Crankbrothers Highline Dropper : First Look

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Jun 20, 2016

Welcome, ladies, gentlemen, and mountain bikers to Crankbrothers Highline Postricide. An ‘until death do us part’ review series on the California brand’s fourth attempt at delivering the dropper seat post goods. And, sporting a three-year – 450+ hours of riding – warranty it’s a bold attempt indeed.

Crankbrothers Highline Postricide

Awesome looking post. Awesome looking packaging. Awesome looking features. Crankbrothers logo.

I’d like to think that I’m an excellent candidate to review the Highline. On the one hand, I have a lot of experience with Crankbrothers products having owned two generations of Joplin, various pedals, and having dealt with other products for years working in shops. On the other hand, none of those product experiences have been much good.

BUT, I’ve always appreciated the excellent, friendly, and helpful customer service and their concepts, (if not their proofs) and even their fantastic packaging. The Highline packaging is lovely and the instructions are clear. In general, I’d love to see this latest post be a huge success.

“On the subject of installation. The ‘Tool-Free Quick-Connect System’ on the Highline is awesome. Removing the post from my bike or changing a cable takes way less time than any other dropper post I’ve used.”

Crankbrothers Highline Postricide

More on the very cool 360-degree swivel / 22-degree angle adjustable remote in a minute. For now we’re talking about the “3-year warranty” printed on the box.

Three Year Warranty

This is bold. BOLD! Not only is it two years longer than the closest competitor but Crankbrothers calls a year ~150hrs of riding where the industry standard is ~100hrs.

In fact, given that boiled down the Highline is a 125mm dropper post with a two-bolt head and stealth routing (basically: yawn, yawn, and yawn), the big reason we’re talking about it is a combination of a relatively low retail price of $350 USD and the epic commitment to reliability (or at least free replacements).

In addition to relying on a couple of major brand name global manufacturers in Trelleborg and igus, Crankbrothers has made some performance decisions that I’ll talk about below to maximize the life of their product.

Crankbrothers Highline Postricide

I personally like the off-center height mark graphic, but if you’re a bit more OCD they may bug you. Likewise, I’m happy with the silver sealhead but it may give you nightmares about your first generation Reverb if you owned one. Chromag Moon saddle – still my favourite.

Crankbrothers Highline Postricide

As we go forward I’m feeling a little bit like Robin Hood and a little bit like Prince John. On the one hand I have a more reasonably priced dropper post that should have a seriously low ongoing cost of ownership and on the other hand I just want to TAX, TAX, TAX the blasted thing. I’m going to politely ride the sh*t out of it.

The plan for this review period is pretty simple. After this first look I’ll be doing a teardown and lube with mechanic-instructor Jeff Bryson of BikeRoom and putting together a review when I hit the basic service interval for the post (~150hrs of riding). I’m going to run the post in this bike until it dies and report back. The review period ends when the result is a complete Crankbrother Highline Postricide and if it makes it to ~450hrs of riding I’ll be amazed, impressed, stoked, and a bunch of other positive adjectives because even my stalwart Gravity Dropper needs a full rebuild including bushings in ~100hrs of riding.

Crankbrothers Highline Postricide

Very sweet remote. Left, Right, Top, Bottom. 360-degree swivel and 22-degree of angle adjust. Narrow clamp. Smooth action. I’d like it to be a touch longer (leverage) and I feel it would benefit from a two-bolt set-up where one binds the swivel and the other attaches the remote to the bar.

Sweet Remote – Simple Installation

To say the Highline was easy to set-up is an understatement. It is totally plug & play and the remote is a big part of it. Ergonomics are excellent and easily sorted for usage in any position – top or bottom / right or left.

While the remote is very user-friendly, I would like it to be a touch longer lever blade for increased leverage. Being a cable actuated system I found the amount of force needed to engage the post to be at the upper end of the acceptable range. That is to say, it was fine for me but would keep me from recommending it to many riders. I swapped the stock Jagwire housing out for some premium Shimano 4mm and that made a very positive impact, but I’d still love a bit longer lever/lighter action. Some of the friction may come from the angle of the housing with the stealth routing on my frame and other’s results may vary.

