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Hands-on Gear Review
Crankbrothers Highline Review
Cons: Not the lightest, non-adjustable spring rate.
Bottom line: The Highline is an impressive product that checked all our boxes and took home our Best Buy award.
Crankbrothers has been in the mountain bike components game for well over a decade. They are primarily known for their pedals and multi-tools, but also for pushing the envelope of design with mixed results. The Highline dropper post is a new product offering from Crank Brothers and in our opinion is one of the most impressive products they have ever made. Not only does the Highline feature infinite travel adjustment, smooth and consistent compression and extension, but it also boasts innovative design features like a truly universal spherical remote and a unique saddle clamp. The Highline's impressive performance and design features coupled with the lowest price in our test make it without a doubt our Best Buy award winner. Not only is it a Best Buy, but it's one of our top performers, besting dropper posts that cost over $100 more. Plus it is backed by an industry leading three-year warranty!
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Dropper Post for Your Mountain Bike
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Crank Brothers has long been pushing the envelope of design with mixed results. Consider the eggbeaters pedals, potentially the most polarizing pedal design ever, people either love 'em, or they won't even consider riding with 'em. Thankfully, Crankbrothers created a dropper post that will be nearly impossible not to love. Smooth, consistent travel, easy to install, ergonomic universal remote, innovative saddle clamp, low stack height, relatively lightweight, least expensive in our test, the list goes on and on.
It seems as if we're smitten with the new kid on the block, but believe us we didn't set out to love the Highline. It certainly didn't take long, however, for us to appreciate the thoughtfully designed parts, components, and unflinching consistent performance that Crank Brothers has delivered in this dropper post. If that weren't enough, it's backed by an unheard of three-year warranty! Read on to find out why the Highline was our hands-down winner of the Best Buy award and almost our pick for Best Overall dropper post.
Smoothness and Functionality
Throughout our testing, the Crank Brothers Highline proved itself to be one of the best dropper posts on the market. Crank Brothers put some thought into the design of this post and not just in innovative features like the remote and saddle clamp, but the most important aspects of the post like its performance and functionality during its primary task of lowering and raising your saddle.
The Highline has a sealed hydraulic cartridge that operates at a fixed rate of extension and tops out with a barely audible noise. We found the rate to be on the slower side of the posts in our test selection, but also to be tied with the KS LEV Integra and the Thomson Elite Covert for the smoothest in its travel. Despite the fact that it wasn't lightning quick to return to full height, it was consistent, reliable and precise. It was also buttery smooth both during extension and compression, notably so especially when compared to posts that had a less regular or sticky feeling travel like the Race Face Turbine. We did find the Highline post to require the most force to compress. This wasn't an issue, but you had to consciously weight your saddle to slam it down before descents.
There was the slightest bit of lateral play, wiggle in the saddle but it was barely noticeable in hand and not at all noticeable while riding. At 47mm compressed and 173mm extended, for our 125mm travel test post, the Highline featured the lowest stack height in our test, just 3mm lower than the KS LEV Integra, but roughly a full centimeter lower than most of the others. The stack height isn't typically a concern for the longer legged riders out there, but 47mm is a welcome number for those with shorter legs hoping to squeeze a longer dropper onto their rig. We were a little underwhelmed by the 125mm travel length of our test post since we've grown accustomed to 150mm drop. After we received our test post, however, the 160mm version of the Highline was released and is sure to please a large number of riders who like as much drop as they can get.
The Highline also comes with top-of-the-line Jagwire cable and housing which may aid in its ease of actuation and smoothness. Pressing the remote actuates a small spiral driver within the quick connect that turns a rotary valve on the Highline's cartridge. The cartridge is sealed, but supposedly easy to remove and replace when necessary.
The Highline features a zero offset head with a typical two-bolt saddle clamp design, but Crank Brothers did something different when they designed theirs.
