Crankbrothers Highline Dropper : Follow Up

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Sep 14, 2016

Crankbrothers Highline Dropper

Here I am checking in after three solid months of riding the Crankbrothers Highline Dropper. Yes, it has lasted that long. Yes, this is still Crankbrothers Highline postricide and I will follow up again when the time comes. This is mountain biking and we all know that problems will eventually arise but I’m increasingly convinced it’s a long time off.

Crankbrothers Highline Dropper

Three months and many rides in and this Crankbrothers Highline dropper is actually better than new. Once the seals broke in the return speed increased notably.

I believe that some of my riding friends have previously written their elected representative requesting that Crankbrothers be banned from selling product in Canada so you can imagine the abuse I’ve been taking for first off reviewing the Highline dropper post and then for saying generally, genuinely, positive things about it.

The Highline dropper comes up in conversations regularly. On the trail, in the coffee shop, buying beer. I feel a bit like Homer Simpson When Pigs Fly: “It’s still good, it’s still good, it’s still good, it’s still good, it’s still good.” The only caveat is that this is a 125mm dropper post when many riders are asking for more, but it’s still great.

Crankbrothers Highline Dropper

A few observant readers have asked me how I mounted the stealth-routing-only Highline dropper on a non-stealth frame. The answer probably voids the warranty and is outside my confidence or competence with tools but if you know a mechanic like Jordan then you know a mechanic like Jordan. Perfect drill and Dremel job by one of the best wrenches I know.

I’m going to borrow the headers from my initial look at the Highline dropper postricide:

Sweet Remote – Simple Installation

I continue to be impressed with the ergonomics and customizable position of the Highline dropper’s remote. The action feels a bit lighter as I have gotten used to it and as the post has broken in; however, I still list a longer lever as the number one change I would make.

I also must shout out the very smooth finished curves on the remote. Sharp edges are absent. My subconscious desire to fully and completely test this product has manifested itself in a couple of very hard unprotected knee-on-remote contacts and the end results were relatively painless for both me and the remote.

Crankbrothers Highline Dropper

In addition to looking sweet, I appreciate the Highline dropper’s smooth edges when inadvertently trying to break it with my knee. I would still love to see the lever paddle grow a bit longer for increased leverage.

Noted as an initial concern, the single bolt clamp that both fixes the Highline’s remote to the handlebar and sets the position of the swivel has not presented any issues. If I was the post’s designer I would still have a two separate clamps for the reasons previously noted. Crankbrothers’ simpler, lighter, solution works perfectly well in practice.

It’s Slow.

After a few rides the post started moving notably faster. After a quick re-lube the speed improved yet again. After a few months it is not something I ever notice on the trail.

The Highline dropper is still one of the slowest returning posts on the market but I stand by my earlier assessment: “Trelleborg seals, igus bushings and keys, and the slower speed, and lower charge in the cartridge, were chosen on purpose as they significantly enhance the life of the post’s cartridge internals. If it lasts three years (450 hours of riding) then I’m totally good with it.”

Crankbrothers Highline Dropper

A quick re-lube of the Highline takes less than 30-seconds and is a tool free process. I used both the lubrication package included with the post and Slickoleum with good results.

The quick re-lube is a tool-free affair and takes less than 30-seconds. I used both the included package of Crankbrothers “internal lubrication” and Slickoleum. I know I’ve been called out a few times for over-mentioning Slickoleum in teardowns but this is exactly the sort of application where it is a best in class product for reducing seal friction.

Ouch!, Balls!, F#ck!

It took me longer to drink my beer and re-position my saddle than it did to ‘fix’ the obsidian blades of death that double as washers for the post head bolts. I of course had to jab myself a few more times on hike-a-bikes or wrenching before I pulled the file out and removed the bolts.

Crankbrothers Highline Dropper

Remove the washers and make a few passes with a file to round off the sharp edges I noted in the first look article.

I will also be replacing the Highline’s stock bolts with some graded hardware now that it’s looking like we’re together for the long haul. This is not a Crankbrothers specific issue: I had a friend with a post using a similar design where one of the bolts is not captured – in order to allow for quick and easy saddle installation – who made a trip to the emergency room after the front bolt failed and her saddle completely fell off. You can imagine the rest.

For a couple of bucks at my local bike shop I can grab some grade 8.8 stamped bolts that I know without question are up to the task. I also spend a few bucks swapping out un-graded stem bolts on my bikes because have you seen the price of teeth? Chances are if you look at your cockpit the hardware is cheap sh*t.

