DOES YOUR MOUNTAIN BIKE

NEED A DROPPER POST ?

Photo Credit: www.mbwales.com

Although products attempting to automate your bike seat height existed even in the 1980s, It’s in the past two or three years that they’ve become a common sight on mountain bike trails. Dropper post for the mountain bike is definitely one of the greatest cycling innovations of modern times. For those new to MTB, dropper post means you can change your saddle height on-the-fly. With the simple push of a button, you can raise and lower your seat height without having to dismount your bike.
 


 

THE CONCEPT

The idea behind the automated seat post is to provide optimum saddle height for climbing, flat riding and for descending without having to stop and get off your bike. When peddling on flat or climbing hills, you’ll need your saddle at the height at which you’ll get the most efficient power transfer.

While raising your seat is beneficial on flat or hilly terrain, lowering your seat position will give you more space to move around and makes it much easier to go faster on steep, bumpy descents. Your bike simply has more room to flow up, down, and around all the obstacles.

Let’s not forget about safety. Forgetting to lower your seat on steep downhill sections also smells faceplant disaster. The lowered seat might stop you going over the handlebar, and it will allow you to distribute your weight back behind the saddle without fear of getting hooked on the rear of it.
 


 

DO YOU NEED A DROPPER POST ?

Unless you do just downhill riding or use your mountain bike for some recreational trips around the city park, I’d say pretty much most of us will love it. Especially riders who ride trails with plenty short climbs alternated with short steep descents. The automated seat post was actually developed so that enduro (all-mountain) riders could pedal up the hill with optimum power transfer (by having the seat higher) and then drop it out of the way before hitting the downhill trail.

Having in mind additional weight penalty that comes with this kind of seat posts, even competitive Cross Country riders who will do just about anything to lose a couple of grams regardless of how it affects bike handling,” start appreciating benefits of the dropper post in XCO. With Maja Wloszczowska who rode to a Silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games having one on her hardtail, the weight argument becomes less and less significant. Many times when it comes to performance, execution means more than grams.
 

HOW DOES A DROPPER POST WORK ?

It’s simple. While taking your weight off the saddle, you press a button or a paddle lever to make your bike seat pop up. To lower it, you’ll need to press the lever and apply the weight by sitting down, then let go of the lever at the point you have found the desired height. With increasing popularity, I can imagine that they will only continue to improve, and posts that drop without the need for you to sit and put your weight on them should be just around the corner.
 


 

QUICK GUIDE TO BUYING YOUR FIRST DROPPER POST

The era of early posts that often looked ugly and suffered a different kind of issues has gone. Performance, Durability, Serviceability…All these factors have improved but like with everything else they are determined by the price tag. Today there is no shortage of brands available on the market. Choosing one can be a personal decision but first, you will have to make sure you have the right design for your bike and your preferences. So, before you search the internet for specific brand reviews, here are a few basic factors to consider before you buy your very first dropper post for your mountain bike:


 

Seat Tube Diameter

dropper post
Photo By Trevor Worsey

It is essential to choose the right diameter of a dropper post that corresponds to the diameter of your bike frame’s seat tube. They are not different from ordinary seat posts, so make sure it will fit on your bike before you buy it.


 

Travel

dropper post
Photo By Trevor Worsey

It is also very important to choose the right length. You will need to consider here the amount of drop it has and the ride height. These two measurements are related but not the same. Ride height is the distance from the collar to the saddle rails. It just means that two different dropper posts with the same amount of drop can have different lengths. You’ll have to make sure that minimum insertion length will still leave you with enough seat post to achieve your desired maximum saddle height.

On the other hand, too long travel may leave your saddle too high even when fully inserted into your frame. You have to remember that your saddle needs to be at the optimum height for pedalling when it’s fully extended. This means that your frame needs to have also a low enough and long enough seat tube to accommodate the full height of your chosen dropper post.


 

Hydraulic Vs Mechanical

dropper post
Photo By Trevor Worsey

Make sure you’re not confusing the internals versus the actuation system. Today most posts even with a cable actuated mechanism still have hydraulic internals that requires a nitrogen or air charge to keep them operational. Early designs used coil springs and pins to do the job. But, these were unrefined and often returned the saddle back towards the top at the speed that is very concerning especially for men :) You can still come across mechanically locking designs in conjunction with an air spring, but today most droppers use a fully sealed hydraulic cartridge that contains both a pressurised charge and the mechanism with a damper to slow the upward motion while allowing the height adjustment.


 

Actuation System

Dropper posts are actuated either hydraulically, mechanically or by a wireless electronic system. Each system has its pros and cons. Mechanical once are often the cheapest and easiest to service but the cable can get contaminated by dirt, and moisture and at the same time degrade the performance. Closed hydraulicly actuated droppers offer smoother, dirt free performance, but servicing will require bleeding the line the same way hydraulic disc brakes do. Electronic ones offer reliability, less maintenance, a nice closed system and clean routing. However, they will be the most expensive to buy and service if there’s a serious fault, and they will need a battery recharging.


 

Height Adjustment

Do I Need a Dropper Post
Photo By Trevor Worsey

There are two main kinds of dropper posts on the market: Fixed and Stepless also called Infinitely Adjustable.

Fixed design posts generally have three preset positions to choose from: fully extended, fully lowered, and somewhere in the middle. Three positions are the norm, although you can probably come across manufacturers offering more options. Posts with fixed travel settings allow your seat to very quickly move up into the preset position without having to stay sat on it until it reaches the correct height.

Infinitely adjustable dropper posts are more popular and give you much more freedom allowing you to drop it any point in its travel. It simply lets you adjust your saddle height wherever you want and exactly to the terrain you are riding on. These fine-tune adjustments can also be made while you are riding along. Further, stepless droppers don’t require “hunting” to find the middle spot. They will immediately go wherever you want them. Many fixed design posts need a bit of a skill to be finessed into the middle position preset.


 

Remote or Post-Mounted Actuation Levers

Remote or Post-Mounted Actuation Levers For Dropper Post

Choose the first option. Remote actuation levers are mounted on the handlebars next to the grips, making the operation more comfortable, faster and risk-free. On the other hand, actuators mounted on the seat post will require you to take one of your hands off the bars and reach under your saddle to lift a lever. This also makes the fine-tuning of your saddle height much harder.


 

Internal Vs External Cable Routing

Does Your Mountain Bike Need a Dropper Post
While actuator lever location is entirely up to you, cable routing option may be largely determined by your frame. If your bike frame is equipped with an internal cable path, go with a compatible dropper post. Apart from the hassle during maintenance and initial setting, internal routing will make your frame look much cleaner, and you won’t have to worry about cable rub bruising your bike’s paint and other external factors that might cause damage to it.


 

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