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  1. #1
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    Why are dropper posts so bad?

    Actual, non-rhetorical question here.

    I was thinking today, as I prepared to return my 3rd dropper post this year for warranty repairs, that the technology used seems pretty well developed. I mean, air-sprung forks and shocks cycle thousands of times every ride and rarely fail. Same for hydro disc brakes. Hydraulic pistons are used in thousands of applications. So why does it seem like absolutely no one can pull off a dropper post that lasts more than 6 months? Is there some super-tough engineering there that I'm not considering? Is it such a small market that the designs are just bad?

  2. #2
    I Tried Them ALL... Moderator
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    Short answer....Giant Switch. All-mechanical operation. Heavy, but works with nary a hiccup, in 2.5 years.
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  3. #3
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    Because mine, the Hurricane Components "Elevator Shaft" has not come to market yet.
    I'm looking at all the problems on the current post's and addressing as many as I can, I'm also doing things that have not been done before.

  4. #4
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    Shorter answer: Gravity Dropper.

    Oldest is six ...no, seven years, and never a problem. Three others of various ages, also never had any issues.

    Very easy to maintain yourself (clean it once or twice a year; perhaps a new cable - for the remote-actuated versions- every two or three years); great customer service when you need anything.

    Enough stuff on modern rigs requires frequent babysitting. It's nice have a bit that just works, day in and day out, without having to dick with it.

  5. #5
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    Shorter answer: Specialized Command Post.

    All-mechanical with an air spring return. You can even lock it in place should the air spring fail. Very easy to maintain- just disassemble and re-grease.

    I've used one for almost 5 years with no problems at all.

  6. #6
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    It looks to me like the gravity dropper would be the most reliable. I have a buddy that's also ridden one for years with no issues. There really isn't much too them.......I wish they looked better and were lighter, but.....

  7. #7
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    another non-rhetorical question: is this your 3rd different brand/model post or did the same one fail 3 times and you're assuming all others are just as bad?

  8. #8
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    I've had failures on a Reverb, Reverb Stealth and KS LEV. So different brands and models, but certainly not a full spectrum of what the industry has to offer. I'm also about to send an unused KS LEV Integra back, because after talking to a buddy and seeing posts on this board it seems they really screwed up the design of the actuator at the bottom of the post. I just got a Thomson to replace the LEV, so here's hoping that works better.

    But I don't think I'm off base in saying dropper posts are, in general, the least-reliable part of a modern mountain bike. Just look around this board at all the issues....

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by deoreo View Post
    Shorter answer: Specialized Command Post.

    All-mechanical with an air spring return. You can even lock it in place should the air spring fail. Very easy to maintain- just disassemble and re-grease.

    I've used one for almost 5 years with no problems at all.
    This. I have a close to 3 year old Command Post Blacklite that gets used year round and I have had zero issues with it.
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  10. #10
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    Gravity dropper, I've had mine a year and a half without any issues. You can clean and maintain it at home without any special tools.

  11. #11
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    It's really disheartening to hear this (not that discussing it is bad or anything)... I can completely see how a dropper would improve my AM experience, but I have no patience for stuff that constantly needs to be in the shop.

    The divide between reviews and user feedback on some brands is also concerning. The Reverb Stealth gets amazing reviews, but I see comments everywhere that they are completely unreliable. Ibid on the Specialized mentioned above... even the user reviews on the company website aren't great. Bummer.
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  12. #12
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    Well, for what it's worth I've warrantied them every time they break, and to be honest I wouldn't consider building an AM or Trail bike without one. So I think they're incredibly useful and actually worth the trouble; I just wish they worked better!

    If you get one, make sure it's new and from a shop that will work with you if issues develop. Or better yet, get it from Competitive Cyclist (currently blowing out Thomsons!), they have a no-questions-asked lifetime return policy.

  13. #13
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    I've got a Thomson.. it's got some side to side play.. called thomson.. they were easy.. said sent it back and they will send me a new one.. pretty easy..

    They stated that they had contamination issues from Loctite Blue getting slick honey mixed in and causing issues. They fixed this per thomson..

    I haven't sent mine back yet.. i'm waiting for the season to end for me.. The top clamp works loose and it creaks.. hand tighten it on the trail then use a 32mm (IIRC) spanner and tighten it..

    i could not live without my dropper.. I love it. they will be a stock item on almost all bikes within a few years IMHO..