Crankbrothers Highline dropper

A shot of the filing on the rear washer to remove the sharp edges. I don’t love that the rear bolt isn’t completely captured (how often do you change out your saddle?) and now that I know the Highline and I will be together a while I’ll spend a couple bucks to replace the bolts with some graded hardware for my own piece of mind.

Redemption or Revenant?

Well, the obvious answer at this point is redemption. The Highline dropper works great and it’s been totally problem free other than the little hardware nitpicks I’ve noted which are quick/cheap fixes and would be easy running changes to make.

I have not ridden a dropper post that has had less play in the head after three months of use. I have not worked on a dropper post where it is faster and easier to change a cable and that includes non-stealth models.

I’m still committed to riding the Highline dropper until it fails, at which point I will report back on the process. I don’t expect it to last the full three years (3 years / 450 hours of riding) that Crankbrothers’ warranty covers but then I’m surprised when any dropper post goes a full year of riding without a full overhaul.

I’m actually also looking forward to seeing what other new product the team at Crankbrothers puts out. If the Highline is not an outlier, I would say the brand has turned a corner.

Crankbrothers Highline Dropper

If my experience with the Highline is an example of the Crankbrothers products of the future I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with. That may be great news for riders always looking for another great product choice or this awesome WMBC trail sign may end up being the perfect summation. My friends certainly look at me like I’m crazy when I recommend the Highline.

My friends a look at me like I’m crazy and I’m aware of a slew of ‘value’ oriented dropper posts being released this year. But for function, price, and promise the Highline is hard not to recommend.

For more on the Crankbrothers Highline Dropper click here…


How much longer will the Highline dropper last? Are you willing to give Crankbrothers’ latest uppy-downy post a chance?

Comments

jonas-dodd
0
Jonas Dodd  - Sept. 15, 2016, 4:33 p.m.

I realize this is an utterly trivial comment but I react in an almost allergic way to crank bros' branding and their heavy-handed use of it throughout their product range. I go out of my way to avoid buying their product as a result. Clearly someone in management is in love with their logo and spends a good portion of every product development meeting making sure that that thing gets worked onto every possible surface. Yes it's a bike related logo for a bike related company, but how about a sense of restraint rather than a scattershot approach?! I would honestly rather have the thumblever of my dropper post resemble a spongebob-esque bro with a crank for a head than a cog-chainring- chain didacticism that isn't as smart as it would like be.

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drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 15, 2016, 7:17 p.m.

I had to laugh because I know at least three dudes with a cog-chainring-chain tattoo on their calf.

Kind of a lot like this:

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jonas-dodd
0
Jonas Dodd  - Sept. 16, 2016, 6:06 a.m.

At least it's not a direct copy 🙂

Reply

Brocklanders
0
yahs  - Sept. 15, 2016, 7:16 a.m.

I don't think anyone I know would even risk buying anything made by this company anymore.
All products I have owned by CB has been garbage. Why even risk it when you can get something you know will last?
The old posts were shit, I'm sure these are too.

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drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 15, 2016, 8:28 a.m.

Hi yahs,

Having worked in shops through Joplin 3, Joplin 4, the wheels, etc I'm certainly not giving Crankbrothers a free pass and I hope, especially in the first look, that comes across clearly. I also think you're totally justified in your skeptiscm.

I am curious what you would hold up as your "something you know will last" in the case of dropper posts on the market though?

For me it's a Gravity Dropper rigged to a Fox DOSS remote (the stock GD remote being awful) but I can appreciate where many riders don't like the look or function of the GD.

I can't think of another post I've tried that has still been working as well (and been mechanically as tight) as the Highline after three solid months of use. I've only tested one post from one production run so I understand I could be lucky.

Thanks,

Reply

Brocklanders
0
yahs  - Sept. 15, 2016, 8:42 a.m.

"I’m actually also looking forward to seeing what other new product the
team at Crankbrothers puts out. If the Highline is not an outlier, I
would say the brand has turned a corner."

So it was ok in years past to produce shit products? They will never get a penny out of me again. Thankfully we bought the dropper at MEC so it was returned twice no questions asked. If you have a look at their site they no longer carry CB. Probably due to all the droppers were probably returned.
You have your reasons to go to bat for these guys. That's fine but how many people will actually risk buying a dropper from a company in my circles name is mud.

Have a good ride

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 15, 2016, 9:10 a.m.

That didn't answer my question, but fair enough.

In the categories CB has produced flawed products in (wheels - although theirs were particularly egregious - pedals, dropper posts) there has been lots of crap put out by lots of brands over the years. Crankbrothers deserves their reputation but there a lot of brands who've produced some epic level sh*t and gotten a free pass (dropper posts is a prime example hence my question).

