Crankbrothers Highline 7 NSMB AndrewM.JPG
REVIEW

Crankbrothers Highline 7 Dropper Post

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Feb 3, 2020

Reconciliation

This review is ostensibly a look at the new 170mm travel Highline 7 dropper post. It's Teflon-smooth after months of North Shore conditions, tight to twisting forces, and shows no signs of use. I haven't even greased the seal head since my initial teardown. The bigger story however, is that this is simply meeting my current expectations for a Crankbrothers product.

It's another positive step in reconciling my awful, long past experiences with the Crankbrothers brand. Today I choose to ride Mallet DH pedals, I have one of their floor pumps in my basement, and I heartily recommend the Highline dropper lineup to all my friends.

Crankbrothers Highline NSMB AndrewM (3).jpg

Bikeroom has moved twice since I did my 2017 Highline teardown off the side of one of Jeff's benches at his first location.

Crankbrothers Highline NSMB AndrewM (2).jpg

Travel options aside, the actuator is the only notable difference between the 1st gen Highline and the new Highline 7.

Crankbrothers Highline NSMB AndrewM (4).jpg

I prefer the concept of the original quick-fit Highline actuator but there's no argument the new system makes for faster actuation.

The same basic guts or previous versions get jacked up to 170mm travel and join a new linear actuator that's meant to improve dropper activation speed by reducing friction and lag. This is a better solution than just upping the gas charge and thus reducing the reliability of the post's Wintek cartridge. Speaking of reliability, Crankbrothers has increased the warranty from 3-years to 4-years with the release of the 7.

The actuator and additional travel is invisible once the post is slammed so only the colour change on the seal head distinguishes it from the first Highline posts. It's very smooth in both directions, and while slower to rise than many other options, it's certainly fast enough.

Speaking of seal heads, given that it takes all of five minutes to strip down the Highline I'm surprised Crankbrothers isn't offering this assembly in a range of anodized colours. I preferred the previous pewter colour of the first Highlines over the looks-like-everything-else anodized black of the current generation, but why not offer a stack of aftermarket options?

The Best Stock Remote...

...is no stock remote. Unless if you're PNW and even then it's nice to have a choice. Crankbrothers still sells their remote, which is decent to use and beyond adaptable position-wise, but now it's a separate accessory. Thank You Crankbrothers.

The Highline 7 actually works better with the Crankbrothers remote than the first generation post did, thanks to the simpler actuator, but it still doesn't hold a candle to the cartridge bearing remotes that PNW and Wolf Tooth produce, both of which did a tour with this post.

Crankbrothers Highline 7 NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

Another dropper post review, another mention of the Wolf Tooth ReMote. It's becoming tradition. A notable hack, Magura & Formula have interchangeable clamps.

Crankbrothers Highline 7 Dropper NSMB AndrewM (15).JPG

The Crankbrothers remote is beyond adaptable. Left or right-hand actuation, above or below the bar, adjustable angle.

I've been clamoring for a next-generation Crankbrothers remote for a while now. If they could combine the adjustability of their current unit with the cartridge bearing activation and improved leverage, they'd have the best remote on the market.

Highline 7

While I maintain that the X-Fusion Manic remains the best dropper post on the market by price, if you're thinking Wintek cartridge, the Highline 7 is the nicest overall package thanks to Igus bushings, Trelleborg seals, and a four-year warranty. It's smooth as... and based on my experience with the original Highline, which is still going strong on the original cartridge I started reviewing in 2016, it will go the longest between cartridge replacements.

I've tested a number of posts using the Wintek cartridge system and, while the cartridges themselves are not rebuildable, there's a strong argument to be made that between their longevity and limited oil volume that recycling a cartridge once every few years is about as low impact as a dropper post gets.

Crankbrothers Highline 7 Dropper NSMB AndrewM (14).JPG

The key difference is the new, much simpler, actuator. The Highline 7 isn't quick, but it's quick enough thanks to this change.

Crankbrothers Highline 7 Dropper NSMB AndrewM (16).JPG

It looks just like the original Highline but for the black seal head collar. It's a 300 USD purchase sans remote.

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A wrench, or Knipex pliers, strap wrench, and 3mm hex key is all that's needed for a full teardown.

