Dropper posts have moved from the realm of prohibitively expensive aftermarket upgrades to standard components on the majority of mid-range to high-end mountain bikes on the market today.
The dropper post may be the single most useful invention to come to the world of mountain biking in terms of enhancing the ability of the rider to maximize the potential of their bike in tackling technical off-road terrain.
Being able to move your body over and around the bike, unimpeded by the seatpost at full extension, then immediately returning the saddle to pedaling height with a push of a remote lever becomes a necessity more than a luxury once you have experienced the improvement to your riding that having a dropper post on your bikes offers. No more stopping to fiddle with seatpost collars at the start of a steep descent!
When they were first introduced, there was only a handful of manufacturers offering dropper posts. Not only were the options limited, but prices were astronomical and most droppers were plagued with reliability issues.
Today, there is a plethora of dropper posts on the market, coming in countless options from actuation mechanisms, lengths, drop range, remote styles and choice of cable routing (or even wireless droppers!). Although droppers have become more affordable, if your bike did not come equipped with one from the factory then it is still a fairly expensive upgrade to make. In this article we look at some of the best budget-friendly dropper posts available on the market in 2021.
Top 7 best budget-friendly dropper posts
1. KindShock (KS) eTen dropper post
KindShock was one of the first companies to introduce droppers that were neither outrageously expensive nor notoriously unreliable. I had one of their original KS i950 droppers on my bike in 2010 and it was user serviceable and worked very well for several seasons. KS is currently perhaps the manufacturer with the most varied product line when it comes to droppers, with a model catering to every budget and riding application.
The KS eTen is their most affordable dropper, trimming down to the bare essentials. You don’t get a remote, just an old-school under saddle actuator, and it comes in two diameters (30.9mm and 31.6mm) and two travel lengths maxing out at 100mm. The sealed hydraulic cartridge will likely have a good service life like previous offerings from KS. This would be a great upgrade to a dropper-less bike on a tight budget.
2. PNW Ridge 125 dropper post
The Seattle-based PNW Components specializes in high quality and innovative dropper posts (among other components) for mountain, gravel and cyclocross bikes. The Ridge is their budget-friendly dropper post and it comes in two diameters (30.9mm and 31.6mm) and one travel length (125mm).
Compared to their more expensive droppers which use 7075 aluminum alloy for construction, the Ridge is made from 6061 alloy which is slightly heavier. The manufacturing quality and finish is, however, on par with its pricier siblings. The Ridge comes with an alloy remote (2x compatible), cables and all hardware necessary for installation in the box.
3. Tranz-X Kitsuma dropper post
Tranz-X may not be an immediately recognizable name to many mountain bikers, but they offer some great dropper posts and their product line has several high-quality droppers at very affordable prices. You have likely also seen or used their droppers sold under a different name, as they are an OEM manufacturer for various dropper brands currently on the market.
The Kitsuma comes with external cable routing, three diameters (27.2mm, 30.9mm and 31.6mm) and four travel length options maxing out at a very generous 170mm. At around $160, the Kitsuma would be a good option for a high-quality budget dropper, but keep in mind that the remote lever isn’t included (Tranz-X offers a number of different remote options). If your frame has internal cable routing, Tranz-X offers an internally-routed version called Kitsuma Air.
4. X-Fusion Manic
The quality and finish are no less than droppers costing much more, and the best thing about the Manic is its serviceability by the average home mechanic, which is a plus considering that droppers costing hundreds of dollars more often have to be sent to an authorized service center if they start acting up.
The Manic comes in four diameters (30.9, 31.6, 34.9mm) and four travel options (100, 125, 150, 170mm) and includes an under bar remote lever and cables.
5. Crank Brothers Highline 3 dropper post
The first dropper post Crank Brothers released was called the Joplin. It looked great, but reliability was very questionable. The latest crop of droppers from Crank Brothers are far more reliable than their predecessor, and that’s speaking from experience having had the Highline dropper on one of my bikes for the last two years.
The Highline 3 is the cheaper of the two models Crank Brothers currently offers (the other being the Highline 7). It comes in two diameters (30.9 and 31.6mm) and five travel options (80, 100, 125, 150 and 170mm).
I like the short insertion length which means it fits a wide variety of frame sizes, and the IGUS bushings keep the action super smooth and minimize play at the saddle. The Highline 3 comes with a high-quality Jagwire cable, but the remote lever is sold separately.
6. PNW Coast dropper post
We include another offering from PNW Components because not only is it budget-friendly, it is also geared towards road and gravel bikes amidst an ocean of mountain bike droppers.
The Coast is not just an up-down dropper, it also has a unique trick up its sleeve which is it also has 40mm of built-in suspension which helps with damping the vibrations that fully-rigid road and gravel bikes experience on rough roads.
The Coast comes in three choice of diameter (27.2, 30.9 and 31.6mm) and two travel options (100 and 120mm) and is compatible with any lever kit.
7. One-up V2 dropper post:
One-up is a company based in Squamish, B.C., Canada with a range of innovative products geared towards mountain bikers. Their dropper post range has seen various refinements over the last few years and their V2 dropper is offered in four travel options, from 120mm up to a whopping 210mm, and in three different seat tube sizes (30.9mm, 31.6mm and 34.9mm).
One great feature on the V2 is that you can use travel adjust shims to dial in the perfect seatpost length. One-up also offers their own range of ergonomic remotes to suit various fitment options, including those that integrate with brake levers for a tidier cockpit. The V2 dropper comes in internal routing only and a user-replaceable sealed cartridge. At $199 base price, the One-Up V2 is budget-friendly but is anything from entry-level.
Things to consider before you buy a dropper post
Before you can decide which dropper post would best suit your bike and riding style, you should start by identifying your bike frame’s dropper compatibility:
- Does it run internal or external cable routing?
- What is the seatpost diameter required?
- What is the maximum seatpost insertion length on your frame? Do you have an interrupted seat tube or other frame design features that would need a short insertion length? While it would be nice to have longer travel lengths to drop the saddle as much as possible, you should keep in mind that insertion length often increases as travel increases. You must account for your frame size, seat tube length/shape and saddle stack height (which is measured from the top of the seatpost collar to the center of the saddle rails) before deciding on a dropper insertion length and travel.
- Does your bike run a 1x or 2x drivetrain? This will determine the type of remote lever that you can run. If you have a 1x drivetrain without a shifter pod on the left, then you will be able to run an under-bar remote lever for better ergonomics. Otherwise, with a front shifter pod you would need to run a 2x-compatible remote. Many droppers are sold without a remote lever in the box to allow the rider to pick the lever that would best suit their bike.
Dropper posts have become a necessity on modern mountain bikes, and are even starting to be adopted in the world of gravel and road cycling.
They greatly improve the riding experience, even with the additional weight and expense involved in equipping your bike with one. You do not need to spend an exorbitant amount of cash to add a dropper to your bike.
While more expensive models bring features like fancy coatings, lighter materials, and hydraulic or wireless actuation, cable-actuated droppers function just as well, and weights of good budget droppers are usually not excessively more than their more premium counterparts.
If you’re in the market for a good budget dropper, first do your homework on determining the frame fitment requirements for your bike, then pick a budget dropper from the list above. You can’t go wrong with any of them!
Hani Morsi is a seasoned multi-discipline cyclist with a particular liking for mountain and gravel bikes. Hani is also a mountain bike coach, trail builder and experienced bike mechanic.