Opinion: You don't need a long dropper post on your gravel bike

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Rachael Wight's picture

Previously Editor here at off-road.cc, Rachael is happiest on two wheels. Partial to a race or two Rachael also likes getting out into the hills with a big bunch of mates. In the past Rachael has written for publications such as, Enduro Mountain Bike Magazine, Mountain Biking UK, Bike Radar, New Zealand Mountain Biker and was also the online editor for Spoke magazine in New Zealand too. For as long as she's been riding, she has been equally happy getting stuck into a kit review as she is creating stories or doing the site admin. When she's not busy with all the above she's roasting coffee or coaching mountain biking in the Forest of Dean. 


1 year 7 months ago

For me, I'm seeing a benefit of using the dropper to set the correct saddle height for on-road sections, and then using it once I'm off road and need a bit more flexibility to move around the bike. It's not just about dropping it out of the way to get weight over the rear on descents, its about maintaining speed on the inevitable on-road transitions that come with gravel riding in the UK. On a gravel bike the geo is optimised for road-level saddle heights, making it hard to dab off-road, and also making restarts harder for someone as inflexible/old as me. You also tend to ride in a very fixed position on a road-geometry bike which will leave you beat up pretty quick over the looser stuff.

Most of my off-road riding right now is very slow XC stuff on a hardtail, with plenty of on-road transitions. I've got a 120mm travel dropper which is set very high for the on-road sections and dropped a fraction for off-road so I can get my feet down if I need to without dropping off the saddle. And then dropped fully for fast steep descents. I'm not the most flexible or skilled rider so I find the extra confidence/safety provided by a dropper worthwhile. 

2 years 2 weeks ago

"My argument is that the bars, brakes and tyres, not to mention the geometry of your gravel bike are limiting factors and will inhibit you long before you are ever going fast enough to employ all 125mm of said dropper post." 

I think you misunderstand what a dropper is really doing. A dropper allows you to access the bikes full potential by allowing you space to move above the frame. If you can move your body around more freely / aggressively by using a dropper then you can access more potential from your bike. A high saddle limits what you can do easily / safely on a mtb (if it didn't why would droppers exist). It's not a stretch to say the same for gravel so you perceived limits of the bike are 'high saddle' limits not 'low saddle / dropper' limits which will be further up the performance curve. 

Useless they've mtb'd your 'average gravel rider' may have no idea what a gravel bike is capable of if only the seat was lower giving them confidence to find out, and potentially missing out on really fun terrain on their doorstep. It's NOT about speed - it's about control. Having more control just allows you to access higher speed safely. 

I don't think it's weird to think that many average gravel riders would take in a (or many?) section of more technical terrain on their gravel ride. It totally depends on the terrain available and the objective of the rider, not the bike. 

Personally, I think you'll see more droppers on gravel bikes in future (although they'll still be in a large minority  wink) .

Droppers don't have to be remote operated mtb versions. Much lighter, simpler, cheaper, occasional use 'lever under the saddle' versions are also available...

Going back to the quote though - my road bike has 160mm rotor and hydraulic brakes. My xc mtb has 160mm and hydraulic brakes. Even if mtb brakes are more powerful, of the listed possible points of control failure on a gravel bike, braking shouldn't be on the list. Modern hydraulic drop bar brakes are plenty powerful enough and have the modulation too. 

2 years 2 weeks ago

I think what this article is trying to say is that Gravel bikes with a dropper post are a niche within a niche within a nice and for most terrain and styles or riding you'll get bigger benefits out of straight bars and front suspension way before the benefits of a dropper.   

In short there is very little gravel riding where a gravel bike with a dropper makes more sense than a Hard Tail.   But she doesnt actually say that for fear of annoying everyone whose bought a new shiny N+1 with a dropper.

2 years 2 weeks ago

These are all arguments that went through mountain biking as the dropper was introduced but now nearly everyone has one.

The difference in weight between a long and short dropper is so negligible that if you're going to have a dropper the advice should be always get the longest that fits and is in your budget.

In the UK a lot of the gravel riding doesn't necessarily need a dropper but the bikes designed with droppers are designed with different places and styles of riding in mind. Having said that, there's definitely regular places I ride that I could ride faster with a dropper. A simple example is stairsets, riding gravel bikes can easily handle stairs, except being bucked by an upright saddle. If I could could get my saddle out the way I could ride longer stairsets faster, and that would be more fun.

The bit about descending on the hoods is really bizarre and suggests the writer could work on their own skill a bit before writing polemics on how others ride.


2 years 2 weeks ago

For many, gravel bikes double as winter commuter bikes for the wet months, or everyday bikes to putter around with your kid or go to the local cafe. I've got single-sided spd pedals in mine, so the dropper post makes it easy to adjust seat height depending on whether I'm wearing flip flops or cycling shoes. 

2 years 2 weeks ago

I am a little unsure about the point you are making in this article. In the title, and some places in the article, you are saying we don't need a long dropper post, but then in most of the article, you seem to be saying we don't need any dropper posts.