Most of us wants to have the best biking experience. And while some say you do not really need one in your life, a dropper post could truly mean the difference between a smooth and uncomfortable cycling experience.
Owning a (mountain) bike may already be too costly enough as it is, and the added expense of buying more parts may not be welcoming to some. And that’s what we’re here for: I’ll will list down the top 4 dropper posts on the market today that will not burn a hole in your pocket. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you don’t deserve the best.
Best Value: Brand X Ascend
The first featured brand is Chain Reaction’s Brand-X Ascend dropper post. At only $148, you’re going to get the best value for money with this one.
A dropper post is considered essential to some as it allows your seat to drop (and go right back up) to your desired height. The ability to adjust the saddle as easy as how you would a computer chair is extremely helpful in riding on steep roads and uphill climbs.
Now, you might be thinking, considering its absolutely low price and plain look, will this brand truly get the job done? Well, don’t worry — I didn’t put it on this list for nothing.
For starters, the dropper is extremely adjustable, with five drops to fit different heights. It also comes in three different sizes: 30.9, 31.6, and 27.2mm — a rare size that’s perfect for your 85 and 105mm drop post. It can accommodate a larger-diameter seat tube as well using a seat post shim. The dropper should be attached on the left side of the bar with a hinged clamp.
Everything you need to install and fit the dropper, such as the inner and outer cables, are all in the box. The dropper’s inner cable connects at the base of the post with a barrel clamp. Achieving the perfect cable tension might be a little complicated, but you are free to use a third-party remote if you want to.
You can easily adjust return speed by adding air in the Schrader valve beneath the saddle clamp. Note though that even if you do charge it to 150psi, the saddle won’t get back up that fast. But the transition is very smooth and controlled, though, so there’s that.
The one thing you need to be mindful of with the Ascend is that you need to lubricate the post every so often, as it becomes a challenge to return it to its original height after a while. Cleaning and lubricating only take less than 5 minutes though, so it’s not really that big a deal.
Considering its affordability and functionality, the Brand-X Ascend is a pretty good bargain.
- Weight: 595g
- Height: 85, 105, 120, 150, and 170mm
- Diameter: 27.2, 30.9, and 31.6mm
The PNW Cascade Dropper Post is a great purchase that can upgrade even the most outdated bikes. So, if you’re looking for a great and affordable dropper post for your 2015 or older model, the PNW Cascade might be the best choice for you. PNW Components is a fairly new company from the Pacific Northwest, and they make products that suit older bike models. Unlike typical dropper posts, the Cascade’s cable is routed on the outside of the frame, which means it can accommodate basically any bike with a 30.9 or 31.6mm post. Before purchasing, though, make sure that there is enough insertion depth for the post.
Now, even though the Cascade does have a relatively outdated routing system, it’s actually very dependable. It can accommodate 170mm of travel, which is rare, considering most posts only offer 150mm or even only 125mm. The Cascade might be the only dropper that has the unusual combo of external routing, 30.9mm size and 170mm of travel.
Another wonderful thing about the Cascade is that unlike majority of dropper posts are air-sprung, this one uses coil spring. What’s great about it is that it makes the Cascade more reliable and less susceptible to mechanical failure.
Now when it comes to the remote, the Cascade makes use of the usual cable actuated 1x style. And while it’s completely functional, I can’t say that it’s as great as the Loam Lever (sold separately by PNW). What I can say though is that it is a far cry from the plunger-style Reverb remote and the typical remotes of the KS LEV droppers.
The Cascade Dropper is valued at $200. For the price, you really can’t expect anything out of the ordinary from its remote. It does get the job done, it’s just not as adjustable. It’s also a little trickier to install relative to other expensive remotes.
Every cyclist looks for only three things in a dropper post: that it can go up, down, and stay in place, depending on the demand. I’m happy to say that the Cascade does the job perfectly. Based on experience, people haven’t noticed any of the usual problems that dropper posts have, such as squishing, sagging, slipping, or creeping up. The speed at which it compresses and returns may also be adjusted depending on how much cable pull you use, but if you ask, this is not really a requirement. The post drops and goes back up pretty quickly, but not so fast that it hurts.
