When KS dropped the original Lev back in 2012, we were impressed enough to call it “best in class” at the time. The dropper post market has certainly heated up since those days, and with at least 15-20 viable options now available to riders, KS can’t afford to stand still if it wants to keep up. To that end, the original Lev has seen ongoing refinement, but it was the recent appearance of a carbon version that really caught our attention. Initially released in a super-short, 65mm version for the XC crowd, KS has now followed suit with a full-length version made of the fantastic plastic. We’ve been putting it to the test to see how it Read More »
When KS dropped the original Lev back in 2012, we were impressed enough to call it “best in class” at the time. The dropper post market has certainly heated up since those days, and with at least 15-20 viable options now available to riders, KS can’t afford to stand still if it wants to keep up. To that end, the original Lev has seen ongoing refinement, but it was the recent appearance of a carbon version that really caught our attention. Initially released in a super-short, 65mm version for the XC crowd, KS has now followed suit with a full-length version made of the fantastic plastic. We’ve been putting it to the test to see how it stacks up.
KS Lev Ci Dropper Post Highlights
- High compression molded carbon fiber head micro adjustable with titanium bolts
- Adjustable air sprung hydraulic cartridge
- Black hard anodized stanchion
- Patented one-way roller-clutch bearing
- One-piece molded unidirectional carbon fiber mast
- Stealth cable routing
- Includes “Recourse” ultra-light cable system
- Carbon remote (lock-on grip compatible)
- Travel: 65mm, 100mm, 125mm, 150mm, 175mm
- Weight: 481 grams, including cable and remote (150mm/31.6mm, verified)
- MSRP: $515 USD to $605 USD (depending on travel - $545 as tested, 150mm)
- Availability: March 2017
The original Lev is a well-made product, and the Lev Ci is no different. The new post is impeccably finished, with great attention to detail and a general impression of quality. The second, and by far most striking aspect of the new post is the weight – or the distinct lack of it. Most comparable dropper posts weight in at around 670 grams once you add in the cable and remote, so the Lev Ci with its 480 grams total is by far and away the lightest option available today.
Aside from its carbon main mast and a carbon fiber plate in the head, the rest of the Lev Ci borrows its design from the regular Lev. Stealth routed, there is a small rocker lever at the base of the post which actuates the hydraulics inside when you want to drop or extend your post. Return force is provided courtesy of an airspring, which can be used to modulate the return speed of the post by way of varying the air pressure (from 150 to 250 psi). The head is a traditional dual-bolt, railed design, with Ti bolts provided as standard on the Lev Ci. As a leftover from the old, externally routed Lev, the head can be rotated in relation to the lever body, although why you would need that for a stealth routed post is not immediately obvious to us.
The minimal, thumb-lever remote is also partially made out of carbon, and KS deliver the Lev Ci with their new “Recourse” cable system – an ultra-light synthetic housing and cable combo that shaves an impressive amount of weight in this area alone (up to 80 grams over a regular housing/cable/remote setup).
Much like the regular Lev, the overall length of the Lev Ci is shorter than any other post we know of – at similar travel it is on average a full 40mm shorter (which may also help contribute to its low weight of course). Coupled with a compact head design, it offers among the lowest minimum saddle height in this travel category, making it a good choice for riders who may have found other 150mm travel posts to be just a bit too long when fully extended (the Lev Ci gains about 10-15mm compared to most other posts available today), or for those who have obstructed or bent seat tubes on their frames. On the flip side, max extension is also shorter than most other posts, on average by about 40mm, so taller riders may well need to opt for the 175mm travel version to get enough extension. Here are the key dimensions of the KS Lev Ci @150mm travel:
Full Length (bottom of cable dock to rail)
Collar to Rail
Minimum Insert Full
Bottom of Collar to Base
Max Extension (seat tube to rail)
The Lev Ci uses a closed hydraulic cartridge to stop the post at any point in its travel. The post itself can be serviced by a shop or by a well-equipped home mechanic, although you should note that there are a few specialty tools required for the job. The cartridge requires a return to a service center or outright replacement in case of trouble.
On The Trail
The installation process is not very complicated, you’ll probably find the trickiest bit being to get the cable housing through your frame, depending on how your frame manufacturer executed the internal routing. The cable end with the head threads into the remote end, with a small locking nut clamping down on the cable in the rocker at the base of the post. The Lev Ci comes with a barrel adjuster which is handy for fine tuning the cable tension, while also giving the cable a nice bend where it exits the remote.