  14. #14
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    I have had a gravity dropper on my last bike and it lasted 5 years with no major problems except I broke one of the seat mount bolts on a hard land (probably my fault).
    I now have a Fox DOSS and it has been trouble free for the last 6 months of constant use.
    I recommend going with a gravity dropper, proven design, easy to maintain and great customer service.

  15. #15
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    2 years on my Command Post w/o an issue. I have actually never even done anything to it maintenance wise. Works great!
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  16. #16
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    I was under the impression that the GD was the lightest on the market except that carbon KS.

  17. #17
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    the OP had a great question. So, Hurricane Jeff, assuming "yours" will resolve the reliability issue, what were the trends that you found which keep dropper posts from meeting our reliability expectations in general.
    My direct experience includes:
    - Joblin (hydraulic, lost air spring, gets sticky especially when cold)
    - AMP (mechanical ball lock, eventually marred up slider and lost smooth operation)
    - Gravity Dropper (good after 1 year and counting)
    - just bought a KS Lev Integra (for future bike, I have not installed this)

  18. #18
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    Love my LEV Integra... It was a tad finicky to set up, mostly because I'm a relative noob and didn't have a great cable route. It's been hassle free since the first week I got it in September though.

  19. #19
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    It could be something you're doing.

    My KS Lev didn't work right until I talked to the manufacturer at Sea Otter.
    The bike shop had installed the cable backwards, which is pretty common.

    Mine has worked really well since then.

  20. #20
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    The issue with the Lev Integra (not the normal LEV) is that the design of the actuator at the bottom of the post (inside the frame) is faulty. The cable is fixed to the bottom of the post, and does not move; the actuation is achieved by pulling the cable from the bar, which has the effect of moving the housing along the fixed cable. So it's the position of the housing that makes it work. The problem with this is that if you have a bike design where there's friction on the housing (e.g. the housing goes through a small rubber grommet at the bottom of the seat tube) then it's super tough to get the housing to run in such a way that it'll actuate reliably and smoothly. And if you raise or lower your seat post at all, it screws everything up.

  21. #21
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    i have a Command post Blacklight and have not had a single issue. i have taken some bad crashes as well.

  22. #22
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    All the above plus more. I've been working on my design for a long time, I'm the one who designed the first modern day dropper post (HiteRite and Power post were to different animals all together) back in 2000, I could tell you the whole story, as I have done on other occasions and forums, but I save it when my post is finished . I have changed my designs over the years and have pretty much settled on my current design, with a few tweaks.
    As soon as I get finished with more than a rough prototype, I'll post it here.

    just noticed there is a post below originally from 2011 in regards to how I came about the dropper seat post idea........

  23. #23
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    i just have a reg post. i put my seat a little lower, overall and just ride. it may not... blah blah blah

    but who cares. im not trying to save the world by how i ride

  24. #24
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    My KS eTen has been flawless so far. I got mine right when they came out and its been problem free.
    I like to fart when I'm in front of you on a climb

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrewBird View Post
    Actual, non-rhetorical question here.

    I was thinking today, as I prepared to return my 3rd dropper post this year for warranty repairs, that the technology used seems pretty well developed. I mean, air-sprung forks and shocks cycle thousands of times every ride and rarely fail. Same for hydro disc brakes. Hydraulic pistons are used in thousands of applications. So why does it seem like absolutely no one can pull off a dropper post that lasts more than 6 months? Is there some super-tough engineering there that I'm not considering? Is it such a small market that the designs are just bad?
    You are just buying the wrong ones.

    Gravity Dropper. Mine is 8 years old. Still works great. Next to zero maintenance needed. One of the lighter ones out there as well.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hurricane Jeff View Post
    Because mine, the Hurricane Components "Elevator Shaft" has not come to market yet.
    I'm looking at all the problems on the current post's and addressing as many as I can, I'm also doing things that have not been done before.
    Please make a version with 140-170 mm of drop!
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  27. #27
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    Another command post here, working great for more than a season.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by SprungShoulders View Post
    Shorter answer: Gravity Dropper.

    Oldest is six ...no, seven years, and never a problem. Three others of various ages, also never had any issues.

    Very easy to maintain yourself (clean it once or twice a year; perhaps a new cable - for the remote-actuated versions- every two or three years); great customer service when you need anything.

