My love-hate relationship with dropper seatposts started long ago, and when I say “long ago” I’m talking about Joplins for those who still remember. The “hate” side of things used to be predominantly on that relationship, but with the current standards and tech, it’s only “love”…
And where it use to be a thing for the enduro crew, XC races on TV will probably already give you a hint of what’s coming: XC dropper seatposts (unless you are Nino), so let’s check out one of the latest offerings in this category, the 9point8 Fall Line R.
The experiences starts by picking your personal preferences (travel, diameter, offset) for the seatpost on the 9point8 website. Then the unit shows up in a compact box that included all the necessary items for a quick installation.
The addition of a free torque wrench is a nice touch, and the Quick Connect system makes installation a speedy process. The manual is very easy to understand and instructions are crystal clear.
According to 9point8 , the main features on the new “R” dropper are:
- Accommodates round, oval, Ti and carbon rails
- Refined smaller, lighter head, available inline or offset
- Stronger, lighter top tube
- Hand-tight, easy to service collar nut
- Stroke limiting adjustments with plastic spacers
The seatpost head (which you can order in Inline 0mm, like ours, or Offset with 25mm) comes with a complete set of extra clamp adapters to accommodate different metal and carbon rails, and are very easy to swap.
So, even if the new Fall Line R comes with proper “enduro” sizing and strokes, one of the main selling points is the reduced weight (9point8 claims the “R” is the lightest dropper on the market right now, so let’s check it out).
With that idea in mind, I searched for their lightest version (stroke and length wise, 315x100mm) to put on my XC rig, a 2019 Intense Sniper SL that I’m trying to get below the 10-10.5 kg weight (22-23 lbs), with “real-world” specs and tires. And by real world, I mean spec that’ll hold up to world travel and riding anything, anywhere.
I normally use 125-150mm droppers on my Trail or Enduro bikes (Medium size bikes, short legs and 5’7″ height…) but this time I went for the 100mm stroke on a 315mm length. Be aware not all droppers fit on all bike sizes, so make sure you use 9point8’s fitting calculator to make sure there is enough space on the frame to insert the seatpost without reaching the security marks.
Mine was on the limit, but happily OK, with the “minimum insertion” mark just on the last mm of the frame seatpost collar. Bingo. Some frames with extreme seat tube angles and rearward saddle position may pose problems.
Another choice you have to make when ordering the Fall Line R is the lever, which is offered in 3 different versions: Digit, ThumB or Trigger:
I chose the ThumB option and I’m frankly still trying to figure out what’s the best position for it…because the lever is so adjustable. The “standard” thing to do on a 1x bike would be to install the ThumB on the left side of the handlebar, where there are no other levers, but several crashes, injuries and surgeries have left my left thumb in a pretty battered condition. So I chose to mount it on the right side, just above the brake levers. Works good so far, smooth operation and no cable sloppiness.
“Engineering is lighter than carbon”. That’s quite an statement from 9point8, but the claimed weight didn’t deviate much from the official specs. They claimed 354g for the post only, and our sample came at 358g – pretty close. Same for the complete set, which went from a claimed 416g to a real 433g, but be aware that’s with the complete 1600mm cable which you might end up cutting a tad, depending on bike frame size.
Compared to their “regular” (Fall Line non “R”) seatpost, the weight loss is coming from using less material and employing a one-piece head and stanchion piece, along with some other small changes.
On the trail
I’ve been riding the Fall Line R for a few months, but since reliability is one of the key aspects to look for on a dropper seatpost, we wanted to torture it for long hours on the saddle before coming with an opinion.
The history has been plagued with dropper seatposts failing to deliver the mechanical reliability all brands promise when they release a new product, but as technology advances it is clear that most of the high-end droppers are now pretty reliable.
Some people also forget that posts need maintenance as well, as you would do on a fork or shock, so don’t expect to mount a dropper on the bike and keep it running for 10 years without a bit of love on your side.
The promised reliability from 9point8 comes from their patented “DropLoc” technology, which according to the Canadians: “The Fall Line R dropper seatpost allows you to infinitely adjust the height of the post in a new way. A mechanical brake locks the post in position without having to circulate large amounts of hydraulic fluid.
It’s lighter, more reliable, and has faster return speeds. The mechanical lock is SPRING actuated, so even if air pressure is lost, the post still locks in any position (but of course the post will not return without help).”
It is still too early for a final verdict on the issue (I promise to make an update on a long term test) but, so far I can only say good things about it. The dropper keeps working without any play or hesitation, and even on a XC bike, I do use it a lot.
I mean not just for butt-on-the-rear-wheel downhills, I’m the kind of guy that operates the dropper all the time, even when not strictly “necessary”, so I can have more fun on my bike. I love leaning and playing on the turns and jumps (especially on a fun XC bike like the Intense Sniper XC and it’s awesome 67,5º head angle…).
So far I’m loving the ThumB lever option. Some may prefer the feeling of a hydraulic lever, but I personally love the direct feel of the cable (not to mention the possibility of on-trail emergency repairs…) Whereas a hydraulic lever might feel like a Lexus, I prefer the Subaru-like feel of the cable actuated ThumB. There are also I-spec and Magura conversion options available.
The Fall Line R has a no- tools easy disconnect, and 9point8 offers a kit that allows you to use that feature to employ one dropper seatpost on two different bikes, saving money. Just get the pack with extra levers and cables, route both and swap the post with saddle as needed.
So now that summer is here, I’ll keep pressing that ThumB lever up and down as a maniac as much as I can, and try to verify the reliability claims of the new post. Most of the time, cutting on weight also means cutting something else (often reliability or durability), but as technology gets more and more clever, here comes progress killing old beliefs.
Let’s give it a chance. I will report later on a long-term test, but so far I have to say the Fall Line R has proved to be a very lightweight (lightest in the market) seatpost that challenges old ideas about XC bikes, and it’s easy to install, good looking, and has a very smooth and controlled action. Stay tuned!
- Travel: 75,100,125,150mm
- Increment: Infinite
- Diameter: 30.9 or 31.6mm
- Rail Compatibility: Metal (7mm round) or Carbon (7-10mm oval)
- Routing: Internal Only
- Total Lengths: 275-435mm
- Remote cable length provided: 1600mm
- Seat rail clamp Inline/offset: 0mm/25mm
- USD 399,00
- Weights (check above for the real weight of our unit)
- Installed Weight includes: Inline Head, ThumB Remote, and 1200mm of cable.