Tranz-X Kitsuma Air Review
Cons: Longer overall length, no bling-factor
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Tranz-X dropper posts have been coming on less expensive complete bike builds for a number of years. Until very recently, however, they were hard to come by as their aftermarket distribution was quite limited. That has changed, and now Tranz-X posts are available through consumer-direct sales and some online retailers. They sell two affordable models, including the very reasonably priced Kitsuma Air which we bought for testing. This is the least expensive dropper with an adjustable air spring that we've ever seen or heard of, so we were quick to snatch one up and see how it compares to the competition.
Smoothness and Functionality
We've had experience with Tranz-X dropper posts in the past, as they have come spec'd on less expensive complete bikes for a while now. While not particularly flashy, they have always worked reliably enough. Considering the impressively reasonable price of the Kitsuma Air, we set our expectations for its performance relatively low to match. From the minute we installed this post on our test bike, however, it exceeded those expectations and easily bested several more expensive competitors with its super-smooth, consistent, and dependable performance.
One of the first things we noticed bout the Kitsuma Air was how smooth it felt in its travel in compression and extension. The 26mm black anodized stanchion glides friction-free, with an impressively buttery, hitchless feel. When cycling the post through its travel by hand, there was no gritty or grainy feel whatsoever. It requires moderate force to compress it compared to some droppers, but it falls easily beneath a rider without the need to consciously weight it to make it drop. We ran our test post at 280psi, the low end of the recommended pressure range, and it had a nice quick return with a quiet but audible noise at top out. The Tranz-X 1x remote has a light lever feel and good ergonomics, making it easy to reach and press when you want to raise or lower your saddle.
Our test post felt very sturdy, with only a touch of movement in the form of side to side or fore-aft saddle play. Throughout the test period, it also never developed any sag or gave us any reasons to question its durability. Tranz-X claims a 10-minute service for the Kitsuma Air, and they sell replacement cartridges, bushings, brass keys, dust wipers, and saddle clamp hardware for those who like to do their own maintenance and rebuilds.
The Kitsuma Air has a relatively standard 2-bolt saddle clamp. There's nothing exciting or innovative about it, but it gets the job done and leaves little to complain about. It holds the saddle rails securely, and ours was creak-free throughout the test period.
The adjustable air spring valve is hidden beneath the saddle clamp at the top of the post. After our initial saddle installation, we realized the pressure in the post was a little low and we completely removed the saddle clamp to access the valve. The upper and lower halves of the clamp are marked with small arrows, making it easy to get them lined up the right way when putting them back on. The saddle clamp bolts are relatively long, and should you need to swap your saddle you can typically get them loose enough to slide the rails in and out of the clamp without removing them fully. Once we got our saddle back on the bike, we adjusted its angle and fore-aft position, and we haven't had to touch it since. The clamp has remained noise-free and the bolts haven't worked their way loose.
The Kitsuma Air is sold as a post only, so you can choose to use whatever remote you want with it. That said, Traz-X does sell their own remote that comes in three different flavors; 1x under-mount, 2x vertical, or the Hot Lap Drop Bar Lever. Tranz-X sells the 1x and 2x remotes for $29, while the Hot Lap will set you back $39. We bought the 1x option to test along with the Kitsuma Air dropper.
This affordable remote lever comes with a cable, housing, a cable bushing, and a ferrule to cap the cut end of the cable. The remote comes in two pieces, a hinged clamp and the remote itself, plus all the necessary hardware to attach the two. Installing the remote on the handlebar is quite easy thanks to the hinged clamp, and dialing it in to the perfect position is easy thanks to about 3/4 of an inch of lateral adjustability at the clamp-remote interface. The clamp-remote interface also allows the remote to be articulated slightly to get it closer or further from the handlebar. The cut end of the cable is at the remote, where it is held in place with a set screw on the back of the thumb paddle. The large textured thumb paddle is easy to find with the thumb, and it requires a light to moderate actuation force. When adjusted properly, it only takes about 1/3 of the throw of the lever to actuate the post, and it can be feathered to modulate the rate of return. While it isn't particularly fancy, we found it to work well, and we were very impressed by its low price. Our only gripe with the 1x remote is that it hangs a little lower below the handlebar than most, making it potentially prone to knee strikes or damage in the event of a crash.
Considering its drop length and price, the 200mm Kitsuma Air is reasonably lightweight. The weight of the post only is 611g, plus 51g for the remote, and 70g of cable and housing. This brings its total weight as tested to 732-grams. While that is among the heaviest posts in the test, bear in mind that this post has 200mm of drop. Tranz-X claims a weight of 535-grams for the 150mm version (post only) in the 30.9mm diameter.
When you break down the weight of the Kitsuma Air into grams per milliliter of travel, it comes out to 3.7g/mm, which is quite impressive. In a sport where people pay a premium price for lighter weight components, the Kitsuma breaks the mold with a very impressive price to weight ratio.
Ease of Setup
The setup of the Kitsuma Air was relatively easy as internally routed droppers are concerned. Once the challenging task of routing the housing through your frame is finished, it takes only about 15 minutes to complete the remaining installation. The cut end of the cable is at the remote, which is typically much easier to deal with. Plus, the post comes with two different cable bushings to work with whatever style of remote you have.
Since we tested the Kitsuma Air with the Tranz-X 1x remote, the cut end of the cable was at the remote. Starting at the bottom of the post, feed the cable through the small black cable bushing until the barrel/lead end of the cable is nestled in the bushing. Next feed the cable through the housing and place the cable bushing in the cradle of the actuator at the bottom of the post. The slotted housing stop makes it easy to get the end of the housing into position at the bottom of the post. As you insert the post into the frame, slowly draw the cable and housing out of the frame at the front end of the bike. The remote has a hinged clamp, so it is very easy to mount on the handlebar. Feed the loose end of the cable into the barrel adjuster on the remote, then tighten the pinch bolt/set screw. Cut the excess cable, and crimp the end with the included ferrule. Adjust your cable tension with the barrel adjuster if necessary. You may also need to add air pressure to the post to get it within the recommended range of 280-300psi. To adjust the air pressure, you will need to remove the saddle clamp to access the valve. Mount your saddle, adjust your saddle height, and you are good to go.
The days of dropper posts being prohibitively expensive are gone, and the Kitsuma Air is an exceptional value. This is the least expensive dropper we have ever tested, and it works as well as models that cost double. Sold as a post only, the Kitsuma Air can be used with whatever remote you choose or already have. Tranz-X's affordable remote levers also make it easy to get a complete quality, reliable dropper with an adjustable air spring for under two hundred bucks. It also comes backed with a 2-year warranty should any issues arise, and it comes with a 30-day return policy if aren't satisfied with your purchase. If the Kitsuma Air is still a little too rich for your blood, Tranz-X also makes the Kitsuma ($135) and the Skyline ($99).
The Tranz-X Kitsuma Air is bound to make some waves in the dropper post market. With a very reasonable price and performance that rivals the more expensive competition, it was easy to give this post our Best Buy Award. While it may not have the name recognition or bling factor of the bigger and more well-known manufacturers, this post is smooth, reliable, and gets the job done for less.
— Jeremy Benson