Crankbrothers Highline Dropper Seatpost

Vital Rating: (Excellent)
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Crankbrothers Highline Dropper Seatpost highline_extended_large
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Tested: Crankbrothers Highline Dropper Post

Crankbrothers finally gets it right.

Rating: Vital Review
Tested: Crankbrothers Highline Dropper Post

With the less-than-stellar Joplin and Kronolog, Crankbrothers had pretty much taken themselves out of the dropper post game, so they knew they had to go back to the drawing board and get their next attempt right. The Highline is a completely new product and a full departure from the design of the previous posts, which is a good first step in the right direction. When it was first released in 2016, only a 125mm version was available, but a 160mm version joined the line-up more recently which means we can now compare it with the droppers tested previously for our big shootout feature. After many months with several versions of the new dropper on the trail, read on to find out how it stacks up.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Lever ergonomics
  • Smooth dropping action
  • Solid locking action
  • Easy to

With the less-than-stellar Joplin and Kronolog, Crankbrothers had pretty much taken themselves out of the dropper post game, so they knew they had to go back to the drawing board and get their next attempt right. The Highline is a completely new product and a full departure from the design of the previous posts, which is a good first step in the right direction. When it was first released in 2016, only a 125mm version was available, but a 160mm version joined the line-up more recently which means we can now compare it with the droppers tested previously for our big shootout feature. After many months with several versions of the new dropper on the trail, read on to find out how it stacks up.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Lever ergonomics
  • Smooth dropping action
  • Solid locking action
  • Easy to modulate
  • Very little play
  • One of the head bolts flips open for easy saddle installation
  • 160mm drop
  • Easy to service
  • 3-year warranty on cartridge
  • Slightly slow return speed
  • Lack of distinct top-out sound
  • Very long post body

Crankbrothers Highline Highlights

  • Material: 7075-T6 aluminum
  • Setback: Zero
  • Travel options: 100mm, 125mm, 160mm
  • Trelleborg sealing
  • Igus LL-glide bearings and keys
  • Jagwire Elite ultra-slick cable and lex-sl housing
  • Self-contained hydraulic cartridge
  • Internal routing only
  • Quick connect mechanism for ease of cable installation
  • Two-bolt quick release head for easy saddle installation
  • Pivot remote lever allows optimal ergonomic placement
  • Ergonomic spherical adjustment - 360° rotation / 22° tilt
  • Single bolt hinge locking system
  • Universal mounting system: top/bottom/left/right
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Weight: 706 gram (160mm version, including remote, cable, and housing, verified)
  • MSRP: $350 USD

Initial Impressions

As you would expect from Crankbrothers, the Highline showed up in a good looking box, and presented a fine appearance when removed from said box. So far nothing unusual – if it’s one thing that Crankbrothers know about, it’s design and packaging. The post is a long and sleek number, while the short and stubby remote intrigued us with a little rotating ball joint design.

To make for a better user experience, Crankbrothers went with a fully sealed and replaceable gas cartridge, and they also made the rest of the post easily serviceable.

When it comes to dropper posts however, beauty is definitely more than skin deep. Nobody likes messing around with parts that fail or don’t work properly, and the good old dropper post can be just about the most infuriating component on a bike when it decides to act up. To make for a better user experience, Crankbrothers went with a fully sealed and replaceable gas cartridge, and they also made the rest of the post easily serviceable. Looking through the spec list, we were also pleased to discover Trelleborg seals and Igus glide bearings, as those are trustworthy names that typically body well for performance and longevity.

The 125mm version we originally tested in action.

The Highline is a long post, in more than one aspect. First of all, the 160mm version offers 10mm more travel than the majority of posts in this category. Second, the main body of the Highline is also very long – in fact, it’s the longest of all the posts we tested for our big dropper Face Off feature. Even if we normalize the travel to 150, the Highline is still 15mm longer overall than the second-longest post we tested (the e*thirteen TRS), and a full 64mm longer than the BikeYoke at the same travel (all numbers measured from the rails to the tip of the actuator mechanism).

