Bontrager Verse Saddle NSMB AndrewM (5).JPG
REVIEW

e*thirteen Vario Dropper Post

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Aug 31, 2020
Reading time

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

This should have been one of the easiest reviews I've ever written. A great dropper post, with adjustable travel, at an excellent price, and featuring a solid remote that, (weight-weenies aside) is a candidate for the crown of best dropper-remote-period.

Instead, it’s a three-part combination of a hard-scribbled review of an okay dropper post that does what dropper posts need to do, reliably, for a good price. A sad tale of getting shafted by your third party manufacturer. And a strong recommendation to consider e13's bombproof 50 USD Vario remote for whatever you choose for your next dropper post.

If the Wintek cartridges in these posts - any of e*thirteen's first batch of Vario posts - felt anything like the one out of any number of different Wintek-equipped posts, and particularly the unit Crankbrothers uses in the Highline 7, this would have been an entirely different experience.

e13 Vario Dropper and Remote NSMB AndrewM (14).JPG

MatchMaker compatible with three mounting points. Excellent ergonomics. Cartridge bearing rotation. Tough-As-F*** construction.

Bontrager Verse Saddle NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

Aside from weight weenies getting triggered by the 73-gram hit, I can see anyone and everyone purchasing a Vario Remote.

Independent of the cartridge, the 210 USD Vario post itself is very nicely made. The chassis is tight and it slides smoothly. There are no add-on pieces to run a cable; just insert the cable head in the actuator. The one-piece shaft and head is a huge improvement over their previous dropper, and I find the travel adjustment quite handy. The post has stayed nice and tight and the leverage works great with a number of different dropper post levers including PNW and Wolf Tooth.

I've run the post at 165mm, 170mm, and 180mm and regularly changing the travel is such a quick job I don't think twice about it - even going as far as to change the travel from 165mm to 170mm depending on what pedals I'm using on my Marin instead of raising or lowering my saddle. I also have it on good authority that there will be a 200mm drop option in the future.

Bontrager Verse Saddle NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

With flat pedals, I run the Vario at 165mm travel on my Marin Alpine Trail. Clipped in I quickly bump it up to 170mm. In either case, it's the perfect amount of travel since I started running my bar higher.

Bontrager Verse Saddle NSMB AndrewM (4).JPG

Flats or clipped in I run the Vario at the full 180mm travel on my Waltworks. Travel wise it's situation-dependent. I push the remote, pump my legs, and ride it where it ends up.

The cartridge itself has proved reliable over months of use and performance has neither improved post-break-in or deteriorated. With the Wintek cartridge in, the post performance is okay but not what I expect after using other Wintek-equipped products. It requires more force than expected to lower the post - as if the post itself was sticky - and the return is unexpectedly slow, although not frustratingly so relative to other posts using these cartridges. There's also an unusual amount of noise from the post compared to the relative silence of other gas-cartridge dropper posts. People I'm riding with don't notice the noise on the trail but it is clearly heard in the quiet confines of my shop.

e13 Vario Dropper Schematic NSMB AndrewM.jpg

About as simple as a dropper post gets. Basic cleaning and maintenance is idiot-proof and when cartridge performance degrades a replacement is 50 USD.

I have had the opportunity to take apart a decent number of Wintek-equipped dropper posts and can say unequivocally that they have a range of different fit-and-finish options for brands to chose from. For examples, the cartridges from the original Crankbrothers Highline and newer Highline 7 are the smoothest of the bunch and have a different stanchion coating while the original 125mm X-Fusion Manic has a much larger shaft than most.

I never photographed them with the intention of comparing dropper post cartridge shafts, but I think this carousel makes for a decent representation.

Cycling the cartridge, out of the post, I can feel an obvious difference between the few e13-Wintek cartridges I've tried and others. It's so significant that my suggestion to e*thirteen is to order in cartridges from some competitors - most especially Crankbrothers - and physically cycle them yourselves. Then call up Wintek and ask "what the f*** are you guys trying to do to us?"