Crankbrothers Highline Postricide

The Crankbrothers remote interfaces perfectly with the long-levered Magura MT series brake. The thin clamp and huge range of adjustability should allow it to mesh with any setup.

One last note on the remote. You have to really crank the single bolt clamp to keep the remote from swiveling when activated. Not so much that you would be concerned about doing any damage to your bar but if you like to leave things loose so your controls can all spin with contact then be aware this is not an option with the Crankbrothers remote. (Tip – a little grease on the threads will make it easier to achieve the required clamping force). It would be more complicated, but I’d like a two bolt set-up where one tightens the swivel and the other tightens the clamp (loosely) to my bar.

If I’m allowed one last niggle: the clamp screw is a 3mm and the cable retention screw is a 2mm. In my world they would both be the same size (2.5mm?).

Crankbrothers Highline Postricide

Well designed Tool-Free Quick-Connect System. Cable changes are very simple. Removing/installing the post from my bike is a breeze. Just keep an eye – of hand – on the thread on retention ring.

On the subject of installation. The ‘Tool-Free Quick-Connect System’ on the Highline is awesome. Removing the post from my bike or changing a cable take much less time than any dropper post I’ve used.

Best In Class.

Watch out for the threaded retention ring. When un-threaded it can slip over the rest of the system and fall down into your seat tube. There it may get caught on your bottle cage bolts and refuse to emerge, no matter how many times you shake the bike upside down shouting toddler-appropriate curse words like “POOP.”

Crankbrothers Highline Postricide

Trelleborg & igus are mentioned by name. Quality components and smart design are some of the features backing up Crankbrothers 3-year warranty. Another is the slow return speed.

It’s Slow.

The action – up & down – is smooth but the return speed is slow. I am definitely used to some of the fastest posts on the market – Fox DOSS and Gravity Dropper. The Highline is notably on the slower end of competing products.

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 Postricide

I have one complaint. It sounds like: “OUCH!, BALLS!, F#CK!”

OUCH!, BALLS!, F#CK!

I cut my, leathery, finger the first time I carried my Highline equipped bike out of my apartment. This was easily resolved with a file. It could also be easily resolved by Crankbrothers with a minor spec change. Yes, I know it’s not somewhere you would generally be grabbing your bike. I get the low profile head may not allow for full cylinders. The pointy, sharp, corners on the bolt washers are definitely not welcome. Ouchy.

“Welcome ladies, gentlemen, and mountain bikers to Crankbrothers Highline Postricide. An ‘until death do us part’ review series on the California brand’s fourth attempt at delivering the dropper seat post goods. And, sporting a three year – 450+ hours of riding – warranty it’s a bold attempt indeed.”

Redemption or Revenant?

I’ve recycled the packaging and disembarked on a relationship with a product that – on the trail – is as good as any 125mm dropper post I’ve used. It goes up, it goes down, it stays anywhere I want in the middle and if it didn’t have a Crankbrothers logo on it I’d be pretty excited about the whole affair.

As it stands I’m choosing to be cautiously optimistic; for the record, that’s going to result in an absolute lambasting from any of my riding friends that can read.


Three years, three months, three weeks, three rides: any bets?!

Comments

tim
0
Tim  - Oct. 15, 2016, 3:11 p.m.

It's been 4 months - how is the post holding up?

Reply

pc
0
PC  - Aug. 5, 2016, 12:12 p.m.

A few things that I've asked CB about this post: 1) Cost of Cartridge Replacement Outside of Warranty: $100. (Which is $50 more expensive than Giant Contact) 2) Any chance of offset clamp? "No" (Leaving on 9.8 and Specialized Command Post as the only droppers with offset).

Reply

derakche
0
Derakche  - June 23, 2016, 2:57 p.m.

Just one question. A lot of droppers are popping up with weight limitations.

Do you, perchance know if the highline has a weight limit??

Thanks. 🙂

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - June 23, 2016, 4:22 p.m.

Hi Derakche,

I do not see anything in their package or on their site that suggests a weight limit.

