Guide to Bikepacking With a Dropper Post
Bikepacking with a dropper post can be revolutionary, especially when the ride involves singletrack and technical descents. Some of us on the team place a high priority on integrating a dropper seat post into our trail and gravel bikepacking setups, but there are a few factors to consider before jumping in. How do I select the right dropper post? Which ones are durable, reliable, and powerful enough to hoist a load? Which seat packs will work? Here’s our full guide…
The dropper seatpost is arguably one of the most significant innovations that’s been developed in the mountain bike industry. Over the last several years, they’ve started finding their way onto gravel bikes too. And for good reason. They’ve essentially changed the way we ride, providing a multitude of benefits. For many of us on the BIKEPACKING.com team, using them has nearly become just as much a part of the cycling experience as shifting gears.
The obvious advantage is that droppers allow you to lower your center of gravity and maintain control over technical terrain. But they also allow you to stay comfortable, rest your back, and give your hands a break by providing the opportunity to shift your riding position while freewheeling on descents. In addition, they make it easy to drop your saddle and comfortably rest when stopped and make getting on and off the bike that much easier. Another perk for those of us with long inseams is the ability to get the saddle out of the way when tackling technical obstacles. This makes a huge difference, even on climbs.
All that said, until just a few years ago, it was challenging to realize these benefits while bikepacking. When running a seat bag, it was usually necessary to swap the dropper for a rigid post to avoid the beefy seatpost strap damaging the dropper stanchion. And, unless you have the inseam of an NBA player, large seat packs often limit the ability to use a dropper post at all. Additionally, dropper posts haven’t historically been reliable, and taking one on a long trip abroad or deep into the backcountry was a risky proposition. Fortunately, droppers have improved greatly, bag makers have started to produce streamlined, dropper-specific seat packs, and there are a few excellent rack systems available, as well.
In this guide, we’ll explore some particulars, including what to look for when buying a dropper and a roundup of the most reliable seatposts on the market. Plus, we provide insight and links to the bags and systems designed to use with them. We’re not trying to make converts out of people who’ve yet to try bikepacking with a dropper post. Instead, we want to show mountain bikers who’ve already grown accustomed to using a dropper post that it’s doable and that all those great trail rides don’t have to be limited to a single day.
Is there a “best” dropper seatpost for bikepacking?
The Gravity Dropper was the first somewhat mainstream dropper post. It came along in the early 2000s, but it wouldn’t be until later in the decade that the idea truly took hold. RockShox and Fox both entered the dropper market, each vying for mass adoption within the mountain bike scene. Even so, it didn’t take long for the dropper seatpost to develop a stigma based on a few early models that were prone to failure. These days, there are a ton of options, most of which are far more advanced and reliable than their predecessors, and each is a bit different in design and function.
While most dropper seatposts depend on an air spring to move the post into the up position, several brands have engineered alternative systems for controlling the post’s travel. Some are fully hydraulic, some are purely mechanical, and others rely on a fully sealed hydraulic cartridge that’s actuated by a cable. Some of these systems are better than others, and while several have found success, there are other posts that we simply can’t recommend for bikepacking. Namely, some fully hydraulic actuated posts, such as the old KS Lev Integra and Rock Shox Reverb, as their internal floating piston system relies on a seal between the hydraulic piston and air spring. These types of posts develop issues when the bike is lifted by the saddle, or there is some upward force on the saddle—say, by a bouncing seat pack. Air can be sucked past the seal from the spring into the hydraulic piston, resulting in travel loss and a squishy post. As such, many of the more reliable posts used a sealed cartridge actuated by a cable. We’ve put a ton of miles on various options, and all have their unique set of strengths. Read on to find some of our favorites that have proven themselves over thousands of miles. But, before we dig in, here are a few factors to consider:
LENGTH OF TRAVEL
When choosing a dropper seatpost, length of travel is certainly the most important variable. Droppers come in all shapes and sizes and are trending toward longer travel due to riders’ desire to slam them as far down as possible for maximum effect. In our opinion, it’s pretty important to have as much travel as possible. But, at the same time, folks with shorter legs only have so much usable travel.
