13 October 2021

Let's use a dropper-post!

Sure, 2021 is more than a little bit late-to-the-game to be writing an article advocating for the use of dropper-posts on mountain bikes. But I ride on a regular basis with a few old doods, militant Luddites all, who have yet to upgrade their bikes to a seat-post that drops with the pull of a trigger. I've been trying to convert them for years, at every opportunity singing the praises of dropper-posts loud and clear, to no avail. This blog post is all I've got left, my last-ditch effort to try and get them to see the light.

Hite-Rite & Rock Lobster
both ca. 1985
I got my first dropper-post as stock-spec on my Specialized Fuse Expert when I bought it new back in 2017. 

Actually, no. That's not an entirely accurate statement. See, I've had a Breeze & Angell Hite-Rite on my Rock Lobster singlespeed for years. The Hite-Rite is undisputedly the world's original dropper-post and it's actually very effective and efficient. But, it's also super tough to operate on-the-fly. Unlike contemporary dropper-posts, which can be moved up or down with the flick of a trigger, a stop-and-dismount is required of all but the most practiced riders in order to move the saddle up or down using a Hite-Rite. As a result, the Hite-Rite on my Rock Lobster was installed as period-correct bling, mostly for show (the frame, fabricated in 1985, even has a specific braze-on on the back of the seat tube intended for it), and, for the first fifteen-plus years that I owned it, I used it on rare occasions, only to move my seat down at the top the most ridiculously steep/sustained descents (and sometimes not even then), otherwise it mostly stayed-put and looked pretty.

Old school
ca. 1993
So I can admit, when I started riding my new Fuse I was actually a bit perplexed as to the real functionality of the dropper-post. As a bona fide old-schooler, having ridden, as I was saying, most of my rides over the course of some 30 years with a stiff-posted seat forever glued to my ass, or wedged between my thighs, or pushed up into my belly or ribcage, depending on the contours of the trail. For decades I held firmly to the belief that a fixed, immoveable seatpost actually made me a more skillful rider, that it was an essential point-of-contact which had to remain forever in its place, that to stop to reduce one's seat height was nothing short of admitting to one's innate dweebishness. In my mind I really did believe that all this was crucial to my ability to shred my bike like the "pro" I have so often imagined myself to be.

And then, shortly after buying my Fuse, I went on a few rides with Joe.  Joe, you see, is a legit pro, and has even, a couple times, been a NORBA National Champion, and he is a Skunk for sundry secretive bike-related enterprises, and is also a real live Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame (Class of 1988) inductee. To this day he still practically lives on a bike as his fulltime job. Safe to say: he knows how to ride, in the sense that it's like watching someone make pitch-perfect music to watch him ride.

And what I saw as I watched Joe ride was at first surprising to me. Turns out, Joe used his dropper a lot, and not just when he was descending, but also when he was cornering. In fact, he used his dropper a lot a lot, as in dozens and dozens of times in a given ride, in almost every fast corner and on even the slightest declines. I watched as he lowered his natural center much closer to the ground and used this new position on the bike to make quicker microadjustments to the terrain than he would have been able to on a traditional stiff posted bike. And he was able to tip his bike well up onto the side-knobs when cornering, too, literally putting him on rails in the corners, which was a thing of beauty to behold, indeed. Riding behind Joe was the epiphany I needed to figure out what I could aspire to when it came to incorporating my new-school dropper-post into my riding.

New school
ca. 2020
And I am here to tell you, several years and many thousands of miles on, that it has changed my life, and especially my riding, all for the better a gajillion times over. Another old friend once told me, long before I ever rode with a dropper, "They're even more essential an advancement in how we're able to ride than clipless pedals were." And, while I didn't want to believe him at the time, I am more than compelled to admit now that he was right. 

Nothing (other than perhaps the flat-freedness of tubelessness) has made my riding funner, faster, or has improved my ability to navigate my bike more capably (and safely) over all types of terrain than riding with a dropper-post has.

I've since come to develop quite a dependency on riding with dropper-post, and now find that riding without one has become quite challenging. So, I've recently upgraded my Coconino singlespeed with a KS eTen dropper-post (a decent post, albeit with limited travel, from one of only a few manufacturers who make a 27.2mm diameter post). I've considered installing droppers on the Pugsley and the Chester, too, but for the time-being, I've reverted both of these bikes back to levered seatpost quick-releases, rather than bolted clamps, while I mull things over. 

And, for the record, I'm also using the Hite-Rite on my Rock Lobster a whole lot more these days, too, despite the fact that I still have to stop-and-dismount each time I use it.


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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey