Dropper seatposts might have been popularized by enduro bike riders, but as brands have developed XC-specific options, the best short-travel dropper posts have now become increasingly prevalent on XC bikes, too.
As XCO and XCM courses become more technical, with significant rock gardens and drops on many descents, cross-country riders are recognizing the value of having the best short-travel dropper posts.
Mountain bike design has trended to a more progressive overall geometry of late, which has resulted in cross-country mountain bikes becoming slacker and longer. The result of this geometry evolution is superior steering responses, stability and confidence when speeding downhill on technical terrain.
The best dropper seatpost is crucial in extracting the best from your XC mountain bike’s geometry, as it allows you to be in a lower position, effectively descending 'inside' the frame instead of on top of it.
XC riders initially resisted dropper seatposts, due to the weight burden, but demand will always father innovation. As a result, the best short-travel dropper posts are now feathery light, which might be short in terms of comparative travel, but ideal for gram counting XC riders.
Best short-travel dropper posts
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The Transfer SL dropper post from suspension manufacturer Fox is the ultimate lightweight dropper post option for XC and gravel riders. It features less travel and lighter weights compared to the standard Transfer that's needed more for trail and enduro riders.
The internals of the Transfer uses a coil spring rather than an air spring, and the post is suited for multiple seat post diameters. Appealing to XC and gravel riders, the post has shaved off 25 percent of the standard Transfer's heft.
If you're only looking for a little bit of drop then the 50mm option is perfect, though the Transfer SL is offered up to 100mm to get the seat out of the way on technical downhills. The Performance Elite model offers great value including almost all of the features of the more expensive Factory version.
Read our full review of the Fox Transfer SL to see why we awarded it 4.5 stars.
Crankbrothers' existing dropper posts are super reliable, but they are heavy and not available in sizes suitable for XC and gravel riders. That's where the brand's new Highline dropper post comes in. Weighing in at 459g, the Highline offers 60-125mm of travel in a 27.2mm diameter.
That smaller diameter is a crucial feature that allows the post to be used on gravel bikes. There is also the option of buying a remote lever that is able to be mounted onto drop bars. So far the Highline has proved to be a lightweight and smooth dropper option for XC and gravel use.
Read more about why in our full Crankbrothers Highline review.
The German dropper post specialist Bike Yoke makes some impressive claims for its Divine SL. Construction and material composition is decidedly premium with titanium saddle bolts and forged clamping plates. Its tubing profile is also tapered.
All of these engineering features help the Divine SL to weigh only 385g, whilst still providing 80mm of drop. There are now 100- and 125mm options as well, which obviously will weigh a bit more. Bike Yoke’s industrial designers have also been mindful of compatibility for those who might prefer running 2x drivetrains.
The Divine SL features two remote options. The Triggy X remote is a left-side under configuration, whilst the 2x remote can be used on either side of the handlebar, using a push function to trigger.
Available in a generous selection of diameters, the Lev Ci is an XC racer’s dream seatpost. The entire design logic aims to reduce mass without sacrificing functionality, whilst delivering 75mm of drop. The Lev is also now available in travel stretching up to 175mm so there's an option for every rider.
Loyal users of the KS brand droppers always comment on their exceptionally smooth actuation and return action. The company’s patented unidirectional roller clutch bearing system is responsible for this, making for buttery smooth movement of the saddle.
Perhaps the clearest indication of its uncompromised design is the Ci’s remote (sold separately), shaped to be ergonomically intuitive to operate, even when you are nearly at your threshold.
An outlier in terms of design, the DT Swiss D 232 is operated by a simple spring. Famed for the durability and mechanical excellence of its hubs, DT Swiss has applied much of that engineering focus to its dropper seat post design.
Part of the 232 system, which is a collection of DT Swiss components specifically developed for XC riders and racers, this dropper is exceptionally compact. It offers only 60mm of travel, operated by a spring, bearing and bushing system, removing the complexity of pressurized internals.
DT Swiss claims that a home mechanic should be capable of accessing and servicing the D 232's internals, in only five minutes. Maintenance merely requires some grease and is free of any propriety tooling. Best of all, it can be done without removing the D 232 from your frame.
