Bikes & Tech
Since the Vyron is as easy to install as a rigid...

Reviewed: Magura’s wireless Vyron dropper post

The post works well despite one major shortfall, although a simple tweak could make this a real game-changer.

Magura’s Vyron dropper post can generate love at first sight in its owner. It is beautiful, it is fantastically easy to install, and it works so smoothly that it is a joy just to watch it move up and down. However, some design tweaks to get it to communicate better with its user would be necessary to make it a real game-changer.

Like other high-quality dropper posts, the Vyron sports a hydraulically controlled air spring. It goes down smoothly without a harsh bottom out, and it comes up gently. However, there is a small delay (perhaps one second) between pushing the button on the remote (or on the seatpost head) and the post moving up or down.

The thing that sets the Vyron apart from other dropper posts is that it is activated electronically, rather than by a cable or a hydraulic line. It responds to inputs from a remote button using the ANT+ wireless protocol. There are no wires or hydraulic hoses to route from the handlebar to the seatpost, and the remote does not need to be bolted on; it snaps on with just a rubber band. So installing a Vyron dropper post on a bike is just as quick as installing a standard rigid post like a Thomson Elite with a two-bolt head. Anyone who has installed a remote-activated dropper post knows what a breath of fresh air this is due to how much time and fiddling this can save, particularly relative to “stealth” dropper posts, which have the activating cable or hydraulic hose running up inside the seat tube.

The Vyron’s up and down function is as smooth as any dropper post I’ve used, even when the seat binder is tightened beyond spec. Some dropper posts bind completely with the seat binder clamp bolt tightened too tightly, and even bind a bit at very low bolt torques on the order of 4-5N-m. The Vyron post I’m riding would reduce this issue simply by virtue of its 31.6mm diameter. (Generally, the internals of any 31.6mm dropper post are the same as that of the same model in 30.9mm, but the outer sleeve of the 30.9mm post is 0.35mm thinner, which can flex enough to allow binding due to clamping, even when it is a non-issue with the 31.6mm model.)

The only issue I have with the seatpost is the delay in activation after pushing the remote button. To minimize the draw on the battery while opening and closing the oil valve that frees the seatpost to move and also locks in its height adjustment, Magura uses a very tiny piezoelectric motor. This allows the use of a small, lightweight battery while still offering over 40 hours of ride time between charges, but it comes at the cost of opening the valve more slowly.

When there is a significant delay between clicking on a window or an icon on your smartphone or computer and having an application or file open, you might question whether you had actually clicked on it and might click a second time. Similarly, this slow-opening valve has me constantly wondering whether I actually clicked the remote button.

There are three buttons on the remote so that you can wirelessly control up to three Magura eLECT items, such as a fork, rear shock, and dropper post, with the same remote. You initially pair each button with each eLECT component by holding the button on the remote and the one on the component down for eight seconds. The buttons are tiny, and neither makes an audible click or lights up when you push one. With a glove on and the bike bouncing around, it can be hard to tell if I hit the right button, or any button at all. If a dropoff is coming up fast and the seatpost hasn’t dropped yet, I often find myself repeatedly pushing the button just to make sure I won’t go off the drop with my seat all of way up.

Think of a parallel with your phone. Don’t you feel good when you send an email with an iPhone and hear Apple’s signature whooshing sound that lets you know your message is winging its way to your intended recipient? If it made no sound and gave no other visible or vibratory cue that it had gone, you would wonder if it had done so.

Especially when I was told by Magura staff that I would get used to the activation delay and lack of feedback within a couple of days, I thought about “user-centered design” (UCD). The principle of UCD is to build a product around how the user wants to use it, rather than requiring the user’s behavior to adapt to the product. Proper UCD tends to not only optimize the user’s use of the product, but also their enjoyment of it, often creating an affinity in the user that allows him or her to overlook glitches in the product.

Magura did many things right with this post but missed on critical communication between the product and the user. Indeed, the product’s superior design in terms of ease of installation and smooth operation, even in cases of overtightening the seat binder, did engender an affinity in me for it so that I am willing to overlook the delay and the lack of feedback from the remote button. I would have been unlikely to tolerate those things in a dropper post that was also time-intensive to install or that tended to bind up after height adjustments.

Other riders using the Vyron have made comments to me to the effect that German engineering works great but lacks emotional connection to the user. But that’s not always the case with German products. For instance, when I lock my Audi, it beeps and flashes some exterior lights before it gently folds in the side mirrors and gradually dims and extinguishes the interior lights. I get instant feedback that I pushed the correct button, and I feel good when I see what it does in response. The car has many other ways of responding to my inputs that give me a warm feeling inside and allow me to forgive how much it costs to maintain it.

When you try to open a door by pulling when you’re supposed to have pushed, or vice versa, it’s not you that did the dumb move — the door’s designer did. It is the job of the product to communicate to the user how to use it. Don Norman, a pioneer of user-centered design, says, “Emotion takes precedence over cognition most of the time.” That’s why telling me, “you’ll get used to it in a couple of days” doesn’t cut it for me. Emotion is instantaneous; the communication between the product and me has to happen immediately.

Fortunately, I think the fixes to the Vyron that would address my gripes would only need to happen to the remote switch; the seatpost itself is quite nice just the way it is. I think I’d be happy with bigger buttons that make an audible sound, have a nice feel to the click, and light up an indicator. If I knew for sure it was going to move soon enough, I would happily adapt my riding to anticipate the delay in activation.

With 150mm of travel, a weight of 575 grams (595 grams with remote), and a price of $499, the Vyron is in the ballpark with other high-quality dropper posts with stealth routing of the remote activation cable or hose. And the Vyron’s installation will save time (or money) over other dropper posts. Battery charging takes three hours. When the battery charge becomes too low to work with the remote switch, you can activate it an additional 40 times with the button under the saddle.