Is this a good or a bad thing? That depends very much on you and your frame. For example, the Highline also offers the longest “Max Extension” number of any post we’ve tested, so if you have really long legs and a super short seat tube, this could very well be the post you’ve been waiting for. However, if your frame design leaves less room in the seat tube, you may find that the post cannot be inserted deeply enough to fit you, even though the “Collar To Rail” measurement might be in your range. Weight-wise, the Highline remains relatively competitive despite its imposing physical dimensions, coming in just 40-80 grams heavier than the class leaders.

By the numbers:

Post Full Length (mm) Collar To Rail (mm) Minimum Insert (mm) Collar To Base (mm) Max Extension (mm) Weight (grams, with Hardware)

Highline 160

527

207

157

317

368

706

The Highline’s remote is a small and compact unit, which can be placed in all kinds of positions on the handlebar thanks to a clever swiveling design, which also makes fine-tuning the ergonomics of the lever easier. The post is actuated by a rotating switch design, operated by the cable pulling on a threaded plastic barrel that rotates as it is pulled. The head of the cable sits here at the actuator end, which means the remote needs a little set screw to clamp the cable. Although this leaves a bit of cable protruding at the lever end, we still prefer this design as it’s way easier to work on when installing the post and/or adjusting your cable housing length. And on that topic, time to get the post mounted up and hit the trails!

On The Trail

Installing the Highline is easy. The saddle clamp uses a classic two-bolt design with a twist: one of the bolts flips out, making it easy to install the saddle without dropping little bits of hardware all around you. All you then really need to do is trim your cable housing to the correct length, clamp the cable at the remote and adjust the cable tension if necessary. The cable comes pre-installed in the actuator mechanism of the post, so that’s all there is to it. If you do end up removing the actuator mechanism for some reason, make sure you align it properly when you put it back together again, or the post won’t function as intended. Pay particular attention when closing the lockring, as it may twist the actuator out of position unless you hold it in place while rotating the ring. Another good tip provided in the post's manual is to place a piece of tape or a zip tie around the cable housing if you remove the post after installation, to prevent the lockring from sliding down the cable housing into your frame (been there, done that).

On the trail, we were immediately won over by the ergonomics of the lever. The flexible design makes it easy to place exactly where you want it, and although we generally prefer to run a MatchMaker option if one is available, we found the narrow collar and generally low-profile design of the Crankbrothers remote easy to live with on the handlebars. It also gives you the option to run the lever above the handlebars if you have other controls to make room for, and it will fit either side of your cockpit as well. We did receive an optional grip sticker kit for the lever, with 8 different colored non-slip patches, but we found the naked remote just as good without them in real life. A good thing, since these little stickers do not do a particularly great job of actually sticking…

Things like being able to push the remote while seated, or lifting the bike by the saddle are hallmarks of a quality product that has what it takes to become fully intuitive to use.

The action of the post itself is super smooth, and it’s easy to modulate the return speed with the lever. In terms of the force required to push the lever, we’d place it somewhere in the middle. The same goes for pushing the post down – it requires a little bit more weight than certain others, but never to the point of making it difficult to use. In fact, operating the Highline quickly became second nature, and we definitely became fans of just how precise it is to work with on the trail. Things like being able to push the remote while seated, or lifting the bike by the saddle are hallmarks of a quality product that has what it takes to become fully intuitive to use.

The return speed of the Highline is not very fast, on par with a Thomson or a Reverb in the slow setting. The return speed cannot be adjusted. The post also lacks an audible signal of some kind to let you know when it has reached full extension. There is a bit of a “thunk” as it tops out, but it’s actually easier to feel that through the frame than it is to pick up on it audibly, especially if you’re traveling at speed or riding with a full face helmet. Aside from that slight complaint, our time on the Highline has been a very enjoyable experience. The post is impressively free of play (absolutely minimal side-to-side, and no vertical “sponginess” whatsoever), and the post head has also remained silent and creak-free across several samples we’ve tested (the original 125mm 2016 post as well as this more recent 160mm version).