With the great remote and adjustable travel negating the need to swap posts, for the inevitable shop customers with relatively short legs who are sizing up frames, I think the OE potential for this dropper post is solid.

e13 Vario Dropper and Remote NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

The Vario Post and Vario Remote are both great looking products. The remote is a home run for e13 and the post should be as well.

e13 Vario Dropper and Remote NSMB AndrewM (8).JPG

The post has stayed tight throughout my test thanks to the massive, replaceable, key-ways. The post was well lubricated right out of the box.

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The tool-free travel adjust in 5mm increments is not something everyone will use. But I have adjusted it a lot of time between different bikes and different pedals.

Where I battle with myself is that the Vario does everything a dropper post is supposed to do, reliably. It comes up. It goes down. It stops anywhere in the middle. Combined with the e13 Vario remote it's even pleasant-enough to use. It's not in the same category for smoothness as a Race Face Turbine, or RockShox Reverb, or BikeYoke post but then its maintenance cost is a tube of Slickoleum - easily applied once in a while - and a 50 USD replacement cartridge years down the road.

The travel adjust system is solid and simple and I actually use it, the actual post body is well constructed, and if it had the performance of any other Wintek cartridge I've used it would be a solid value for 210 USD plus the excellent 50 USD remote, which I suspect e*thirteen will sell a lot of separately.

The performance is good enough for how often I raise and lower my seat post, so I'm in no hurry to swap it out, and I suspect anyone buying a bike that comes with one will feel the same way; not impressed, but not disappointed. That's really unfortunate however, because with a better cartridge, the e13 Vario Infinite dropper post could be a product that inspires devotion.

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Comments

velocipedestrian
+3 Endur-Bro Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Velocipedestrian  - Aug. 31, 2020, 3:03 a.m.

Hey Andrew, you forgot to choose which paragraph to end with.

Reply

velocipedestrian
+1 Pete Roggeman
Velocipedestrian  - Aug. 31, 2020, 3:04 a.m.

Otherwise, solid review. I assume it's in the usual ballpark of stack-travel, not gunning for Oneups lunch?

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 Pete Roggeman Jenkins5
Andrew Major  - Aug. 31, 2020, 7:11 a.m.

If you mean is it longer than the OneUp then yes - they have the shortest overall length and shortest stack on the market so everything out there is taller.

I’d say the trade-off for that is you have the OneUp cartridge but apparently I’m the only one who regularly comes across ones with issues? So take my snark here with a grain of salt.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 Pete Roggeman Grif
Andrew Major  - Aug. 31, 2020, 7:07 a.m.

It’s a choose your own conclusion article! Cool way to differentiate from other MTB media right?

Thanks for mentioning it. Just my last minute editing snag - fixed now.

Reply

Shortyesquire
+1 Lu Kz Pnwpedal Jenkins5
Andrew Collins  - Aug. 31, 2020, 3:51 a.m.

Losing to Crank Brothers on quality would buuuurrrrrnnnnn...

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 31, 2020, 7:15 a.m.

I still have a first gen 125mm Highline that’s going strong and the Highline 7 is excellent. But to be clear, the difference comes down to the Wintek cartridges not anything else with the post design.

I didn’t divide out the blame to Wintek and e13 for who should have caught the issue but I wish someone had caught it. The post works fine, but I have higher expectations based on my other Wintek reviews.

Reply

metacomet
+2 Andrew Major Velocipedestrian
Metacomet  - Aug. 31, 2020, 7:34 a.m.

Is it possible to replace the E-13 Wintek cartridge with the Crank-Bros Wintek cartridge? Or do they use different fixing mounts/hardware/actuator/design, etc that make them non-interchangeable?

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Metacomet
Andrew Major  - Aug. 31, 2020, 8:06 a.m.

It’s the various body lengths - even for the same stroke/travel that usually prevent swapping cartridges. Easy enough to swap actuators or top bolts as needed. 

