This Brand-X Ascend II dropper – an 27.2mm, externally routed post – is a smooth and reliable way to get a bit more clearance on the descents. Just make sure you have long legs or suitable-length seat tube to get the most from the short, 105mm drop.
Along with the 27.2mm post, the 2X lever is included with an inner cable, outer cable and a ferrule. It would be nice to get cable ties to finish off the kit, but at least they're easily found elsewhere.
Together the lever and post weigh 637g, which feels porky, but at the same time it's reassuringly robust. While it’s easy to tell this post is at the lower end of the market, it feels well put together and there are no obvious flaws. From the outset it seems like stonking value for money.
Fitting is a straightforward affair. Even with my relatively chunky seat clamp there's plenty of clearance around the cable entry, so clashes there are very unlikely.
The bar clamp hinges open so there's no need to remove anything to slide it on, and it secures with a single bolt. Fitting the cable through the lever, the barrel clamp and the awkward turn in the paddle is fiddly, but once you've managed it it gives a reliable hold on the cable.
A couple of zip ties to secure the line to the frame and you’re good to go!
Activation feels really positive. The lever is light enough to be easily operated but with some resistance for feel, while the drop itself is smooth and doesn’t need much encouragement to get moving. It's smooth and steady on the way up, too – it's a good balance of usefully quick but undercarriage-respectingly slow.
The post does suffer a small amount of wobble – the seat nose can twist left and right – but I didn't actually find it noticeable during riding. While many dropper posts do this after a while, I do have some concerns that this is present from new. As the post wears it may well become more pronounced.
The main issue I have with this, though, is its 105mm drop – at least for use with gravel or adventure bikes. At 6ft tall I've got fairly long legs, but even with the post slammed down to the seat clamp on the Kinesis G2 test bike, I found the full extension too much.
Unfortunately this is the shortest post Brand-X does with external routing, though more modern gravel frames with sloping top tubes and shorter seat tubes may be more welcoming. Just do some measuring before buying.
Serviceability is excellent, especially if you plan to do it yourself. Brand-X has a guide to strip, service and rebuild the post, and although the cartridge inside isn’t serviceable it can be bought separately and replaced. There's no reason this post cannot go on for years. Particularly impressive considering its low price.
The £139 tag is very impressive given the levels of quality and performance. By comparison, the 27.2mm Merida Expert Dropper is the same price and has a sub-par cable system, though with just 70mm of drop it may suit your frame better. There is also the suspiciously similar-looking PNW Components Coast Suspension Dropper, but that's £210.
The Brand-X Ascend II is a very good option for the money, though despite being the right diameter for a lot of gravel (and even road) bikes, it's probably going to be too long for most older frames. It should do sterling service on newer designs and cross-country bikes, though, and its easy serviceability only adds to the appeal.
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