I'd be surprised if there was (Crankbrothers is very confident in how robust and well designed their system is), but I will confirm.

Thanks for reading!

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drewm
0
DrewM  - June 23, 2016, 10:25 p.m.

Hi Derakche,

No weight limit as per Crankbrothers!

Cheers,

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dm
0
d.m.  - June 20, 2016, 9:09 p.m.

"Sure, they break a lot-but their customer service is great!" Thank you, no…

Reply

JulieT
0
ashroadadam1 .  - June 20, 2016, 3:59 p.m.

Sounds great, where can I buy one? -- Arthur Stimpson

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drewm
0
DrewM  - June 20, 2016, 4:44 p.m.

HA! Arthur, are you out of jail already - or just planning for the future?

Reply

cerealkilla_
0
jdt  - June 20, 2016, 3:56 p.m.

This is such a tough one. I want very badly to believe in this great-looking product from a company that has been responsible for some of the more memorable engineering gaffes in recent mountain bike history. I'm torn about what to do. Based on the options out there right now, I will probably buy one when my Reverb finally packs it in. However, I can imagine I'll be riding nervous, like a frog waiting for the scorpion to sting it, halfway across the river.

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drewm
0
DrewM  - June 20, 2016, 4:55 p.m.

I told one of my riding friends I was cautiously optimistic about the Highline. It works as you'd expect, it seems well made, it is definitely designed from a focus on easy service (you could easily field strip it), and I can imagine the cost of ownership being quite low (after initial purchase price) compared to other posts on the market - even without the three year warranty.

He was still laughing forty five minutes into our ride. Touche.

Ran into another buddy on our ride. He wanted to know if it came in a nice box. Touche.

As I said in the review - I'm skeptical based on my past product experiences and hopeful based on my past customer service experience.

I should also say, I was a bit surprised how confident the folks at Crankbros are in this product. It's either the definition of insanity on their part or a few years from now we could be talking about the Highline being the great choice for riders looking for simple, reliable, dropper posts.

Reply

Lee-Lau
0
Lee Lau  - June 23, 2016, 9:50 a.m.

They were confident in the Kronofail too

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drewm
0
DrewM  - June 23, 2016, 4:05 p.m.

Yes - BUT - who didn't look at the Kronolog and think "there is a reason that people's intestines are inside their bodies"? It's like running a shifter without a cover, an old Headshock fork with a boot, riding offroad without a helmet, sleeping with bike shop employee(s) without protection, or insert your preferred comparative on why you should cover the important bits here as opposed to just exposing them willy-nilly to everything bad in the world.

If you bought a Kronolog I have a sweet set of Dual Control shifters I'll mount on a Softride beam bike for you for a super wicked price. Seriously - do the guy who sold it to you a serious favour and write him a letter of forgiveness so that when he gets to the pearly gates he isn't automatically sent down.

The Highline at the very least evolves from the few positives of the Joplin line of posts (clean looks, smooth action when they worked, infinitely usable remote) where the Kronolog simply doesn't follow the lineage - it was like an Amish used-car salesman moonlighting as a stripper at Lusty Lee's Luxury Lounge.

I've told - and laughed at - Crankbrothers reliability and packaging jokes with the most cynical, sardonic, sarcastic pricks to ever ride bicycles (miss you Oldfart-Andy! How's Whistler?) and even I'm not going to kick a drunkard that falls off the wagon hits rock bottom (Kronolog) and finally comes clean!

Joplin 3, Joplin 4, Kronolog, Highline: It's like a Scotsman who has a couple of bad relationships with women, switches (just one time) to stuffing sheep legs in his Wellingtons, and then gets back out there and tries dating again. Good job Crankbrothers - get back out there and show the world what you have to offer!

And that, that ladies & gentlemen is why I've never been invited to help a company with their marketing materials.

Daily update for Cooper: Highline still smooth, tight, and workin' right.

Cheers Lee!

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steve-low
0
steve low  - June 20, 2016, 2:44 p.m.

Hey Andrew. Silly question but are you running the post on a dually or a hardtail? Only ask cause in my experience a dropper has a harder life on a hardtail.
Ta.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - June 20, 2016, 4:37 p.m.

