Editor’s Note: “Over a Beer” is a regular opinion column written by Greg Heil. While Greg is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com, the opinions expressed in this commentary are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.
One of the beautiful things about the mountain bike is how much you can change and modify your bike once you’ve purchased it. While there are general limitations based on the frame design, if you’re operating within reason you can modify or upgrade every single component on your bike except for the bare frame itself. And sometimes if you have enough tenacity, even modifying the frame is within the realm of possibility.
If you think about it, very few other human powered outdoor sports require the high level of technical gear that mountain biking does. But on the flip side, other types of outdoor gear isn’t nearly as customizable. Sure, you can tweak and tune a surf board, a pair of downhill skis, the gear in your climbing rack, maybe your whitewater raft… but all of these items provide very limited adjustability.
With skis—one of the sports I am most intimately familiar with after mountain biking—you can wax your bases a different way, tune your edges in a different fashion, or install one type of bindings instead of another. But if you actually want to change the ski itself, guess what? You can’t! It’s time to buy another pair of skis for the quiver.
Mountain bikes, on the flip side, allow you to customize them to your heart’s content. I personally begin by focusing on comfort and contact points to fit my body, and then move outwards from there.
Above and beyond fit, which is vitally important, what do most other upgrades do for you? Essentially, they make your bike ride better, provide you with better control, and most of the time, they allow you to go faster.
Don’t get me wrong: all of those reasons to upgrade are very good things, and I upgrade my personal bikes for those very reasons. But if we ask ourselves why, at the core, we mountain bike, is it to go faster, simply own the lightest bike, or rail the corners the fastest?
While perhaps all of those things play into it, I think we can all agree that the #1 reason that we mountain bike is because it’s fun.
If having fun is the main reason we ride, then it stands to reason that we should upgrade our bikes to be as fun to ride as possible. And I think that the #1 component that makes mountain bikes more fun to ride is the dropper post.
Droppers aren’t new by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve been using one on my personal bike for over half a decade now. But remarkably, many riders are still not using them.
Why is this?
I think a major contributing factor is that many mountain bikes still don’t come stock with a dropper post. This is especially true on the lower end of the market, where a dropper post is skipped over to save cost, as even mid-range dropper posts are extremely expensive when compared to a rigid post churned out by the thousands.
To all of those riders not using a dropper post yet, I say “do it!”
If my endorsement is good enough for you, great! But if not, here’s some more convincing.
In my mind, the biggest problem with a rigid seatpost is that it won’t allow you to corner properly when it’s all the way up in the ideal pedaling position. We’ve discussed cornering in great detail in other places, but in short, to truly corner well, you need to lean the bike into the corner while keeping your weight centered above the bottom bracket. With a seatpost all the way up, it’s simply impossible to achieve proper bike lean and your bike will either be too upright or your weight won’t remain over the bottom bracket, meaning that you’ll be off balance, slow, and uncertain of yourself in corners. Cornering well is a whole lot of fun, and droppers make it easy to corner properly all the time, even when the turn comes up on you suddenly.
The other major benefit of a dropper post is that it gives you way more room for the mountain bike to move vertically beneath you. As you descend a technical trail at speed with rocks, rollers, jumps, drops, and more, dropping the seat allows your bike much more room to flow up, down, and around all of the chunder, as your torso moves calmly down the trail in a straight line. Flowing down a fast, technical descent is incredibly fun, and a dropper post allows it to happen naturally. With your seat all the way up, your saddle is constantly coming up to smack you in the rump, and instead of allowing the bike to flow and your body to remain calm, your body is forced to move with your bike.
The most common objection to dropper posts, above and beyond the weight and the cost, is “well, I have a quick release on my post, so I just stop at the top of the descent and drop it.” While that can definitely be a great solution for some descents, the beauty of a dropper after you’ve used it for a while is how quickly you can activate it with minimal conscious thought. Personally, I find myself dropping and raising my seat literally dozens of times during a mountain bike ride, even in non-downhill sections of flow trail with corners, so that I can corner fast and enjoyably, as noted above. With a QR seatpost clamp, I literally can’t—or wouldn’t want to—stop that many times to raise and lower my seat. That wouldn’t be much fun, now would it?
If you’re still on the fence about a dropper post, I encourage you to just give it a chance and try one out. And don’t write it off after just the first day, either—spend some time with it, find a comfortable position for the lever on your bar, work on training yourself until it becomes natural, and if you decide to switch back to a rigid post after riding with a dropper for a week… let me know in the comments section below!
If you need help picking the best dropper for you, be sure to check out Aaron’s excellent Dropper Post Buyer’s Guide.