The Reality Behind The Enormous Price Tags of Dropper Posts

Dropper posts are among the newest tech found on modern mountain bikes. Their impact on the sport is considered so great that some experienced riders put them right next to the suspension fork in terms of importance and historical value.

And while there’s no denying that dropper posts are very useful, they have a severe downside – a high price tag.

Dropper posts are expensive because they are a fairly complicated piece of equipment designed for a small portion of the cycling population, namely advanced mountain bikers.

Since the production volume is low compared to more common bike components (e.g., rear derailleurs), the producers charge more to cover their expenses and make a profit.

The targeted customers comply because the functionality offered by a dropper is very important to them.

The Economic Factors Behind The Prices of Droppers Posts

The initial step to understanding the pricing of an item is to define the product and its potential buyers.

Or in other words, we have to answer two questions:

What is a dropper seat post and who would buy one?

A dropper post is a telescopic seat post that can increase or decrease in length upon a command sent from the rider. The purpose of that functionality is to switch between a low and a high seat position within seconds and without getting off the bike.

The low seat setting makes technical descents easier because the saddle doesn’t get in the way when the rider shifts their weight backward or from side to side.

Also, this seat setting facilitates the performance of extreme maneuvers such as high bunny hops, manuals…etc.

The high seat position, on the other hand, preserves the pedaling efficiency of the rider and is therefore needed for climbing.

A dropper post turns the switch between the two points into a simple and fast procedure. The result is speed, efficiency, and faster reaction when facing a sudden change of terrain.

Who would want such a feature?

Dropper posts are designed for aggressive mountain biking. As a result, they’re more frequently found on enduro bikes.

Nonetheless, droppers are gaining popularity, and sometimes cross-country racers and even road bikers experiment with them.

Ultimately, the most likely buyers of dropper posts are dedicated enduro riders who have already reached advanced skills or plan to do so.

This directly limits the demand for the product to very low levels.

The low demand results in the following aftermath:

Higher prices due to the lack of optimization. If the demand for dropper posts gets larger, the manufacturers would have a greater incentive to streamline the production process and would also receive higher discounts when buying materials and parts in bulk.

Narrow market. Dropper posts would always be a niche product unless suddenly all cyclists turn into mountain bikers who want to do extreme descents, jumps, drops, and bunny hop tree logs.

The low ceiling for growth stops companies from investing more resources into the segment. This limits the development of the dropper post market and lowers the competition.

The People Who Want a Dropper Post Want It

The candidates for buying a dropper post may be a minority, but their commitment is strong.

Their profile is as follows:

  • High skill level or a strong desire to reach it;
  • Addicted to mountain biking and enduro specifically;
  • Already spending a lot of money on expensive bicycles and accessories;
  • Young people with a low income but with a strong focus on rationalizing the expense;

The passion for cycling would often be enough to justify a premium purchase.

When a man is dedicated, the difference between USD 150 and USD 450 gets smaller.

The low but devoted demand provides an additional stimulus to keep the price tags of droppers on the higher side.

Technical Aspects Boosting the Prices of Dropper Posts

Dropper posts have to meet many criteria. They have to be light, strong, durable, and functioning in all weather. This is difficult to achieve with a regular seat post, but the moving parts involved in a dropper complicate the mission.

Similarly to suspension forks, dropper posts work either with an air cartridge or a coil spring. The mechanism compresses when the seat is lowered and decompresses upon elevation. At the top position, the spring locks out so that the seat post doesn’t drop while pedaling.

There are also dropper posts that use an air cartridge assisted by a spring. Thanks to this technology the dropper can work even when air pressure has been lost.

Dropper posts with air cartridges are lighter but require regular pumping with a high-pressure pump whereas those working with a coil spring are closer to the “set it and forget it” principle. As expected, the dropper posts working with air are often more expensive.

As far as the triggering mechanisms go, there are two main options – mechanical (gear cable) and hydraulic. The pro of the mechanical method is the simpler maintenance. The downside is that the performance might be affected by the cable’s position. If it’s twisted, the precision will suffer.

The hydraulic control offers smooth operation almost regardless of how the cable is placed. Nonetheless, it has a strong shortcoming too – the system has to be bled and requires hydraulic fluid replacement.

The more luxurious dropper posts are electric and come with wireless control eliminating all cables.

At the end of the day, a dropper post is a lot like a suspension fork except that its compression and decompression options are not meant to soften the ride but to lower or elevate the seat.

In conclusion

The technical complications found in a dropper post and the need for it to cope with the extreme demands of mountain biking increase the challenge in front of engineers and manufacturers.

The market has no choice but to reflect the extra work that goes into the production of a dropper.

Are Dropper Posts Really Expensive?

The price of dropper posts varies from USD 50-100 all the way to USD 700+.

As it often happens, you will get the most value in the mid-price range around USD 200-350.

Is that expensive? Yes and no.

Most enduro bikes over USD 2, 500 come with a dropper post installed by default. If the price of the dropper post on them is USD 350, then its cost amounts to 14% of the bicycle’s tag. One can even argue that the percentage should technically be lower because a component costs more separately.