Most dropper-specific seat packs require between 5-8” (13-23cm) of clearance between the rear tire and the saddle. So, if you only have that much space and you’re interested in bikepacking with a dropper post, you might consider a rack and small panniers. But, if you have a foot of space (~30cm), you should be able to get away with using most of the travel in a 150mm dropper on a hardtail with a smaller seat pack. Or, on a full-suspension bike, with the same amount of space, you could consider setting your rear shock to the firm setting (if it has one) to limit its travel and use half of your dropper post’s travel. In addition, with a bikepacking load, it’s appropriate to add 10-20 psi of air pressure to your rear shock to compensate for added weight.
Shorter Stack, Longer Travel
Dropper posts are getting longer and shorter, meaning travel is getting longer, and companies are competing for the shortest stack height. In summary, this means droppers are being designed with flatter lower clamp assemblies and smaller heads so there’s as little stack height as possible between the center of the saddle rail to the bottom lip of the head (the maximum insertion point) when they’re dropped completely. These more compact designs maximize the amount of travel you can have and make posts much friendlier for shorter riders. For example, Virginia was able to easily get away with a 150mm travel model of the new Fox Transfer on her Why Wayward, whereas with previous dropper designs, she was limited to 125mm. Exact stack heights vary based on model and sometimes post length, but at the time of publication, the new Wolf Tooth Resolve has the shortest stack height on the market at 31mm. OneUp boasts a 33mm stack, and the Fox Transfer has a 38mm stack height.
Several newer dropper posts offer a travel adjustment feature that allows folks to maximize the amount of travel they can squeeze out on their bike. For example, if you can only fit a 110mm travel post, you could potentially reduce a 125mm post instead of having to get a 100mm travel version. Numerous dropper posts now provide this option. One of the first was from PNW; several of their droppers have a tool-free adjustment dial allowing you to reduce the travel in 5mm increments up to 25mm. The OneUp V2 dropper post (more on that later) also has a tool-free adjustment system using pin inserts. This allows you to reduce the travel in 10mm increments up to 20mm. The new Wolf Tooth Resolve post has an optional spacer kit that allows travel to be reduced in 5mm increments up to 50mm in total, although it requires disassembly and tools.
Power & Load Weight
When testing several dropper posts with seat packs, we tried to keep the pack and load to about 3lbs 8oz (1.6kg), which seems to be a good weight for most of the dropper posts we’ve tested and a little much for some others. Most of them had enough power to hoist that load back up to the fully extended position. However, ee’d probably recommend shooting for a weight around three pounds even, which should be a little better for most dropper posts and keep bulk to a minimum, enabling more of the dropper to be used. All that said, that’s a pretty mimimal load, so a heavier handlebar bag setup, fork bags, and/or large frame bag might be required. The other option to consider is using a rack with a dry bag or small panniers if you need extra carrying capacity at the rear of the bike.
OUR FAVORITE DROPPER POSTS
We’ve had the opportunity to try dozens of dropper posts over the years. Some have had issues, and others keep on ticking. Here are a few of our favorites.
First of all, I’ve tested a lot of droppers, putting many thousands of miles on some while bikepacking and trail riding. I’ve also killed a few of them. Those include an old Rockshox Reverb (of course), an e*thirteen mechanical post, a PNW Rainier, and a Thomson Elite, to name a few. With that said, reliability is the number one factor for my favorites list. The second factor is length. I have a massive 34” inseam, so there’s a lot of seatpost to contend with, and the more travel, the better—at least 170mm on mountain bikes. Thirdly, I use a dropper regularly while riding—even on rolling descents and technical climbs. So, I like droppers that pop up pretty quickly. There are several droppers that have impressed me on all these points over the last few years:
The BikeYoke Divine features the perfect amount of power and speed, and it apparently self-bleeds to keep it operating smoothly. Plus, it’s relatively affordable and comes in a generous 185mm travel length, which is good for my 34” inseam. BikeYoke is known for simplicity and reliability, and it’s proven itself after a lot of use. I’ve put more than 1,500 miles on this one, and it’s still going strong. I’ve even accidentally left it dropped and winched the bike up to the ceiling using my DIY storage system on a couple of occasions. There were no issues with it developing any squish as a result.
