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Hands-on Gear Review
9Point8 Fall Line Review
Cons: Finicky installation-cable tension, poor performance if set up improperly
Bottom line: The 9point8 Fall Line is an interesting new dropper post with many innovative design features and the winner of our Editors' Choice award.
Positions: Infinitely Adjustable
Tested Diameter and travel length.: 31.6, 150mm travel
9point8 is a Canadian company with a refreshing approach to dropper post design. The Fall Line emerged as the winner of our Editors' Choice award in a very competitive selection of the industry's best dropper posts. A lot of thought went into the details of the Fall Line and that is evident in the best-in-class saddle clamp and remote lever designs, plus even minor details like their zero waste packaging. It is impressive to see a company breaking the mold and doing things their own way. 9point8 also designed a new and innovative technology known as DropLoc which is an expanding cylindrical brake that locks the post in any position in its travel range. After some initial user error installation issues, we got the Fall Line working properly and were impressed with its consistent performance and reliability. Parts are readily available, and 9point8 sells virtually every part you could ever need for the Fall Line, which is ideal for home mechanics or in the off chance that something breaks. 9point8 also backs their dropper post with a two-year warranty. The Fall Line was our favorite dropper post in this test, and we think you'll love it, too. Read on to see how the Fall Line compares to the competition.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Dropper Post for Your Mountain Bike
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Fall Line was tested extensively on mountain bike rides of various lengths as well as on our side-by-side testing apparatus in a controlled environment. Originally we were somewhat unimpressed with the inconsistent performance of the DropLoc technology, but based on all of the other incredibly positive reviews of this product we decided to give it a second chance.
When we reinstalled the Fall Line on our test bike we finally got the cable tension in the quick-connect system right, and the post began to perform as we'd hoped: consistently, reliably and with no unwanted or unexpected drops or loud noises. It's a good thing we revisited the Fall Line because we were otherwise very impressed with their innovative best-in-class saddle clamp and remote lever designs, attention to detail, beautifully machined parts, availability of parts, and reasonable price. In the end, the Fall Line took home our Editors' Choice award for their innovative design and consistent performance. This is truly an impressive product.
Smoothness and Functionality
We rode the 9point8 out of the box in its factory pressure setting for the majority of our test period. The first thing we noticed was how incredibly easily, quickly, and smoothly it compressed, especially when compared to other posts that required a lot more force like the Thomson Elite Covert and Crank Brothers Highline. The remote takes very little force to actuate and when you press it, it's almost like free fall as the post drops beneath you, something we discovered we actually like since we mostly ride with the post all the way up or all the way down. The faster the post is down and out of the way the better.
There was virtually no play, or wiggle, in the saddle out of the box and that continued throughout the test period. The 150mm travel Fall Line post comes in the relatively standard fully extended length of 440mm, so fitment was on par with the other posts in our test selection, except for the two longest ones, the Thomson Elite Covert and the Fox Transfer Performance. The Fall Line dropper's DropLoc system is a mechanically actuated cylindrical brake that lives inside the seatpost. It expands when in locked position, and contracts through extension when you press the remote lever allowing the post to compress or extend. 9point8 says that it is subject to the effects of temperature and pressure change and "resetting" the brake can sometimes be necessary, a process that is as simple as holding down the remote lever for ten full seconds.
For the first ride or two, the post seemed to be functioning relatively normally. The return felt a little sticky and potentially under-lubed from the factory, but for the most part if was working well. After a few rides, however, our post started to drop with a loud squealing sound without pressing the remote, just under body weight while riding over bumpy sections of trail or if you slammed your butt onto the saddle with some force. We tried our best to trouble shoot the problem, but everything seemed like it was set up correctly. When it worked it seemed to work quite well; it just suffered from occasional sudden and unwanted compression accompanied by a loud noise.
When we tested the Fall Line on our side-by-side test apparatus, our field testing gripes continued. The post had a sticky-ish feeling return, and we could make it drop by slamming on the saddle with just the weight of our upper body. We removed the seat and bumped the air pressure from the factory setting of 20psi up to 30psi, which made the return much quicker, then up to 35psi, but that didn't solve the problem. We reset the brake using the recommended method of holding down the remote lever for a full 10 seconds, and that got the post functioning normally for another few rides. Eventually, we swapped the Fall Line out for another dropper and decided it just didn't work all that well.
