e13 Vario Dropper and Remote NSMB AndrewM (13).JPG
TEARDOWN | FIRST IMPRESSIONS | EDITORIAL

e*thirteen Vario Dropper Remote & 180mm Vario Dropper Post

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Apr 24, 2020
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e*thirteen Vario

If you can't beat them join them, but for the love of bikes put a spin on it. With the new Vario dropper posts, e13 has done just that. They've gone the Wintek route with the easily replaced, infinitely adjustable, gas-charged cartridges powering their take on the max-travel adjustable chassis. Two versions exist, the 'why bother' edition is a 150mm travel post that can be lowered to 120mm and the 'new normal' edition is a max 180mm dropper post that can be incrementally lowered to 150mm so riders can find the maximum travel usable with their frame. More on that below.

I'm sure I have this ass-backward, but what's really exciting to me about this release is the new Vario dropper post remote. The ergonomics, action, and construction are all improved from their excellent first-edition and at fifty bones (USD) it's a solid challenger for best dropper remote, at any price, for a bunch less cash. I hope they made a bunch because I could see plenty of folks with perfectly okay dropper posts purchasing one as an upgrade. More on that below too.

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The Vario post is easily adjusted from 150-to-180mm travel without tools. A rider trying to get within 5mm of the longest post they can run will appreciate the feature.

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[Bike Nerd] The new Vario remote is exciting. Awesome ergonomics, cartridge bearing pivot, return spring, SRAM MatchMaker X compatible remote, and all that for 50 USD [/Bike Nerd]

A Note To Bike Manufacturers

It isn't just tall riders talking about 170mm dropper posts being the new normal. The "hi, do you play basketball?" types in my life are all going on about 200mm plus posts and even those I know who are closer to hobbit-height are not satisfied with a 100mm dropper post any more. Sure, some folks haven't come over yet but if your suspension design still has a pivot or bend restricting seat post insertion there's nothing your marketing department is going to be able to do to save you from yourself. Plenty of dropper post manufacturers are trying to help out with travel adjustable posts and lower seal head to clamp heights so riders can max travel for their frames but you have to help.

Short folks buying bikes, even if all you need now is a 125mm dropper post (or 100mm with some bike designs) it's still a great idea to future proof yourself by making sure your new purchase can accommodate more travel. Your excellent local shop can confirm max insertion and also saddle v. tire clearance at full-drop on any bike they're selling you.

If in doubt, Cavan at Knolly Bikes guaranteed* me something along the lines of "anyone who can stand over one of our small frames can run at least a 150mm dropper post and probably a 170mm" so I think that's a great baseline for every brand to strive achieve for. It was in the context of shopping around for a new full suspension bike for my 5' tall wife, so if you're a cm over 5' you're golden‽

*Not an actual written in blood guarantee.

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Tall people are getting everything these days - steep effective seat tube angles, long Reach, size specific chainstay lengths. Short people want a piece of that action too: clearance for long dropper posts.

Vario Remote

Looking around for the best-in-the-game dropper post remote? The e13 option looks big compared against anything other than SRAM's Reverb battleship but let's give Vario a chance. The ergonomics are excellent and it's SRAM MatchMaker X compatible with three positions giving it a massive range of lateral adjustment outside of clamp position. The lever is long for leverage and turns ever-so-smooth on a pair of cartridge bearings. Oh, and it has a return spring.

The return spring is my favourite feature as it has the potential to make a lot of dropper posts perform better since the stealth actuator buried in my seat tube is no longer solely responsible for retracting the lever and cable. It's a push-pull setup now.

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The long lever provides excellent leverage combined with smooth cartridge bearing action and top ergonomics.

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Three positions and MatchMaker X compatible mean a clean one-less-clamp look that doesn't compromise dropper action.

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The forged body covers all the guts but gives the e13 Vario a bit of a portly look. It's bombproof but the gram counters won't love the 73 gram hit.

So it looks to be fantastic quality, the action is most excellent, and the price is right. What's the catch? The Vario looks to be built like a tank and actually is built like a tank. Its 73 grams doesn't sound like much but compare that to a Wolf Tooth ReMote or PNW Loam Lever and it's double.

I'll talk more about the lever in a future review once I've had the chance to abuse it thoroughly, but my expectations are high. I'll be using it with a few different posts as part of satisfying them.

Vario 150-180mm Dropper

I may be the only person in the world who was a fan of e13's previous TRS+ dropper post? I love the idea of a coil spring, the ball bearing collet worked well, it was easy to work on (the way the post-head attached to the shaft was less than perfect however). I've been waiting quite a while for a revised post and the Vario is not what I excepted. My usual message is that a dropper post has to offer something unique - like BikeYoke's Divine or PNW's Bachelor - to justify a higher cost than a Wintek-equipped post, so in that sense, it's a pleasant surprise.

