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Hands-on Gear Review
Thomson Elite Covert Review
Cons: Heavy, most expensive in test, non-serviceable hydraulic cartridge, longest post in test (both stack and overall)
Bottom line: Thomson's Elite Covert is a top-of-the-line dropper post from one of the industry's most respected parts manufacturers.
The Thomson Elite Covert took home the coveted Editors' Choice award in our previous dropper post test. This time around, the Thomson post had some more serious competition, and while we still really liked the Elite Covert, it missed the top step of our podium. There is no doubt that it is high quality, well designed, and performs consistently and reliably while out on the trail. It achieved Thomson Elite status after all
Thomson's reputation for quality carries over into the Elite Covert dropper, and that is apparent in every well-machined detail, and the fact that this is the only post in our test to have absolutely no unwanted movement. It also features a unique dampened return in the last 15mm of its extension providing a soft, user-friendly top out, something only Thomson does. This kind of quality doesn't come cheap; the Thomson post was the most expensive in our test with a retail price of $480. Combine the price with the fact that the 150mm test post was also the heaviest in our test and that's why the Elite Covert didn't repeat as our Editors' Choice award winner.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Dropper Post for Your Mountain Bike
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
A couple of decades ago, upgrading your seatpost to a Thomson Elite was like a rite of passage for most mountain bikers. The Thomson brand was known for producing some of the highest quality CNC'd parts available, and they still are to this day. Many riders struggled with the idea of removing their rigid Thomson Elite seatposts from their bikes when they finally switched to dropper posts a few years back, ourselves included. Those diehards have reason to celebrate because they can again adorn their bikes with Thomson Elite logo on an infinitely adjustable dropper post that is made with the same craftsmanship and precision that we've all come to expect from the brand.
The Elite Covert was the Editors Choice award winner in our previous dropper post test, and it returns with the same consistent performance, reliability, and innovative features, and is now available in a 150mm length. The Elite Covert faced some serious competition this time around and, despite being one of the best droppers in our test, failed to meet the high bar set by some of the up and coming dropper post manufacturers. That said, the Thomson Elite Covert dropper is among the best dropper posts money can buy, assuming you're willing to shell out the cash.
The Thomson Elite Covert dropper performed consistently and reliably from the moment we installed it to the moment we took it off our bike. The fixed drop and rise speed of 0.3 meters per second initially felt a little sluggish when compared with some of the lightning quick or adjustable models in our test, but we quickly grew accustomed to it and never felt like it was too slow. The post was noticeably harder to compress than several of the other droppers we tested like the 9point8 Fall Line, the Fox Transfer, or the Race Face Turbine, but again we got used to it pretty quickly, and it was never a problem of any kind. The Thomson was also impressively smooth in its travel both in compression and extension, at all times.
Thomson designed the Elite Covert to be dampened in its top 15 mm of extension, so you'll barely notice when the post tops out, nor do you ever have to worry about inflicting pain to your sensitive underside. Those who use the sound of their post topping out to know when their post has reached full extension may be dismayed by the lack of an audible queue, but those who appreciate a quiet bike will probably prefer the silence. We also noticed that at the very bottom of the stroke the Thomson had a little bit of dampening or springiness that also kept it from bottoming out harshly.
Thomson claims a service interval of two years on their sealed cartridge, and in the event you need to switch it out, it's said to be quick and easy. This means that the most service you should ever need to perform on the Elite Covert is replacing your cable and housing, for the first two years anyway. Thomson is known for quality, and they tell us they use some name brand parts like custom Norglide bearing bushings, Trelleborg O-rings and seals, and Motul oil. Based on the price of the Thomson dropper and their reputation for quality, its safe to assume that these are some of the best parts that money can buy.
A small black anodized remote comes with the Elite Covert Dropper which is oriented vertically and can be mounted on either side of the handlebar, depending on your drivetrain setup. The style of remote was most similar to the KS LEV Integra or the 9point8 Fall Line Thumb remote in size, shape, and orientation. Unlike the KS remote lever, the Thomson lever has a hinged clamp that makes installation quick and painless. We found the remote to have a short throw, but in our side-by-side testing, it became apparent that it required the second most force to actuate the dropper mechanism. Perhaps this is due to the short lever of the remote, possibly having a lower leverage ratio. Whatever the reason, it's not a big issue unless you like your dropper to be especially easy to actuate like the 9point8 Fall Line or the KS LEV Integra.
We found that when positioned for the best reach and ergonomics down low where our thumb most easily reached it, the housing stuck out from the remote slightly upward. It had no effect on performance, but it did look a little suspicious and distract from our otherwise clean handlebar theme.
We also wondered why, on a dropper that is as well designed and expensive as the Elite Covert, they would have such a mediocre remote lever design. Sure it works, but at this stage of the game, you'd hope they provide you with some more ergonomic or purpose-built 1x compatible option. Check out the chart below for our performance comparison of dropper post remotes.
