Neater and more reliable, stealth droppers are a great upgrade. Here’s a round up of the best
Dropper posts mean you can change your saddle height on-the-fly and, despite the obvious weight penalty, that has to be a good thing in anyone’s book.
Providing your frame is compatible, fitting a stealth dropper post will route the remote hose (or cable) internally, which means there’s no exposed cable to scuff the paintwork or flap about and catch on the rear tyre. It’s cleaner, neater and, on cable-operated posts, keeps dirt away from the release mechanism, improving reliability.
Fitting a cable-controlled dropper is much easier but you may run into issues with cable routing as it usually runs through the bottom bracket shell. This can create a tight curve in the outer casing, causing the inner cable to bind and the post to feel sluggish or slow to operate. It all depends on the frame it’s being fitted to.
With a fully-sealed hydraulic hose there are no such issues with navigating tight spaces, or sharp bends that create excess friction, and they will generally require less maintenance.
However, you may need to cut the hose to length and bleed the system, which requires a specific kit; this can be a bit of a daunting process if you’ve never done it before.
There are pros and cons to both designs but whatever stealth dropper you choose, having the cable tucked inside the frame will look neater and require less maintenance than one flapping about on the outside.
Dropper Post buyer’s guide
Ride height is the distance from the base of the collar to the saddle clamp. There can be up to 30mm difference in the height of the posts, so if you’re a short rider, or don’t have a lot of post showing on your current frame, you may have to opt for one with a shorter 100mm drop.
Most dropper posts come in two common seat tube sizes — 30.9 and 31.6mm. If you fit a shim (USE Seatpost Shim, £6.99) to a 30.9mm post, you can run it in a 31.6 or 34.9mm frame. Unfortunately, there’s limited choice if you have an old-school frame with a 27.2mm seat tube.
Fitting an internally routed dropper post can be a head-banging experience, so to make the process easier, we recommend Park Tools’ IR-1 Internal Routing Kit. It’s pricey, at £49.99, but it’s the best tool for installing internal cables and you can also use it for your derailleur and brakes.
Most droppers come with a simple remote that mounts on top of the bar between the grip and brake lever. Those on the cable-operated posts have cable tension adjustment and often a noodle guide to route the cable away from the brake lever.
If you’re running a single-ring drivetrain, you may want to try an under-bar remote. This design is tucked neatly out of the way, is more ergonomic and less likely to get damaged in a crash.
Crank Brothers HighLine
I’ve had the post on my bike for the last four months, and so far I’ve not had a single issue with reliability. There’s a little bit of play in the shaft — like most droppers — but it hasn’t got worse. Neither has the action — I’ve operated the post hundreds of times and it’s still smooth, with no stickiness in the cable or remote. Return speed isn’t the fastest, but it tops out with a soft clunk, so you always know it’s fully extended.
RockShox Reverb Stealth
The Reverb Stealth is lightweight, has a low ride height and offers trouble-free performance. It’s also available in a load of options: three drops, two lengths and two sizes. It might be getting old but it’s still the best on the market.
Giant Contact SL Switch
At over 600g, the Contact SL Switch isn’t the lightest cable actuated dropper on test, but the extra sizes, dual routing and low price make it ideal for new users.
KS LEV Integra
The KS Lev Integra is smooth, doesn’t rattle, comes in a range of options and has a relatively low ride height for the amount of drop. It’s also great value and a reasonable weight.
Nukeproof Oklo Air Internal
This is a good value option that has plenty of drop and is easy to set up. It’s a shame it’s carrying a bit of extra weight, is too tall, and sluggish on the return.
X-Fusion Hilo Strate
The Hilo dropper is lightweight and easily boasts the best remote lever on test, but for a £300 post, there’s a bit too much play in the shaft, and the fact it pulls up when you carry your bike over a stile or stream, can get pretty tiring.
Compared to a Reverb, the Easton Haven is similar in weight and ride height, but it’s £30 cheaper and has less play between the upper and lower shafts. We haven’t rated it as highly because it’s not fit-and-forget, and we think the under-bar remote should be included in the price, not as a £50 up-charge.
While Nukeproof’s OKLO is the cheapest post on test, it’s not the best value. It’s only a fiver less than the Giant Contact Switch, but it’s only available in 31.6mm, which limits the frames it’ll fit.
This happens to be the internal diameter of a Nukeproof seat tube, though, so it’s totally understandable. It’s also the heaviest post on test, and the longest. This extra length may not matter for tall riders, but shorter riders will struggle to get the right saddle height.
We really like the BAT remote that comes with the X-Fusion post. It’s perfect if you have ditched the front shifter, and it will even work with other cable-operated dropper posts. It’s available separately from Upgrade for £34.99.
The classy remote wasn’t enough to save the X-Fusion, though, because the post has a rough action, exhibits noticeable play, and, worst of all, it pulls up when you lift the bike by the saddle. This is really just an annoyance, but it’s a trait we first encountered on the original Maverick Speedball 10 years ago, and we think it’s about time X-Fusion fixed it.
If the X-Fusion won’t stay down, the KS won’t come up. We’ve experienced this ‘stuck down’ issue with a handful of KS droppers in the past, but it’s never been this bad. The post itself is top quality, and has the least amount of play here. It stays that way too; there are couple of KS posts floating about on mbr test bikes, and they’re all still rock-solid.
The very first dropper posts had pre-set levels, where you’d drop the post in stages. They worked fine, but infinitely adjustable posts let you set the drop anywhere between the high and low limits, so your saddle is always at precisely the right height.
Specialized’s Command Post IRCC is a sort of hybrid of the two designs; it has pre-sets as well as a fine-tune adjustment that allows you to be more exact with positioning. It’s not quite as intuitive as a fully infinite design when making small height changes, but if you spend a lot of time at the extremes, it’s a great dropper.
The two best stealth droppers in this test are separated by £200, but we’d fit either one on our own bikes. Available in 100, 125 and 150mm drop, and convertible to internal and external routing, the Giant Contact SL Switch is a fantastic post for the money. With the cash saved, you could buy one of the under-bar remotes and have a great set-up.
Last time we tested dropper posts, the RockShox Reverb came out top, and it’s no different this time round. The reason we rate the Reverb is down to consistency and reliability. A Reverb can be left in the shed all winter, and will work first time come spring.
We would like to see a dedicated under-bar remote as an option, but if you need a post that can be routed in the most convoluted way through your frame, and still work flawlessly, this is it. Just make sure you shop around, because at full retail it is too expensive.