The rear bolt is attached on a swivel to the upper part of the clamp and slides into a slot in the head of the seatpost. The front bolt stays connected while the rear bolt swivels out, allowing the upper piece of the saddle clamp to rotate. This eliminates the need to ever fully remove the bolts or drop several pieces of saddle clamp all over the floor when installing or removing your saddle. (You know it has happened to you.) This design made life much easier during both installation and removal of our saddle from the test post. The saddle clamp also has angle markings to ensure that you adjust yours correctly every time.
Crank Brothers also did something we've never seen before with the Highline remote, a truly universal shifter style lever that is attached to a spherical clamp. The hinged clamp of the remote is simple to install and can be mounted on the top or the bottom of the handlebar, on either side and is compatible with any drivetrain configuration. The only way this lever can't be mounted is vertical, like the KS LEV Integra or the Thomson Elite Covert, but this didn't upset us in the least.
The remote is paddle-shaped, and we set it up with our 1x drivetrain like a shift lever under our handlebar on the left side. The spherical clamp, think ball and socket, is incredibly adjustable and allows you to articulate the lever into virtually any position, but most importantly the exact position you want it, before tightening it down on the handlebar. The lever action was smooth, and we found the Highline remote to require moderate force to actuate the mechanism, in fact, it fell exactly in the middle of the actuation force range in our side-by-side testing. The rate of extension of the Highline can also be modulated by feathering the remote lever.
At 620g including the cable, housing, and remote lever, the Highline fell into what we are calling the sweet spot of weight for the dropper posts in our test selection.
The Highline, Race Face Turbine, Rock Shox Reverb, and the 9point8 Fall Line all weighed within 12g of each other. Only the KS LEV Integra weighed notably less, 30-40g than these four posts, and the Thomson Elite Covert and Fox Transfer Performance weighed roughly 50g more. Bear in mind that the Highline we tested was the 125mm length version, and the recently released 160mm length post will weigh slightly more; exactly how much more we can't say because we didn't test or weigh it.
Ease of Setup
At approximately 30 minutes, the Crank Brothers Highline was the fastest, and tied for the easiest, dropper post to install in our test selection.
As for every dropper post we analyzed, the most challenging part was running the housing through the frame. After that, all we had to do for the Highline was feed the cable through the housing to the remote, tighten the set screw, then cut and crimp the cable which hides in a slot on the backside of the remote lever. The cable was already connected to the bottom of the seatpost at the quick connect. The saddle was easier to install than other two-bolt saddle clamps due to the ingenious slotted head design that allows the upper half of the saddle clamp to rotate without fully removing either bolt. Installation of the remote was simple due to the hinged design of the handlebar clamp, but it did take us a while to adjust the lever to the perfect angle. The only reason it took us time to adjust the lever was that we had the option to position it in exactly the ideal spot for a change, so we took our time and dialed it in.
We seriously think that just about anyone who rides a mountain bike would love the Highline dropper post, but especially those with a setup OCD. The remote lever design features a range of adjustability that is more customizable than anything else we have seen to date and should make even the most scrutinizing of gear nerds happy. Our Best Buy award winner, the Highline is also ideal for those on a budget who don't want to sacrifice on performance or reliability.
At $350 retail, the Highline is the least expensive dropper post in our test selection. Interestingly, the Highline was also one of our favorite posts, checking nearly all of our boxes and performing more consistently and reliably than dropper posts that cost much more. The Highline was our hands down Best Buy award winner due to its intelligent design features, consistent performance, quality construction and reasonable price. And it comes with an industry leading three-year warranty!
The Highline is the most impressive product we have seen from Crank Brothers in a long time. They took their time in the development of this dropper post, and that is evident in thoughtfully designed features like the remote and saddle clamp, as well as the impressively smooth and consistent performance. Not to mention the fact that the Highline was the least expensive post in our test, comes in 100mm, 125mm, and 160mm lengths, and is backed by a three-year warranty. It was a no-brainer that the Highline was our Best Buy Award winner. In fact, it missed out Best Overall dropper post award by only the slimmest of margins.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Highline is available in both 30.9mm and 31.6mm diameters and comes in 100mm, 125mm and 160mm lengths, all for $350.
— Jeremy Benson
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