We set out to find the best dropper post for your bike. After researching over 30 models, we purchased 7 of the top posts and rigorously field-tested each one — all while riding the trails of Lake Tahoe and northern California. Each was put through its paces while climbing and descending for hundreds of miles on steep and technical trails, requiring frequent changes in saddle height. We also tested them side-by-side in a controlled environment on the custom-made OutdoorGearLab dropper post tester for a more in-depth comparative analysis. During our trial period, we scrutinized each contender to evaluate its performance, and more importantly, how they compare to each other.
The Best Dropper Post for Your Mountain Bike
Analysis and Award Winners
This summer, our expert testers pedaled up and barreled down the Tahoe trails in search of the best dropper. They found that the 9Point8 Fall Line offered the best performance overall, with minimal cons. Alongside a new Best Buy winner, we have also awarded a new Top Pick for Lightweight Performance to the Kind Shock LEV Integra. All three of our award winners are brand new to our review.
9Point8 Fall Line
The relatively small Canadian brand, 9point8, has been producing quality products like the Fall Line for a few years and they have quickly made a name for themselves as an innovator in the market. This is the first time the 9point8 Fall Line has been in the OutdoorGearLab dropper test, and it took the competition by storm, taking home our Editors' Choice award. The Fall Line features 9point8's own cable actuated mechanical brake system, known as DropLoc, to lock the post anywhere within its travel range. It has an adjustable air spring so you can dial in the rate of return to your liking, and we found the Fall Line to have the easiest compression, as well as the most comfortable remote actuation force in our side-by-side testing. We were especially impressed by 9point8's thoughtfully designed features like their best-in-class remote lever design and saddle clamp, little things that make a big difference. The Fall Line is also backed by a two-year warranty, and parts are readily available for the home mechanics out there or in case of breakage. Talk about options! The Fall Line is available in an astounding six travel lengths, three different remotes, and in inline or offset configurations. All this comes at what we consider to be a reasonable price of $399.
Read review: 9point8 Fall Line
Best Bang for Your Buck
Crank Brothers has been at the cutting edge of mountain bike product design for over a decade. Known best for their pedals and multi-tools, they've recently entered the dropper seatpost market and produced what could be the most impressive product we have ever seen from Crank Brothers. With a retail price of $350, the Crank Brothers Highline was a shoe-in for our Best Buy award and nearly took home the Editors' Choice award; it's that good. We were especially impressed with their truly universal remote that is attached with a spherical clamp for ergonomic customization, as well as their unique saddle clamp design that made installation and removal of the seat especially easy. The Highline was also fantastically simple to install with their quick connect system and the fact that the cable gets cut and crimped at the remote end by the handlebar. It had some of the smoothest travel of all posts tested with a predetermined non-adjustable spring rate in their sealed cartridge that is backed by an industry-leading three-year warranty. The Highline had the lowest stack height of all seatposts tested, which may help some riders fit a longer dropper on their bike, and it's available in three travel lengths: 100mm, 125mm (tested), and a just-released 160mm version. We can't say enough good things about the Highline, and we think you'll love it, too.
Read review: Crank Brothers Highline
Top Pick for Lightweight Performance
Kind Shock LEV Integra
KS makes droppers, and aside from a couple of other products, that's all they do. So it's no surprise that the KS LEV Integra was our top pick for lightweight performance. Weighing in at 576g including cable, housing and polycarbonate remote, the LEV Integra was the lightest in our test by over 40g, and the only dropper to weigh less than 600g. Not only was it light, but it was also rated the third best in our performance comparison, due mostly to is smooth travel and consistently reliable performance. The KS LEV Integra underwent a full season of testing with no more than a routine replacement of the cable and housing. The KS LEV Integra features a basic but solid two-bolt saddle clamp that hides an air valve for the adjustable air spring. During our side-by-side testing, we discovered that the LEV Integra was the third easiest post to compress, and the small and straightforward remote required the second least force to actuate, both pluses in our book. Combine the KS LEV Integra's smooth and consistent performance with the fact that it retails for $379 and we've got ourselves not just a lightweight performer, but a reasonably priced one at that.
Read review: Kind Shock LEV Integra
Analysis and Test Results
Dropper seatposts are near the top of the list of the greatest innovations in mountain bike technology, literally changing the way we ride. A decade ago you were definitely in the minority if you had one of these new fangled contraptions; most people either unwilling to try something new or deal with the additional weight. Early versions were heavy, finicky and they just seemed strangely unnecessary. "How hard is it to stop and lower your seatpost," or "I just ride everything with my seatpost up," were comments commonly heard in the early days of trailside dropper seatpost debates. Slowly but surely we all gave in, until your friend without a dropper was the oddball, and it was suddenly annoying to wait as they stopped and lowered their seat for the downhill.
