9point8's Pulse seatpost is a new entry into the market of on-the-fly adjustable seatposts. Selling direct to consumer, mechanically actuated, manufactured in North America, black and with a 100mm stroke; its key differentiator is that it has a lever that looks like a mini brake lever - and - steps up and down in 5mm increments.
Development of the post began in earnest in 2010 with production versions available for sale in late June 2013. At a USD $ 499 price, expectations are high. Such a premium price presumes a premium product. A test Pulse seatpost was installed on a Turner Czar. With 5 rides on it so far on to the review....
Lee Lau's Biases
I'm 160 lbs, 5'11" and have had over 15 years experience riding bikes in North Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler, the Chilcotins and many other areas in B.C. and Alberta. I've also made many bike trips to Switzerland, Tyrol, Utah, Washington, Oregon, California and the Yukon (for example) so I've had some experience biking in a variety of terrain. My bias is towards pedalling up and unlike many people who learned to ride bikes on North Shore trails, I actually enjoy riding (and sometimes bushwhacking) uphill.
Down about 10mm to start a 1200m descent.
I have used the RockShox Reverb, KS Lev, i900 and Supernatural, Gravity Dropper Turbo, Crank Brothers Joplin and Kronolog and Xfusion Hilo dropper seatposts. I have no commercial association with 9point8.
A brief word on the company seems opportune since they are new. 9point8's founders are Jack Pittens and Steven Park. Both are mechanical engineers with a passion for trail riding and business partners in an engineering firm since 1998. Their background is manufacturing and nuclear industries but like all good enginerds they have dreamed of mixing business with pleasure have dreamed and wondered about thow to developing better products for mountain biking. 9point8's employees, who have contributed substantially to the seatpost design, have a similar vision.
Local riding is mainly Ontario xc on the Niagara Escarpment trails which feature up and down elevations without big sustained climbs but with lots of technical, rocky, rooty terrain. This was the birthplace of the concept for the stepping seatpost.
Presently, 7 people are involved with the company working on the Pulse post and other projects. Three are full-timers while four are part-timers.
Continue reading for Operation and Installation thoughts as well as the full photo gallery.
Construction and Installation
The Pulse's packaging is decidedly minimal. Documentation is excellent and installation is ridiculously easy. Appearance is attractive with machined parts abounding, laser-etching and tight tolerances reflecting the engineering background of the companies' roots. The provided 30.9 seatpost weighed in at 676g actual (680g according to specs).
Pulse seatpost unboxed.
For installation simply read the manual. The only change made to the post as delivered was eased by the fact that the Pulse is mechanically actuated by a gear cable connecting lever and the hydraulic internals of the seatpost. I shortened the cable by cutting it as per normal with standard cutters.
Installation gave me cause to only find one minor nit and that had to do with using 3mm and 4mm hardware in the seatpost head. 3mm hardware is a psychological bummer as its so small and looks so easy to strip (I didn't gorilla and strip anything). Also, it would be nice to have the fore-aft adjustments offset a tad from the seatpost vertical plane so its easier to access. Otherwise, pay attention to the manual and you can be riding in well under half an hour.
Having had some time on dropper posts by now I'm conditioned to expect a certain mode of operation ie by hitting an actuation switch. It took the better part of a ride to accustom myself to using the mini-brake lever of the Pulse. On reflection, it probably took me that same amount of time to get used to using a dropper post at all. There is a bit of compromise in using the Pulse in highly technical or fast changing situations in that sometimes (using the Reverb as an example), I'll one-finger brake and actuate the post with thumb in one motion. With the Pulse I'd have to take my hand off the brake. Having said that, this issue can be chalked up as much to rider inattention as to a design issue.
Lever plays nicely with SRAM brakes (and with other major brake companies - see the site for more pictures).
The bottom line is that there's a learning curve involved and rider preference is subjective; its difficult to add anything else to that observation.
The lever and Pulse post's actions is ridiculously smooth (you did remember to set up a bit of slack at the lever didn't you?). Very little pressure is required to engage the stepper function. A bit more effort is required to engage the lever a bit harder to get the seatpost to go all the way up or down but that added pressure isn't a factor in riding ergonomics. Time will tell if the seatpost head cable head attachment is prone to getting fouled or if the hydraulics get contaminated by trail gunk.
The 5mm stepper function isn't just a gimmick, at least to me. It's been a long time since I've slammed my seat down all the way on pedally kind of trails and I've actually used an Enduro collar a few times to limit the drop in a seatpost.
Basically the stepper function allows one to fine-tune seat position by lightly engaging the lever. One tap drops the seat 5mm at a time. A squeeze drops the seat all the way. You must have some rider weight on the seat so I found that if I was in more technical terrain where I'm necessarily moving around on the bike quite a bit and only squeezing the seat with hips that the stepper function didn't work all that well. It's most useful use was in rolling up and down terrain where one is moving from downhill to climbing in short bursts or where one was riding on relatively flat terrain.
Some up-down trails to complete the perfect test environment.
In short, I used the Pulse like a conventional dropper in the typical climb in one shot then downhill terrain that exists in North Van. I used the Pulse as a stepper post when on less technical XC'ish trails where I was seated and could invoke the stepper function.
On a very preliminary basis 9point8's Pulse seatpost seems to have accomplished its goal of being a premium product. Part and parcel of being such a product is long term durability and/or customer service. This is inherently a concept with competing tensions as superior long term durability necessarily implies that a purchaser will have little experience with customer service.
The Pulse post is reasonably well differentiated from competing offerings and is well-executed. It's certainly a compelling alternative for those riders who are looking to fine tune post height in less technical trails. Nice to have choices.