Many mountain bikes come with special seat posts that are able to drop at the flick of a switch. These dropper posts work by connecting a switch on the handlebar to a telescoping seat post via a cable or hydraulic hosing. The technology is similar to what makes your gears shift and your brakes stop. Like any new technology, you need to assess whether it’s something you need for your riding. While droppers offer many advantages in technical terrain, they are another switch on your handlebar, added weight on climbs and another bike part to purchase and maintain.
YOU DEFINITELY DO NOT NEED A DROPPER POST IF …
While it may be tempting to extend the use of dropper posts to the road for aerodynamics or to disciplines like cyclocross or gravel that occasionally deal with steep drops, the reality is these other disciplines feature climbs and extended periods where you will not need to drop the post. The infrequent need to drop a seat post to clear a drop or obstacle, and the added weight make dropper posts unnecessary.
YOU MIGHT NEED A DROPPER IF …
For mountain bikers, the dropper post is worth a look, but there are several reasons it might not be for you. If you ride or race downhill, you don’t need to pedal seated very often, and when you do it is likely a casual pedal from the coffee shop to the lift. If you have to pedal hard on flatter terrain in races or you choose to pedal to the lift, you may be better on a trail bike or you may be one of the few downhillers who custom fit a dropper on their bike.
For recreational and trail riding mountain bikers, the dropper post is becoming more common, but if your trails don’t involve many drops, jumps or steep descents, you may find yourself not using the post very often and not reaping any benefits. You might be better saving your money and keeping your bike light and simple.
For cross-country riders and racers, the dropper post is a gray area. Most racers are not using them. But as Olympic Cross Country (XCO) courses become more technical, they are starting to pop up. Because there are more jumps and steep drops many riders, including reigning world champion Kate Courtney, have been experimenting with dropper posts on certain courses. With a dropper post, you are able to stay centered and low over the bike, which inspires a lot of confidence and can help you go faster.
YOU LIKELY NEED A DROPPER IF …
The biggest reason you need a dropper post is to quickly go between seated pedaling and standing to navigate steep drops or jumps. Enduro riders need to be able to pedal hard over long distances and varied terrain, but they also need to clear very technical terrain so they get the most use out of a dropper post. If you have ever done a trail like Porcupine Rim in Moab, Utah, you know exactly what it’s like to have to pedal for a while to keep moving and then quickly have to get air over a rocky drop-off. Once you have ridden a trail like this with a dropper, there is no going back.
It is not just jumps and drop-offs that benefit from droppers. Any descent benefits from a more centered and low position, that is why downhill mountain bikers run their seats low and squat low while descending quickly. Further, any corner you do, especially bermed corners, will flow much nicer if you can stay centered rather than getting behind the saddle, which is a common reason riders struggle in berms and high-speed descents — it may not be your cornering ability holding you back from shredding those downhill corners, it may be your high seat post.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Whether you get a dropper post, or just take a look, it is worth knowing what this awesome technology is all about. If you have interest in exploring a range of trails and pushing your limits on technical descents, corners and drop-offs, then it is likely a dropper post is for you.