MTB Front­lines

Drop­per Seat­posts for XCO Rac­ing

Pedal Magazine - - Out In Front - BY CATHARINE PEN­DREL

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

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