The Vario is selling for 210 USD for a post, sans remote, so it's well-positioned price wise for a 180mm dropper. It has zero side-to-side head play out of the box thanks to massive key-ways that also act as stops for the tool-free max-travel adjustment. The posts are also easily rebuildable with a 25 USD bushing & key kit and a new cartridge will run 50 USD.

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The key-ways are massive and also act as a catch for the tool-free travel adjustment. I imagine most folks buying this post will run it at max travel if they can?

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I can see this package grabbing plenty of OE spec. Travel is so easy to adjust that a rider purchasing a bike can easily run their max or lower it for their leg length or preference.

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Seat rails to the bottom of the actuator is 520mm for the full 180mm travel post. That's 287.6mm max insertion in the frame and 232.4mm minimum sticking out of the frame.

I do feel a bit bad for e*thirteen regarding my introduction to the Vario. They're obviously excited about the new post; it looks great, the max-travel adjust feature is going to be prized, 180mm is currently acceptable for most riders, and the price is very reasonable. And then... my post has cartridge issues right out of the box.

I've tested multiple Wintek cartridge-equipped posts from Crank Brothers as well as units from FSA, Bontrager, PNW, and X-Fusion, and I've never had a cartridge issue. I think the Crank Brothers cartridges with their anodized shaft are the smoothest but they've all been good. The unit in this Vario post, unfortunately, sounds like the shaft is getting dragged back and forth on aggregate as it compresses and rebounds.

Dropper speed is compromised by the friction but despite this the post is fully functional and the rest of the build quality looks excellent. I'm waiting on a replacement cartridge from e13, (this would obviously be a manufacturing defect covered by warranty) and I'll be going forward with that for my review.

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The e13 Vario was nicely built with grease on the seals and key-ways. As is typical with a Wintek post it took less than five minutes to strip and put back together.

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This is the first bad Wintek cartridge I've received in a test post. I suppose it was bound to happen eventually? Either way, a fresh one is en route.

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Close up of the travel adjustment spacer and the obvious markings on the post. Just un-thread the seal head, push the remote, compress the dropper post, and this little beauty shows up.

I can easily run the post at 180mm in my hardtail but may need to lower it to 175mm or 170mm to run it on my, size large, Marin Alpine Trail. Either way, the travel adjustment process is beyond simple. Un-thread the seal head (by hand or using a strap wrench if required), push the remote button and compress the post. The travel spacer will pop up and can be rotated as desired. The system is so foolproof-simple and weights nothing factored into the 600-620 gram weight of the post (30.9 v. 31.6) that even if I never had a need to use it I wouldn't begrudge its presence.

I'll put the 180mm travel, 210 USD, Vario post to work once a replacement cartridge arrives. The Vario remote is in play right now my inner bike-nerd is looking forward to the days ahead when I can pass my bike over to a few friends to try. I think the 50 USD lever is going to be a hit.

More information at e*thirteen and in this handy animation they put together:

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Comments

AJ_Barlas
+1 Tehllama42
AJ Barlas  - April 24, 2020, 7:40 a.m.

Two versions exist, the 'why bother' edition is a 150mm travel post that can be lowered to 120mm…”

Hahaha. That made my day and its only 730. Thanks, Andrew!

Reply

tehllama42
+1 Andrew Major
Tehllama42  - April 24, 2020, 9:03 a.m.

I'm pretty much with that, but as a low cost OEM solution on XS/S bikes, I can still see those being a relevant, if slightly confusing offering.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Lu Kz Tjaard Breeuwer Joseph Crabtree
Andrew Major  - April 24, 2020, 9:23 a.m.

T, on the one hand I totally agree with you and on the other hand see section two.

XS/S bikes where riders can barely squeeze in a 125mm or even 100mm dropper are like really shitty bike shops. No one can explain to me how they still exist and I worry their prevalence is stealing business from good ones OR worse will drag others down to their level.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - April 24, 2020, 9:15 a.m.

Hahahaha, cheers AJ!

Reply

morgan-heater
+1 Andrew Major
Morgan Heater  - April 24, 2020, 10:29 a.m.

As someone who co-habits with very small shredders, I totally agree.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 Morgan Heater Tjaard Breeuwer
Andrew Major  - April 24, 2020, 11:52 a.m.

It really doesn’t seem like rocket surgery does it?

Steeper STA for taller riders to optimize position up in the clouds... similar position over the BB for shorter riders with a slacker STA that helps get the saddle away from the rear tire.

Don’t interrupt said seat tube with pivots or bends and all of a sudden min 150mm posts are possible for short riders as well. It’s really no different than how desirable straight seat tubes were pre-dropper posts and plenty of companies found a way then.

And if folks are happy with less then great. Give them the option. Heck, in the context of this launch give them the Vario and they don’t need to spend a dime to change the travel.

Reply

morgan-heater
+1 Joseph Crabtree
Morgan Heater  - April 24, 2020, 12:21 p.m.