For cyclists who usually take their bikes out to freezing temperatures, there’s no need to worry, because the Cascade can handle the cold pretty fine. The fact that it uses coil spring and cable remote make it impervious to severe temperatures.
When it comes to maintenance, the Cascade has a replaceable cartridge that costs $75. The dropper post has a 3-year warranty though, which covers fail cartridges. PNW offers great customer service and have a very helpful staff reachable via email or phone.
If you have an old model and are looking to upgrade it with an affordable dropper post, then you should definitely check out the Cascade.
Giant Contact SL Switch
Our next featured dropper post is the Giant Contact SL Switch valued at $280. It performs just as great as the more expensive brands. It is also very unique such that unlike any other dropper post, it can run both as an internally or externally routed post.
The Giant is great for mid to high-end Giant mountain bikes, but unfortunately, it’s not as popular as other brands, which is a shame because not only is it affordable, but very reliable and adaptable as well. Sadly though, it only comes in one size, which means it can only accommodate bikes with a 30.9mm seat tube. So if you do own one, this model deserves a closer look.
What I really like about the Giant is that its black alloy remote can fit easily on the handlebars without having to remove the grips. Working the remote is very comfortable too. The lever’s shape makes it easy to use compared to other remotes. Routing the cables internally is easy to install, and even if you don’t do a good job at it, its in-line barrel adjuster is going to take care of any potential problems.
I can’t say that the Contact SL is the best in terms of smoothness, though. While it does work quite okay, its performance is unremarkable at best. Its return is nothing compared to the Specialized Command. It’s not as smooth as the hydraulic Rock Shox Reverb Stealth, either. But what it is though is consistent and reliable, it’s return speed is a solid medium. People don’t seem to experience any breakage or malfunctioning whatsoever. At the end of the day, isn’t this all you really need?
The old version of the Giant’s saddle clamp only had a single bolt and was predominantly made of plastic. Cycling anywhere outside of a paved bike bath means torture for any rider. Thankfully, the Giant upgraded its saddle clamp drastically. It now features a two-bolt design, and is now made of metal. Truly a huge improvement from their earlier model.
Perhaps the best thing about the Contact SL is its capacity to switch from external to internal routing. What’s even better is how easy it is to do so. Just follow what it says on the owner’s manual, or watch the slew of tutorial videos available on Youtube.
If you’re tired of getting teased by your friends because you need a few minutes to adjust your seat before going downhill, then you really do want to consider getting the Contact SL Switch. Again, note that the dropper post can only accommodate 30.9mm diameter seat tube, so only consider this model if you do own one.
Comparing the features and functionality of the Contact SL to other more expensive dropper posts, I can really say that you get the best bang for your buck with this one. The only downside from this model is that its cartridge is non-serviceable. BUT, they are somewhat affordable and available basically everywhere, so I can’t really say it’s a huge problem. Maintenance is pretty straightforward too: just a standard stanchion lube will do.
So if you are looking for an affordable and effective dropper post, and if your frame fits the size, then I can recommend the Contact SL Switch.
The Winner: TranzX YSP12
Out of the four dropper posts featured, the TranzX YSP12 is our ultimate favorite. TranzX is a brand made by the JD Component Company, a company that has factories in China and Taiwan, and creates a good range of dropper posts. The dropper comes in an internally routed system and is available in 125, 120, 100, and 80mm of travel. It comes in two sizes, 30.9 and 31.6mm. Best of all, it only costs $150.
The TranzX has a RockShox Reverb-based design, with a well-polished, hard-anodized black finish. You’ll barely experience any side play with the TranzX. Its replaceable cartridge may be pressurized to adjust its return speed by using the Schrader valve located underneath the saddle clamp. The TranzX is built with 7075 aluminum alloy and is 545 grams heavy. It is easy to install and adjust the cable-actuated mechanism as well. It comes in two different remote levers: one is a vertical lever that only needs a small space on the handlebar, while the other is the more traditional paddle lever.