Hi Steve,

I'm testing it on my hardtail. It sees the most hours and the most hours in adverse conditions of the bikes I have. I think hours/conditions are the key factors of dropper life but I can definitely see hardtails being harder on droppers because abrupt loads aren't being absorbed by rear suspension . I also have a relatively slack (slacker than currently in vogue) seat angle which I imagine is harder on the post as well.

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steve-low
0
steve low  - June 20, 2016, 9:04 p.m.

Sounds like its gonna get a good spankin! Excellent work!

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cooper
0
Cooper Quinn  - June 22, 2016, 3:51 p.m.

I think seat tube angle is a much larger concern than anything else. That fore/aft loading (especially as you're compressing the post) is way harder on components than impacts and whatnot while the post is static (especially at the bottom of its travel).

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drewm
0
DrewM  - June 22, 2016, 4:21 p.m.

I agree and I have anecdotal evidence/experience that says slacker (real) seat angles are harder on dropper posts than steeper ones.

Then whether it's the time of year (conditions), the fact they generally have slacker seat angles, the lack of damping of the fore/aft force (more force into the post), or ?, I think a lot of folks who ride both would agree their hardtail eats more droppers.

It seems intuitive at least?

Anyways I've got my well-fed exterior, a slack seat angle, a hardtail, a history of killing dropper posts, and a healthy skepticism (not to mention a plethora of skeptical buddies) so I think I have my bases covered!

Reply

cooper
0
Cooper Quinn  - June 22, 2016, 8:43 p.m.

I'd for sure say they are. And I won't disagree with the 'hardtails are harder on components' aspect.

Although if N=1 is science…. The dropper on my squishy bike just died, and the dropper on my hardtail is still going. They were installed at the same time, although the one on my squishy bike has admittedly probably seen more riding. AND its a stealth, whereas my other post isn't. They're both 125mm Reverbs.

So its not exactly apples to apples, nor is it anything approaching science. But the whole point of this is that my squishy bike has a slacker seat tube angle, especially when sagged. And that that post died. And it killed the post currently on my hardtail before I had it rebuilt.

[shrug]

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drewm
0
DrewM  - June 22, 2016, 8:53 p.m.

Wait… but how much do you weight with gear riding bike A) and how much do you weight with gear riding bike B) 🙂

HA. We're all F***ing nerds.

Highline update: Still going strong!

Reply

cooper
0
Cooper Quinn  - June 22, 2016, 9 p.m.

160lbs, and I typically ride with minimal gear. Bell Super 2R, Crankbrothers (HA!) multitool, tube, Dynaplug Micro Pro, Crankbros (HA!) pump, small FA kit, and one or two waterbottles. Plus some gummies/clif bars/etc (sorry, no potatoes).

And yup, all nerds.

I'm going to expect daily updates on this thing. Assuming it makes it through the night that is…

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denomerdano
0
Denomerdano  - June 22, 2016, 9:16 p.m.

where is the video of it going up and down? let us decide if it's slow or fast..
in all fairness, my spec command post has punched me blind in the balls couple of times.

also see what a slack seat angle and poor design, operation can do to a post..

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drewm
0
DrewM  - June 22, 2016, 9:56 p.m.

HA!.

Time to get on the potato program.

Reply

walleater
0
walleater  - June 20, 2016, 10:11 a.m.

The tear-down won't take long! It's about two minutes and from memory around three things to unscrew. The bottom bit, the main collar with the seal in it, and the bolt that holds the cartridge into the head of the post. Seems like a good design to me if the sealed cartridge continues to be reliable which presumably it will as it's pretty basic.

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drewm
0
DrewM  - June 20, 2016, 4:40 p.m.

My understanding is that if/when there is an issue (nothing is perfect) it would be very fast (and inexpensive) to handle a warranty as the cartridge is so quick/easy to replace that CB could just ship a cartridge out and the shop/rider could slap it in and ride their bike?

Obviously even the best products fail sometimes, but the idea of being able to sort out a warranty for a customer right in the shop with a short lead time sounds pretty good?

Reply

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