Cartridge V Hydraulic Dropper Posts
“Not all droppers are create equal"
Did you know the first ever dropper post was made by Joe Breeze of Breezer Bikes back in 1984? This revolutionary concept would allow the rider to drop their seat height in a matter seconds. Since then many companies have adopted the concept in their own unique ways. Over the last 5 – 6 years the dropper has quickly become an absolute must have for every mountain bike rider.
All dropper posts are the same right? They all go up and down?
More or less, they do all archive the same outcome, what does vary is the internal parts that allow them to function. In short there are two different types of dropper, a cartridge actuated dropper and a hydraulic actuated dropper. Each post design has their pros and cons.
The Cartridge Dropper
A cartridge dropper is rather simple. If you’ve ever used an office chair the parts that go into moving this type of post are the same. Basically, there is a small self-contained nitrogen filled cartridge that has a push to release button at the end where the cable meets. When the cable is levered this allows the nitrogen to flow within the cartridge resulting in movement up or down depending on the pressure applied to the seat.
The simplicity of this post means that the upfront cost of this post is much lower than the hydraulic alternative, ranging from $250 - $350 depending on brand.
Now, before you run to the shop and grab one, there are a couple of things to know. Yes, they’re cheaper upfront however they aren’t as serviceable and rider feedback suggests the life span of this type of post isn’t as long as others. Examples of this type of post would be a One Up, Giant Contact SL and some KS droppers.
- Cost effective upfront
- Simple to maintain at home
- Not serviceable
- Shorter life span
The Hydraulic Dropper
A hydraulic dropper post on the other hand can be a much more intricate beast. Depending on the brand each company has their own take on how they make this concept function, but ultimately the outcome is much the same. In a nut shell, rather than using a sealed non serviceable cartridge unit internally to provide movement they opt to go about replicating technology we see used in many different forms of suspension shocks. They use a combination of air pressure, hydraulic oil, seals, washers, o-rings, piston(s), shafts, etc. to create a serviceable damper. The benefit to this added complexity is simply to deliver better durability, serviceability and feel. All this doesn’t come cheap, as the average post in this category starts at around $500+. Ultimately this delivers a better quality product long term with more options to repair and service as required. Examples of this type of post would be a Fox Transfer, Rochshox Reverb, Bike Yoke Revive and some KS droppers.
- Fully serviceable
- Available Small Parts
- Price Point
- Costs more to service
Ultimately both types of post have their place in the dropper market. More or less it boils down to how much you’re willing to invest. Our advice would be; being it’s a component you use a lot, get the best post you can afford to not only give you better feel but keep you out on the trails longer with greater reliability.