As said before, installation of the dropper post is very simple. The fact that it has actuated cable means that you may choose between working the cable or the housing through the frame’s interior, whichever you prefer.
The TranzX has a generally smooth operation, although its return speed is quite low. But all it takes is a little getting used to. You could choose to add some air pressure to the return spring to speed it up a little though, but that would mean your retraction effort will increase as well. The best way to deal with it is to find a perfectly balanced pressure level.
Considering its price and functionality, the TranzX YSP12 is the most affordable dropper post that could get the job done. While the remote lever is quite unremarkable, it is still pretty dependable. Overall, out of all the models featured,this product is probably your best bet.
How Do Dropper Posts Work?
Apart from knowing the best dropper posts out there, it’s also important for cyclists to know how it works. It’s fairly simple, really, you put your weight on your seat and push the lever, and the seat goes down. If you want it to go back up, lift your weight off the seat and push the lever again. While using it is pretty straightforward, the behind the scenes of it is a little complicated.
Most dropper posts are pneumatic in nature, which means it needs pressurized air to hold the seat post in position. Older dropper post models were adjustable via a lever located at the post itself. Now, however, dropper posts have a remote lever attached to the handlebars that is connected to the post through a cable or hose.
How To Choose a Dropper Post?
There are many factors to consider when picking the right dropper seat post for you. With a slew of models available out there today, it’s really difficult to narrow down your options. As such, it’s important to learn the main things you need to look into when making a decision.
Fixed or Infinite Adjustment
First up, you need to identify the adjustability level of your dropper post. There are two kinds: the fixed or preselected type, and the infinitely adjustable type.
Most dropper posts usually come in an infinite adjustment design, meaning you can adjust the post at any point. This provides cyclists the freedom to adjust their seat as they please, depending on the situation they are in.
However, some dropper seat posts do offer pre-selected or fixed positions. The number of positions varies from post to post, with some having only 2 levels, while others having as many as 10. The benefit of having fixed levels is that it gives the rider consistency, which means it’s easy to get used to. Others also say that these fixed positions are a lot more reliable than infinitely adjustable posts.
Handlebar Remote or Seat Post Lever
A dropper post may be controlled in two ways: the first is via a remote located on the handlebar, or a lever located at the seat post itself. The handlebar remote and seat post lever connects to the post through either a mechanical cable or a hydraulic hose.
As we’ve earlier stated, seat post levers were the more traditional way to go. However, over the years, the vast improvement in technology allowed for a much easier method to adjust seatposts. And while seat post levers still exist, the most popular choice among cyclists nowadays is the handlebar remote. It’s not really surprising considering how relatively easier it is to adjust the seat without having to get off the bike.
Older remote lever designs usually have the lever placed on top of the left handlebar. However, the newer models place the lever below the handlebar instead, making it work like a shift lever which is adjustable with the left thumb.
Mechanical or Hydraulic
Majority of the dropper posts today use hydraulic pressure in order to rise up and down. When it comes to the remote lever, though, some posts use either mechanical or hydraulic pressure to adjust the seat post accordingly.
Full hydraulic dropper posts work just like hydraulic brake cables. The lever pushes fluid to the hose which activates the dropper. The good thing about the hydraulic system is that it is not susceptible to debris, as it doesn’t make use of any cables. The disadvantage is that you need to replace the hydraulic fluid every so often. At the time of writing, RockShox is the sole brand that offers dropper posts that are completely hydraulic.
The rest of dropper post brands make use of a mechanical lever that controls the post via a gear cable. This stainless steel cable is threaded through the housing and is connected to the post. What gives the mechanical system an edge is that it is easier to set up than the hydraulic system.