I don't ride down-hill bikes much. I'm always curious why the high seats don't get in the way of cornering, in chunky terrain, etc? Is it just unnecessary to move as much because there's so much travel?

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - April 24, 2020, 3:54 p.m.

Don’t confuse WC DH Racing with DH riding. Most the folks I know riding janky tracks on Cypress or hitting the bike park run their saddle heights similar to Enduro/MTB.

WC DH racers are doing their thing on a closed course they’ve memorized and I think it’s a different game. 

I’ve been on group rides with some really fast former DH racers (no Sam Hills but still guys who were/are fast as hell) and on the trails they drop their seats just like everyone else. It’s the only memorable thing I can say about riding with them actually being slow as... myself.

Reply

LoamtoHome
0
Jerry Willows  - April 27, 2020, 8:01 a.m.

DH bikes look like their seat is higher than it actually is.  The seat should fit into your knee when going downhill, not matter what kind of bike.

skooks
+1 Andrew Major
Skooks  - April 24, 2020, 7:38 p.m.

"Don’t interrupt said seat tube with pivots or bends and all of a sudden min 150mm posts are possible for short riders as well. It’s really no different than how desirable straight seat tubes were pre-dropper posts and plenty of companies found a way then."

One of the many reasons knolly bikes are so appealing.

Reply

IslandLife
+1 Andrew Major
IslandLife  - April 24, 2020, 2:49 p.m.

Nice work by E13... but seems like they forgot to make the longer version?!  Where's the 180 to 210?  Going forward, I won't be on anything less than a 180... and probably should have bought a 200.  So my next one will be in that realm which eliminates the Vario.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - April 24, 2020, 3:57 p.m.

Bound by Wintek-tech when they were in development maybe? Other than the, also very new, 200mm Gen.3 Rainier the longest Wintek posts I can think of besides the e13 are 170mm.

But yes, 200mm seems to be a good target for companies for ‘20/‘21 and for ‘real’ technical riding it seems the only reason folks aren’t going minimum 170mm is frame or tire clearance.

Reply

Jotegir
+1 Andrew Major
Lu Kz  - April 24, 2020, 7:35 p.m.

I absolutely adore the ideas that come out of e13. Their cassettes are fantastic and I loved everything about the old remote remote. Cassette that threads in to itself to add extra range? Genius! Fully mechanical dropper post? Brilliant! The design, the ergonomics.... except the low quality metal used. 

I've been through two that have just been shredded during routine rebuilds. The first one I thought maybe I'd been a bit ham-fisted (despite a couple years of wrenching under my belt), so I used a torque wrench on the second. Nope! Also stripped.

The seatpost mast also loosened off on the older version of the post as well. I loved the idea of the fully mechanical post, but my saddle ended up being able to spin a full 360 degrees.

It's too bad because I really like what e13 does generally. They have really good ideas hindered by cheaper metals. Personally, I'll have a hard time giving them another shot in the dropper post/lever department. I'll stick to the cassettes for now.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Lu Kz
Andrew Major  - April 24, 2020, 8:18 p.m.

The new remote is significantly more solid than the original when tightening down the cable - I had zero issues with the first gen; however, I know of a couple riders who stripped the mounting bolt.

This post is a whole new animal. With the old post though I agree there were a lot of great ideas but the failure to package them sadly killed off some cool difference thinking.

Reply

Jenkins5
0
Jenkins5  - April 29, 2020, 11:23 a.m.

I'm stoked to give this a try. I personally didn't have any issues with my last e*13 post. Was solid for a year and a half but I did hear of people that had problems. Plus, I kind of prefer infinite travel, and this travel adjust feature looks pretty slick and super easy too.

Reply

ehfour
+1 Andrew Major
ehfour  - May 2, 2020, 8:16 a.m.

Has anyone seen these available for sale? E13 site says sold out since day 1..

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 ehfour
Andrew Major  - May 2, 2020, 8:41 a.m.

e13 says that their initial limited run sold out right away. I don’t know if that was to dealers, international distributors, direct to riders, or some mix.

They’ve had a production delay due to C-19. It may be at Wintek’s end just from other stuff I’ve heard. Either way they’re hoping to be back in stock soon but I don’t have a hard date for you.

Reply

ehfour
0
ehfour  - May 3, 2020, 10:39 a.m.

thanks for the reply Andrew...my comment above was more rant about my reverb needing another bleed

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
0
Tjaard Breeuwer  - June 6, 2020, 8:46 p.m.

On my first generation TRS post the barrel adjuster died. It was a different system than most shifter barrel adjusters I have. The hollow bolt had to flattened side and the sleeve you turn had an oval opening to fit over that. Because that sleeve is soft plastic, it widened up, and now the barrel adjuster doesn’t work. Combined with the difficulty of setting decent cable tension in the lever, it is a very poor system.

Reply

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