The post head is a good design too, it is easy to adjust and holds the seat firmly in place without having to go nuts on the bolts. The head can be prone to making some noise over time when it gets dirty, although for this two-month test it kept quiet as a mouse.
Smooth and easy to control, the post slides up and down with a precise feel, and it stops where you want it to.
In use, the Lev Ci is everything we’ve come to expect from a Lev post. Smooth and easy to control, the post slides up and down with a precise feel, and it stops where you want it to. There is an audible top-out noise to tell you your post is fully extended, which is always nice on the trail – standing on tired legs and wondering if your post made it up in time is always a bit annoying. We initially wondered if the carbon post mast would be more prone to slipping in the seat tube, but no such problems materialized at all.
The action of the lever is quite light, although we were not completely won over by the “Recourse” cable system. It shaves a lot of weight but it also offers a less direct feel at the lever. We wouldn’t go as far as to say the lever action becomes “spongy”, but this cable system introduces a certain vagueness to the lever action. You also need to be fairly precise with cable tension, or it might interfere with the proper operation of the post (and don't crank down too hard on the little retention nut or you will obliterate the cable fairly quickly). The Lev has traditionally been a bit finicky to deal with in this regard, and you still need to pay good attention when routing the cable and dialing in the cable tension on the Lev Ci.
The minimalist thumb-lever is easy to position on the handlebar, but ergonomically we find it inferior to a shifter-style lever. Because of how short the lever is (common to most thumb-levers out there), the angle of the lever changes dramatically as it goes through its travel, which means your thumb wants to slide off the lever towards the end of the travel. KS offers its excellent “SouthPaw” shifter style lever if you are a member of the 1x drivetrain club – a recommended upgrade.
One thing that the Lev Ci does not like is when you press the lever while seated on the saddle. This is perhaps bad practice anyway, as it could put unnecessary stress on the internals of any post, but worth pointing out. Keeping your weight on the saddle before dropping it means you will have to push a bit harder on the lever to initiate the drop, and you can feel when the hydraulics “pop” open in this case. For best results, stand up and unweight your saddle before depressing the lever.
Things That Could Be Improved
There is a mammoth in the room here which we have deliberately not acknowledged so far: price. Basically, at well over $500 (or more like $600 for the longest travel version), this is the most expensive dropper out there at the moment. A Thomson or Race Face dropper will set you back around $470-$500 at list price, but there are also plenty of other excellent options at around the $350 to $400 mark. So is the Lev Ci worth it? If you ignore the weight savings, it is not – if you don’t care about dropping 200 grams off your ride, just get the regular Lev and call it good, as the Lev Ci is not better nor worse in regards to basic functionality. However, 200 grams is a serious amount of weight to drop on just one component, as anybody with the faintest interest in the subject will tell you. Is it worth $200? You decide!
Overall, the Lev Ci is an impressive piece of kit. As pointed out in the previous section, we were not completely convinced by the “Recourse” cable system – it does offer a fairly significant weight saving but at the expense of a somewhat vague feeling at the remote. The only other gripe is with the thumb-lever remote which we find a bit on the small side, but there is of course the option to upgrade to a “SouthPaw” shifter style remote to improve this aspect. By the time you’ve dropped your $600 you might as well go all the way.
Long Term Durability
Our previous experiences with the KS Lev droppers point to good reliability, we’ve gotten years of service out of some of them. After two months of testing in some fairly inclement conditions at times, the Lev Ci is looking good so far.
There is a tiny bit of side-to-side play present out of the box, which is very normal for today’s crop of dropper posts, but it has not gotten any worse during our test. We also noticed that the post would sink down ever so slightly after extended climbs. It was not visible to the naked eye, but if we pressed the lever after getting off the bike with the seat in the extended position, we’d hear a small “thunk” indicating that it did extend another tiny little bit. Something to survey over the long run, but not indicative of any real problem at this point. The post will be tricky to service for most home mechanics, due to the need to possess a few specialty tools, but most shops should be able to carry out a bushing swap or a clean and re-grease service without having to return the post to a KS service center.
What’s The Bottom Line?
The KS Lev is a proven performer, and the Lev Ci takes the same design and drops a significant amount of weight thanks to the wonders of carbon. The result is a dropper post that is the lightest in the world by a huge margin, while also taking the crown as the most expensive. Is it worth the cold hard cash? A dollar per gram is pretty standard fare in the old weight drop game, so if you’re a player it probably is. Whatever your reason, you will get an excellent dropper for your money.
More information at: www.kssuspension.com.
About The Reviewer
Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.
Photos by Johan Hjord and Tal Rozow