I could have tried another cartridge and given up a bit of travel but didn’t have an exact maybe.

I anticipate e13 will have everything sorted for the next batch. Wintek has some huge production issues due to ‘rona and I’m guessing this is just a QC/QA issue At the cartridge assembly factory because all the e13 cartridges do it but I’ve never had another with the issue.

Reply

tashi
0
tashi  - Aug. 31, 2020, 8:41 a.m.

Is that lever different than the one that came with the TRS+?  Because I don’t really like mine. 

I’m not particularly ham-fisted but the tiny fasteners and super low torque specs have resulted in multiple stripped bolts and rendered the lever almost useless. I’ve never in over 25 years of mountain biking and plenty of time on the tools for work had so many bolts (usually it’s the threading in the body actually) strip on me. 

Currently looking for a replacement, something that has consistent bolt sizes and can handle normal torque values.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 31, 2020, 8:52 a.m.

The ergonomics are similar and it still uses cartridge bearings but construction wise it’s a completely redesigned piece. Much simpler, more durable aluminum forging, three mounting positions. It’s not fragile. 

I had generally good results with the TRS version but have seen enough stripped ones I know where you’re coming from.

The only thing I could say negative about the new one is it weighs more than Wolf Tooth ReMote or PNW Loam Lever... put together... but it’s solid and I personally couldn’t give a shake.

Reply

tashi
0
tashi  - Aug. 31, 2020, 9:01 a.m.

Sounds good, I like the bearing and adjustability but sure wasn’t going to throw money at another one if I’m going to end up hacking it back together at midnight before a ride because I slipped past 1 N/m (!) on the cable fixing bolt.   The original also seemed overly complex somehow  

Have you tried the Paul lever?  I like a simple, tough product for things that don’t require replacement frequently and their stuff usually fits the bill.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 31, 2020, 9:05 a.m.

I’m a massive fan of Paul Comp. been running the same Thumbie plates for maybe 15-years. I would love to try their remote. But, haven’t even seen one in public.

For the money I don’t think you’ll do better overall for a min-maxed package (feel, durability, $) than this e13.

I can also totally justify a ReMote or a Paul (assuming it’s awesome).

Reply

ackshunW
+2 tashi Andrew Major
ackshunW  - Aug. 31, 2020, 11:39 a.m.

I have a Paul lever. Could only justify the price second-hand, but is beautiful. No adjustments, but for me it’s easy to reach and I have no need to adjust. However if you’re clamping the cable at the lever (it can do either), it has a small screw with very few turns of thread engagement in the Aluminium lever.  I’ve installed/dismantled 3 times and everything is still solid —  but it looks like a potential for failure to me.

Reply

Jenkins5
+1 Andrew Major
Jenkins5  - Aug. 31, 2020, 9:45 a.m.

Nice review. I’ve been in a Vario for a couple of months  now and thought it was a bit smoother and returned faster than my buddy’s One Up. It definitely returns faster than the previous Transfer I had! Never tried a Highline 7 but it’s a lot pricier so makes sense it might have a slightly higher end cartridge. I’m pretty happy with my post!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 31, 2020, 9:58 a.m.

Thanks. This was a very challenging review to write for the reasons you highlight. It’s not that the post isn’t good it’s just that it should be even better and as someone whose ridden lots of these posts it’s hard not to focus on that fact.

Even ignoring the finish on the Crankbrothers post’s cartridge. If this post had the same cartridge as PNW’s Rainier combined with e13’s construction and remote it would be an easy #1 min-max recommendation. 

All these posts are chasing OneUp when total length / stack are the key deciding feature but performance/longevity/price/ease of service the Wintek options win every time in my book.

Reply

andy-eunson
+1 Andrew Major
Andy Eunson  - Aug. 31, 2020, 12:27 p.m.

