THE GAME CHANGER

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - Fave Gear - WORDS JAMES McCORMACK PHO­TOS JUSTIN WALKER

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.

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