As XCO and XCM courses become more technical, with significant rock gardens and drops on many descents, cross-country riders are recognising the value of a dropper seatpost.
Mountain bike design has trended to a more progressive overall geometry of late, with XC frames becoming slacker and longer. The result of this geometry evolution is superior steering responses, stability and confidence when speeding downhill on technical terrain.
The 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 beget innovation. As a result, there are now feathery light dropper seatposts, which might be short in terms of comparative travel, but ideal for gram counting XC riders.
Best short travel dropper seatposts
The German dropper post specialist 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. 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. Its 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 65mm of drop.
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 and on the Ci, it manages to deliver 65mm of buttery smooth drop and return action.
Perhaps the clearest indication of its uncompromised design is the Ci’s remote. Shaped to be ergonomically intuitive to operate, even when you are nearly at your threshold, the Ci remote is also 50g lighter than other KS droppers. For riders with frames that have 27.2mm seat tubes, this is the lightweight dropper of choice.
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 seatpost 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 pressurised internals.
Composite construction helps reduce mass, which makes the D 232 a remarkably light dropper, at only 369g.
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 unrivalled. This Polish dropper seatpost looks fantastically exotic, with its 3K weave carbon-fibre 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 being 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 75m of drop. Where this 9point8 product really shines, its handlebar ergonomics. With a choice of three remotes for the Fall Line R, 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 our 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-fibre seat rails.
Like all Specialized Command dropper seatposts, the BlackLite uses a three-position system, allowing you an intermediate drop setting, for technical climbing.
Those XC riders who need to get their saddle setback further for an ideal pedal position will find the BlackLite is a great option. Its head structure is offset, instead of inline, which allows for much greater seat setback than most rivals.
A cable-operated quick-release on the BlackLite's head makes for convenient setup and removable of this Specialized dropper.
If you need a dropper within narrow budget constraints, Brand-X always delivers. With its Ascend CX you get 85mm 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 which is on trend with current stealth cable routing requirements, the Ascend XC also has a micro-adjust clamping mechanism, to keep your seat angle exactly as you wish it to be.
Tips on short-travel droppers
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.
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 organise all your handlebar controls in a manner which is most ergonomically intuitive to use. In this regard, 9point8's different remotes and triggers are particularly good.