Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins
With trail, all-mountain, and enduro riding progressing over the past couple of years, innovations like the dropper post have become a standard on an increasing number of bikes. With the demand high, dropper post manufactures have approached the problem of a bike designed for both climbing and descending in a number of ways. This makes your adjustable post choice a difficult one as there are quite a few viable options on the market. 9point8, a new company based in Ontario, might stir the pot a bit when the time comes to make that decision.
We were intrigued when 9point8's first product, "The Pulse," was introduced in May. Featuring a unique "Stepper" design that allows you to drop the saddle height by 5mm increments or more at a time and a brake-like remote lever, the post certainly stands out from the crowd. Several months and hundreds of test miles later, it's time for us to weigh in on their design.
The Pulse Stepper Post Highlights
- 100mm of stroke with steps in 5mm increments, or drop the post partially or fully any time
- Dual-function trigger allows selection of infinite-adjust mode or stepping mode
- Cable actuated with hydraulic internals for smooth operation
- Convertible between inline and offset configurations (with purchase of conversion kit)
- Install / remove the trigger without removing grips or controls
- Rotational, vertical, fore-aft, and left-right anti-backlash design
- Independent adjustment of the seat angle and seat fore/aft position
- Micro-adjustable seat angle
- Sealed to keep the fluids in and the elements out
- Available in 30.9 and 31.6mm diameters
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Weight: 680 grams
- MSRP: $499
The first thing we noted about the Pulse was its packaging, and that isn't something we often comment about.
It's clear 9point8 spent a considerable amount of time designing the packaging. The box itself is triangular instead of rectangular which helps reduce the amount of cardboard. The shape aids in reducing shipping area taken up in transit. The seatpost is safe and secure without the use of styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Finally, the whole package is held together by recycled rubber-bands made of old bicycle tubes. While all this obviously doesn't have anything to do with the performance of the post, it does show 9point8's commitment to reducing their environmental impact. It also shows an innovation and consideration often left out in the mountain biking world, which is something we as riders pushing to keep nature and open space trails accessible to us should appreciate.
Installation was super easy since the Pulse uses standard 4mm stainless steel cable and 4mm derailleur cable housing. There's no need to bleed the line and you can cut the housing to your desired length for a clean-looking setup. The cable attaches to the saddle clamp directly under the saddle. While that might not be the cleanest looking design, it does in-fact make installation easier, particularly when you get into internally routed posts that require a bleed. Another nice feature of the post is the independent adjustment of seat angle and fore/aft position - you can alter one without having to worry about the other.
You will notice a slight bit of side-to-side rotation with this post after you install the saddle, though this never translated to anything noticeable on the trail. No up and down or other play was felt, however. It should also be noted that you can pick the bike up by the saddle and the post will not extend as a result.
The lever mounted nicely over the Avid brakes we were running, but you if you're using brakes like Shimano or Hope that have the reservoir on top of the lever, you might have to mount the Pulse lever a little higher than we have ours. Should you have issues dialing in your post, 9point8 handily laser-etched a QR code which pulls up the product manual and installation guide on your smartphone when scanned.
On The Trail
So far the Pulse has offered solid operation of a historically poor performing component. Some standout features with the Pulse are its 5mm drop increments vs. the typical infinitely-adjustable post, a limited lifetime warranty on an often fussy component, and the ability to change the post from set-back to standard without having to buy a whole new post - a first for droppers.
Here's a quick overview of how it works, courtesy of 9point8:
The actual action of dropping the post is pretty intuitive. You can remain seated while pulling the lever in partially to drop the saddle in 5mm steps. If you don't like the idea of dropping it 5mm at a time, you can just pull the lever a bit more and use it like a traditional post. To raise the saddle, simply stand and pull the lever. It can also be raised in 5mm increments if you only need a slight boost.
If you choose to utilize what's arguably the Pulse's key selling point, the 5mm steps, you might notice some advantages not present in other posts. We'll admit, when first reading about the Pulse we had our doubts and thought it a bit gimmicky, but the 5mm drop is actually a very useful feature. Being able to repeatably position your saddle at different heights eliminates the frustration of bobbing up and down on your post trying to find the exact height you're looking for. Similar to FOX's CTD philosophy on their DOSS post, in which you have three defined post heights, you get that same functionality out of the Pulse. Instead of being limited to three you have 20 different positions that are as easy to find as selecting a gear on your cassette. To be fair, we didn't use all 20 available positions once we found a few preferred positions. Since everyone will have slightly different preferences, the small increments of adjustability is nice verses being limited to only three positions. It's nice to be able to find your exact middle post height setting by just remembering how many times to pull the lever, and technical climbing is much easier with 5 or 10mm of drop.
While you can raise the saddle using the shorter, half lever pull (also used to step the post down 5mm), we found the post to extend a tiny bit slower and with some resistance and even some noise. When you use a full lever pull, the noise isn't present and the return action is fast and smooth.
The lever itself was a worry when first checking the post out. It's shaped like a standard brake lever, but smaller, and mounts directly over your brake on whatever side of the bars you prefer. A few Vital MTB readers showed concern about having to remove your braking finger to adjust the post, but this actually never really presented itself as a problem when putting in saddle time. If you can anticipate a gear shift before a speed robbing corner, or if you remember riding older Shimano triggers which required your index finger to shift into higher gears, you'll be fine having to remove your braking finger for a quick second to adjust your post.
Long Term Durability
So far so good. After a few months of testing the post is no worse for wear. There's no weeping or leaking from the seal, it hasn't developed excess rotation, and the spring/cartridge still functions as designed. At 250-pounds, I tend to abuse dropper posts more than your average rider. So far I've yet to blow this one, and if I ever do blow it up, it sounds like 9point8 stands behind their product with the warranty offered with this post. The Pulse is also user serviceable and 9Point8 offers a rebuild kit including bushings, seals, and wipers needed to service the post.
Things That Could Be Improved
We have four minor gripes with the Pulse:
- We wish the cable mount was stationary at either the bottom of the post for an all internal routing option, or on the lower portion of the post to avoid the cable loop out back behind the saddle.
- A 5-inch travel option would be awesome. There were a few moments where an extra inch of drop would have been nice.
- We're still wanting an option to change the remote lever to thumb actuation. While 9point8 said they tested both thumb and index options and feel the design they chose to be the most beneficial, it would still be nice to have thumb actuation as an option.
- One disadvantage of the lever design is its rather thin lever blade. This was done to keep the lever as compact as possible, but after long rides it did get a bit annoying having to pull the relatively sharp lever. Perhaps designing the lever a bit more ergonomically would make it more comfortable on long rides.
Thankfully these aren't deal breakers in our opinion, but rather luxury add-ons to an already solid and well performing component.
While the improvements mentioned above may not be deal breakers, the Pulse's high price tag and weight may be. At $499 MSRP, this post might be the most expensive on the market - then again, no one else offers a lifetime warranty. It's also one of the heaviest at 680 grams.
What's The Bottom Line?
9point8's unique Pulse seatpost provides the ability to achieve a number of different, repeatable saddle heights that makes finding your preferred levels for most situations fast and precise; this is a feature that surprised us with its usefulness. The limited lifetime warranty is good peace of mind when you're spending a lot of money on what is typically a problematic component. That said, the Pulse has proven to be reliable so far. We think 9point8's take on a dropper post, or rather "stepper post," is one of the more solid contenders on the market from a functionality and durability standpoint. With an additional inch of travel, fixed cable position, revised lever, and lower weight it would receive top marks in our book.
For more information or to order The Pulse, visit www.9point8.ca.
About The Reviewer
Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session. Currently, he is a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.