Nowadays, droppers have become almost universally accepted among mountain bikers and considered by many to be one of the most important parts on their bike. Raising and lowering your seat to the perfect height for climbing or descending is as simple as pushing a remote lever, and so our saddles can always be exactly where we want them. They have allowed us to ride our bikes better and more comfortably, approach trails differently, and stop far less frequently. If you don't have a dropper, we believe you should get one. You can thank us later…
Many modern bikes are often spec'd with droppers, and carbon and aluminum frames now feature holes to route cables and housing internally. The advent and adoption of simpler 1x drivetrains has cleaned up the handlebars of bikes as well, making more room for the remote actuators.
Smoothness and Functionality
Smoothness and Functionality is a metric that we use to rate the action of the seatpost in both compression and extension as well as an overall rating of its performance during its primary task of dropping and raising your seat. Is the post easy to compress, does it extend smoothly and consistently? Does it have any free play in the saddle, any sag or other flaws in its performance? Is the travel dampened at the top or bottom of the stroke? Does it have an adjustable rate of return like the Race Face Turbine or 9point8 Fall Line, or is it set at a fixed speed like the Thomson Elite Covert or Crank Brothers Highline?
Smoothness and Functionality were tested throughout hundreds of miles of riding on each dropper post individually. The posts were also run a gamut of tests and cycled through their travel hundreds of times while mounted side-by-side on a custom made OutdoorGearLab test apparatus in a controlled environment for further comparative analysis. The side-by-side testing allowed us to scrutinize every aspect of the dropper post's functionality, from the ease of actuation, compression, extension, remote ergonomics, smoothness and most importantly, this gave us the opportunity to directly compare them to each other.
Three seatposts wowed us with their unflinching smoothness. The Thomson Elite Covert, the Crank Brothers Highline, and KS LEV Integra all set the bar high with incredibly consistent smooth travel both up and down, little to no saddle play, a solid feel and predictable performance. The 9point8 Fall Line and RockShox Reverb Stealth also performed impressively well and came close to meeting the high standard set by the top scorers.
While it may seem like a mundane part of the dropper post equation, we feel that the saddle clamp is quite important and can make or break an otherwise incredible product. The saddle clamp performs the important job of holding your seat onto your dropper post, and good ones go unnoticed.
Poorly performing saddle clamps, on the other hand, are often noisy, self-loosen, or make it difficult to remove or install your saddle. All of the dropper posts we tested featured a two-bolt head design, fore and aft, to adjust the angle and grab hold of the seat rails. Several of the posts hide a valve to adjust the air pressure in or under the saddle clamp. The 9point8 Fall Line was the highest scorer in this rating, featuring an innovative design that allows for easier installation of your saddle, independent angle and fore-aft adjustment, and quick and easy access to the air valve. The Crank Brothers Highline came in a close second with their unique slotted head and swiveling design, a user-friendly departure from the standard two-bolt saddle clamp.
All of the droppers we tested are actuated by a handlebar-mounted remote for quick and easy access on the fly. Not all dropper remotes are created equal, however, as some have better designs and functionality than others. The remote design that works best for you may be dependent on your drivetrain as many new remotes are made to work with 1x systems and mount in the spot where front shifters used to live, while others may function better with a 2x or 3x system.
We took many factors into account when testing the remotes of the various test posts, including ergonomics, mounting positions, actuation force and compatibility with shifters or brake levers. It is worth noting that we only tested the remotes that came with our dropper posts, and many offer a variety of different remote options for various setups which we will mention in the individual reviews. Our favorite remote lever design was included with the 9point8 Fall Line. The Thumb lever that came with the Fall Line could be oriented in some ways, vertically, horizontally, or under mounted on the left side in a 1x shifter configuration. The Crank Brothers Highline had our other most favorite remote, featuring a unique spherical clamp that allowed for nearly infinite ergonomic adjustment.
Virtually all mountain bike gear is subject to weight scrutiny, and dropper posts are no exception. A dropper is heavier than a standard post, although it is one weight penalty that most riders are willing to accept. All other things being equal, lighter is typically considered better because that means your bike will weigh less. A dropper post weighs as much as the sum of its parts, so we weighed each seatpost, its cable, housing and remote, as it was mounted on our test bicycle.
