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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: Gravity Dropper Seatpost



Go to any popular mountain bike trailhead these days, and you'll see a new fixture on bikes: the dropper seatpost. If you're accustomed to road riding, it may seem an odd invention. We all know that your leg should approach, but not quite reach, straight on the downstroke of your pedal. Why would you want your seatpost to drop 2, or 3, or 4, or even 5 inches?

It may seem like an unnecessary luxury, until you've done 10 runs down a 30 second trail. Each time stopping at the bottom, hopping off your bike, wrenching the seatpost clamp loose and raising the seastpost, reclamping, then readjusting and reclamping again. Then after riding/walking (widing perhaps?) to the top, reversing the process to lower the seatpost again.

The general mechanism is that when you're climbing, you push a button and the seatpost rises to its highest level. When you're riding on flat ground, you drop the seatpost to an intermediate level. When descending, you can slam the post all the way down. Well, not all the way. But a lot of the way.

Picking A Dropper Seatpost

After many years with only one or two options for dropper seatposts, there are now seemingly dozens. Every major component maker has their own dropper seatpost available. There are a lot of variations to consider. Expensive or cheap? Hydraulic or mechanical? Ugly or pretty? Reliable or flaky?

I went with cheap, mechanical, ugly, and reliable.

Gravity Dropper is one of the oldest names in droppers, or so I read on the internet. The company is based in the small town of Polson, MT and their products are made in the USA (not that I care too much about that).

What I do care about is they are widely considered to be the most reliable dropper seatpost. In a category filled with complicated hydraulic systems that freeze up, Gravity Dropper sticks with old-fashioned mechanical actuation. From what I can tell their design hasn't changed much over the last 10 years. Where most makers have sexy svelte seatposts, Gravity Dropper sticks an ugly rubber dust boot that resembles the shock from a 1990s hybrid bike. You know what? Mountain bikes are ugly. An ugly seatpost fits right in.

Their customer service is considered to be excellent. Their price is among the lowest for a quality seatpost. What's not to like?

There are a couple things missing from the Gravity Dropper. High-end hydraulic seatposts have infinite adjustment while the gravity dropper has high, medium, and low. As with hydraulic brakes, hydraulic seatposts have silky-smooth action. The gravity dropper is a bit jerky. Blah blah blah who cares? It costs half as much, works better, and if you have a problem, which you probably won't, they'll take care of you. In 5 years if you want you can pay them a small fee to overhaul it for you. But it probably won't need it.

Installation

Installation could have hardly been easier.

Insert Gravity Dropper into seat-tube

First remove your old seat post and insert the Gravity Dropper seatpost. I got the variation that has 5 inches of drop available, but really you need to consider how much your seatpost sticks out of your frame when picking your gravity dropper.

The actuation cable runs behind the seatpost. It's a bit ugly. Hydraulic seatposts usually have vertical housing that looks a lot nicer.

Fasten lever to handlebars

Next fasten the lever to the handlebars. Caution: it's easy to over-torque the bolts and snap the retaining collar. Fortunately they thoughtfully include a spare collar. It would be even more thoughtful for it to not break in the first place!

Attach cable to frame with jagwire thingys.

Gravity Dropper includes some jagwire cable routing thingys. Stick those on the frame and run the cable through them.


Attach the seat and you are done!

High Position
Push the lever with some weight on the seat to drop to the medium position. With the 5" drop you can choose between a 1" drop for the medium setting, and a 2.5" drop. I went with the 1" drop, since my knees really complain if my seat is too low.

Medium Position
Keep on going to get to the low position. You won't want to pedal too much from here, but it's great for going downhill!

Low Position

Conclusion

I'll be honest, I think this thing is great.  It's easy to spend a couple hundred bucks on useless doo-dads or lighter spokes. This is a couple hundred dollars that actually makes a substantive difference when riding the bike. Money well spent.

I'm really looking forward to heading out this weekend to break it in.

4 comments:

Unknown said...

If I ever got back into mountain biking, I'd definitely spring for one of these, but given my "bike plutocrat" tendencies, that shouldn't surprise anyone. The bigger question is, how do you respond to Max's position that mountain biking is oxymoronic?

sam said...

I wonder how he feels about trail running...

Max said...

New-fangled thingies! When I used to have a mountain bike, which was made of steel and didn't have springs, the "get low" position was behind the seatpost. Of course, a big bump could (1) put the saddle in your gut, (2) put the seatpost in your crotch, or (3) put your rear on the wheel, all of which happened to me at least once and none of which were pretty. Of course that can make me feel better that the thief who stole it wasn't nearly as comfortable when riding as Sam apparently is.

Nithan said...

These kind of bikes don't seem to be designed for brutal riding, however they're durable enough stand up to dirt methods and road trails click here.