    Enough stuff on modern rigs requires frequent babysitting. It's nice have a bit that just works, day in and day out, without having to dick with it.
    Yea I've had a kind shock lev and the gravity dropper.

    The kind shock got a 1/2 cm of play after a year or so then died after sitting too long then came back to life but still has a small amount of "suspension" in it.
    The Gravity Dropper is bullet proof. I have frequent OTBs and other wrecks. Ive seen the bike go ass over tits and hit smack on the seat and it didn't affect it.

    I ride with about 5 or seven other people and have seen all the posts out there (major ones no one i know has bought the"black mamba) One gravity dropper has been around 8 frig-gen years and the only work done on it was a new cable, which is a standard derailleur cable. Only the rock shock reverb holds a candle to the gravity dropper but its only 2 years old and has yet to prove its self.

    The other thing the gravity dropper has over other posts is very fast movement. any air or oil post is slow to drop and slow to return.It also comes in 27.2 size. which is the size i bought and with just a few shims i can use it on any frame!

    After all these years Gravity dropper is still number one and its one of the first designs. There are countless positive reviews all over the inter webs. Not to mention loads of negative reviews on other posts.

    I understand that someone might wanna buy a cheaper post and cross their finger for it to work good, I did. but After owning the Gravity dropper its worth every penny and its something you'll only need to buy once.

    So if you did any searching and are still confused about dropper post reliability its your own damn fault

  29. #29
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    The only dropper I've owned is a crank bros Joplin 3, and I wouldn't recommend it even to my worst enemy. It's seems to only be good for a dozen rides, I will certainly be purchasing a different brand in the near future.

  30. #30
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    Ive been lucky. 2012 RS Reverb, going strong. It was a little slow one time, I checked the air pressure, lost 100 psi. Pumped it back up and its still working

  31. #31
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    I some advice from a mechanic friend with tons of experience rebuilding droppers, forks etc. He said he thinks the main cause of failure with hydraulic droppers is the seat post clamp. Even over tightening that doesn't cause any issues with the smoothness of the post going up and down can deform and ovalize the barrel, and that leads to seal failures. Ditto for repeated clamping and unclamping. He said you should NEVER run a quick release collar with a dropper, as it's just too easy to over-tighten. Use a standard collar, friction paste, and set your torque with a torque wrench. All of which makes sense...

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrewBird View Post
    I some advice from a mechanic friend with tons of experience rebuilding droppers, forks etc. He said he thinks the main cause of failure with hydraulic droppers is the seat post clamp. Even over tightening that doesn't cause any issues with the smoothness of the post going up and down can deform and ovalize the barrel, and that leads to seal failures. Ditto for repeated clamping and unclamping. He said you should NEVER run a quick release collar with a dropper, as it's just too easy to over-tighten. Use a standard collar, friction paste, and set your torque with a torque wrench. All of which makes sense...
    If that is true, a simple solution would be to cut a cheap seatpost to the proper length and place it on the bottom of the dropper as a stopper. Then the clamp shouldnt need to be torqued as much to stop slipping down. Either that, of manufacturers should use thicker gauge tubes for the main tube.

  33. #33
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    Loved my KS i900. Sold it with my last bike. Wouldn't hesitate on another KS

  34. #34
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    This may sound crazy but I'm still riding my 5 year old Crank Brothers Joplin! It calved after about a year and got a factory rebuild. Since then about 500 rides and it just keeps on going. We ride steep rolling terrain and the seat could be up and down as many as 30 times during a ride. My buddy has been through a Lev, 2 Reverbs, 2 Kind shocks and a couple of Joplins in the time I've been riding my Joplin. What's my point? The good isn't so good and the bad isn't so bad ... Dropper seat posts are here to stay. Like computers they are continuously improving. I rode the Giant dropper post on a demo Trance SX at MBO last summer and it worked just fine. I wouldn't hesitate to purchase any of new posts. LEV is probably my preference. My wife and daughter both have KS900 and have had no issues.

  35. #35
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    Interesting to hear the good reviews for the Command Post. I`ve had the original and the Blacklite and both have had the same issue…broken collets. Otherwise, i`ve had no problems.

  36. #36
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    As far as how easy it should be to get right, this is not the same thing as shocks and/or disc brakes. When this many companies struggle, there is usually some reason behind it.