Towards the end of our test period, we decided to give the 9point8 another shot. We liked so much about the post otherwise that we felt it was worth a revisit. This time around, when we attached the cable and housing to the quick connect, we set it up with the housing stop lower than suggested because we figured we could take up cable tension with the barrel adjuster at the remote if necessary. By setting up the quick connect about 3mm lower than the last time around we solved the problems we were having with the Fall Line and it began to work consistently, predictably, and with zero unwanted noisy saddle drops. The post's travel also became more smooth, although still slightly less smooth than the Crank Brothers Highline or the Thomson Elite Covert. We put the Fall Line through another week's worth of field testing, and it operated trouble free after our tension adjustment.
The saddle clamp is one of the most innovative and interesting features of the Fall Line. The post features the typical two-bolt design, fore, and aft, for leveling your saddle, but those bolts don't clamp the saddle rails. Instead, there is a bolt on either side, right and left, that tightens the seat rail clamps onto your seat rails making for the easiest saddle installation and removal of all posts in our test selection. Not only is it easy to install and remove your saddle to access the air valve which is hidden within the saddle clamp, but you can do so quickly and without having to mess with the angle. We found this saddle clamp to be rock solid, make no noise, and work flawlessly throughout our testing.
We thought it was refreshing to see a new take on the standard saddle clamp and this one works very well. Our test model had zero offset, but 9point8 also offers the option of a 25mm offset head when ordering or as an aftermarket purchase as it is convertible between the two. The only other saddle clamp in our test selection that offered anything other than the standard two-bolt saddle clamp design was out Best Buy award winner, the Crank Brothers Highline.
There are three options when you order a Fall Line dropper post from 9point8. The "Thumb" which we tested, the "Trigger", and the "Digit", a 1x shifter style lever for an additional $18. While we can't speak for the performance or ergonomics of the Trigger or the Digit remotes, it's nice to have options. That said, the Thumb remote that we tested offers several options in and of itself. You can set it up in many ways: vertically like the KS LEV Integra or Thomson Elite Covert remotes, horizontally on top, on either side of your handlebar, or you can set it up horizontally below the handlebar on the left with the included 1x adapter. This remote offers a position for virtually any drivetrain setup or rider preference.
We tested it primarily in the vertical position mounted on the left side of our handlebar which worked well. In this position, the lever is similar in size and shape to the KS LEV Integra and the Thomson Elite Covert levers, although the 9point8 remote is a little larger and slightly easier to find with your thumb. The remote of the Fall Line also required the least force to actuate of all the dropper posts we tested, making it very easy to press when you want your seat down or coming back up. We were also impressed with the included 1x adapter, as we've never seen a remote design that could be run vertically, horizontally, and in 1x shifter style.
We tested the 1x adapter setup on our side-by-side dropper post test apparatus, and also out on the trail for over a week. The positioning of the lever felt fantastic, and the remote maintained its smooth and easy actuation feel.
Our 150mm test post in a 31.6mm diameter weighed in at 617g including the cable, housing, and remote. Not the lightest in the test, but only about 40g heavier than the lightest post in our test selection, the KS LEV Integra. We consider the weight of the Fall Line to be the sweet spot for dropper post weight as four posts in the test weighed within a 12g range of the 9point8.
Ease of Setup
9point8 licensed their DropLoc technology to Race Face, so the Fall Line shares the same internals with the Turbine. While both posts are manufactured and marketed by different companies, they both use the same DropLoc mechanical system to control where the post stops within its travel. Therefore, both dropper posts use the same "quick connect" system which allows you to remove the post from the frame without having to use any tools. The setup process is virtually identical for the two posts, with the exception of the saddle clamps and the remotes, so if you've read the Race Face Turbine review, then some of this may sound a little repetitive. Ease of setup of both the Race Face Turbine and 9point8 Fall Line was more challenging than the other cable actuated systems we tested mostly due to the "quick connect" system.