FOX TRANSFER (LATEST VERSION)
I’ve been incredibly impressed with the latest Fox Transfer. It’s one of the more powerful posts I’ve tried, has the perfect pop-up speed, and comes in long-travel 175 and 200mm versions. It’s also incredibly well-built and has a really nice clamp design with captured hardware. I published a full review here, but have since put many more miles it, amounting to well over 2,500 in total. I’ve had no issues to date, save it needing an occasional “bop” to get it to pop up after the lubricant and seals dried up.
OneUp Components V2
I’d consider myself something of a zealot when it comes to dropper post reliability. I’ve been pretty vocal about issues and findings with a lot of folks. In those conversations, several people have brought up the OneUp Components V2 dropper post and expressed ongoing success with it. I decided to give it a try and installed one on a build I’m currently testing. After a few hundred miles, it’s been good so far. It’s quick, fairly powerful, adjustable, and comes in travel lengths ranging from 90 to a whopping 240mm. It’s also the least expensive post on my list (find comparison chart below).
Wolf Tooth Resolve Dropper Post
I don’t have a ton of time on the new Wolf Tooth Resolve post yet, but it’s impressed me thus far. The Resolve not only has the shortest stack height (see Length of Travel section above), but it’s also 100% user-serviceable and self-bleeding, so it removes air from the fluid chamber when actuated. I actually tested that feature, and it works quite well; read the review here. The Resolve comes in 125, 160, and 200mm lengths and offers that quick and satisfying “thunk” when it’s engaged. I’m hoping that it proves to be very reliable as it certainly ticks all the other boxes.
ROCKSHOX REVERB AXS
I know what you’re thinking: really? Yes, the Reverb AXS has been the best dropper I’ve used since it was launched more than a year ago. Its actuation is faster than any dropper, the lever feel and click is effortless, it’s powerful, and the ease of install and uninstall is just as straightforward as mounting a regular post. The notorious issues with the hydraulic-actuated lever and the sponginess from the non-electronic Reverb have been tamed with the AXS wireless actuation and air relief valve (see video here) that quickly removes unwanted air. Because I’m not super tall, I’m stuck with using a 125mm with bikepacking bags, but I also have a 150mm for day rides, and it’s a cinch to swap between the two.
TRANZX YSI05 – SALSA OEM
This dropper is absolutely genius as it has the ability to reduce dropper travel by 30mm in 5mm increments. If you are shorter or looking for a bit less travel without using a Wolf Tooth Valais, this is a great option. For example, if you were looking for a bit more clearance for a dropper bag and the dropper was set up at 170mm, you could in theory reduce the travel to 140mm, which would allow you to bottom out much sooner, creating more space below. Adjusting the travel is as easy as unscrewing the mid-collar and adjusting the travel bushing inside.
BIKE YOKE REVIVE
Similar to what Logan stated above, the Revie is a reliable post, but what sets it apart from other droppers is the reset lever. Similar to the Reverb, this dropper is built around an internal floating piston that separates the air and oil chambers. On occasion, air reaches the oil chamber, which makes the dropper post become spongy. The reset valve allows you to remove the air in the oil chamber by a simple turn of a 4mm Allen key (see video here), whether you’re on day four of the Colorado Trail or in your garage, and that’s pretty awesome.
Dropper Posts Compared
I’ve added some numbers below for five of these dropper posts that we mentioned that all have a similar travel length. These are all posts that we find to perform well and have proven to be reliable over thousands of miles*. ADJ=Adjustable travel; BL=Bleed option; SH=Stack Height; WT=Weight.
Note that the Wolf Tooth Resolve not only has the shortest stack height of the group, but it’s also the lightest—factoring in the fact that the BikeYoke Divine has 15mm less travel. The one other point of comparison I’ll add is that the Wolf Tooth Resolve is the only 200mm+ post here that has the other two noted features. *However, it’s also the only one that we haven’t put thousands of miles of use and abuse on to verify its reliability. We’ll be sure to update this down the road after a lot more ups and downs.
27.2mm Dropper Posts
Seatposts with a 27.2mm diameter are still common. They’re somewhat standard on older steel bikes, as well as classics such as the Jones Plus or first-generation Surly Krampus. And they’re still prevalent on a lot of gravel and “Divide” bikes such as the Tumbleweed Stargazer. But, since most modern trail bikes are designed to run either 30.9mm or 31.6mm seatposts, there aren’t a lot of droppers available in the 27.2mm seat post diameter, particularly long-travel options.
