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Hands-on Gear Review
Rock Shox Reverb Stealth Review
Cons: Performance affected by temperature, more difficult to install than others, field repair unlikely, history of unreliability
Bottom line: The RockShox Reverb Stealth is a high quality dropper post from one of the industry's leading suspension manufacturers.
The RockShox Reverb Stealth is a popular infinitely adjustable internally routed dropper post made by one of the industry's suspension giants. The Reverb has come as an OEM spec on quite a few brands of mountain bikes over the years and has been an aftermarket purchase by many a fat tire aficionado seeking the trickiest dropper money can buy. The unique hydraulic actuation of the Reverb sets it apart from the rest of the dropper posts on the market, as does the smooth and consistent infinite travel it provides. Our test post provided us with hundreds of miles of trouble free riding, but the Reverb has a bit of a checkered past with a history of unreliability, inconsistent performance, and complicated installation and service procedures. While the exterior of the Reverb appears largely the same, the internals were redesigned in 2016 to in an attempt improve reliability.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
After some minor challenges during the installation of our test Reverb we experienced very consistent and smooth performance through the duration of our test. We loved the fact that you can adjust the speed of extension on the fly by turning the barrel adjuster on the remote, a feature no mechanically actuated post offers. The post moved impressively smoothly through its travel, both up and down, and never failed us while out on the trail. Coincidentally, during our testing, we had two friends whose Reverbs let them down while out on a ride together, what are the odds.
Turns out if your hydraulic hose pulls off your remote it doesn't work anymore, and that is one of the biggest fears of the system, lack of trailside serviceability. Again, our test post worked very well for us, but the Reverb's history of failure and unreliability makes it a little suspect. Our chief complaints with the Reverb are the fact that its travel is affected by temperature, and noticeably so, the remote design lacks the ergonomics and mounting options of many of the newer dropper posts, and it will likely require maintenance. That said when a Reverb is functioning properly it's hard to beat.
Smoothness and Functionality
The Reverb's air spring and hydraulic actuation are smooth as silk and over the past several years have set a standard in the dropper post market. The post compresses and extends at a very consistent rate and with no sticking whatsoever and stops anywhere in the post's travel range. The rate of return is easily adjustable with the barrel adjuster located on the tip of the remote. Turning the barrel makes a difference in return speed, and there is a good range to suit most riders tastes. The post makes an audible thunk at full extension for those riders who like the auditory clue that their post has topped out. The hydraulic line does not allow dirt to enter the system and you will never have to deal with a dirty cable. There is very minimal lateral play, wiggle, in the saddle, so little you'll probably never notice it.
The Reverb has a checkered history, and its reliability has often been called into question. Many people have horror stories of mid-ride failures, cut or pulled hydraulic lines, or dreaded dropper post sag. Interestingly, our main tester owned his own Reverb in the past, not including the post used in this test, and he's never had a single issue with his - not even one (and I've done all my installation and maintenance). Perhaps he has just been lucky.
That being said, the Reverb's hydraulic actuation system isn't as simple as any mechanically actuated dropper post on the market. A pulled or cut housing on the Reverb and it doesn't work anymore, and sometimes they need to get bled just like any other product that uses hydraulic fluid in its lines, think hydraulic disc brakes.
Our test post performed flawlessly throughout our test period. In fact, we raced it to the podium at the Downieville Classic. Our only gripe, and it's a small one, is that the travel is affected by changes in temperature. On cold mornings it is a bit slow to return until it or the temperature warms up a bit. That being said, we are aware of the issues that others have dealt with and understand that a Reverb is a product that will require maintenance to keep running properly. Aftermarket Reverbs come with a bleed kit and instructions to bleed the unit yourself should problems ever arise. When working properly, as our test unit, there are few droppers on the market that offer travel as smooth or performance as consistent.
The standard Reverb remote, XLoc, is unlike any other on the market. More of a depressor than a lever, the Reverb remote presses straight in to force hydraulic fluid through the housing to actuate the air sprung cartridge in the seatpost. Part of the reason for the unique remote style is the hydraulic actuation; fluid doesn't move the same way as a cable, so the rubber booted piston has been a staple of the Reverb for the past several years.
The remote comes in two options, either right or left as viewed from above, and each can be run above or below the bar on opposite sides. The remote we tested was a right hand remote and can be mounted in 2 ways, either under the bar on the left for compatibility with 1x systems or on top of the bar on the right for use with 2x or 3x drivetrains. Since Rock Shox is under the SRAM company umbrella, they have created a system, known as "Matchmaker", that allows you to mount the Reverb remote and your shifter or brake levers on the same collar to minimize clutter and keep a neat and organized handlebar.