Internal or External Cable Routing
There are two cable routing options to choose from: internal or external. Internal routing, or stealth routing, is the more common between the two. Basically it just means that the cable is located inside the shaft of the post. The advantage of this routing system is the cable is impervious to debris and dirt. Its chances of getting damaged from crash are significantly lower as well.
The more affordable dropper posts make use of external cable routing. It’s also the best choice for older bike models. In this system, the cables are routed outside the tube. The benefits of doing so are 1. It’s easy to install and 2. It’s easy to repair, as you won’t have to go through the interior of the frame to locate the cable ends.
When it comes to saddle clamps, you have two options: the single-bolt and the twin-bolt side clamp. The single bolt method is the less preferred among the two becomes it needs additional parts to switch from metal to carbon-railed saddles.
The twin-bolt method, on the other hand, is compatible with either metal and carbon-railed saddles, that’s why cyclists prefer this type so much more.
The cost of dropper posts varies from as low as $100 to greater than $500. In this section, we’ll explain what you can expect from every price range, to help you decide how much to invest in your dropper post. The rule of thumb, however, is that you can only choose two from these three characteristics: cheap, strong, or light.
The cheapest dropper posts are usually the heavier ones. Apart from the most basic function, don’t expect any other special feature to come with it. Its routing system is most likely going to be external, too. The best models I can recommend for this price range are the Giant Contact, Brand-X Ascend, and the KS Suspension ETEN.
$200 – $350
If you purchase a dropper post between this price range, you’ll get one with a stronger and more durable internal cabling. Expect it to be much lighter than the $100 models, too. I highly recommend the Race Face Aeffect, KS Suspension LEV Si, and Bontrager Drop Line.
$350 – $500
Now, with this price range, you’ll be able to get everything you’ve ever wanted from a dropper post. Expect high-quality internals, enhanced seals for smoother operation and higher durability. You can also get an incredibly lightweight post — as much as 200 grams lighter than budget-friendly posts. The recommended models for this price range include the Crank Brothers Highline, the Specialized Command Post, and the Fox Transfer Performance.
How to Choose the Correct Size?
Another critical aspect of buying a dropper post is identifying the right size. Of course you’ll want the dropper post to fit you and the bike’s seat tube perfectly. There are some factors you’ll need to take into consideration before heading to the store and buying one, so read up!
Travel Measurement, Seatpost Length, and Insertion Length
Dropper posts usually come in different lengths based on the amount of travel. The typical travel lengths are 80mm, 100mm, 125mm, and 150mm. Some dropper posts offer shorter and longer travel lengths, too, though.
The longer the travel length, the longer the post will grow. A huge problem with droppers, aside from it being too low, is that it is too long. So, you need to make sure that the length isn’t too long for your taste when fully extended.
You also need to check the overall length and insertion length. Overall length refers to, well, the length of the dropper post as a whole when fully extended. The insertion length on the other hand refers to how far into the frame it extends. Knowing this measurement is important to know whether the dropper post is compatible with your bike frame or not.
You’ll also need to consider how the post will fit you as the rider. Majority of dropper posts can’t be trimmed, so you need to find one with the length and height that’s perfect for you. So, you’ll have to take note of your height and riding style into account when picking a dropper post. For instance, if you have a smaller frame, a 150mm travel dropper might not be good for you. If you’re taller, on the other hand, you’ll have to look for a post with a longer travel.
Dropper seatposts come in different sizes. The most usual ones are 30.9mm, 31.6mm, and 34.9mm in diameter. There are 27.2mm posts as well for skinnier models.
The diameter of the dropper post will be dependent on the size of the frame. To check this, just remove the existing post and read what it says at the bottom. Usually, larger seatposts are preferred because of their strength and durability.
While some cyclists don’t think dropper posts are a necessity, they are truly an invaluable feature that can drastically change your biking experience. It is considered by many as the greatest technological advancement in biking since the emergence of suspension technology. And while the best and most efficient dropper posts can cost about $500, you can still enjoy its functions for as low as $150, if you know where to look.