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The Crankbrothers Highline XC/Gravel Dropper Seatpost is the latest addition to its line-up. It comes in a number of drop lengths to suit a whole range of adventure bike sizes, and the quality is excellent, as is the motion. You'll need to factor in an extra £43 for the drop bar remote, though.
The dropper post. Another of those components that comes into the category of, do you really need one on a gravel bike? On the whole I'd say probably not, though others might disagree; I'd say it really comes down to what kind of terrain you ride on a regular basis. Gravel and adventure riding has so many more variables than your standard road ride.
If you do decide you need one, the Highline would make a very good choice as the operation is so smooth; it feels a really top-notch piece of kit. That's also backed up with a four-year warranty.
Many gravel bikes are set up to use 1x groupsets, so there is often a spare internal cable routing point, and this is how the Crankbrothers post is designed to work.
Running the included Jagwire inner and outer cable through the frame, it connects to the base of the post from inside the seat tube for a smooth and clean look. It also keeps everything out of the way of mud and dust.
It's very easy to set up, provided your frame is relatively straightforward to thread cables through internally.
For testing I was also using Crankbrothers' new Drop Bar Remote Kit (review to come), which allows you access from wherever you are riding on the handlebar.
The XC/Gravel post uses the externals of Crankbrothers' Highline 3 model and the internals of its range-topping Highline 7, which means a hydraulic IFP (internal floating piston) cartridge with the gas and oil being separate.
The operation of the dropper post is very smooth in both directions, and quick too. It's a real pleasure to use.
One of my main testing loops for gravel bikes takes in many different terrains and there are a couple of steep singletrack downhill sections that have eroded over time, leaving plenty of exposed tree roots.
My gravel bike is set up like my road bike, with a low front end and plenty of exposed seatpost, which puts plenty of weight over the front when descending technical sections on the brakes. Add in a loaded bar bag and handling can become a little tricky.
Being able to drop the post, even by just the 80mm achievable on our test sample, is enough to allow you to comfortably place your bodyweight over the rear of the saddle. For me, with the post fully dropped, that still allowed enough clearance when using a decent sized saddle pack.
There are other options available too, starting from 60mm of drop up to 125mm, with 80mm and 100mm in between.
A few dimensions for you...
The total post length is 407mm, with the minimum insertion length being 100mm and the maximum being 264mm. The stack height (the distance between the collar and the rail when dropped) is 60mm and there is zero setback.
The diameter is 27.2mm only, which will fit the majority of gravel bikes. If yours is larger at 31.6mm, like mine, then you'll need a shim – they're cheap and easy to locate.
When it comes to the price, the Highline will set you back £225. Not cheap, but not extortionate either.
Brand-X's seatposts tend to review well, partly down to the price. Its Ascend CX Dropper has a similar amount of drop as this Crankbrothers but will set you back around £139.99, and that includes the handlebar remote control too. It's about 80g heavier.
The Highline really shines through on quality and operation, though, which goes a long way to justifying the price.
At £263 when you include the lever, the Crankbrothers Highline does still look quite good value when you compare it to something like the Ritchey WCS Kite Dropper post at £345. Yes, the WCS does have a few tricks up its sleeve, but I'm not sure that justifies the extra cash.
Overall, the Highline has really proved itself on my gravel riding. Something I thought would just be a passing fad during the test period has become a real part of my off-road adventures. The small amount of drop works really well on this type of bike while allowing you to still ride loaded up, and the overall quality of the build means it's pretty much a fit and forget component.
Top quality dropper post that is simple to set up, and its smooth operation makes it a joy to use
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Crankbrothers Highline XC/Gravel Dropper Post 80mm
Size tested: 80mm
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Crankbrothers says, "The all-new Highline XC/Gravel delivers infinite adjustment, smooth feel, and easy installation."
It's a quality dropper post that works smoothly and should stand the test of time.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
27.2mm seatpost diameter to fit most XC and gravel bikes
Jagwire® cable and housing
Self-contained IFP hydraulic cartridge
Quick connect mechanism for ease of cable installation
Linear actuator for quick return speed
2-bolt standard head
material 7075-T6 Aluminum
max extended length 280mm
max insertion length 264mm
min. insertion length 100mm
min. stack height 60mm
seat post diameter 27.2mm
total post length 407mm
travel adjustment 80mm
warranty 4 years
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Reacts very smoothly and quickly.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Absolute quality in looks and function.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
No external cable guide option.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There are some on the market that can undercut it, but the Highline post is a quality piece of kit that can justify its price tag. It comes in a lot cheaper than the likes of the Ritchey model mentioned in the review too.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
You can't fault the quality or the operation, it really is a lovely bit of kit, although you do need to take into account the price of the lever too. Internal routing means it won't work on 2x groupset-equipped bikes.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!