Thomson has long been known for their bombproof two-bolt saddle clamp, and the Elite Covert certainly benefits from their many years of experience in seatpost manufacturing. The two bolts secure the upper and lower pieces of the saddle clamp securely around the saddle rails. Numbered markings ensure you line up your saddle's angle to your exact preferences. We have zero complaints about the reliable and noise free performance of the Thomson saddle clamp throughout our test period.
The Elite Covert was the only dropper post in our test selection with any offset, which is minimal at 5mm back, but we feel that setback is a thing of the past, as do most other dropper post manufacturers apparently. It's easy enough to compensate for the 5mm of setback, and most riders will find themselves able to position their saddle comfortably on the Elite Covert. For the lanky few out there who are looking to extend the reach of their bike, the Thomson can help with that just a little bit. The current trend in mountain bike frame design has seat tube angles getting steeper and reach being extended in top tube length, not necessarily by positioning the saddle further back. Every other post in our test selection has a zero offset head design, although the 9point8 Fall Line is convertible to a 25mm setback, an attractive option to accommodate all riders needs.
Ease of Setup
Much like the other cable actuated dropper posts that install with the cut end of the cable at the remote end, the Thomson was quite easy to put on our test bike. The hinged remote went on our handlebar in seconds, and the slotted housing stop in the bottom of the seatpost made inserting the lead (or barrel) end of the cable into the actuator on the lower part of the post a snap.
We did find ourselves a bit hung up when we realized that the included housing, a super flexible and much wider than standard diameter, wouldn't fit through our internal routing port holes. The aluminum port holes on our Ibis test bike fit standard housing correctly, and the included Thomson housing was so much bigger that we couldn't even consider drilling them wider to accommodate it. We opted to swap it out for standard housing which we had on hand and was an ideal solution to the problem. That said, the included cable and housing are exceptionally flexible and appear to be of very high quality, we wish we could have tried them out.
Once we routed our housing through the frame, the rest of the job involves feeding the cable through it, then pulling tension at the remote end before tightening the set screw on the remote lever and cutting and crimping the cable end. The Thomson post does have one extra detail in its installation, and that is the floating cable tensioner that sits in the middle of the housing out in front of your handlebar. This cable tensioner is a large and rather heavy barrel adjuster that interrupts the housing about six inches from the remote. This means you have to make an extra cut in your housing, and this barrel adjuster is sitting out in front of your handlebar bouncing around when you're hurtling through chunky rock gardens at ludicrous speed. We thought the cable tensioner was the most poorly designed aspect of this otherwise impeccably designed product as it adds an extra step during installation and weight to the housing.
In the world of mountain bike parts and accessories, the more expensive something is, the lighter it probably is. This is not the case with the Elite Covert dropper as it weighed in as the heaviest post in our test with a total weight of 690g including the remote, cable and housing. The only other post that weighed in this same ballpark was the Fox Transfer Performance. We expected the Thomson post to be competitively lightweight, but the included extra-flexible oversized housing and the large cable tensioner added some additional heft to the system. One could save some weight by installing the Thomson post with standard cable and shifter housing. In this case, Thomson Elite performance comes with a weight penalty.
If given a choice, would you drive a Cadillac? If your answer is yes, then the Thomson Elite Covert is probably the dropper post for you. Is that Thomson Elite logo something you've been missing on your bike since the advent of dropper posts? If your answer is yes, then miss it no longer! Thomson has made a top quality, high-performance seatpost that lives up to their long-standing reputation.
Thomson products have never been known for being inexpensive. In fact, they're often known for the opposite, and the Elite Covert dropper post is no exception. At $480 retail, the Thomson dropper was the most expensive in our test, $130 more than our Best Buy award winner the Crank Brothers Highline, although only about $10 more than the other most expensive posts, the Race Face Turbine and RockShox Reverb Stealth. Is it worth the extra expense? We'll leave that up to you, but it is most definitely a quality product that Thomson feels worthy of the Elite moniker. Thomson also boasts a two-year service interval on their sealed cartridge, which will likely reduce service costs over time.
The Elite Covert dropper post was a top performer in our test. While it is a high-quality product from one of the industry's most highly regarded brands, it is hard for us to say if it is worth coughing up the extra cash when other more reasonably priced options perform just as well. Of course, we thoroughly enjoyed and were impressed by the dampened return of the post's extension, and the quick connect system made installation and removal of the post a breeze. The post had very smooth action and extended at a predetermined and predictable rate and was the only post in the test that had absolutely no lateral play in the saddle.
We were less than impressed, however, with the remote of the Elite Covert, and while it was adequate, it certainly didn't blow up our bike shorts. The weight of the Thomson post was also somewhat disconcerting, it was the heaviest in our test, over 100g heavier than our lightweight performer, the KS LEV Integra. All that said, if you're willing and able to pony up for the Elite Covert dropper we doubt you'll be disappointed in any way.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Elite Covert dropper post is available in both 30.9mm and 31.6mm(tested) diameters and three lengths, 100mm, 125mm, and 150mm(tested).
— Jeremy Benson
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