by Brandon Turman
In May of this year we were first introduced to the KS LEV Adjustable Seatpost. An impressive package on paper, it was poised above the rest with up to 150mm of infinite adjustability, fixed cable routing, a very sleek remote lever, and a smart mix of cable actuation and hydraulic/air sprung internals. If you're unfamiliar with the post, take a moment to browse the 'First Look' feature we created for a more in-depth overview:
If you couldn't tell, we were very impressed by our first ride, even at the pre-production stage. Shortly after that ride we began testing a production version. We'll preface this review by stating that we use our droppers a LOT on the trail, likely more so than our rear shifter. With that in mind, it's time to weigh in on how the LEV has treated us over four months of use and abuse in a variety of riding conditions.
Straightforward, Adaptable Install
Thanks to the LEV's design, it will accommodate seemingly any combination of seat clamp and frame that you can come up with. Detents in the head of the post allow the base to be rotated in 20-degree increments, which means that the cable's entry point can be adjusted relatively easy. This is cool because you can optimize the angle for your bike. It worked best at the 7 o'clock position on our bike, allowing room for the seat clamp while maintaining a nice smooth curve in the cable. For those that are fortunate (or daring enough) to have a frame with internal seatpost cable routing, be sure to check out the LEV Integra.
If you happen to run ODI grips the remote lever can replace the inner lock ring. We dig the clean integration of the two, and it places the lever in a very easy to reach position. If you don't run ODI grips, no worries, the lever will bolt to your bar using the same clamp. The width is narrow enough that it will likely fit between your grip and brake lever/shifter.
Part of the install process involves cutting the cable to a precise length. If you botch it, the included in-line adjuster will prove to be quite handy. It's an optional accessory, but we chose to install it anyway. After a handful of rides you can also use this to easily adjust the cable tension to take up any slack due to cable stretch. This beats bleeding a post any day.
Be sure to check the pressure in the post prior to mounting your seat. The air valve is located underneath the head of the post which makes it a little time consuming to adjust. We'd suggest a pressure 15-20 psi less than your body weight. This will give the post a supportive feeling when you push it down, helping you maintain control while entering descents. Note that the range is anywhere from 150-250psi.
The combined stack height of the post's base plus the head measures 55mm. To determine how much travel you can get away with, simply measure the distance between the top of your seat clamp and your saddle rails, then subtract 55mm. The resulting number is the maximum amount of travel your post can have. The LEV is available in 100, 125, and 150mm travel options, and we're betting that you could likely get a little more adjustment range thanks to how compact the LEV is.
On The Trail
Technical features aside, the LEV really shines when it comes to the basic up/down movement, which is incredibly smooth in both directions. For those that use the well-regarded RockShox Reverb, the LEV's movement has a similar feel but seems less restricted and freer. There is no notching or hesitation when motion starts or stops - it's either smooth or locked in place. Return speed seems just right, and when the post reaches the top there's an audible noise that's just loud enough to hear every time.
Riding the KS Lev at Gooseberry Mesa, where the constantly changing terrain keeps you and your post sharp.
Thanks to the ergonomics and location of the remote lever, actuation of the post quickly became second nature when blazing into downhill sections. It takes very little effort to depress the lever, something we're thankful for at the end of long rides. Pressing the lever while seated is okay, and doesn't take any more effort than when unweighted.
Having snagged a few seatpost cable housings on linkages and shoes, the fact that the cable doesn't move with this system is one of the biggest highlights for us. This also quiets the bike, prevents unsightly cable rub, and lightens everything just a tad more due to the shorter cable length required.
Things That Could Be Better
There's always room to improve, even for top-tier components. Nothing on this list is a deal breaker though. In fact, they're all rather petty suggestions, but why not shoot for the stars, right?
First up, the cable exits the lever perpendicular to the handlebar. Without a little homemade modification (aka zip tie) the cable seemed to be in no man's land as it traced its way back to the frame. Including the necessary brake housing fittings to achieve the clean sweep shown in the 'First Look' feature would be swell, and it'd help our OCD-ness.
Because it's located under the head of the post, access to the air adjustment is painful. This is really only an issue during the initial experimentation period. After that it's set and forget.
When the post is depressed and you pick up on the saddle, the upper post will move. It's a springy feeling and doesn't move much, but a solid clamp around the upper post would be great for hike-a-bikes when lifting by the seat.
After about two months of use in dusty conditions, the head of the post developed a rather loud creak. The solution involved taking the seat off, cleaning each piece, re-greasing the bolts, and reinstalling. This is a common issue with two-bolt post designs.
When the bike is flipped upside down for trail-side repairs, the carbon lever takes a beating. An under-bar mounting option could solve this.
Finally, while we haven't seen the pressing need to service the post, the process appears to be pretty involved.
Long Term Wins
After several months of use in both dusty and muddy conditions, the LEV continues to impress. The main seal is intact and doing its job, motion is comparable to when it was new, the post has maintained air pressure, and there is no visible wear on the stanchion.
The clever o-ring-equipped KS cap that covers the cable entrance point has done a great job at keeping the cable gunk-free, and cable movement still feels crisp and clean. We've only needed to tweak the cable tension one time following the initial install, which is a good indicator that you could likely do without the inline adjuster if you'd like to.
Long Term Concerns
Compared to other posts, we've had very few real issues with the LEV. Very rarely, the post will remain locked in the extended position while we're seated and the lever has been depressed. This is a recent development and only occurs once every 2 or 3 rides. Unweighting the post and sitting back down returns it back to its normal state of awesome, so we're inclined to think that this issue will be solved following a routine service.
KS uses a one-way roller bearing clutch to prevent rotational movement. The post had no noticeable play when we received it, but over time has developed a very slight wiggle. This isn't noticeable on the trail and doesn't make noise, but it might turn into an issue after a few years of use. We'll have to wait and see…
What's The Bottom Line?
Just like brakes that work well, we're big fans of parts that you don't have to think about. The KS LEV falls into that category. Well thought out features, trouble free use, and incredibly smooth action put it at the top of our list. At $395, the price is a little steep, but it's also in line with other high-end offerings. KS achieved the perfect balance in all the areas that count, and the calculated combination of cable actuation with hydraulic/air sprung internals really set it apart. We've tested nearly every adjustable post on the market, and as of today, we're giving the KS LEV the well-deserved title of "Best in Class."
For more details, visit www.kssuspension.com.
About The Reviewer
Brandon Turman likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike, and to really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill. His perfect trail has a good mix of flow, tech, and balls-to-the-wall speed. He loves little transfers, rollers, and the occasional gap that gives him that momentary stomach in your throat kind of feeling. Toss in some rocky bits with the option to double over them or risk pinch flatting and you've got a winner in his book. In 13 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. After finishing up his mechanical engineering degree, his riding focus turned to dirt sculpting and jumping with the occasional slopestyle contest thrown in for fun. Nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.