    I think most of the problems have to do with trying to make them infinitely adjustable and/or return without the butt-tap. The original one (GD) does neither of these and works very well. It was the markets desire to add these other features that has caused so many problems.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachariah View Post
    Short answer....Giant Switch. All-mechanical operation. Heavy, but works with nary a hiccup, in 2.5 years.
    Mechanical is no assurance of reliability, as the Crank Brothers Kronolog has so craptacularly proven.

    Good to hear about the Giant, though
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  38. #38
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    GD is a mechanical design, while newer designs (KS, Reverb, Thomson) are hydraulic. They hydro posts are actually pretty similar to a single-stanchion fork with a lock-out, per my limited understanding. They have oil and air and dampers in them, and their function depends on the integrity of their seals.

    Hydros gain you infinite adjustability. But because they are dependent on seals rather than mechanical locks, they are (seemingly) more failure prone. What seems weird to me is that forks rarely fail, and all the heavy equipment currently working outside my office window runs on super-reliable hydraulics. So why do droppers fail so often?

    Per my post above, I wonder if the seat post clamp is a big part of it. Putting a constriction point around a hydraulic piston isn't going to help the seals any, and of course everyone wants their post to be light so the main cylinders are thin. Perhaps a recipe for failure?

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrewBird View Post
    I wonder if the seat post clamp is a big part of it. Putting a constriction point around a hydraulic piston isn't going to help the seals any, and of course everyone wants their post to be light so the main cylinders are thin. Perhaps a recipe for failure?
    Wow, I never considered that possibility. I think you're right. Physically, all the frequent failures make a lot of sense now, all things considered. A slightly deformed seal will fail prematurely. Perhaps friction paste, a tall, non-QR seatpost clamp (to spread out the force as much as possible) and a low clamp bolt torque of ~4Nm would prevent premature dropper post seal wear. I will be recommending that to all my users of dropper posts.

  40. #40
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    Piling on. Gravity Dropper posts since 2005-ish.

    They just plain work well.

  41. #41
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    FWIW when I first got my eTen I tighten the post clamp to much and it stuck, back it off just bit and it worked fine. I since removed my QR clamp in favor of a tiny carbon fiber one. I put the clamp just tight enough to not slip during normal riding and its never stuck since that first time I over tightened it some.

    Quote Originally Posted by DrewBird View Post
    I wonder if the seat post clamp is a big part of it. Putting a constriction point around a hydraulic piston isn't going to help the seals any, and of course everyone wants their post to be light so the main cylinders are thin. Perhaps a recipe for failure?
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  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by deoreo View Post
    Shorter answer: Specialized Command Post.

    All-mechanical with an air spring return. You can even lock it in place should the air spring fail. Very easy to maintain- just disassemble and re-grease.

    I've used one for almost 5 years with no problems at all.
    Agreed. I too have the Command Post (one year now and 1600 dirt miles on it) and it has not let me down. Not once.

  43. #43
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    Bought three Reverbs for three bikes and never had an issue in three years of running. *looks around for wood...*

  44. #44
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    The Elevator Shaft will have up to 150mm of adjustment, anything more than that makes for a very long seat post, the stanchion tube have to be longer than the sliders, usually 50-75mm+, add all that up, 170+170+75=415mm total length, alot of bikes don't have enough insertion length to accommodate that much adjustment, it's not impossible, but it's something I won't do.

  45. #45
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    I raced BMX and even got on a team called Fast Racing while I was in Tokyo for a while.
    In BMX the seat is always fully down to not get in the way and provide maximum control over the bike. When I switched over to Mountain Biking, the long uphill and X-country sections had me raising the seat half the time with the quick release. I found stopping to change the seat height took away momentum from my ride, so I set out to put together a true MTB seatpost that would have all the details a mountain biker would want. Making sure the adjusting-post would always fully lower to two inches or less from rails to frame, was the base priority.

    After years of designing, prototyping and patent writing I managed to get the RASE, Black Mamba post on the market. Here I was the designer within a manufacturing co..
    This design gave 9 inches of adjustability and was highly reliable yet I knew the post could be even better. I left the company I started to develop a post that does even more. From my new designs I have been working with my new design group for over a year, going over every detail to ensure maximum performance.

    At just over 6 feet tall, I use 9 inches of seatpost height from the rails to the frame. Our new RACE 10 seatpost will have the standard 10 inches(255 mm) of height adjustability,
    found similarly on a standard 385 -400 mm seatpost. This post will be the first Full-Range adjusting seatpost on the market. This post will always lower to 1.5 inches from seat rails frame and then be pre-set to stop right at a riders exact preferred max height.