The smoothness of the Highline in action is second to none, and the locking action is among the most solid we've tested so far.

Where does that leave the Highline compared to the posts we tested for last year's big dropper Face Off? The overall score will be held back a bit by weight and physical dimensions, but the post gets very close to the class leaders in terms of ergonomics and usability. The smoothness of the Highline in action is second to none, and the locking action is among the most solid we've tested so far. Only the somewhat pedestrian return speed prevents it from a scoring a perfect 10 on this aspect.

Things That Could Be Improved

As we alluded to in the previous section, the Highline’s return speed is on the slower side. It’s not slow to the point of becoming a nuisance, just something to note if you are generally a fan of a more snappy post. Related, the post could also do with a slightly more audible “thunk” to signal topping out, as it stands it can be hard to know if the post is fully extended in the heat of battle.

As for the physical dimensions, the Highline is a very long post. Whether or not that is a problem for your depends on your body’s measurements and your frame (see the Initial Impressions section for the full discussion on this topic).

Long Term Durability

There is no lack of dropper posts that work well and that are easy to use. Where the rubber hits the road for this particular component is when it comes to longevity. Crankbrothers has seemingly taken all the right steps to address this with a design that is both robust and easy to service. In fact, they are so confident in their new post that they back the cartridge with a three-year warranty (bushings and other consumable items are covered for one year). Should anything go wrong during this time, Crankbrothers will send out replacement parts directly to you if you are based in the US, while the rest of the world is typically serviced via the dealer network. We've ridden a couple of samples of the post for many months now without revealing any shortcomings so far - in fact, the post is impressively free of any kind of play. The very first 125mm post we received in 2016 had a faulty cartridge that came from the first production batch, but after replacing that we've seen no further issues with either of the posts tested, with more than 12 months on the trail in total. Crankbrothers recommends greasing the upper seals as well as the actuator mechanism regularly, but we've elected to neglect ours in the name of journalism and so far, so good. Full service including potential replacement of bushings is recommended after 450 hours, which translates to a full year of riding if you go on 3 rides of 3 hours each per week. All the maintenance is easy to do with only basic tools, thanks to the replaceable, sealed cartridge design.

What’s The Bottom Line?

While Crankbrothers has used up more than their fair share of goodwill with their previous droppers, this should not prevent us from giving credit where credit is due. The all-new Highline is smooth in action and easy to use, with a robust design that looks poised to lay any durability concerns to rest once and for all. Since it is a very long post overall, you’ll need to check that it fits your particular frame and body measurements, but if you tick that box you’ll find a lot to like about this post. We certainly did.

For more information, visit www.crankbrothers.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 45 // Years Riding MTB: 13 // Weight: 190-pounds (86kg) // Height: 6'0" (1.84m)

Johan 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

Specifications

Product Crankbrothers Highline Dropper Seatpost
Riding Type Cross Country, Trail
Seatpost Type Dropper
Interface Railed
Remote Adjustable Yes
Diameter 30.9 or 31.6
Travel 100mm, 125mm, 160mm (infinite travel adjustment)
Length 345mm, 400mm, 465mm
Tilt 0mm setback
Materials 7075-T6 Aluminum
Colors Black with grey collar
Weight
  • 1 lb 2.5 oz (525 g)
  • 1 lb 3.8 oz (560 g)
  • 1 lb 5.5 oz (610 g)
Miscellaneous 560g weight for a 125mm x 30.9mm post, excluding cable housing

Post Features:
- 47mm minimum stack height
- Internal routing
- Quick-connect mechanism for ease of cable installation
- Two-bolt quick release head for easy saddle installation
- Jagwire elite ultra-slick cable and lex-sl housing
- Self contained hydraulic cartridge
- Igus LL-glide bearing and keys
- Trelleborg seal

Remote Features:
- Pivot remote lever allows optimal ergonomic placement
- Ergonomic spherical adjustment – 360° rotation // 22° tilt
- Single bolt hinge locking system
- Universal mounting system: top / bottom / left / right

3 year warranty.

Price $350
More Info

www.crankbrothers.com

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