But if a rider wants to put a dropper post on a less sophisticated bicycle that costs USD 900 (e.g., hardcore hardtail), a USD 350 dropper would equate to 39% of the bike’s price.

In general, however, USD 350 is not a lot of money for dedicated and/or addicted mountain bikers. A good suspension fork or a set of wheels could cost two times more, and people would still buy them.

However, the benefits that dropper posts offer are substantially limited in comparison to what a rider receives upon purchasing a decent suspension fork or nice wheels.

The fork and the wheels work all the time and provide consistent benefits throughout the entire ride whereas the dropper is used occasionally and primarily by skilled riders.

The infrequent usage of the dropper and its overall smaller contribution to a smooth ride is another reason why people are less enthusiastic to spend the extra money.

The trend may change in the future, but currently, dropper posts are closer to being a luxurious niche product than an indispensable mountain biking upgrade.

Affordable Dropper Posts (under USD 350)

DVO Suspension Garnet DropperAir spring + coil assistUSD 310
RockShox Reverb Stealth 1X AirUSD 310
KS LEV Integra Remote DropperAirUSD 295
Manitou Jack DropperAirUSD 275
Race Face Aeffect R Hydraulic cartridgeUSD 250
Bontrager Line Dropper SeatpostAirUSD 262
FSA Flowtron DropperAirUSD 262
Crankbrothers Highline 7AirUSD 256
Ritchey WCS KiteAirUSD 307
OneUp Components V2AirUSD 292
SDG Tellis DropperAirUSD 260
Kind Shock LEV DXAirUSD 255
XLC SP-T11AirUSD 197
CrankBrothers HighlineHydraulic gas-oil cartridgeUSD 170

The table above contains a list of mid-range dropper posts produced by reputable companies.

Note that the prices may vary depending on the website or the store from which you’re purchasing.

Do You Need a Dropper Post?

A dropper post is beneficial to riders riding on mixed terrain combining descents, ascents, and jumps. If you want to learn more extreme maneuvers while also maximizing your time on advanced trails, a dropper post will help.

If you’re riding isn’t as extreme and is closer to the cross-country disciplines, you wouldn’t benefit as much from a dropper post as it won’t get used all that frequently.

If you’re a gravel rider, the usefulness of a dropper diminishes even further.

Also, total beginners certainly don’t need a dropper post on their bikes right away.

If you are hesitating whether to buy a mediocre fork and a dropper or a decent fork and no dropper, it will be wiser to get the better fork.

At the end of the day, you can always lower your seat manually before descents and when you want to practice tricks.

Far too many people think that they need the latest gear, but very often one’s desire to progress can take him further than buying flashy components.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are dropper posts mountain bike exclusive?

Dropper posts designed for mountain bikes dominate the market, but there are attempts to add droppers to road bikes too.

The projected benefits of dropper posts for road bikes are :

  • More stability when cornering due to the lower center of gravity;
  • More aerodynamic position when descending;

Dropper posts are also seen on gravel bikes for similar reasons.

Do dropper posts have an in-between position?

The more sophisticated dropper posts come with a mid-position too. As you may expect, they’re more expensive.

Can I put a saddle bag on a dropper post?

Yes. There are saddle bags designed specifically for dropper posts.

Why don’t downhill bikes have dropper posts?

Most downhill bikes don’t have droppers because they’re bicycles engineered for extreme descents as reflected by their geometry, tires, and gearing. For that reason, the saddle of a downhill bike is often lowered all the time.

Moreover, climbing on a downhill bike is highly inefficient and tiresome. In consequence, downhill riders rely on lifts to get up the trail.

Still, some people put dropper posts on their downhill bikes as they see a benefit.

What are the downsides of dropper posts?

Droppers have three downsides:

Extra weight. The average dropper is usually 300-400 grams heavier than a regular seat post. To people obsessed with the weight of their bikes, this is the equivalent of a fat elephant.

Complexity. Dropper posts add more complexity to the bicycle. You get an extra cable, lever, and one more moving part to service regularly. Hence why minimalists may prefer to stay away from droppers.

The higher complexity of the part comes with a greater possibility of malfunctioning too.

Or in other words – dropper posts fail more often than one may like to admit.

Somewhat ironically, when a dropper posts malfunctions, the seat is usually stuck in the lower position. That’s not fun when you have to ride for 1+ hours before getting back to your base or car.

Price. Dropper posts may not be super expensive in comparison to other MTB parts, but they could be pricey for people who don’t need that functionality frequently.

Another downside of a dropper that deserves an honorable mention is that it instantly turns a mountain bike into an anti-commuter (a bicycle that is too expensive to commute on) because saddles are among the most frequently stolen components.

I realize that this isn’t a problem for people who use their expensive mountain bikes as intended, but not long ago, I thought about adding a dropper post to my cheap hardtail which I use as a commuter.

Why? Because I also practice tricks on it such as wheelies, bunny hops, and short manuals. Having the ability to quickly switch from a high saddle after wheelies to a low one for bunny hop training seemed attractive to me.

Nonetheless, I decided that the idea is simply impractical because the bicycle in question is also pulling frequent commuting duties. To cope with the situation, I lower my saddle manually between trick practice.

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