Tubeless tires, thru-axles, disc brakes, 650b wheels and most recently, suspension forks—the line between mountain and cyclocross bikes has never been more blurred. The dropper post, however, is a crossover that has been slow on the uptake despite options available from Magura and Thompson and one from Raleigh included on the Stuntman.
The added complexity, weight and service requirements are potential detriments for even early adopters. With this in mind, PNW Components targeted those concerns by designing its Pine 27.2 dropper seatpost for affordability, ease of service and simplicity of use.
Did the company move the needle in the positive direction with this $275 accessory you didn't know you couldn't live without? Read on for our experiences from a couple months riding with the Pine.
We've taken a quick glance at the PNW Rainier dropper post before, and today, we take a closer look at how PNW has updated Pine dropper post since then.
The Pine post has a 27.2mm diameter, 330mm length and 105mm of infinite height-adjustable travel. The Pine post features external cable routing and an inline barrel adjuster. An alloy handlebar remote controls the dropper.
While the 27.2mm Pine will accommodate a majority of modern ’cross bikes, if you are after an oversized post, PNW also offers its similarly constructed Cascade model in 30.9mm and 31.6mm diameters that have 125mm of travel and a 406mm length. The Pine's 23.8mm remote installs on the hooks of a road bar, has hinges for easy on-and-off and interchanges between left and right sides.
All told, the Pine system weighs 618g, which is about double other alloy seatposts, so the increase in performance comes at a heavier cost.
PNW advertises the Pine's ease of service, which it provides in a couple of ways. The Pine has a spring preload and a sealed cartridge damper, which gives up a bit of fine-tuning adjustability for the benefit of minimal service and ease of replacement.
Another feature in which the Pine differentiates itself from other dropper post manufacturers is its "spin-stop" technology that uses vertical brass keys on the post's stanchion that fit into respective slots on the post lowers. PNW claims that this prevents the dreaded wobble that many other dropper posts may see after use, and it held true in our time with the Pine.
With external cable routing, a hinged remote and a sealed damping cartridge (no air pressure to check!), the Pine is practically plug-and-play. The Pine quickly went on our test bike using a few Allen wrenches, some zip ties and cable cutters.
The 23.8mm clamp remote went onto our 3T Rotundo bars cleanly, but it did need a bit of creative bar wrap to keep it mostly covered. However, once wrapped and in place, it was set and forget.
We zip-tied the Pine's cable to our test bike's top tube en route to its pinch bolt at the remote. A grub screw that takes a 2.5mm Allen wrench affixes the cable, which in our ham-fisted mechanic's opinion is a little small for comfort. The screw never slipped, but there were some tense times in tightening it up and wondering if it was going to strip.
Attention-to-detail freaks may need to take a step back and breathe. We found it very hard to get a clean cable routing path and a clean bar tape wrap on our 3T Rotundo bars, your mileage may vary, but you may have to make concessions with the quality of your wrap job or your just-so cable entry point. Zip-tying the Pine’s cable to our top tube was a little clunky too, but it’s a compromise you have to make for easy on and off.
A big improvement over its predecessor, PNW has upgraded the Pine to a micro-adjust two-bolt seat clamp design, which stayed put throughout our testing, both with some less-than-smooth remounts and a few singletrack spills.
We did encounter two things worth noting for riders who run a low saddle or require setback.
The 105mm of drop on the Pine combined with our 76cm seat height left the post close to slammed. We recommend double-checking your bike to make sure you have enough post showing to accommodate the Pine. PNW hopes to address this problem with its forthcoming 80mm travel Pine. For those in doubt, PNW offers detailed measurements on its site.
In addition, we had to settle for a little less setback than our normal fit dictates, as the Pine replaced a 25mm setback post. To compensate for less setback, we bumped our seat height up, but this could be an issue for folks with very specific fit needs.
The ride with the Pine was consistent and predictable. While most of our time on the Pine was spent in winter base-miles mode, bored cyclocrossers are apt to find opportunities to go off-road or incorporate singletrack or gravel into their all-day rides.
With the cable tension dialed in and everything tight, the Pine really was plug and play. Thanks to the sealed damper design, there is nothing to fiddle with, just drop it when you need to and go on your way.
When it came time to use the Pine, the dropper got our seat out of the way and helped us make quick work of some terrain that was rather burly for a cyclocross bike. The drop bar remote position kept the button within a thumb's reach at all times, making it easy to drop the post on the fly without greatly altering hand position.
Dropping the seat to lower our center of gravity while turning allowed us to rail a few sketchy turns MotoGP-style. One unexpected treat for the road was the ability to drop the saddle and get into a Peter Sagan-esque super tuck without feeling like you were risking life and limb.
While the sealed damper design prioritizes reliability, it may cause a slight hit in performance. Compared to adjustable damper droppers, we anecdotally noticed that it took a bit more weight planted on the saddle to get the Pine down at a fighting weight of 160 pounds. This isn't a huge deal, but for the more svelte or Juniors, this is something to keep in mind.
The rebound provided by the spring preload seemed a little slower than other air preload posts, but PNW has no qualms about giving up a little bit of performance for reliability and savings, stating on its site: "We feel that while springs may be a tad heavier than air systems, they provide consistent performance, reduce required maintenance and in return save you time and money."
The drop bar lever was a lifesaver on rolling terrain where we needed to raise or lower our seat at a moment's notice and still have access to our brake lever, but it was still a little clunky. More intrepid users have modified their left shift lever to work as a dropper remote, and if we keep for more long-term evaluation, we plan to go this route.
Let’s start with the bad: the Pine adds nearly a pound and a half to your bike, and the cable routing can look out of place on an uber-sleek integrated-everything race machine. Those with lower seat heights and long femurs need not apply.
With that out of the way, the Pine was something we didn’t know how much we’d enjoy until we had it on. At $275, PNW has made the Pine a competitive option compared to other dropper seatposts, and its heavy weight and compromises in performance that yield reliability and ease of use seem reasonable given the rigors of cyclocross.
The more time we spent with the Pine on our bike, the more we used it, even dropping to chill out at stop lights instead of sitting on the top tube. The Pine allowed us to navigate some tricky singletrack terrain with the increased comfort of having our seat out of the way. We didn't have the chance to take this on a ’cross course, but hopping logs with a dropped post was a cakewalk, so one could make the case for the Pine's usefulness for cyclocross racing.
While we think it may be a while until we see a dropper post on the front-row of a World Cup, if you want to increase your ’cross bikes versatility or max out your singletrack fun, the Pine may just be the component change you’ve been pining for. With that bit of needling, we will see ourselves out.
PNW Components Pine Dropper Post Specs
Measured Weight: 618g, post, remote, cable, housing and hardware
Travel: 105mm (as tested); 80mm coming soon
Warranty: Three years
More info: pnwcomponents.com