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Deja vu: Ideas before their time

The second coming of dropper posts

Flowing quickly through the woods, you want nothing more than to carry speed over the crest of the next hill and rip through the descent, to hold onto every bit of momentum through the upcoming plummet, carve the next few corners on rails and blow over that last rock garden that always seemed too steep.

The thought of slowing down — let alone stopping — to lower your saddle is out of the question. Momentum is the name of the game. It’s why you bought the latest in trail technology, including the one component every dirt rider should have mounted by now: the dropper post.

As soon as bikes began to migrate off road, riders came across a now-familiar problem: when the trail gets steep, twisty, or technical, a saddle high enough for efficient pedaling suddenly becomes a health hazard.

Joe Breeze came at the problem from a practical standpoint in the 1980s. He took the equipment everybody was using — round posts and quick release binders — and developed a handy device for repeatedly and consistently sliding a saddle down, and returning it to the same position. Though Breeze’s Hite Rite “seat-locating spring” is a far cry from the hydraulic lines and elastomers that characterize the dropper posts we’ve recently come to love, it did the job of getting the saddle out of the way with minimal hassle.

The Hite Rite was essentially a spring-loaded seatpost collar, just as much a saddle anti-theft device as a performance component. A pull on the seatpost clamp quick release and application of body weight on the saddle loaded the spring and dropped the seatpost a couple of inches. Pull the quick release again and the saddle returned to your riding height — keeping the saddle centered through the whole range. The Hite Rite took two NORBA national championship titles under Joe Murray in ’84 and ’85, but met its demise not long after. Twenty years later, the idea reappeared in the minds of engineers at Maverick Technologies, developers of the first modern dropper. Crankbrothers later bought and popularized the design as the Joplin. The Hite Rite was certainly not a bad idea, but it was one that arrived long before its time. Today, that idea has re-emerged, and it’s not leaving this time.

RockShox Reverb $370: The RockShox Reverb is the only hydraulically-controlled post in our round up, and was the first dropper post to offer hydraulic actuation. Its XLoc remote — the same lever RockShox uses to lock out its forks — has a better lever feel than any other dropper on the market, narrowly beating out the Kronolog’s large lever. The hydraulic hose could be daunting to riders with less mechanical acumen, but assuming you’re not switching around seatposts for different events, the hydraulic lines are more of a barrier to enter the dropper- post game than a nagging problem; it’s a reliable system that requires little to no maintenance. The bleed process will be familiar to anyone who has bled Avid hydraulic disc brakes.

The main issue with the Reverb, much as with the Specialized Command Post, is that there is 100mm or 125mm of cable housing flapping about when the post is dropped all the way down. RockShox addressed this issue for some consumers with the internally routed Reverb Stealth, but that post is only compatible with a small number of frames. The Reverb is available in either 100mm or 125mm of travel.

Crankbrothers Kronolog $300: Crankbrothers didn’t design the first modern dropper post, but the company did have a big hand in its popularization. The Kronolog launched in early 2012, a maturation of Crankbrothers’ original Joplin, and its adjustability and clean cable routing have quickly earned it a following.

The Kronolog’s semi-oval shaft eliminates the saddle rotation issues that have been a persistent problem with dropper posts. The Kronolog has 125mm (4.9 inches) of drop, and can be stopped at any point in its range. For riders with shorter seat heights, it may be more difficult to fit to the stock Kronolog due to a taller overall height, but unlike other dropper posts the max height is adjustable. The cap on the bottom of the post can be removed, and spacers can be inserted to bring the travel down to whatever level is required. Best of all, the cable responsible for activating the post mounts to the immobile lower section, rather than the post head, so dropping the post doesn’t result in a big loop of extra housing.

The Kronolog does away with annoying cable slack and the rotational issues of round suspension seals; it accomplishes both while being the most adjustable dropper post on the market.

Specialized Command Post Blacklite $275: The Command Post BlackLite is among the least expensive dropper-posts, is easy to maintain, and has a quick and easy learning curve.

The Command Post, unlike the other two dropper-posts here, cannot be stopped at any point on its range of drop. Instead, it has three pre-set adjustment heights which Specialized calls climb, cruise, and descend; these seem to be fairly accurate descriptions. Finding the engagement points in the Command Post’s travel does take some getting used to, but quickly becomes second nature. We found ourselves putting the post into the middle (“cruise”) position more often on descents than the “descend” setting. Its in-between height is low enough to provide room to move while still allowing the rider to feel the saddle.

Lever feel is where the Command Post comes up short. It is not as fluid as the Reverb’s XLoc remote and does not have the large, easy target of the Kronolog lever. The cable actuation is easy to work on, though, and the Command Post BlackLite is the easiest to set up. —LOGAN VONBOKEL

Editor’s note: This feature story originally appeared in Velo magazine’s 2013 Buyers Guide.

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