I’m really not one for grand statements. Sure, there’s a lot of hype in the bike industry and more than a little hyperbole, but I’m going to have to say that X-Fusion’s dropper post is a game changer. It finally seems like these fancy seatposts are finally ready for the mainstream and that, like suspension and disc brakes, will be a given within a few years. Why does X-Fusion’s Hilo 100 represent the tipping point? Because it just works. Read on to find out why…
I’m not the most aggressive descender. Sure, I enjoy a spirited descent, but my bikes tend to top out at 140mm of travel and it’s been ages since I was seen in baggies, let alone body armor. My riding tends to include a good deal of pedaling, and thanks to a pair of cranky knees, my bikes’ saddles are all set to optimum pedaling height. Dropping the saddle? Unless a descent is especially long or nasty, I usually can’t be bothered.
Though the idea has been around for quite some time, it has taken a few years and quite a few tries for dropper posts to become reliable and accessible. At $250 and 720g with the remote lever and cable, the Hilo 100 is $35 cheaper and 100g heavier than Crank Brothers’ Joplin and 200g heavier (but $75 cheaper) than RockShox’s Reverb. Though these comparisons do pit the Hilo’s actual weight against the others’ claimed weights, the Hilo 100 is a pretty solid-feeling piece of kit and will easily add a pound when replacing most any decent rigid post. The weird thing is, I’m in no rush to pull it off of my (otherwise lightweight) trail bike.
Having the Hilo on my trail bike has given me the ability to descend as though I’m on a longer-travel platform. With just a small (1-2in) drop, rough descents are made noticeably easier. It could be the real effect of lowering my center of gravity or some sort of placebo, but either way, it works. Though I rarely use all 4 inches of travel, it has been nice to have on a couple of occasions. The post is infinitely adjustable, too, which many riders prefer to indexed posts (I’m on the fence, myself).
In a summer in which I’ve seen a number of friends’ posts go back to their manufacturers, the X-Fusion has soldiered on. Early on, I found that the post would bind didn’t want to drop readily, but a few drops of chain lube freed it up and, once the bushings broke in, it has been doing its thing readily and reliably. The infinitely-adjustable saddle clamp did slip a few times before I decided to disregard the torque specifications. I also found that cycling the post once or twice before a ride would prevent some topping out over bumps- not the end of the world but annoying until I’d figured things out.
Though the post comes packaged with a removable non-remote lever, I mounted my sample with the included remote. With its hinged clamp and V-Brake noodle, the low-profile remote was easy to get situated and has worked well with a couple of different cockpits. The cable pinch bolt (actually a set screw) is difficult to access and should probably be re-thought so that it doesn’t chew up the cable as much- but it sure hasn’t moved on its own. When all is said and done, my biggest complaint about X-Fusion’s first dropper is their use of what has to be the nastiest, cheapest shift cable I’ve seen in ages for the remote. Rough to the touch, it all but seized after one particularly rainy ride. Replacing it with a used Teflon-coated cable and stretch of housing made a world of difference. Note to X-Fusion: this is not the place to save a few pennies.
With a larger-diameter upper in store for 2012, X-Fusion believe that they’ve addressed the post’s early binding issues. While mine has been trouble-free, I can’t help but think that X-Fusion need to go a bit further to remain competitive. Given the competition’s similar prices and significantly lighter weights, the company would probably do well to find a way to put a bit more of a price gap between the Hilo and the Joplin. This would make the Hilo an easier choice for the consumer while leaving room for a higher-priced, lighter weight model if they saw the demand. For anyone who prioritizes reliability over weight, or who needs a 27.2mm seatpost (30.9mm and 31.6mm diameters are also available) the X-Fusion would be a good choice. If it were a bit more financially accessible, the Hilo 100 could be a great choice.