Return speed is slower than some other posts on the market, but the action is smooth and thus far perfectly reliable.

Return speed is slower than some other posts on the market, but the actuation action is smooth and thus far perfectly reliable. Photo by Dave Kozlowksi​

Lowdown: Crankbrothers Highline Dropper Post

No matter what is written here about Crankbrothers Highline dropper post, the lingering issue of trust (or lack thereof) will scare some people away. The California-based component maker has an occasionally checkered past in the reliability department, especially when it comes to getting saddles out of the way on descents. Its Kronolog post is arguably one of the bigger failures in recent cycling component history. But our job is to look at the here and now, not the past, so we came into this test with an open mind, and (as mush as possible) without bias. So how well did the Highline work right out of the box? And did it stand up to the test of time? Read on to find out.

Length: 400mmHousing: Jagwire Lex-SL
Material: 7075-T6 aluminumRouting: Internal
Travel: 125mm infiniteClamp head height: 50mm
Size: 30.9mm or 31.6mmSaddle attachment: Twin-bolt head
Remote adjust: 360-degree rotation, 22-degree tiltWarranty: 3 years
Weight: 580g (30.9 w/remote, cable, housing)MSRP: $350
Construction: Igus glide bearings and keysRating:
4 Flamin' Chili Peppers
4 out of 5
Cable: Jagwire Elite Ultra Slick
Stat Box


Pluses

Minuses
  • Premium bearings
  • Moderate return speed
  • Jagwire cable housing
  • No speed adjustment
  • Glide keys prevent play
  • Lack of loud thunk
  • Ergonomic remote
  • Only available in 125mm stroke
  • Best lever we've used
  • Internal routing only
  • Fully sealed construction
  • Major reliability trust issues
  • Spherical remote adjustment
  • Quick stop position lock
  • Quick connect cable installation
  • Adjustable lever free stroke
  • Comparatively easy install
  • No bleeding necessary
  • Replaceable hydraulic cartridge
  • Very smooth action
  • Trelleborg dust wiper
  • Ease of saddle swap
  • Simple, elegant design
  • 3-year warranty
  • Reasonable price

Review: Crankbrothers Highline Dropper Post

Let's be honest, if the Crankbrothers Highline dropper post doesn't succeed, it could be exceptionally damaging to the company. Over the years, the California-based component maker has garnered a rep for making beautiful looking products that didn't always stand up to the test of time. The Kronolog dropper post is one of the best examples, but there are others. It's likely most of you know at least a few riders who've sworn off the company's products completely.

MSRP is $350, but you can find it on the Internet right now for almost $50 less.

MSRP is $350, but you can find it on the Internet right now for almost $50 less. Photo by Dave Kozlowksi​

It's also important to note that Crankbrothers readily admits these faults. When Mtbr met with their PR team when this post first launched at Sea Otter, much of that initial conversation focused on the admission of past shortcomings and how this time was going to be different.

Check out Mtbr reader reviews of the Highline dropper post.

They claimed the days of taking shortcuts in the name of company growth were over, and that after a change in leadership, they'd plowed significant time and resources into product development. The Highline had been 2.5 years in the making, and even then they'd be offering it with a 3-year manufacturer defect warranty, a virtually unprecedented step in a product category that heretofore has been rife with failure. Who among us doesn't know someone who's dropper post has sh*t the bed?

Marks on the post make it easy to correctly set saddle height.

Marks on the post make it easy to correctly set saddle height. Photo by Dave Kozlowksi​

This mea culpa is meaningless, though, if the Highline doesn't live up to (and even exceed) expectations. It can't just be good, it has to be great. But before we get into performance, let's talk a little about set-up. In an effort to nail reliability, Crankbrothers opted for a self-contained (and easily replaceable) hydraulic nitrogen cartridge with a pre-charged pneumatic spring and hydraulics that conspire to actuate and control the post.

Check out the full crop of new dropper posts for 2017.

If there is an issue, the thinking goes, you simply pop out the cartridge and drop in a new one. The whole process takes a couple simple tools and about 5 minutes - and requires no bleeding or complex rebuilds. This means shipping time for the new cartridge could become a factor, though Crankbrothers says its dealers and distributors are stocking extra cartridges to ensure speedy replacement time if an issue does arise. Here's a video that outlines the process.


Continue to page 2 for more of the Mtbr Crankbrothers Highline dropper post review »


Ease of install is bolstered by a quick-connect mechanism at the base of the post, which also makes it easier to swap the post between bikes or remove it for travel.