I've also ridden the 160mm version of the original Highline and the 170mm '7' is much quicker to rise. Folks that want an instant extension in the vein of the original Fox DOSS or a Reverb won't be satisfied but anyone who liked the first generation Highline but thought it could be a bit quicker in a longer travel format will be happy.

I highly recommend it as a very smooth install-and-forget dropper post. The Highline 7 is 300 USD without a remote and there's more information, including all the dimensions, at Crankbrothers.

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Comments

xy9ine
0
Perry Schebel  - Feb. 3, 2020, 10:14 a.m.

my highline (with wolftooth lever) appears to be really sensitive to cable routing. or something i've yet to resolve. will pop up to full extension unless there's quite a bit of slack in the cable. and even so will occasionally refuse to stay down unless i punch the lever a couple times. most likely installer error. is this something you've run into?

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 3, 2020, 11:20 a.m.

It’s the original actuator assembly that turns when the remote engaged?

In that case, is the 3mm bolt under you saddle clamp tight? If not then the whole cartridge will swivel when the remote is activated v. the actuator itself. That would probably cause the symptom you’re experiencing.

*edit: this also can prevent the valve from closing properly. I’ve seen it before and would be it’s the issue.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 7, 2020, 7:39 a.m.

So, Bicycle Santa, was that a fix?!

Reply

Kelownakona
0
Kelownakona  - Feb. 3, 2020, 12:28 p.m.

I've only ever run remotes that come stick with posts.

I know you always go on about Wolf Tooth, does it really make that much difference for the expense?

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 3, 2020, 2:31 p.m.

The usual disclaimers about personal preference aside, I think lever ergonomics/action makes a bigger difference than what post you choose in many cases.

An example I often use is Race Face Aeffect w/ ReMote v. Turbine R (Fox Transfer) with those brands’ remotes. 

If you’re showrooming dropper posts the Transfer/TurbineR is one of the smoothest posts out there but if forced to choose between one with a Fox/RF remote or the much cheaper Aeffect with a Wolf Tooth ReMote, I’d go Aeffect with the Wolf Tooth ReMote everyday.  

Plenty of racers out there who agree with me. A couple years ago at CrankWorx I snapped pics of a few different factory racers’ bikes with ReMotes installed.

PNW Loam lever also very good as is the, although huge, E13 remote. All comes to leverage and a cartridge bearing.

Reply

Kelownakona
+1 Andrew Major
Kelownakona  - Feb. 4, 2020, 6:19 a.m.

Thanks again Andrew -another great answer to one of my dumb comments questions ;) 

That's really interesting. I read in another review that the Aeffect is essentially a Brand-X product and available much cheaper in that guise. Seems like that with the Wolf Tooth could be a sweet upgrade to a budget dropper.

Have to be Wolf Tooth for me I think rather than PNW, I love their stuff.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Mark
Andrew Major  - Feb. 4, 2020, 7:41 a.m.

Good questions actually! (And I’m not someone who believes there are no dumb questions).

I don’t know anyone personally who has taken apart a Brand-X post but they do look the same externally and enough folks say they’re the same inside that I’m inclined to believe it. I know it’s a catalogue product (not Fox/RaceFace designed).

Are the Brand-X that much cheaper? With the current exchange the SRP of a 170mm Aeffect R is maybe $60 more in your local bike shop than a 170mm Brand-X is on Chain Reaction, but that not anything new. I’d guess they’re within $25 street price v. CR. Maybe closer if your Visa has a sh*tty exchange rate.

$25 isn’t a lot extra to spend supporting a local-tax paying, trail supporting, business.

Reply

Kelownakona
+2 Andrew Major twk
Kelownakona  - Feb. 4, 2020, 11:15 a.m.

I'm temporarily based in UK and if you compare the 150mm versions of Brand X to RF it's £100 more and RF charge you for remote (£50 on top) that's £239.95 + £50.

Brand-X for 150mm is £139.99 and includes remote but you could even get the Wolf Tooth remote and be money up. Not bad considering they are basically the same product.

I'm all for supporting local businesses but when they are buying stuff in the same as everyone else and slapping their logo on it and expecting a hefty premium for that privelege then there is a limit. They aren't a charity. 

I've also had some bad experiences with RF kit over last couple of years so I have no particular loyalty to the brand. 

It's not their fault they probably aren't making it anyway!!