I don't love their pedals (for example) as I like adjustable tension but I like competition in the market and I've had Shimano pedals blow up too.

Anyways, I definitely don't pretend to tell people how to spend their money and I fully understand your point of view as there are brands that will never get another dime from me (and whose products I won't test). I took a lot of heat from my riding friends over the Highline but I've always appreciated that CB has tried to make innovative stuff (instead of just branding the same stuff as everyone else) and my dropper experiences are such that I can't name a brand, other than GD, that hasn't had a high rate of issues (Thomson, SRAM, X-Fusion, etc).

Hopefully you similarly won't hold it against me that I've had a genuinely, generally, positive experience with the Highline and have no other motivation than reporting that (warts and all).

Happy Trails!

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Sept. 15, 2016, 10:49 a.m.

The products I've had trouble with lately were made by Shimano. My XTR pedal spindles cracked in six places where the 8mm Allen fits. Because it expanded when it cracked it also stripped so I couldn't remove it. And because it expanded it was fused into my Race Face Next SL crank. Shawn at Obsession Bikes took a grinder to make flats in the axle and then put it in a vice. And broke the vice. He eventually got it out (thanks again Shawn!). And I have a set of XT brakes in the shop because one won't hold a bleed and the other has some kind of blockage. And they are less than a year old. Shimano's warranty is excellent of course and I generally have good experiences with their products.

One thing to consider yahs - when you suggest Andrew is 'going to bat for these guys' is that he is acting as a product tester rather than a consumer. He's not voting with his dollars or telling you how to behave; he's simply telling you about his experience with this product, and relaying that this experience makes him optimistic about the company. You've been burned and your future purchases are going to be guided by that - and that's understandable.

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Brocklanders
0
yahs  - Sept. 15, 2016, 1:19 p.m.

Yeah, sorry didn't mean to come across like such a dick.
The review holds nothing back, that's for sure.

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drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 15, 2016, 1:36 p.m.

Ha. If that was being a dick I need to talk to a few of my 'friends'. I've been beat on hard over this review/process.

Really appreciate you reading, sharing, and engaging yahs. I know - and I'm sure CB knows - exactly where you're coming from. They're highlighting their three year warranty in BOLD for a reason.

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crankbrothers
0
crankbrothers  - Sept. 15, 2016, 7:46 p.m.

@disqus_jdwfC52MtA:disqus Thankfully, things change. There's been a lot of change at Crankbrothers over the past 2 years; new CEO, management, engineering team, development facility, testing protocols, QC, etc. The first outputs from this new team are the 2016 pedal range with significantly improved quality and reliability, and the Highline dropper post. The Highline was engineered from the ground up over the course of 30 months, and has zero in common with any of the previous models. The whole point of the test is to prove or disprove our quality and reliability claims in the real world, and as you mentioned, Andrew isn't holding anything back. We're looking forward to the next update, and if the post continues to perform as it has, we hope you will reconsider CB products in the future.

Reply

braap0matic
0
braap0matic  - Sept. 15, 2016, 11:11 p.m.

Just wanted to point out that MEC is in fact carrying Crankbrothers product… you just have to type in "crank brothers" as two words in the search box. example: https://www.mec.ca/en/brand/crank-brothers/search?q=crank+brothers %3Asales-rank&text=crank%20brothers

Reply

john
0
John  - Sept. 15, 2016, 5:39 a.m.

I'd be careful with that 8.8 advice… While OE hardware may be unmarked custom fasteners, in some cases they may be 10.9 or 12.9 equivalent, so your 8.8s will be a downgrade in terms of strength.

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drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 15, 2016, 6:23 a.m.

Thanks John,

Good point; I recognize there are a lot of custom fasteners (particularly frame hardware) but in the case of stem bolts particularly (tightened to ~5nm- 7nm generally) if it isn't marked I generally replace to be sure.

Occasionally (but rarely) the spec is listed on the stem makers website but not stamped on the hardware.

Another exception would be Ti hardware where the manufacturer lists the grade (RaceBolts for example) but it isn't on the bolts.

Thanks!

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craw
0
Cr4w  - Sept. 14, 2016, 10:51 p.m.

I'm not sure if I'm more impressed by your optimism or their persistence.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 14, 2016, 11:04 p.m.

If anything you definitely know I'm not an optimist… so go with the latter.

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bradoemba
0
bradoemba  - May 12, 2017, 9:43 a.m.

Any more updates after another 6 months of abuse?

Reply

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