The differences in weight aren't all that extreme, so we put less emphasis on this rating metric than the others, but still feel it is worthy of inclusion. The KS LEV Integra was the lightest post in our test selection, while the Thomson Covert Elite was the heavyweight, roughly 100g heavier. Interestingly, four of the posts in our test weighed within a 12g range of each other, the RockShox Reverb Stealth, 621g, The Crank Brothers Highline, 620g, the 9point8 Fall Line, 617g, and the Race Face Turbine, 609g.
Ease of Setup
Most manufacturers recommend having your dropper post installed by a professional mechanic, and we won't argue with that. Not only do we need to patronize our local bike shops to keep them around for all the other parts, service and things our bikes need, but they will probably do a great job at this somewhat arduous and occasionally complicated task.
If you're the DIY type, then you're probably interested in how easy it is to install your dropper post yourself. We became quite proficient at installing and removing dropper posts and identifying the ease or challenge of each model. This includes everything from attaching the remote to the handlebar, how the cable attaches to the post and remote, and how field serviceable, if at all, the post is. Arguably the most difficult part of installing any internally routed seatpost is running the housing through the frame; after that, most models vary in setup. Many new models like the 9point8 Fall Line, Race Face Turbine, and the Crank Brothers Highline have "quick connect" systems which, once installed, allow for tool-free removal of the post from the frame.
We found in cable actuated systems that where you have to cut the cable, either the remote end or the post end, makes a big difference in ease of setup. For example, the barrel, or lead, end of the cable is connected at the bottom of the seatposts on the Fox Transfer Performance, Crank Brothers Highline, and Thomson Elite Covert posts. We found all of these posts to be much easier to set up as you can pull tension on the cable and cut it at the remote end by the handlebar, giving you more space to work with, resulting in less guessing and checking.
Both the 9point8 Fall Line and the Race Face Turbine use a cable-actuated system and quick connect at the bottom of the post for tool-free removal of the post from the frame. This system was significantly more finicky and challenging to install than other cable actuated posts. The RockShox Reverb Stealth also has installation challenges because they use hydraulic fluid in their housing to actuate the seatpost. These three dropper posts were the most challenging to install, and we would recommend leaving the task to the professionals at your local bike shop.
Types of Dropper Seatposts
All of the dropper posts in our test selection feature infinite travel adjustment, meaning they can stop anywhere in their range of travel between fully compressed and fully extended. Infinite adjustment is becoming the standard, but there are a handful of dropper posts are on the market that offer multi-positional, or indexed, travel. Multi-positional posts have traditionally had three travel positions, fully extended, fully compressed and one in between.
The internal routing of dropper seatpost cables and housing is becoming the norm for modern mountain bikes and all of the droppers in our test selection feature this style of routing. As the name suggests, internally routed posts feature designs with the cables and housing running inside of the frame, and the attachment is at the bottom of the seatpost. This style of routing helps to clean up the appearance of your bike by limiting the number of cables and housing attached to the outside of it. There are also many externally routed dropper posts on the market that are compatible with frames that do not allow for internal routing. Externally routed dropper posts are typically easier to install but have a less clean appearance.
Dropper posts are available in various lengths of travel, typically 100mm, 125mm, and 150mm, with a few brands now starting to offer longer lengths up to 170-175mm, even 200mm. Our Editors' Choice award winner, the 9point8 Fall Line, is available in an astounding six travel lengths. What length post you choose varies based on personal preference, but also what can fit on your bike depending on your height, seat tube length, and overall seatpost length. All of the posts we tested are available in the standard seat tube diameters of 30.9mm and 31.6mm, with a few being offered in the newer diameter of 34.9mm.
Nearly all dropper posts feature a hydraulic cartridge or air spring that is cable actuated. The RockShox Reverb Stealth is one exception that is actuated hydraulically, utilizing hydraulic fluid in the housing as opposed to a standard cable. The chart below shows the overall rankings of the dropper posts in our test with the 9point8 Fall Line and Crank Brothers Highline coming out on top based on our rating criteria, which are explained in detail below.
Do you want to improve your bike and body position while riding, always have your seatpost in the right spot without stopping, and at the push of a button? Of course you do! We feel that a dropper seatpost is an upgrade to your bicycle that is worth its weight in gold. The new crop of dropper posts on the market only continue to evolve and improve, so which one is right for you? We hope that our detailed comparative analysis helps you make an informed decision if you are in the market for a dropper post, which you absolutely should be if you don't have one already.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.