Timely. I’m looking at droppers now because the Line on my Trek has started to become really slow to return. I pulled it apart the other day to fully clean and degrease and while it is silky smooth it’s still slow. Probably fixed with a new cartridge. Hopefully one is available if not I’m shopping.

Update. Fineline Bikes have ordered a cartridge on warranty. Should be here Friday.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Andy Eunson
Andrew Major  - Sept. 2, 2020, 7:29 a.m.

If you’re using the stock Bontrager remote I’d recommend a replacement. Otherwise a perfectly usable post (which I mean as a compliment).

Reply

TH3MACK
+1 Andrew Major
TH3MACK  - Sept. 1, 2020, 8:44 p.m.

E13 warrantied my old dropper for this new version, obviously its much better.  No complaints, install was a few minutes as they say.  I did not get the new remote but the old works just fine.  But as the article states I felt it was also stiff or took unnecessary energy to get it raised or lowered and noted this to my warranty advisor.  I did adjust my cable, this helped just not perfect like a KS lev I owned.  All in all its a great and I'm no longer crossing fingers my dropper will still be working when I get home.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 2, 2020, 7:30 a.m.

The warranty rate on the Vario is this far ~ zero. e13 says 1/600 cartridges.

Not as smooth or quiet as they should be but still totally reliable.

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tashi
0
tashi  - Sept. 2, 2020, 10:27 a.m.

What do you prefer about the Vario vs the TRS+?

I really like the speed and mechanical nature of the TRS+, and after they readily replaced my first one that had a twisting issue mine has been bomber.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 2, 2020, 10:34 a.m.

The only thing I despise about the TRS+ is the two-piece shaft/head. If it wasn’t for the issues I had with it later in the post’s life (which a one-piece head/shaft like the Vario would have solved) it would still be in use.

That said, while I appreciate the user-rebuildable nature of the TRS+ (ball bearings and coil spring) I think anyone who’s opened one has to agree the quest to making a simpler & more reliable dropper ended up dreadfully complicated.

Complicated for no reason too.

I’ll take a Wintek-equipped post, or maybe a BikeYoke Divine, everyday of the week. It’s a dropper post, not a suspension fork, keep it as simple as possible while being reliable.

Reply

Timer
+2 Andrew Major Andy Eunson
Timer  - Sept. 2, 2020, 3:57 a.m.

Quite a bit off topic, but I love the anodized Chromag QR seat clamps!

Bought myself a red one, about a decade ago on my first visit to the shore. Still using it on my current bike, despite the qr part being obsolete.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 Andy Eunson Timer
Andrew Major  - Sept. 2, 2020, 7:33 a.m.

Not obsolete at all! I use mine all the time going back and forth between clips and flats.

Love Chromag QRs. Easily the best ever made (eat me Hope and/or original Salsa lover). Wrote a bit of a homage to them.

Reply

jdw103
0
Jason West  - Sept. 2, 2020, 2:46 p.m.

Could not be happier with my SDG post.

Reply

Xorrox
+1 Andrew Major
Brad_xyz  - Sept. 6, 2020, 8:08 a.m.

So which lever (and possible which post) have the easiest / lightest actuation? We just got a used mountain bike for my wife that came with a KS Lev Integra dropper post with “Southpaw” remote and my wife is complaining she can’t actuate it easily enough.  I’ve already disconnected the spring at the bottom of the dropper post and I’m just relying on the cartridge return force.  

Also, the dropper post feels like it needs a new cartridge (it’s a little spongy) so I’ll have to decide whether it’s easier / cheaper to replace the cartridge or just get a new post like One Up to maximize travel (its only 100 mm currently).

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 6, 2020, 11:02 a.m.

The Wolftooth ReMote light action remote is probably what you're looking for. For posts that have the cable head at the remote, the original Fox DOSS remote is an amazing choice and you can often find them cheap-cheap. Tonnes of leverage.

KS posts have pretty pathetic support in Canada compared to other models. OneUp will be the winner on maximizing travel/length but there are lots of smoother option is function > travel for your usage.

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