The Mountain Bike Life

After strenuously denying the need or value of a drop post for the last couple of years with an argument based entirely on a long history of not ever dropping my seat post my views recently took a change in direction. In isolation I still don’t see the benefits of the dropper, even having owned one now for some months, but in conjunction with the evolution of bike design, trends and even terrain is it now arguable that a dropper is essential kit for an all use bike?

Here’s how I’ve been justifying my ‘never needed, still don’t need’ argument against the investment of a drop post: I’ve been riding mountain bikes since I was a kid, I’ve ridden almost all disciplines at various levels over the years and can count on my fingers the amount of times I’ve dropped my post and (if I included my toes) the amount of times I haven’t dropped it and wished I had. In conjunction with the added weight, the fact that my preference in bike setup is to keep the bike as simple to use and maintain as possible the added weight and maintenance of a drop post simply made no sense.

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Then I made an adjustment to my bike. I ride a much loved Trek Stache, with some simple contact points upgraded. Even a year and a half after purchase, riding all manner of terrain its simply the best bike I’ve ridden off road. Ever. That’s not to say its spectacular at any one thing but as a general go anywhere have a lot of fun bike its been brilliant. The last major set up change (pre-dropper) was a super wide carbon Kenisis strut handle bar. Saved some weight but more importantly widened my stance on the bike and softened some trail buzz. (Oh and it looks just lovely.) it was this small change that made the dropper happen.

Simply put a trail 29’er is big. Really big. I’ve always ridden small compact frames both in hard tails and full suss trail bikes. After riding 29’ers a few times I realised that as big/long of a frame as you could manage give more chance to really shorten the stem, widen the bars and get a much more direct handling bike. All the more needed with the giant wheels. Trouble is that makes getting off the back of the seat a bit of a mission in the really steep or bumpy bits and, as I learned in a particular pants browning moment, getting back on the seat potentially even harder…..

Thus a dropper. So here was an argument against part 2: I don’t ride very much at the moment and for the foreseeable future. Kids, job, weather, age, injury, pick a reason the mountain bike doesn’t move as much as I would like. Droppers cost money to buy and maintain. The market seems to suggest the Rock Shox Reverb as the default choice. Personal preference points me towards the Thomson Elite dropper having been a Thomson fan for years but the cost and in one case need to deal and service hydraulics just kept stopping the ‘add to basket’ click from happening. Then I saw a KS eTen dropper.

Colors!

Colors!

At around the eTen0-120 mark, the post isn’t a million miles away from a ‘normal’ Thomson seat pin. Ok, it isn’t the prettiest of things or the lightest but let’s consider that. KS is (as far as I can tell?) the only brand to offer a colour kit for their posts which for the more appearance driven individuals would pay dividends and post weighs around 150-200g more than the lightest offerings on the market. Across a week, my weight can fluctuate by 1lb per day in either direction. 150g? I’ll eat one less biscuit with my coffee….

Also, the KS came with a 2 year warranty and is a non-serviceable item. It stops working send it back. So there’s my maintenance issue solved. I can’t really do more with it than keep it shiny and lube the cable. No, pressure. Plus at less than half the price of a Thomson I could actually buy a second post and have them rotate for service meaning I’m not without the benefits at any point and no worse off.

Then there’s the question of ergonomics. I looked at lots of posts and I actually like the design of the bar mounted control of the KS more than most others, including the Thomson. I’ve had more than my share of issues with bar mounted rock Shox remotes over the years as well. I know this is a bit of an irrelevance given the Reverb is hydraulic not cable but still it played on my mind.

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So how is it to use? It’s OK. A solid OK. It goes up and down each time I ask it to. I’ve used it in crappy conditions and its kept on working each time. The return is a little slower than I would like but I have realised this was a little bit to do with the tautness of the cable and under really filthy conditions the cable does get a bit clagged up but frankly everything would in that much mud. The post makes a satisfying ‘Thunk’ noise at full extension letting you know when you can park yourself once more as well, a feature I’d say is strangely valuable. I’d go so far as to say its really reliable and Well made, in a slightly heavier than a posh post kind of way, and works very well. So why is it only OK? Because it does a little too much.

The reason I wanted to drop the post was around climbing. Since starting to ride a road bike I have realized, I like to have my seat a little above my usual height on long in the saddle climbs. On the 29’er, this is simply a smidgen to high on single track, perhaps only an inch but it is noticeable. On the drops and technical sections the Stache needs the seat out of the way, pushing a big 29’er around needs more body than a small 26 and getting the seat out of the way really is a bonus in letting you get the bike in and out of corners. The thing is, that’s it: up, down a bit and down. The eTen, like so many others, is ‘infinity adjustable’ and frankly its a pain. Up and down are fine but I find myself messing with the post looking for that perfect just down a bit position. It’s a case of too much choice for me.

The conclusion? I couldn’t justify any more money on a dropper than the eTen cost. I simply don’t need to use one enough and looks apart I can’t even level the weight V’s cost argument when I’m not a super lean athletic racer type. The eTen works and works well. It’s proven to be extremely reliable, even when left covered on dirt unused for long periods and the bar lever is very simple to set up and comfy to use. If you want a dropper post and don’t want to spend a ton of cash this is a winner. But (there’s always a but!) if I was willing to spend more and I was looking for a feature to make a drop post worth that investment I’d have to look at the Fox DOSS dropper or the Specialized Command post. Both offering 3 pre-set positions which would remove the constant tweaking of all other posts. To me, less is more meaning more focus on looking in the right places on the trail, less changing of grip and less distraction all of which would tell me a more expensive dropper without that feature would have frustrated me knowing each drop was costing more on a drop by drop basis.

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