Monday, August 15, 2011

Living the Low Life..

...Or "How I am learning to love being dropped".

The area I ride in is not typically that steep or super-techy. But every so often there are times when it makes a lot of sense to get your weight back behind the saddle or taste the wrath of gravity. In the early days, we had a product called a Hite Rite. It was a simple spring that, when you were riding along and needed a lower seat position, allowed you to open the seat post clamp quick release and push the saddle down with your body weight, then close the QR again. Opening it up again allowed the spring to pop the saddle back up and off you went. I still have one of those in a box somewhere.
In case you need to be convicted about your descending.

However, as time went by and everyone got in a weight weenie state of mind, we ditched our QRs and just went to single bolt clamps.  So much for the Hite Rite.  And, I basically learned to ride steep things with the saddle up.  No biggie 99% of the time.

So fast forward about 20 years and here I am, still not dropping the saddle, although baggy shorts (when I wear them...which is not often), are an incentive to drop the saddle or get caught up in the web of crotch material and die.  But a new product has arisen in that time that really is the logical evolution of the Hite Rite, something basically referred to as a 'dropper post'.  They give you a multi position option for lowering the have a bar mounted control so you do not have to ride with one hand to enable it, and pop the saddle back up to normal whenever you are ready to go.  A bit heavy and sometimes mechanically challenged, the dropper post changed the game and no one with an all mountain or heavy duty trail bike would be caught dead without one if they had their druthers.  I basically ignored them.

So about a year ago I was sent a Specialized Command Post to try which is Specialized's version of the dropper post.  The product manager was pretty stoked about the bennies of the post and how it transforms some aspects of riding.  I was skeptical, but I mounted it on the Epic Marathon and gave it a shot.  It did not last long on there.  One, I was bummed at the thought of adding any weight on the bike.  Two, when I did drop it, I felt out of balance, like I lost some control of the bike.  Three, well, I really did not need it.

The Command Post came off and went back into the box.

A year or so later, I am chasing the rabbit of a Global Marketing wonk down a trail in Colorado on a new FSR 29er with 5.5" of travel and a dropper post on it and I have one of those 'light bulb' moments.  On that trail, littered with tight turns, root drops, etc, and with all that travel in the suspension that encouraged speed and daring, the dropper post was once again back in my mind as something worth having.

And now, as I have been on an FSR of my own over the last few months, the Specialized Blacklite dropper post has become indispensable.  Really, I would not want to ride this bike without it.

Of course it makes sense that for rough and fast trails, getting air, etc, the nature of the bike is accentuated by the ability to get the saddle down and out of the way.  The bike becomes a big BMX-er then, and you can soak up bumps with the knees and, of course, get behind the saddle and then quickly back over it again.  It encourages fun and a 'stunty', playful feel that I do not get, say, on the SS hardtail with 80mm of travel.

The high life.  Now it's up.... it's down.  Low and loving it.

But the other day I was dropping down a typical So Cal singletrack, steepish, loose, rutted, and bermed in the turns.  I did not really need to get behind the saddle...not that steep...but the dropper post allows you to get LOW.  And, I am here to tell 'ya, LOW is where it is at.  The ability to lower your body weight on the bike in turns and downhills is golden.  In fact, I think many times when we used to get behind the saddle on steep parts, what we really wanted to do was get lower, we just did not know it.  getting lower allows you to stay centered on the bike and retain better steering, where being totally committed to be behind a raised saddle takes away too much steering and braking control.

Think about this.  If you could flip a lever and turn you bike into a recumbent, where you were seated at just above the BB level, you could stay right in the middle of the wheels and never go over the bars.  So getting low allows for your body weight to be centered and low AND you can still get behind the saddle and have the option of scratching your butt on the rear tire if you need to.  I actually (despite the pic above) seldom use the full 'slammed' position, but the 'cruiser' setting is about perfect.

I predict that more and more XC Trailbikes will be spec'd with dropper posts.  If I was at 100-120mm+ of travel and I had any pretenses of rough trail use, I would find it hard to run sans a dropper post.  It really is that good.  For a pure XC race bike?  Well, no need for that on a groomed race course like the Leadville 100 dirt road race, but for something like the Breck 100?  Oh yeah.  That I can see.

I also predict that there are other old dogs like me who will begrudgingly try a dropper post and learn to love being dropped.  Who would have thunk it?

1 comment:

Randy said...


You are not old enough or slow enough yet to know what it's like being "dropped".

I never had any doubts about what kind of seat post my 140mm Niner WFO needed from day 1.... the Gravity Dropper was a given. Never have had a single regret about that GD seat post.