    This new system uses a compact and highly reliable mechanical lock. The post itself is one piece, 3D forged from 7075 Al, with a two bolt clamp design, that fits into the assembly. All the details take a while to work through so they work well together.
    The post has taken a while to go over every detail, yet we are close. Adjusting posts presently on the market are all Semi-Adjusting that require the post to be lifted up from their fully lowering ability, to set their max height. This new "RACE 10 Seatpost" looks to be highly reliable and with 10 inches of adjustability, it will be the worlds first actually Fully-Adjustable, Full-Range MTB Seatpost.

    It will take a while more to tune in the prototypes, the post will be made in the USA with all sorts of advanced machining and mechanical details to maximize Full-Adjustability, reliability and light weight, so the price will be around $400.

    We decided to work ahead of the rest of the industry to simply make the best possible MTB seatpost. This post will require a completely open/straight seat tube to fit just over a standard 400 mm seatpost. The cable routing will go internally and it looks like 31.6mm x 400mm will be the main product to fit in the mechanics and make for a very strong main post. Be sure to ask your favorite frame maker to forget about funky bends in the seat tube and go back to a fully straight(at least interior) seat tube.

    Hopefully, we'll have this out in under a year.

  46. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrewBird View Post
    The issue with the Lev Integra (not the normal LEV) is that the design of the actuator at the bottom of the post (inside the frame) is faulty. The cable is fixed to the bottom of the post, and does not move; the actuation is achieved by pulling the cable from the bar, which has the effect of moving the housing along the fixed cable. So it's the position of the housing that makes it work. The problem with this is that if you have a bike design where there's friction on the housing (e.g. the housing goes through a small rubber grommet at the bottom of the seat tube) then it's super tough to get the housing to run in such a way that it'll actuate reliably and smoothly. And if you raise or lower your seat post at all, it screws everything up.
    That's just one the of the head scratchingly bad design flaws out there. Everything else about this thing makes me think "that's the one I want!", but hopefully they'll get that fixed before I actually buy next year. It's even odder that they seem to have had a clamp on the cable when they first released the post over two years ago - KindShock Unveils New LEV Integra Dropper Post, Along With LEV

    I wonder why they removed it.
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  47. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Mumphry;10880263It's even odder that they seem to have had a clamp on the cable when they first released the post over two years ago - [url=http://www.bikerumor.com/2011/09/22/kindshock-unveils-new-lev-integra-dropper-post-along-with-lev/
    KindShock Unveils New LEV Integra Dropper Post, Along With LEV[/url]

    I wonder why they removed it.
    Huh, yeah, that's weird alright. To be honest I don't see how adding a clamp to the current design would improve it all that much; the little metal gizmo that the cable goes through still has to move, which means the housing still has to move in and out of the bottom of the seat tube. I wonder if that was a mock-up of a totally different trigger mechanism that never saw the light of day? Personally I'm hoping the Thomson stealth post comes out soon....

  48. #48
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    I wonder why gravity dropper doesn't include more position options? They could have something like half inch intervals just by drilling additional holes into the inner post. Maybe it would compromise strength?

    If they redesigned the boot to be more aesthetically pleasing, I bet it would sell much better. Also a comfier lever.

    I went from an old turbo, to a turbo LP and the action is a lot smoother, much easier to find the 1" drop now.

  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrewBird View Post
    Huh, yeah, that's weird alright. To be honest I don't see how adding a clamp to the current design would improve it all that much; the little metal gizmo that the cable goes through still has to move, which means the housing still has to move in and out of the bottom of the seat tube. I wonder if that was a mock-up of a totally different trigger mechanism that never saw the light of day? Personally I'm hoping the Thomson stealth post comes out soon....
    There are plenty of people here that know a heck of a lot more than me, but when I watch the video below it looks to me like the lever is acting only on the cable and not the housing. The movement of the housing on the actuator at the base of the post seems to be incidental. I understand how improperly setting that up would be easy and would negatively effect performance, but it also seems like fixing the housing in a stationary position would solve the problem. Again, this is just my take based on watching this video - KS LEV Integra Installation - YouTube
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  50. #50
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    I put 2 years on a command blacklite with zero problems. That said, i just switched to a Lev because the lever action is so much lighter. I also didn't like hunting for the mid position on the command post.

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