The longest travel 27.2mm posts we’ve found are 125mm, and there are two we’ve used quite a bit. We’ve put thousands of miles on the PNW Rainier, which seems like a very good choice and has been fairly reliable, save one that had the internal cartridge fail. PNW was quick to replace it, and it’s seen over 1,000 miles since, with zero issues. It weighs about 450 grams and sells for $200. Another one that we recently started using is OneUp Components’ 120mm model. Similar to the V2 we mentioned above, it seems like a promising option. It weighs 435 grams and retails for $230.
Many older bikes aren’t riddled with ports to support internal cable routing, which most dropper posts are designed for these days. Appropriately, there are a handful of the 27.2 droppers that are available that utilize external cable routing. Two that we’ve had good luck with in the 27.2mm variety are the PNW Pine and the Thomson Elite.
INTERNALLY VS. EXTERNALLY ROUTED
Whether a post is routed internally through the seat tube or externally doesn’t make much of a performance difference. Deciding between the two simply depends on your bike’s potential. Most modern mountain bikes are outfitted with a seat tube port for internally routed posts, while older hardtails and rigid bikes are not. Also, if you wish to be able to easily switch from a rigid post to a dropper, externally routed is far easier and won’t require cable cutting for some models. We checked out a couple of external posts in the classic 27.2mm diameter below.
WHAT IF IT DROPS DEAD?
There is some notion that the added weight of a seat pack could damage a dropper post. But, beyond the few exceptions noted below, we don’t think that’s the case. The force exerted by a seat pack on a dropper post will be less than 5% of the force exerted on the seatpost by a 180-pound rider sitting on the saddle and bobbing up a bumpy trail.
If you actually want to quantify this, or even estimate these forces, recall high school physics: Force = Mass x Acceleration. But remember, the relevant acceleration is not gravity (9.8m/s^2), as you might be tempted to assume. Rather, it is the deceleration of your body or the seat pack as it goes from moving downward toward the saddle to becoming stopped (and perhaps rebounding). The nylon straps on a seat pack should stretch to reduce its deceleration, just as a saddle will flex a bit when you sit down hard.
Now, if the direction of the force of a bouncing seat pack is different than that of a pedaling human, there could be cases in which a seat pack could harm the post. However, we’re not convinced that seat pack sway causes more rotational force than pedaling. But, the upward force of a bouncing seat pack doesn’t occur from regular pedaling, which is why we recommend against using IFP (internal floating piston)-based seatposts for bikepacking. Any upward force, especially by lifting the bike by the saddle when the post is below full height, can draw air past the seal into the hydraulic piston and leave you with reduced travel and a squishy post.
REPAIRS, TEMPORARY FIXES, AND COMMON ISSUES
The most common issue riders are likely to face in the backcountry is squish, which might result in complete seatpost failure. Some posts lock in place when the cartridge or air spring fails, and others default to slammed down (internal floating piston designs). For other posts that don’t have a fail-safe, the Wolf Tooth Valais can serve as an emergency clamp, which is required for use with many dropper-specific seat bags (find more on that in our Gear Index of Dropper Post Seat Packs linked below). In the off chance that your post cartridge fails, the Valais can be used to keep the post extended so you can comfortably pedal as if you’re on an analog post.
Generally speaking—although these are more important factors to consider with IFP droppers—there are a few best practices for keeping your dropper running smoothly. First off, don’t store it upside down. Also, it’s best not to clamp a dropper in a bike stand. And, try not to lift up on the seat when portaging your bike over obstacles, especially when the post is dropped.
DROPPER POST SEAT PACKS & RACKS
There are several options when it comes to packing gear at the rear of your bike for use with a dropper post. The simplest is a rack with a drybag strapped to the top, or small panniers, which doesn’t put any undue stress on the dropper. There are also specialized rack systems that can be attached without traditional rack bolts. And, last but not least, there are quite a few dropper-specific seat packs on the market. Find the full list and a deep dive into the options in our Gear Index linked here.
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