The Hive's unique dropper for the sophisticated luddite
e*thirteen TRS+ Dropper Post: First Look
And now for something...
...completely different. I'm staring at the individual components of e*thirteen's coil sprung TRS+ dropper post laid out on the bench. The TRS+ is a unique product in the dropper post market place.
I hadn't even ridden the post yet and off the top of my head I can think of a handful of friends for whom this is the best dropper on the market. What do they have in common? They aren't afraid to tackle their own maintenance jobs even if it takes a bit of time but, on the flip side they want products that are 100% user rebuildable.
The closest comparison would be the love child of the best features of a Gravity Dropper and a Command Post. The post uses eight spring loaded ball bearings and a coil spring to cycle through its four travel positions. Pushing the lever retracts the ball bearings and allows the post to slide easily.
Action is impressively light thanks to the best remote in the industry (more on that below) and a design that is very easy to clean and lube. The TRS+ is an impressive first effort.
e*thirteen gets two 'Best In The Industry' awards for the TRS+ post. The first of them is for their excellent teardown and rebuild instructions. Tearing down the TRS+ post is nowhere near as simple as the Crankbrothers Highline I've been riding but it also does not rely on the non-serviceable cartridge that the majority of dropper posts are using.
This is a 100% user serviceable product with all the wear items easily replaced as part of the rebuild process. I'm not showing all the details of the rebuild in this piece - e*thirteen's instructions are very detailed - but I wanted to see how difficult it was to rebuild and also get a full look at the quality and construction.
There are definitely tools required - a vice, a strap wrench, a 10mm hex key, a T-25 - and the rebuild process is time consuming but the job itself isn't particularly difficult. This is definitely a case where it would be a good idea to arrange the parts in the order you remove them - and use a magnet to grab those little ball bearings.
e*thirteen Dropper Remote
The other feature of the TRS+ that is best-in-class is the shifter-style remote. It is fantastic. It would work with any cable actuated post on the market, has excellent shifter ergonomics, has its own return spring, excellent leverage and the lever itself is positionable as with a higher end SRAM shifter. It's also Matchmaker compatible.
The remote lever rides on two large sealed cartridge bearings and the cable clamp is easily accessible through a port in the remote's face using a T25. The return spring helps the long lever quickly return to position. There is even a small piece of textured grip tape on the remote paddle - attention to detail.
I would personally love to see the remote be flip-floppable to run in place of either shifter like the Highline or X-Fusion Manic, but I recognize that it covers the vast majority of mountain bikers by replacing the front shifter.
The remote is not currently listed as a service part on their website but I'll predict that once it is they will be making appearances with various other cable actuated posts on discerning riders' bikes.
I had two tool interface issues while tearing apart the e*thirteen TRS+. Unfortunately, they occurred with the first two tools I needed and in both cases, they are issues that will be very easy for The Hive to solve with future iterations.
The first issue is very minor. The wrench flat area on the stealth cable post was too narrow to accept the Knipex locking pliers I usually use for these jobs at Bikeroom, or any of the regular box wrenches I had on hand. I ended up having to use a cone wrench - actually I used a pair of cone wrenches stacked to reinstall the the post - which is not ideal.
The second issue was a lot more concerning. The Hive lists a "cassette lockring tool" and specifically links to the Park TR-5 in their instructions. Park states this tool is compatible with "Shimano, SRAM, SunRace, SunTour, Chris King and other cassette lockrings." In other words, it's a standard cassette lockring tool.
Unfortunately the interface was too tight to fit any of the Shimano or Park cassette lockring tools I had on hand including a TR-5. It is quite possible that a little elbow grease and mallet would have solved the issue but instead I used a strap wrench.
Everything came apart and went back together fine, but it was disappointing given the obvious quality of the rest of the post.
Tell Me I'm Wrong
Ages ago when I worked in a warehouse we used to listen to sports talk radio all day every day. The only segment I regularly enjoyed was called 'Tell Me I'm Wrong' where the pundits would make bold claims and then be held to account for past claims they'd made.
This is my 'Tell Me I'm Wrong' moment as I point out a potential concern that I'll be monitoring through my test period. I'll go on record as guessing this becomes an issue and that e-thirteen resolves it with future generations of the post. If I don't have any issues over the test period I'll eat those words.
The TRS+'s coil spring top loads with the alloy bolt that holds it in place sitting under the saddle clamps. The 10mm hex key bolt that locks that spring in place also holds the non-bonded post head in position.
Side-to-side play is resisted by a brass block that slides into position between the alloy head and thin alloy shaft. The twisting loads on a saddle are actually quite high - especially when descending - and my prediction is that the thin alloy shaft and brass block will wear, resulting in play.
Since the spring could easily be removed without the head unit coming off I don't comprehend why the head unit isn't more permanently mounted in place.
Small Parts & Action
With my criticisms on the table, there's a lot to be impressed with:
- Easy to replace brass keyways and plastic bushings.
- A faultless coil spring system.
- The spring loaded ball bearing system holds the post in any of its four positions - 150mm / 110mm / 80mm / 0mm
- And the action is super fast and precise.
I've recently gotten quite used to infinite dropper positions, however, the positions on the TRS+ are easy to find and usable. If I was designing the post, I'd set it up with something like full length, 25mm drop, 125mm drop, and 150mm drop.
Based on my experiences with other mechanical dropper post interfaces - Gravity Dropper, Fox DOSS, and Command Post - I will certainly be taking the e*thirteen TRS+ apart again as part of the test to check for wear. It is impressive how easy all of these wear parts, including the bushings, will be to replace when the time comes.
I'm very favourable towards the coil spring system, even if it is a bit loud, and I love being able to fully service parts on my bike.
Up & Down
When I first opened the TRS+ I had to go check the microwave at Bean Around the World to see if someone from the Hive had been spying on my ride group. The awesome remote, coil spring, smooth action, and full user serviceability are things they could have easily overheard my friends talking about.
I've pointed out some negatives on e*thirteen's first attempt at a dropper post but by and large I'm really excited to be testing this post as it's the closest thing to my ideal that I've seen on the market.