We liked the left side under mount of the remote the best since we are running 1x drivetrains and it is most easy to reach with the left thumb in this position. We also feel that the remote is most protected from damage in this position. The remote has a small head with a smooth surface, and while we never had a difficult time locating it to press it, it was occasionally slippery if our gloves were unusually wet. The feel of the lever is smooth and consistent and fell about in the middle of the range of force required to actuate the mechanism, not too hard, but not super easy either.
Pressing the piston style remote straight in, as opposed to a lever, can be somewhat difficult immediately after dislocating your thumb, just sayin' We loved the fact that you can adjust the rate of return of the seatpost with a barrel adjuster attached to the remote, no other dropper in our test allowed for such an on the fly adjustment. Rock Shox recently debuted a new 1x undermount shifter style lever that looks slick and ergonomic and pairs with Matchmaker components. The new remote lever is available for $95.
The Reverb features a zero-offset head and a standard two-bolt saddle clamp that secures the saddle rails. There's nothing especially notable about the saddle clamp other than the fact that it performs its job quietly and hassle free. The two bolts control the angle of the saddle and marks on the saddle clamp ensure you line it up to your exact specifications. A Schrader air valve is hidden under the saddle clamp and accessing it isn't a regular occurrence considering the pressure should always be set at 250psi. If and when you need to check the pressure, it's as simple as removing the saddle for any other post (with the same clamp design).
Ease of Setup
Having installed a Reverb or two in the past we were not especially intimidated by the installation of the hydraulic line and actuator. Except for cable/housing cutters, the Reverb comes with everything you need to install it in the box as an aftermarket purchase. The main thing you need to focus on is taking your time and doing things logically as you are dealing with fluids, so take precautions for dripping oil and such.
The installation of a Reverb takes approximately the same time as a cable actuated post. Installing the test post on our test bike took a little extra time since the internal routing ports on our Ibis Ripley LS are aluminum and fit standard housing perfectly. It turns out the Reverb hydraulic housing is about 1mm wider in diameter than standard housing, so we spent a good 20 minutes widening the port holes with our handy power drill. Once the holes were large enough to accommodate the slightly wider housing, we were ready to go, and installation went off without a hitch.
Fortunately, the Reverb comes with a housing coupler. Not only does this coupler attach the new housing to the old one to pull it through without a hassle, but it also plugs the hydraulic housing so no fluid leaks out or air gets into the line in the process. Once you've fed the housing through the frame, unscrew it from the coupler, cut off the excess while holding the housing upright, remember there are fluids here, and then thread the remote onto the end of the housing.
Attaching the remote is easy due to the hinged clamp or the use of the Matchmaker with your SRAM brakes or shifters. The clamp uses a Torx 25, T25, instead of a more standard Allen key, something we found ourselves fumbling more than once while tightening the remote to our handlebar. If you decide to install this post on your own, please be very careful, improper installation can lead to air in the hydraulic line and the need for a bleed right out of the box.
Our test post weighed in at 621g including the housing, fluid, and remote. Not the lightest in the test, but competitive with several other posts and only about 45g heavier than our lightest dropper post, the KS LEV Integra. The Reverb, Crank Brothers Highline, 9point8 Fall Line, and Race Face Turbine all weigh within 12g of each other, apparently the sweet spot for dropper post weight.
Anyone who appreciates a quality product that performs well could love the Reverb. People who live in especially wet or muddy places may also love the fact that there is no cable or housing to get dirty and affect your dropper's performance. Skilled at home mechanics may also enjoy the Reverb and it's somewhat more involved service practices.
With a retail value of $471, the Reverb was the second most expensive dropper post in our test. If you have a Reverb that never has any problems, like ours, then we would say that it isn't cheap but its worth it for the performance. If you have a Reverb that has issues, like many people have had over the years, then you're looking at additional maintenance and service costs that are hard to justify considering the growing crop of dropper posts on the market today. That being said, the housing coupler that is included with the RockShox Reverb is easily worth 20 bucks to us alone for the ease of internally routing cable housing
The RockShox Reverb Stealth performed its duties well for us during our testing. The hydraulic actuation sets it apart from all of the other dropper posts on the market, as does its incredibly smooth and consistent compression and extension. The Reverb's history of problems, lack of trailside serviceability, and somewhat archaic piston style remote, however, make it a little less appealing than other posts we tested. This is not to say that the Reverb isn't an excellent dropper post because it certainly is, there are just more options currently available than ever before most of which cost less and are much less likely to fail at the least opportune moment.
The Reverb Stealth is available in 30.9mm, 31.6mm, and 34.9mm seatpost diameters and 100mm, 125mm, 150mm, and 170mm travel lengths. The RockShox Reverb 1x remote lever was released in the spring of 2017 and retails for $95.
— Jeremy Benson
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