Dropper Seatposts for XCO Racing
Dropper seat posts are extremely popular these days and for good reason. They can transform your comfort on steep terrain, allowing you to lower your centre of gravity and increase your stability. With more room to move vertically up and down on your bike, it’s also easier to jump, manual and lean the bike through a corner.
I started the season with a dropper seat post on my full suspension bike wanting to be open to give it a go. These days they add a pound to your bike, which can be well worth it if they help you gain more seconds in corners and descents than you possibly lose on climbs.
But the question is, after years of racing pretty gnarly courses with your seat up, are you able to gain more seconds? There have been courses where I have loved having the increased stability pushing over rock gardens and long descents, but others where due to the up-and-down nature of the course, I felt having a dropper cost me more time than it gained me.
Seats down for a pure descent is one thing, but cross-country trails are constantly going up and down. When cresting a steep climb in a light gear and turning immediately into a short descent that you must then 180 and head back up, often the first priority is going to be gear selection and opening or closing suspension. Adding one more thing just takes more time that you want to be using to attack the next section. Yes, I am talking racing where every second counts. For recreational riding and racing and adventure racing blind stages, these seconds may not feel that significant compared to what a dropper can offer. But when you’re striving for the fastest, most efficient race, it is definitely something I think about.
More recently, I am leaning towards not racing with one. For cross-country racing, particularly at a high level, you have the opportunity to spend a lot of time on course getting dialed in before you line up to race. You typically become as comfortable and efficient on every feature with your seat up as with it down, and nearly as quick negating the dropper’s benefits.
If you do still find it to be an advantage, as it will be on some courses, part of your preparation then has to become practising where you are going to use it. You will go far faster entering and exiting a descent with speed with your seat up than you will entering more slowly because you took the time to lower your seat, railed the downhill part, but then felt inefficient exiting with your seat down because that always seems to make your gears feel too light.
Like anything, whatever you want to try in racing you have to spend a lot of time dialing in during training. I will 100% keep a dropper on my bigger suspension bikes. But for cross-country racing, seat up still gets the thumbs up most of the time.
Dropper seatposts are great for recreational riding and some types of racing but it depends on the course and your style of riding