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AndrewMajor
+1 Kelownakona
Andrew Major  - Feb. 4, 2020, 12:16 p.m.

Totally fair; one of the issues with commenting from a local perspective on a global website is that circumstances vary greatly around the globe. At a certain point price wins out. 

But yes, that post - by whichever name is quite okay - and made much, much better with a ReMote.

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Kelownakona
0
Kelownakona  - Feb. 5, 2020, 12:22 a.m.

Awesome and that's the bit I really wanted to know :) cheers Andrew. Looking forward to next article. 

Singlespeed project has commenced!

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Kelownakona
Andrew Major  - Feb. 5, 2020, 10:54 a.m.

Ooooo... whatcha building?!

Reply

Kelownakona
0
Kelownakona  - Feb. 5, 2020, 1 p.m.

Been inspired by your articles Andrew! Remember I asked about doing a bike check on your SS.

I have a nice steel  Cotic frame that I want to singlespeed. Think I'll have short travel forks rather than rigid. But it has vert dropouts so just looking at best options to run it - tensioner etc  don't think I'll splash out on a SB One!

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 5, 2020, 1:08 p.m.

Cool!

Best bang/buck is a used Zee or Saint short cage derailleur with a clutch OR I've also used a Black Spire Stinger with a jockey wheel instead of a roller with good results. 

I'll be running a 100mm fork on my S.Spd for a bit. New rigid bike is much faster than old rigid bike so I want to try it with a bit more traction/comfort.

velocipedestrian
+1 Andrew Major
Velocipedestrian  - Feb. 4, 2020, 2:14 p.m.

This is good motivation to do more experiments with dropper levers.

I'm currently using an XT shifter with the ratchet and release lever removed. Good ergonomics, but no bearing and awkward to bodge a system that wants the cable head on both ends. 

It's made a significant difference to the Giant dropper, but since the keys are part of the shaft instead of replaceable brass the whole thing will be junk once they wear out.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 5, 2020, 10:57 a.m.

Yeah, for posts that have the cable head at the remote as an option the original shifter-style Fox Doss remote is an awesome piece of kit with very Shimano-esque ergonomics. That’s what I use with the Manic.

I did the shifter thing too (front shifters kicking around - why not upcycle?) and they worked fine but there’s a lot of superfluous stuff going on.

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Kelownakona
0
Kelownakona  - Feb. 5, 2020, 1:20 p.m.

Stinger with a jockey wheel is a great shout! I used to run a BB mounted stinger back in the day I'm pretty sure! On a double up front too! 

The DMR seems to be a similar idea? Any experience with that or the Surly Singleator ?

Cheers

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 5, 2020, 1:27 p.m.

Haven’t used the Singleator. I did have a Rennen tensioner that was sweet but I don’t think it would work with modern dropout/axle systems.

I did this Zee hack and it was sweet on the hardtail but couldn’t wrap around a big enough cog for my FS bike. 

Generally, other than my FS experiments, I’ve had bikes with adjustable drops other than my Gary Fisher which had okay chain tension with a 32:20 magic gear.

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Kelownakona
+1 Andrew Major
Kelownakona  - Feb. 5, 2020, 2:06 p.m.

Ok that Zee hack looks good. Might give that a go if I can track a used one. 

Thanks for the advice Andrew and your time.

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dan
+1 Andrew Major
Dan  - Feb. 6, 2020, 11:07 a.m.

I too have had a good experience with my 170mm Highline. I've been running it for 11 months and it's juuuust about time for maintenance as there is some wiggle at the head. I put in a heap of rides this past year so I'm not bothered in the least. I too wish for just a wee bit faster return, but all in all a great dropper. Ball joint mount for the lever is a stroke of genius. I have big hands and it's been a challenge to run controls far enough in from the grips to suit my preferences.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 7, 2020, 7:42 a.m.

Dan, do you have the old, grey & blue, quick-connect swivel actuator (top photos of my piece) or the new, black, linear actuator?

I think the old actuator is really nifty, but the new linear system makes the post not-fast, but notable faster.

Reply

hairy..
0
hairy..  - Feb. 7, 2020, 1:35 a.m.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/233352976910

Best 15 pound I ever spent, bit of grip tape on the lever added and it's been faultlessly smooth.

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