Ease of install is bolstered by a quick-connect mechanism at the base of the post, which also makes it easier to swap the post between bikes or remove it for travel.​

The cable-actuated Highline also utilizes a rotary actuated valve, which Crankbrothers says has outlasted the competition in tests conducted during development (40,000 to 12,000 cycles). Depress the lever and the remote pulls a plunger that in turn allows fluid to pass so the post can raise or lower. Crankbrothers says that among other things the advantage of this system is a consistent feel at the lever, which we can back up during our testing. Unlike some other posts we've used, there was never the feeling of built-up resistance. It was always an easy, smooth action. Other notable features include the use of premium Igus glide bearings and keys, and Jagwire cable and housing.

Indeed, it's a good looking post out of the box, with an actual weight of 580 grams for a size 30.9 including cable, housing, and remote. You immediately notice the quality knurling on the seal head and how easy it is to tighten by hand. Ease of install is bolstered by a quick-connect mechanism at the base of the post, which also makes it easier to swap the post between bikes or remove it for travel.

Yes, it's even waterproof.

Yes, it's even waterproof.​

At the other end is a two-bolt saddle clamp with low 50mm stack height and zero offset. The rear clamp screw swings freely, making saddle swaps fairly straightforward.

The lever itself has a sturdy look and feel, and adjustment is infinite with internal routing only. Travel options include 125mm - and that's it. As for the question of stroke length options, when we met with Crankbrothers at Eurobike back in late August they said simply that 100mm and 150mm posts were in the works, and would likely come to market in the next year. But, and this is an important but, that wouldn't happen until they were ready, which would seem to be a departure from the company's rush-to-market past.

"We've already heard from people who think the return speed on our 125mm is on the slower end of the spectrum," said PR man Kellen Trachy. "At 125mm it's still okay. But at 150mm that extra travel could create a problem. So one of the things we are looking at is how to speed up the travel to make it appropriate for 150mm."

We've loved this dropper post so far, but would like to see a 150mm travel version.

We've loved this dropper post so far, but would like to see a 150mm travel version. Photo by Dave Kozlowksi​

All that said, a 150mm option would sure be nice. As you can see in the photo above, 125mm on our size XL Specialized Stumpjumper left about three inches of available travel on the table. And that's going to be the case with many of today's frames, which are trending toward increasingly low standover height.

The Highline also lacks the reassuring loud thunk we've grown used to with other droppers. This was especially true at the outset of use, but as the post broke in, lubrication worked its way into the seals, keys, and bearings, things sped up. To be fair, though, there's a learning curve with all dropper posts, and once you get used to how they work they feel becomes normal. The Highline was no different.

On the positive side, and there was plenty pf positive, the Highline remote is among (if not the) best we've tested. The lever clamp is slim, allowing it to play nice with other cockpit components, and mounting options run the full gamut: lever up, lever down, right side, left side. The sphere-shaped swivel clamp allows for a full 360 degrees of rotation and 22 degrees of tilt. You can literally set it up just about any way, making it easy to nail the perfect ergonomic position and truly mimic a shifter paddle (which is what most riders are looking for). It also has a nice wide landing zone for your thumb that's easy to nail time after time. It makes RockShox's Reverb button remote seem rudimentary by comparison.

The highly-adjustable remote provides an easy-to-hit target for your thumb.

The highly-adjustable remote provides an easy-to-hit target for your thumb. Photo by Dave Kozlowksi​

We also loved the Highline's very smooth action and ability to precisely stop at infinite midpoints without any hint of unwanted play anywhere along the stroke.

Bottom line, outside the lack of a longer travel option, the Crankbrothers Highline dropper post has ticked all the right boxes. Set-up was straightforward, weight and price are reasonable, the remote is fantastic, and so far we've had zero durability issues. But this was just a three-month test period, which understandably won't be long enough to satisfy some of the doubters out there. So we'll keep riding the post into the winter and ensuing spring and report back, addressing questions of longer term durability and cold weather performance.

In the meantime, if you're in the market for a new dropper and can live with 125mm of travel, this post is certainly worth considering. And remember that if something does go wrong, there's a 3-year warranty backing you up. Finally it's worth noting that a recent Internet search turned up prices in the $300 range, $50 off original MSRP.

You immediately notice the quality knurling on the seal head and how easy it is to tighten by hand.

You immediately notice the quality knurling on the seal head and how easy it is to tighten by hand.​

For more info please visit www.crankbrothers.com.