If appearance equals performance, the JBG 2 DPS is unrivaled. This Polish dropper seatpost looks fantastically exotic, with its 3K weave carbon fiber exterior.
There is no arguing its lightweight credentials, with the JBG2 delivering 60mm of drop and a total mass of only 240g. It features an encased design, with the seat mast sliding over the main post tube.
Unfortunately, the striking aesthetic is somewhat undone by external cable routing, which can be an issue, as most contemporary XC frames are designed for internal stealth routing. For larger riders, the 95kg user weight limit might be problematic.
The Fall Line R is preciously light, at only 322g, whilst delivering 75-150mm of drop. Where this 9point8 product really shines is its handlebar ergonomics. With a choice of three remotes for the Fall Line R (sold separately), you'll never suffer handlebar control-management anxiety.
There are over and underbar remotes, depending on your thumb action preference, but perhaps the most impressive Fall Line R feature is its Trigger option. This is effectively a compact right-hand brake lever to operate the dropper.
Illustrating its product awareness and design logic, 9point8’s clamping system is shaped to accommodate whichever seat rails you might be riding: round or oval. The tension system also plays nice with more exotic titanium and carbon-fiber seat rails.
TranzX dropper posts are one of the most common specced droppers on budget and mid-tier mountain bike models and for good reason. They offer excellent performance at a fair price.
Take for example the Hot Lap, the brand's dedicated short-travel dropper seat post for XC or gravel riders. It brings 50mm of travel to a package that's 430g for the shortest option. That's combined with a lightweight hydraulic cartridge and internal cable routing.
The brand says that the Hot Lap also works for bikes that have odd shapes that other mainstream droppers have trouble accommodating, like those with horizontal top tubes or longer seat tubes.
If you're looking for more travel, TranzX offers a number of other dropper options as well.
If you need a dropper within narrow budget constraints, Brand-X always delivers. With its Ascend CX, you get 85 or 105mm of drop with an ergonomic paddle trigger and proven internals.
It isn't the lightest sub-100mm dropper, but for the price, Brand-X's Ascend CX provides good value. The paddle trigger actuation uses a linkage mechanism at the dropper post's underside, which prevents cable pull.
An honest product that is on-trend with current stealth cable routing requirements, the Ascend CX also has a micro-adjust clamping mechanism, to keep your seat angle exactly as you wish it to be.
Best short-travel dropper posts: What to look for
How much travel should a dropper post have?
This is entirely up to each rider, their riding style and the trails. Generally the more technical and steep the terrain is the more need you will have to drop the saddle low. That said the longer a dropper post is the heavier it will be and the more likely you are to experience incompatibility with frames. The biggest limiter on how long a dropper you can run is the insertion depth of your seat tube.
Some frames, particularly hardtails, will have a full length seat tube so there will be no issues. That said other frames will have pivots or bottle cage mounts which limit how deep a post can be inserted in the frame so its worth checking before you make a purchase.
Are dropper posts hard to maintain?
The same principles apply to all dropper seatposts. If you are not a skilled home mechanic, it is best to avoid droppers with high-pressure ratings and complex internals.
Those mountain bikers with a modest discretionary spend on accessories should also consider how easily serviceable their short travel dropper will be and factor the cost into a yearly riding budget.
Where the market for dropper seatposts below 100mm of travel differ, is their potential to be much simpler - and robust. Some of the very short travel droppers have mechanical internals, without any pressure chambers or seals - dramatically reducing the potential maintenance burden.
By their very nature, shorter droppers apply less leverage to their seals and bushings whilst being ridden at full extension. This can translate to lower overall wear, compared to longer dropper seatposts in the realm of 150mm and beyond.
What's the best dropper post lever?
Unlike enduro and trail riders, many XC mountain bikers mount one or two suspension lockout levers on the handlebar. If you are running a lockout, the best advice is to seek a dropper with multiple remote options, to ensure you can organize all your handlebar controls in a manner that is most ergonomically intuitive to use. In this regard, 9point8's different remotes and triggers are particularly good.