A Year Long Test of Kind Shock’s Remote Height Adjustable Seatpost
from success to failure and back again
Dropper seat posts, made famous by the notorious Crank Brothers Joplin (a design based on the original Maverick Speedball) have been available for quite a few years now. As I do with any new “fad”, I sat on the side-lines for sometime, first rejecting them as a stupid gimmick, I watched amazed as riders all around me, many of them friends, continued along in this love-hate cycle of buying posts, having them break, getting them replaced, only to have them break again, and so on…and so on…and so on…
There was just one thing: Despite all the ruined rides and warranty hassles, these people still couldn’t get them off there bike. I have never seen a bicycle product that was so addicting! After a couple of years I couldn’t stand the curiosity any more, and decided to try one of these so-called-amazing seatposts out for myself. I believe it was the first time I ever spent hundreds of dollars on something that I was almost completely sure would FAIL! It was crazy, but I did it. I bought a Crank Brothers Joplin of my own.
I used it for two rides. It failed. Not surprised, yet it still pissed me off.
You see, the thing is, you only need to use this drug twice to become addicted to it, which sounds similar to how I’ve heard heroin works! I found myself dropping the post in places I never thought I would. Short insignificant downhills, technical climbing switchbacks, playing around on the street before and after the trail ride, and even lowering it to sit comfortably with my feet on the ground when waiting for the rest of the group to catch up. It added so much flow to the riding at every moment, at least until it quit staying up.
I never even sent it back to get it fixed or replaced. Working in one of my local bike shops, I’d seen enough of these things failing, and knew that playing the warranty game was going to be futile in the end. Crank Brothers would replace them a couple of times before just forcing you to take your money back. Funny!
Going with out the dropper for the next year was not so big a deal. Just so all you addicts out there know, there is possibility for recovery, it just takes a little time. Anyways, when the Kind Shock came out with their take on the dropper seatpost, needles to say, I was hesitant. Was this budget suspension component company really going to be able to pull of a trick that Crank Brothers, after three or four years, still seemed incapable of?
I worked in the bike shop and watched as the mass of addicts moved towards the KS post. I watched for one full season, and to my surprise, I observed maybe only a half-dozen failures, the majority of those were not working right out of the box, so didn’t even leave the shop. Of the ones that did leave the shop and see a season of regular abuse, very few if any came back failed. This was the evidence I needed, and I began to crave having a dropper post back on my bike again.
Last spring, I was so confident in the KS Seat Posts, that I ordered three of them, (I work in a bike shop, so why not?) I bought one for my hardtail, one for my all-mountain bike, and one for my wife’s bike. Even at a discount, this was an expensive investment, but I was sure it would pay off. Errrr! Wrong. Both the posts on both of my bikes failed really soon. One made it two rides, the other maybe three or four. Both went down with the same problem: They just squished up and down like a blown out suspension seatpost. Brutal. My wife’s currently still works, but even then, it has so much more play in the bushing than I remembered from all the posts we sold people just one year before.
The distributors in Canada were sold out of these things, so I was only able to get a replacement post for one of my bikes about two months later, and the one from my hardtail just had to be returned for credit. This is where my review begins. The post that I received back looked like the i950 that I had sent back, but came in new packaging and was renamed the KS Supernatural.
First things first, for anybody out there looking to buy one of these seatposts, make sure it is the Supernatural (no setback), or the Dropzone (setback). I have not had a single problem with my replacement, and all season none of these we have sold customers in the store have been sent back. Also, if you can find one of these posts from before 2011, they also seem to be fine, however, of the posts sold by KS last year, I would say that the failure rate was on par with the old CB Joplins, if not higher. Why the bum run? If you ever tried one of these original i950s or i900s, you will have noticed that they are really stiff, and have a very tight bushing tolerance, with absolutely no play at the saddle. This apparently was a good thing, but when the post had been sitting for a while, it took some real force to get it moving, and sometimes needed help to get it up if it were compressed all the way down for a while. All this was, in my opinion, a minor inconvenience in a remote height adjustable seatpost that was as reliable as it was.
