CrankBrothers Highline Dropper Post 2017 Mountain Bike Review

CrankBrothers Highline Dropper Post 2017

Reviews / Seat Posts

CrankBrothers 95,756

At A Glance

CrankBrothers latest in their long line of dropper posts looks built to last. It’s dripping with technical features promising great longevity including premium Trellebor sealing, Igus LL-glide bearings, and a top spec Jagwire cable and outer. The Highline is internally routed, built around a self-contained hydraulic cartridge, and comes with an impressive three year warranty, suggesting CrankBrothers are confident of its durability.

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At the cockpit end it features a slim-line remote clamp with a ball joint mounted lever, giving enormous adjustability. Unlike many other cable activated remotes, the cable is cut and crimped at the remote end, making tension adjustment an easy, on-the-fly task. When the test began it was available in a 400m length and 125mm drop, in either 30.9mm or 31.8mm diameters. Now however, you also have the option of the 345mm, 400mm and 465mm lengths and either 100mm, 125mm and 160mm drops.

Installation

Fitting the Highline proved refreshingly straightforward, with a clearly illustrated instruction sheet provided, and no hydraulic voodoo to perform as the fluid is permanently sealed out of reach in the post. The dropper arrived with the top-of-the-line Jagwire cable fitted, it was just a matter of shortening the outer, inserting the post and clamping the remote. Fine tuning of cable length, tension and remote position can all be done once it is fitted. This also means after a ride or two you can tweak things if you realise you got it wrong the first time.

Fitting your saddle is straightforward thanks to a crafty two-bolt quick release head which hinges open, bypassing the usual challenges of seat fitting requiring at least three hands.

Once fitted, the first feature that struck me was the vast choice of positioning for the remote lever. The handlebar clamp is a slim 10mm wide, meaning it can snuggle right up to your brake lever clamps, and works on either side of the bars, on top or underneath. The universal nature of the ball-joint hinge allows you to position the tip of the lever exactly where your thumb desires, at exactly the angle you want. By adjusting the cable tension you can change the ‘lever stroke’ too, making it a very user friendly set-up for those with tiny thumbs, crowded cockpits or other ergonomic challenges.

The remote clamp does have a low recommended torque setting (2.5Nm), no doubt to remove the risk of crushing your nice carbon bars. I found I had to tighten it further (on alloy bars) to stop my thumbs over-pushing the lever, which repositions it with each use. If I ran it on carbon bars some anti-slip paste would be prudent, and developing a light touch with the thumb.

Visually it’s a slim, very clean-profiled post. The collar is narrow and only 18mm deep (30mm less than a RockShox Reverb) - great news for those whose dropper length is restricted by a long seat tube. Subtle logos and a gunmetal grey collar mean it’ll blend in well on all but the showiest of bikes.

In Use

Out on the trail, the whole setup has a smooth and solid feel to it. There’s only the tiniest amount of play in the seat post, none in the remote lever, and it has a softer less binary feel than the fully hydraulic dropper I had swapped it for. Initially this meant I had to double check it had actually moved, as I’d not heard the ‘clunk’ I was used to from a post hitting it’s full height. One ride later I had tuned into its quiet nature, and the reduced hand movement needed to activate it meant it rapidly drifted from my awareness, allowing me to focus on fully enjoying the riding.

The infinite adjustment is easy to access as the lever action is very sensitive, particularly compared to a fully hydraulic system. Becoming a ‘fit and forget’ item is a real accolade in this instance, the less interruptive a dropper can be, the better!
Right from the ease of fitting through to flawless behaviour on the trail, the Highline's functionality is superb. I hope CrankBrothers can carry this approach into the now expanding range of droppers including the latest 160mm drop version.

Servicing

Wisely avoiding the temptation to make it unique or technical for the sake of it, the Highline is refreshingly simple in construction. CrankBrothers have produced a series of instructional videos to assist with installation, plus fitting and replacing the cable and sealed cartridge. They’ve even supplied grease for the seals, and replacing the (non-serviceable) cartridge is a ten minute job involving one allen key and a spanner. No intimidating bleeds, boutique tools or neuro-surgery skills required.

Conclusion

Nine years on from their futuristic Joplin dropper hitting the market, CrankBrothers look to be pulling ahead of the competition in terms of dropper seatpost reliability. Unlike the Highline, their earlier droppers – both the Joplin and the Kronolog - were plagued by reliability issues. As a result of that painful experience for the brand they have poured a lot of effort into developing a very robust product. It’s fair to say most of the biggest brands are still struggling to produce reliable droppers, with no-one else bold enough match the three year warranty which graces the Highline.

Redemption for CrankBrothers is nigh - I’ve yet to find a fault with its reliability and have been using it steadily, riding and guiding in full ‘British winter’ and spring conditions. All without fenders or indeed any attempt at protecting it from the mud, grit and rain.

Competition is stiff and at £275 GBP/$340 USD the price plants it squarely in the middle, just cheaper than it’s main competitors the Fox Transfer and RockShox Reverb. At 580 grams it’s not the lightest, or the cheapest of a rapidly expanding selection. However, it is a handsome creature, and superbly ergonomic when fitted. Add to this the ease of servicing, long warranty and low maintenance sealed design and the Highline deserves consideration from anyone looking for a simple, solidly reliable and easy-to-use dropper post.

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By Ewen Turner
Ewen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.

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