To say that mountain bikes have changed a lot in the past 15 years would be an understatement. In fact, since the beginning of the sport, bikes have evolved at a sometimes frustratingly fast rate. Just when you think you have the latest, greatest, wonder-bike, the next year things like disc brakes, fork steerer tubes, hub spacing, and handlebar width make your current bike seem like a dinosaur. For the most part, changes from the bike industry lead to better bikes for the riders… I say “most” because there are press-fit bottom brackets and well, they suck. (Thankfully the new trend away from press-fit bottom brackets has the home mechanic singing praise.)
If you ride mountain biking trails then you’ve probably noticed there seems to be a funny little suspension looking thingy on a lot of new bikes. These posts actually aren’t about absorbing shock, they are dropper posts and they are awesome. Still relatively new when compared to features like disc brakes, dropper posts have be heralded as the most significant advancement in mountain bike technology since suspension. The principle is this: ride your bike with your seat at the proper height for pedaling, come across a technically challenging descent, jump, or other trail feature and lower your saddle out of the way, ride through said obstacle without your seat in the way, raise it back again to the same place it started and pedal away.
This concept has been around for a long time, its why riders often stopped at the top of a big descent to use their quick release to lower the saddle. In fact, there was even a cool little spring thingy in the late 80’s that riders used to do this on the fly but due to course changes in racing, it never caught on. Now dropper posts have allowed riders to quickly move their saddle and ride faster and safer through the tough situations that come about on any given trail. So why am I just now getting around to using one???
For years as a rider, I never once thought about stopping to drop my saddle. In fact, I can proudly say that I’ve ridden stuff with my saddle fully extended that would surprise modern trail riders. However, with all the recent hype about the dropper post, I decided to give the component a proper evaluation on my Epic Carbon Comp. Reading reviews on dropper posts is confusing at best, so for my evaluation I went straight to the best in my humble opinion… Thomson.
Thomson bike parts are beautifully constructed and always seem to work when others might fail, so choosing their Covert Dropper post seemed like a no-brainer. Thomson advertises that their post has one of the most ergonomic actuation levers out there… apparently they wrote this long before the competition came out with levers that mount under the handlebar in place of the front shifter that has become extinct with the advancement of 1X drivetrains. After a few rides with the stock Thomson lever, I switched over to a Raceface Turbine lever and that’s when the dropper-post-enlightenment happened.
With a properly setup dropper and a truly ergonomic lever you suddenly realize that you can raise and lower your saddle so fast that on many obstacles that you simply rode over in the past, you now launch over at full speed because your saddle is out of the way. In fact, I’ve heard that Nino Schurter and many of the other top World Cup mountain bikers don’t run a dropper post on their full suspension race bikes because they can go so fast downhill that they overwhelm their tires and suspension, causing pinch flats and other mechanical problems. My first full lap at Mohican riding the Epic with the Thomson dropper I did exactly that on one of the last rock gardens. Normally, I have to slowly roll through the steep rocks section near mile 23 but with the saddle down, I flew through the rocks fast enough to puncture the my rear tire bad enough that the repair job didn’t hold and I walked the last mile back to the car.
In conclusion, if you haven’t ridden with a dropper, give it chance before you dismiss it as useless weight to carry around the trail. With the right setup, it will change the way you ride for the better. You may even start to notice dropper posts showing up on gravel road bikes in the future… drop that post!