Seeing as how it was hard for lighter riders to overcome the stiction in the post, my guess is that KS tried to make the action a little lighter and a little smoother. For the most part they really succeeded at this. The 2011 run of posts were much smoother and had very little stiction. There is a noticeable difference in the coating used in the stanchion, along with a little bit more play at the saddle. The downside to the improvements in the cartridge however seemed to make the posts suck! If you were one of us that suffered with one of these pieces of shit, then you have my empathy, but I also really need to encourage you to forgive KS, if you can (another maybe better option I support would be to hold your grudge and just get a Rockshox Reverb!) and try out the new Supernatural and Dropzone posts. You will notice that the stickiness and tightness is back, and feels a lot like the original posts that didn’t fail. This new post has been extremely reliable so far and, to be honest, I couldn’t be happier.
If you were to ask me what the most reliable dropper post is out on the market, I would tell you that it is the Rockshox Reverb. We simply see far less issues creeping up in these posts, the main benefit being the closed hydraulic remote system with no cables or mechanical parts to get grimed up in sloppy conditions. That said, however, there are some key things that i think make the KS posts better than the Reverb. One of these is the option of having a post with zero offset, or one with 25mm setback, allowing riders to get the best bike fit they can. Rockshox only comes in a zero offset seat clamp. The KS is also super tight! There really is not a hint of movement either side to side, or back and forth, between the stanchion and the slider, there is also no more flex in the post at full height than in any standard seatpost. The Reverb on the other hand definitely has detectable side to side rotational play at the saddle, and at full height has a creepy amount of bushing play back and forth which only gets worse and worse the more you ride it. I’ve never seen the Reverb post snap, and most riders probably wouldn’t be bothered by it while riding, but I do really appreciate how stiff and tight everything feels in the KS posts. I feel safer, and that, I think, is better. The last thing I will point out is that of every remote available for any dropper seat post out there, the KS version is by far the cleanest design as well as the most functional. Setting up the Reverb remote with the Avid matchmaker system is sweet, but with Shimano stuff, especially their new brakes, is ugly, awkward, and mildly annoying. I don’t mean to turn this review into a KS vs, Rockshox seat post review, but these two posts are at the top of my recommended list, so it is easy for me to compare them to each other.
Conclusion: Simple. Old KS good. 2011 KS terrible. New KS great. Both the Dropzone and the Supernatural are really good options if your in the market for a good drug. I have no problem recommending them to you and will be willing to buy another one for myself, considering the options that are available at this time.
- Price: MSRP $305 USD, but you can get one here for $269
- Weight: 540g (Supernatural 30.9 125mm travel 385mm length w/remote)
- Travel: KS Supernatural posts are available in 75, 100, 125 and 150mm (haven’t had much experience with the 150mm versions, but there seem to be some issues with reliability from what I have heard browsing the web. My advice would be to do more homework before getting the 150mm drop)
- Sizes: KS makes the Supernatural in a size that would fit pretty much everyone. 75x300mm, 100x350mm, 125x385mm, 125x420mm, 150x435mm
- Pros: Mid-priced, one of the lighter posts on the market, overall one of the most reliable (the bad batch not withstanding), combined with the cleanest remote design in the genre make the KS Supernatural a nearly perfect option for most riders seeking the ride enhancement of a dropper seat post.
- Cons: A short history of unreliability thrown into the mix of an otherwise solid product is sure to cast some doubts in many consumers’ minds. I know a lot of people who will probably never try another one, which is a shame as many of Kind Shock’s current posts perform so well. Considering that lack of cables and housing to grime up is an option on the Rockshox Reverb (which is KS’s biggest competitor in this market), the use of cables and moving parts exposed to the elements can be seen as a con on most dropper seatposts. As is the case with every dropper post, they are heavy and will always pose more problems than a good old rigid metal tube to clamp your seat to, which, we need to remember, is always an option. If anyone says otherwise, Its probably just the drug talking!