciousness, but it was the first by a major manufacturer. This made a huge impact on how dropper posts were perceived, and their widespread acceptance as the next most important…” Read the full review here.
Specialized Command IRCC Dropper Post
- From: Specialized UK,
- Price: £290
“The latest Command IRcc dropper post from Specialized is only available in a 30.9mm diameter in the UK (although the US site also offers 31.6mm options), though you can choose 75mm, 100mm and 125mm travel. Inside, a mechanical locking system promises ten micro-adjust positions, rather than the infinite options provided by…” Read the full review here.
Thomson Elite Covert Dropper Post
- From: i-Ride,
- Price: £429
“Thomson rightly has a reputation for precision machined components and the Elite post really reinforces that. Available in 125 or 150mm travel options, and in 30.9 and 31.6mm diameters, the post has a very clean, sharp look to it. The name ‘Covert’ implies that it’s been redesigned from the original to work with seat tube ‘stealth’ routing. This has added a red anodised cap at the base of the post that…“ Read the full review here.
X-Fusion Hilo Strate Dropper Post
- From: Upgrade Bikes, upgradebikes.co.uk
- Price: £279
“The X-Fusion Hilo dropper post was first released in 2011. It’s been a popular OEM choice since its introduction, primarily due to its low cost. Two years later, X-Fusion refined the concept by adding the Hilo SL model to the range. Using a new twin-bolt saddle clamp and a lighter alloy construction, the SL upped the dollars but…” Read the full review here.
Before we make any sweeping conclusions about the results of our latest dropper post grouptest, it is worth noting that our sample of ten droppers is exactly that, a sample. There were a number of other models on our list that we wanted to incorporate into the grouptest, but unfortunately time and space considerations meant we couldn’t include everything.
On that list is the E*13 TRS and the Bontrager Drop Line, both of which came in a little too late for us to include in this grouptest. We have reviewed them since, so make sure you also check out the E*13 TRS+ dropper post review and the Bontrager Drop Line review. There are also some new dropper posts that have come onto the market more recently, such as the X-Fusion Manic we’re currently testing on a DMR SLED, Shimano’s PRO Koryak, KS’s latest LEV Integra Carbon dropper, and the user-serviceable BikeYoke Revive dropper post. All of those are being tested as we speak, so make sure you check out the Reviews section of our website for the upcoming deliberation on those guys.
Products from the future aside, what conclusions were we able to come to about the current state of affairs in the world of uppy-downy seatposts following our grouptest?
Firstly, it must be said that today’s dropper posts are a massive improvement on those from the early days. Every post we had on test exhibited next to no vertical play and while we could detect a small amount of rotational movement in most posts by wiggling the saddle by hand, it was never noticeable while riding.
Secondly, internal cable routing still appears to be a challenge for many manufacturers. Fox and Thomson have it dialled, where the cable head attaches to the base of the post, and the end of the wire is captured at the lever end. More like this please.
Thirdly, what works for some, won’t necessarily work for others. But with your choice of external or internal cable routing, hydraulic, electronic or cable activation, 1x or 2x friendly levers, and infinite or fixed travel positions, there’s plenty to choose from.
If you like a tactile and mechanical-feeling post, the Specialized Command IRcc delivers a very fast return and lots of audible ‘clunks’. The Fox Transfer is more refined in its action, but also offers a reassuring ‘thud’ as it bounces back to full travel. Both posts have a bombproof feel to them, though the Transfer’s ability to moderate its return speed by how hard you push the lever gives it the edge there.
As the most widely spec’d dropper post at an OEM level, the Reverb is popular for a reason. It’s functional, easy to operate and the hydraulic actuation offers benefits for tightly routed frames. With new internals, it promises to have fixed the issues of previous designs, and the 170mm travel option will be welcome to taller riders. Its push button isn’t quite as nice to use as the paddle-style triggers, but it works, and the externally adjustable rebound speed is nice.
The Magura VYRON was by far the most innovative of this bunch, and its cable-free design is absolutely brilliant. If Magura can deliver a sturdier single-button remote and a (much) faster response time, they’ll have one of the best droppers on the market.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the test though was the budget Brand-X dropper, which put in a solid performance at a fraction of the cost of the bigger names. It’s heavy, and we’ll need a good long winter aboard the Ascend dropper before we could give it the full seal of approval, but it shows promise that dropper posts don’t have to cost the earth to deliver reliable performance.