The first thing you'll notice about the Fall Line is the slick zero waste packaging that it comes in. The triangular box is made from recycled cardboard and held shut with cross sections of old bicycle tubes. Leave it to Canadians to have innovative and environmentally responsible packing for their bike components — it's refreshing to see. The triangular box unfolds, and everything you need — post, cable, housing, remote, and quick connect — is inside, including a torque Allen key for getting the seat post clamp tightened properly. The only special tool required for installation of this post is a set of cable/housing cutters that you should have anyway if you like working on your bike.
Our description here is by no means a set of instructions on how to setup the Fall Line, but there is a set of step-by-step instructions included in the box, and believe us when we say that you will want to reference them if you've never setup a DropLoc quick connect system before. There are also downloadable instructions on their website, and you can find numerous videos on Youtube to help you along the way.
The Fall Line only comes in an internally routed configuration, so the first step is routing the included housing through your frame. If you already have housing running through your frame, we recommend getting a housing coupler, like what comes with the RockShox Reverb Stealth, and pulling the new housing in while you pull the other one out; otherwise, this can be a tedious task. The remote comes in several pieces, and it takes a minute or two to figure out exactly how it all goes together. The instructions help, but once you've figured out how you'd like to mount it, it can be assembled quickly without the need to remove your grips.
The "quick connect" is the next order of business and this assembly involves several pieces. Basically, in the simplest description possible, the housing connects to the assembly, as does the cable, and the assembly then threads into the bottom of the seat post and actuates the DropLoc mechanism. Follow the instructions carefully and get it right the first time, and this process is relatively quick and painless. Get it wrong the first time, which is easy to do since the tolerance for the cable length and tension is incredibly slim, and you may find yourself repeating the process several times until you get it exactly right. We thought we nailed it since we'd setup the Race Face Turbine previously, but alas we didn't, and we eventually assumed the post didn't work right when we were at fault. Upon revisiting the Fall Line sometime later, we realized where we went wrong.
As for trailside serviceability, the Fall Line's mechanically actuated DropLoc brake style system still supposedly works even if you lose air pressure in the chamber or if your cable breaks. We didn't experience it in our testing, but we are told you can manually position the post and it will stay in place. If the cable breaks on a ride, good luck replacing it out on the trail, and if you do, you'll need a set of cable cutters to complete the task. For the at-home mechanic, 9point8 sells nearly every part you could think of to repair, rebuild, or service your dropper yourself.
Mountain Bikers who are into the coolest new products on the market, especially gear heads who love to talk about bike parts, are going to love the Fall Line. At-home mechanics are also going to love the fact that they can work on the Fall Line themselves and every part you could ever want is readily available to service your 9point8 dropper. The Fall Line is available in six different sizes in 25mm increments from 75mm up to 200mm, so they considered everyone when they designed this dropper post.
At a retail value of $399, we feel that the Editors' Choice award winning Fall Line dropper post is an excellent value. Their attention to detail and quality of craftsmanship is apparent in the innovative features like the saddle clamp and remote lever designs. When installed properly the post functions consistently and reliably. The Fall Line is also backed by a two-year warranty. There are many wonderful dropper posts available on the market today, but the 9point8 Fall Line is the best.
There is a lot to love about the 9point8 Fall Line that features some of the most interesting and innovative designs that we have seen in dropper posts to date. It features a clean look, best-in-class saddle clamp and remote, and comes in an astounding six different lengths at a reasonable (for dropper posts, anyway) price. The availability of parts for at home serviceability by skilled mechanics and a two-year warranty is also a plus. After a less than impressive first go round on the Fall Line we had more or less written it and its DropLoc technology off as inconsistent and unreliable. When we decided to give it another chance we realized that we hadn't installed it perfectly the first time. Since then we've been impressed with this great product that is sure to be a driving force in innovation in the dropper post market. It may be a little finicky to install, but the Fall Line's consistent performance, competitive weight, innovative features, and reasonable price combine to make this our Editors' Choice award winner.
The Fall Line is available in 6 lengths, 75mm, 100mm, 125mm, 150mm, 175mm, and 200mm. All sizes up to 150mm cost $399, while the 175mm and 200mm cost $449. 9point8 makes some adapters and accessories, including mounting kits for Matchmaker, Shimano I-SpecA/B, Shimano I-Spec II, and a 22 mm bar clamp. They also sell virtually every part you can think of including saddle clamp heads, hardware, optional remotes, rebuild kits, and internal parts.
— Jeremy Benson
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