To make it simple, a dropper post is a telescopic seat post that is activated by the rider thanks to a button or lever mounted on the bike handlebars.
This type of seat is now very popular and presented as very practical by all those who use it. So for you, I have spent a few hours all the information necessary to understand its use, its advantages but also its drawbacks.
At the end of this article, “how do dropper posts work?” will no longer be a question for you.
Let’s get started.
What are the benefits of a dropper seatpost?
The main advantage of a dropper post is its adaptability.
It may seem like a little gimmick to the uninitiated, but it’s a real change of experience for those who can take advantage of it.
You have to understand that when you ride your mountain bike, the position of your body has a huge impact on your comfort, performance and safety.
Indeed, being able to sit on a high saddle when riding on a flat road or a climb to be able to use the maximum of your leg strength is important. Having a low saddle when riding downhill at full speed, when freeriding or when you want to have an aggressive ride is essential.
Dropper posts allow you to have both.
The advantage of a dropper post is that the rider can vary the height of the saddle while riding, without having to take his hands off the handlebars or stop on the side of the road. This type of post allows us to adapt to each section of the trail we ride and thus optimize our performance and safety.
Difference between internal and external cable routing
Very simple, as the title suggests:
An internal cable routing is almost invisible since the cables pass directly into the frame, in the spaces provided for this purpose.
An external routing is done outside the bike frame, everything is then visible.
The difference, beyond being aesthetic, is mainly practical. With an internal wiring, there is no problem of cable hanging down or getting caught during the ride, there is also less dirt/dust contamination, but you need to have a frame that allows this configuration.
In terms of maintenance on the other hand, an internal cable routing will be more complicated because to access it, it is necessary to remove it completely from the frame.
As for the price, dropper seat posts using external routing are for the most part less expensive.
Mechanical or hydraulic dropper posts
There are two main types of dropper posts: mechanical and hydraulic.
First, a mechanical dropper works in a fairly standard way. A cable running through a housing is used to operate the in and out system of the saddle. Very easy to maintain, the mechanical models are very efficient. However, they have one drawback. The cable can be pulled or pinched during the ride (you can almost delete this issue using an internal routing), which can then activate the saddle unintentionally, or just block its operation.
In a second step, a hydraulic dropper is operated by a lever that moves a hydraulic fluid that will raise or lower the seatpost. The hydraulic hose does not have the disadvantage of a cable and therefore will not have the problems of operation or performance that its competitor may have. However, its maintenance is much more complex and may require you to turn to the professionals at a bike shop.
Difference between a seatpost lever and a handlebar remote lever
The two main places to attach the control lever are around the post or on the handlebars.
The advantage of positioning the lever at the seatpost is the proximity between this lever and the dropper post. So, no problem of cable running everywhere, everything is in the same place. However, pressing the lever forces you to take one hand off the handlebar.
The advantage of placing the lever on the handlebar is that you don’t need to move your hand to change the height of the saddle. However, the installation is more complex due to the cable.
Clearly, my heart goes out to the second option, having to let go of the handlebars to grab a lever under your saddle is in my opinion not very practical. In the middle of a run, I want to be able to control everything while holding the handlebars. A remote lever is always a good solution.
Of course, it’s all a matter of taste and need. Identify your own in order to make the best choice.
Fixed or infinitely adjustable dropper posts?
The question may seem strange when talking about a retractable saddle. When I use the word “fixed”, I mean the notion of programmed position. Indeed, if the majority of dropper posts allow you to set the height you want in infinite configurations, some models can work on an alternation between a few pre-set positions. Practical to be sure to have an identical and repeatable saddle height configuration.
So there are 2 possibilities.
The choice of one of them is to be made. Honestly, for me this is not the most determining element since a dropper seatpost with pre-selected positions will be as efficient as the infinitely adjustable one.
However, the manufacturers seem to make an argument for reliability. The design of fixed dropper posts is simpler, making the system overall more reliable and durable.
But what about the price?
How much does a dropper seatpost cost?
On average, a telescopic seatpost costs between $100 and $800.
If the price range is that wide, you can easily imagine that the quality difference is too. My advice is to put at least 200-300 dollars into it. Stick to well-known brands like Fox so that you don’t get any unpleasant surprises and are assured of buying a nice, well-designed product that will last a long time.
Of course, buy what you can afford, but for example, not buying the cheapest model right away to save money until you can buy the next one up would allow you to get quality equipment and keep it for a long time. You will thank yourself later.
Are dropper posts worth it?
If we talk about the system that offers the possibility to change the seat height while riding. Yes, it is clearly an improvement with high added value for the one who takes advantage of it.
If we talk about the models of such dropper posts, it depends.
Generally, the entry level models around or under 100$ are horrible and won’t last long.
The wireless models over $800 are very efficient, high quality, easy to install and use. But is it worth the price? It’s hard to say.
My advice is to stay humble, buy a nice product at the right and affordable price, that will satisfy you in your sport practice and will change your biking experience for the better.
Can I put a dropper seatpost on any bike?
Dropper posts can be installed on a wide range of bike models.
First of all, you have to think about the use of your bike and identify your needs before thinking about any installation. Mounting such a seat on a city bike will not be optimal…
Then, depending on your bike frame, on the diameter of the seat tube, if it has the necessary space in the seat tube (travel length), if the cables can be routed internally or externally, you will know if you can install a dropper post or not.
Who should get one?
For amateurs and professionals who like to alternate trail types and riding styles, this is a go to.
All the feedback we get on the use of dropper posts tends to be the same: it’s a revolution in the life of a rider. Once used, you can’t do without it.
However, is it useful for ALL riders? No. If you are used to ride your mountain bike only a few times a year and ride it on big flat roads, you absolutely do not need it. Save your money for something more useful.
If you are curious to try something new and customize your bike with something practical, it’s worth thinking about.
Is it better to leave dropper post up or down?
Always leave the saddle in the upper position. In the down position, the spring that allows the saddle to rise is compressed, and the fluid used for the hydraulic operation of the post can create a harmful excess pressure. Leaving it in this position for a long period of time could damage and shorten the life of your equipment.
Why is my dropper post going up so slowly?
This can happen when the seatpost tube is too tight. Make sure you have not over tightened the seatpost clamp.
Remember, for optimal use and function, it is essential to maintain your post regularly.
Why does my dropper post go down when I sit on it?
Usually, it is because the cable is too tight, maybe it is pinched or not positioned properly and is then stretched without pressure on the lever.
Remember, if the dropper post goes down as soon as you put some weight on it, it means that it reacts as if the control lever was pressed. His setup is probably bad.
Now that you know how bicycle dropper posts work, and that they are a very practical improvement in experience, comfort and safety, take the time to define your needs and determine which model would be best for you, at the best price.
In the same way, you will need to know how to position your saddle and yourself on it.