Tune In, Turn On, Drop Down

LSD: long, slow distance!

I just installed a dropper seat post, which is not something I would have imagined I would ever do. If you are a road-only cyclist, then “dropper post” is likely not part of your everyday parlance as it has heretofore been a piece of equipment you would find over on the dirt side of things. But now so-called gravel bikes are being touted as the new frontier for dropper posts as companies, ever seeking a new market, are hoping to convince you gravelleurs that you must have one so you can be as rad as possible on the trails. So like fat tires, suspension, hydraulic brakes, and one-by drivetrains we’re seeing adoption by roadies of yet another bit of mountain bike technology. Although I also ride dirt, I’m a relic of another era as I have no suspension, no hydraulic brakes, a triple crank, and only seven cogs in back. Oh, and no dropper post, not even a Hite-Rite.

So what was I doing trying to figure out how to install a dropper post? Roger has been carrying a second e-bike battery on the back of his bike for our longer and climbier rides. That has meant putting a rack on his bike. With the additional length on the back, his arabesque when he mounts or dismounts has to be more pronounced in order to clear all that mishegoss in the rear. So why not just lower the seat to make that a tad easier? Hence the dropper post. On a road bike!

Dropper posts for road and gravel bikes are getting easier to find. Roger’s bike although it does have a sloping top tube, doesn’t have kind of super long seatpost extension one typically sees on dirt bikes. Dropper posts are built for a lot of extension, which is less common on road bikes. But we were able to find a “short” dropper post made by PNW, the Cascade, with just 125mm of extension, which was just short enough to work on his bike. If you’re really old school and your seat post doesn’t stick out much above your top tube, then a dropper post is unlikely to be in your future. Now with the flick of a lever Roger can lower the seat and then be able to get his leg over all his stuff more easily since he’s no longer hurdling an elevated seat.

Never having even seen a dropper post before I dutifully read the installation instructions. It didn’t look hard. And it turned out it wasn’t complex but just fiddly due to the tiny parts requiring a 2- and 3-mm hex wrenches. Working on seat posts is an ugly reminder that there are almost no good designs to be found for attaching a saddle to a post. Almost all of them involve contorting your fingers into the tiny space under a saddle to adjust a nut or a screw and the PNW post was no different. Levelling a saddle also requires the patience of Job. But at least the adjusting bolts could be turned from below the post rather than under the saddle unlike the ancient Campy seat post (and that also required a special wrench). As fate or lassitude would have it, I have the proper tools but they’re not laid out nicely and easy to find. So I have to march all over the shop peeking into bins looking for the correct wrenches; this was not a job for the multitools I usually default to out of sheer laziness. And no home maintenance work would be complete without fumbling and dropping said small parts on the shop floor and watching them vanish into crevices or under a tool chest.

Eventually I got the saddle attached to the new post, sort of. Then I switched over to inserting the post, which was easy for a change. Things got interesting in trying to attach the control lever to the handlebars. Roger’s handlebars are cluttered. He’s got a Spurcycle bell, a mount for his computer and Cycliq light/camera, and then a big, honking control panel for his e-bike. In other words all the real estate is already taken. I had to nudge the bell and the computer mount to create enough room for the lever mount and just barely got the space to squeeze it onto his bars. What was left was attaching the control cable from the seat post to the lever. This is where the small, fiddly parts came in and I needed Roger’s assistance because it required three hands. I could have used a bench vise in lieu of a third hand but that wasn’t nearby, and I needed another hand anyway because the cable had to be pulled taut while I tightened the set screw. Much fumbling and cursing ensued but eventually it was put together. We tested it and it worked—push the lever and we could push the saddle down; release the lever and the saddle popped right back up!

The next day we went for a test ride. The ride itself is a story that I won’t go into except to say that despite seeing the forecast for some rain, we of course went out anyway and just to make it extra fun we didn’t have fenders or extra raingear because it wasn’t going to rain, right? We got dumped on and for good measure Roger then got a flat for an extra kick in the ass. But the post worked as advertised. He was able to pop the lever, drop the post, and dismount like a ballerina!