Crankbrothers Highline Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Ergonomic universal remote, easy to install, affordable, three-year warranty
Cons: Not the lightest, non-adjustable spring rate
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Crankbrothers has long been pushing the envelope of design with mixed results. Consider the eggbeaters pedals, potentially the most polarizing pedal design ever, people either love 'em, or they won't even consider riding with 'em. Thankfully, Crankbrothers created a dropper post that will be nearly impossible not to love. Smooth, consistent travel, easy to install, ergonomic universal remote, innovative saddle clamp, low stack height, reasonably priced, the list goes on and on.
Smoothness and Functionality
Throughout our testing, the Highline proved itself to be one of the smoothest dropper posts on the market. Crankbrothers put some thought into the design of this post and not just in innovative features like the remote and saddle clamp, but the most important aspects of the post like its performance and functionality during its primary task of lowering and raising your saddle.
The Highline has a sealed hydraulic cartridge that operates at a fixed rate of extension and tops out with a barely audible noise. We found the rate to be on the slower side of the posts in our test selection, but also to be among the best for the smoothness in its travel. Even though it wasn't lightning quick to return to full height, it was consistent, reliable, and precise. It was also buttery smooth both during extension and compression, notably so especially when compared to posts that had a less consistent or sticky feeling travel. We did find the Highline post to require the most force to compress. This wasn't an issue, but you had to consciously weight your saddle to slam it down before descents.
There was the slightest bit of lateral play, or wiggle, in the saddle, but it was barely noticeable in hand and not at all noticeable while riding. At 47mm compressed and 173mm extended, for our 125mm travel test post, the Highline has among the lowest stack heights in our test. The stack height isn't typically a concern for the longer-legged riders out there, but 47mm is a welcome number for those with shorter legs hoping to squeeze a longer dropper onto their rig. We were a little underwhelmed by the 125mm travel length of our test post since we've grown accustomed to 150mm drop. After we received our test post, however, the 150mm and 170mm versions of the Highline were released and are sure to please a large number of riders who like as much drop as they can get.
The Highline also comes with top-of-the-line Jagwire cable and housing, which may aid in its ease of actuation and smoothness. Pressing the remote actuates a small spiral driver within the quick connect that turns a rotary valve on the Highline's cartridge. The cartridge is sealed, but supposedly easy to remove and replace when necessary.
The Highline features a zero-offset head with a typical two-bolt saddle clamp design, but Crank Brothers did something different when they designed theirs.
The rear bolt is attached on a swivel to the upper part of the clamp and slides into a slot in the head of the seatpost. The front bolt stays connected while the rear bolt swivels out, allowing the upper piece of the saddle clamp to rotate. This eliminates the need to ever fully remove the bolts or drop several pieces of saddle clamp all over the floor when installing or removing your saddle. (You know it has happened to you.) This design made life much easier during both installation and removal of our saddle from the test post. The saddle clamp also has angle markings to ensure that you adjust yours correctly every time.
The remote is sold separately of the Highline droppers for $60. This way, the user can choose any remote they want, or just add the Crankbrothers remote in when they purchase the post. It is a quality remote, a truly universal shifter style lever that is attached to a spherical clamp. The hinged clamp of the remote is simple to install and can be mounted on the top or the bottom of the handlebar on either side and is compatible with any drivetrain configuration. The only way this lever can't be mounted is vertically, like the KS LEV Integra or the Thomson Elite Covert, but this didn't upset us in the least.
The remote is paddle-shaped, and we set it up with our 1x drivetrain like a shift lever under our handlebar on the left side. The spherical clamp, think ball and socket, is incredibly adjustable and allows you to articulate the lever into virtually any position, but most importantly, the exact position you want it, before tightening it down on the handlebar. The lever action is smooth, and we found the Highline remote to require moderate force to actuate the mechanism. It fell exactly in the middle of the actuation force range in our side-by-side testing. The rate of extension of the Highline can also be modulated by feathering the remote lever.
At 620g, including the cable, housing, and remote lever, in the 125mm travel length we tested, the Highline is the heaviest post in the test based on grams per millimeter of travel.
While it appears to weigh less than some of the other competitors, it's important to remember that it has 25mm less travel than most of them. The KS LEV Integra weighs notably less, a full gram per millimeter of travel, than the Highline. Bear in mind that the Highline we tested was the 125mm length version, and the longer drop lengths will weigh slightly more; exactly how much more we can't say because we haven't tested or weighed them.
Ease of Setup
The Crank Brothers Highline was among the easiest cable-actuated dropper posts to install in our test selection.
As for every dropper post we analyzed, the most challenging part is running the housing through the frame. After that, all you to do for the Highline is feed the cable through the housing to the remote, tighten the set screw, then cut and crimp the cable, which hides in a slot on the backside of the remote lever. The cable is already connected to the bottom of the seatpost at the quick connect. The saddle is easier to install than other two-bolt saddle clamps due to the ingenious slotted head design that allows the upper half of the saddle clamp to rotate without fully removing either bolt. Installation of the remote is simple due to the hinged design of the handlebar clamp, but it did take us a while to adjust the lever to the perfect angle. The only reason it took us time to adjust the lever was that we had the option to position it in exactly the ideal spot for a change, so we took our time and dialed it in.
At $359 retail, the Highline is relatively reasonably priced. This price is the combination of the $299 post along with the $60 remote lever. We feel it represents a good value considering its intelligent design features, consistent performance, quality construction, and reasonable price. It also comes with a three-year warranty!
The Highline is the most impressive product we have seen from Crank Brothers in a long time. They took their time in the development of this dropper post, and that is evident in thoughtfully designed features like the remote and saddle clamp, as well as the impressively smooth and consistent performance. Not to mention the fact that the Highline is reasonably priced, comes in 100mm, 125mm, 150mm, and 170mm lengths, and is backed by a three-year warranty. We feel this is a great option for the rider who is looking to try something different.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Highline is available in both 30.9mm and 31.6mm diameters and comes in 100mm, 125mm, 150mm, and 170mm lengths, all for $299 as a post only, remote lever are sold for an additional $60.The Highline 3 is a less expensive version that is offered for $199 as a post only. The Highline 3 has a standard 2-bolt head and comes in 30.9, 31.6, and 34.9mm diameters in 60mm, 80mm, 100mm, 125mm, 150mm, and 170mm drop lengths.
— Jeremy Benson