THE GAME CHANGER
I’M GONNA MAKE a big call. Of all the advances in mountain biking tech over the last decade, and there have been many— single chainrings, 29 and 27.5-inch wheels, wider bars, wider hubs, plus-size tyres, electronic shifting (if you’ve got the bucks)—the biggest, bar none, is this: the dropper post.
Sure, I know there’ll be quibblers. Hell, there are some who don’t even use dropper posts. Most holdouts (but not all; you know who you are, Roger) dwell at the distant fringes of the MTB spectrum: lycra-clad weight weenies at one end, DH-huckers at the other. And for a few specific courses and areas, they might be right. For anyone else, though, the dropper post should rank up there in importance with rear suspension. In some trail areas, even more.
For me, life is divided into pre- and post-dropper. Descents, of course, instantly became far easier, far faster and far safer. So, too, rock gardens. And drop-offs. And jumps. And airs. The biggest difference, naturally, were those super steep, bum-overthe-back, barely controlled freefalls; they transformed from exercises in white-knuckled terror to grin-inducing lines. And endos, once a seemingly regular staple on those aforesaid freefalls, seemingly vanished overnight.
This isn’t surprising. Duh, you’re saying, droppers make descending easier. You’re shaaarp. And you’re right, even a shortsighted idiot like myself could have guessed that. Cornering, however, was a revelation. It shouldn’t have been; a lower centre of gravity has obvious cornering advantages. But even today, having used a dropper post for near a decade, I am consistently struck by the magic of it all, a magic that for some reason I fail to consider when it comes to gear shifting or suspension. Perhaps the reason is its immediacy. One moment I’m charging into a corner at a speed that, with my seat high, I have precisely zero chance of negotiating. A hit of my thumb and literally a split second later, I’m low and comfortable and ready to rail. All those XC-weenies who think a droppers’ weight penalty is unjustified haven’t considered the fact that most corners, steep or not, will be taken far quicker with a dropper.
And then there are the ups. You heard me, the ups, because droppers improve ascend- ing. It’s not merely that on super techy climbs a lower saddle can help you negotiate large obstacles. More importantly, fixed height seatposts usually—but not always, especially on tame trail—involve a compromise in height; if the trail points down with any regularity, you’ll knock a centimetre off your ideal climbing height. But droppers negate that necessity. You go low for the descents. And then on the climbs have it rise to the ideal height, right to the centimetre, letting you squeeze every last bit of juice from each pedal stroke. God knows, if you’re a slug like me, you need it.
Over the years, I’ve only had two dropper posts. They’ve both been awesome. And that’s despite one of them being crap. While my Rockshox Reverb has been solid and dependable, on my old bike—thanks to an obtuse 28.6mm seat post diameter—I had no choice but to run X-Fusion’s HiLo. The thumb switch is imperfect; it allows loads of saddle-wobble. But there’s no way I’d trade in this cheap, wobbly dropper post for a fixed one. Droppers are like the pizza of mountain biking; even when bad, they are still very, very good.
For me, life is divided into pre- and postdropper. Descents became far easier, far faster and far safer. So, too, rock gardens. And drop-offs. And jumps. And airs.