It’s taken a few years for British company Ultimate Sports Engineering (USE) to finish development of the Helix dropper post, but it duly arrived last year with a choice of 125 and 165mm dropper lengths.
USE might be a small company but it has made some standout products over the years, from suspension seatposts to highly regarded time trial handlebars, and not forgetting they're behind the massively successful Exposure Lights range of LEDs. They've put that expertise into their first dropper seatpost and developed a unique design that's entirely manufactured here in the UK. The Helix weighs 578-grams and retails for £285.
USE Ultimate Helix 165mm
Travel: 125mm, 165mm (tested)
Lengths: 425mm, 520mm
Diameters: 30.9mm or 31.6mm
Helical clutch system
CNC machined lever
More info: ultimateuse.com
The Helix takes its name from the helical shaft inside the seat post that's designed to “avoid the pitfalls of air and oil systems," according to the British company. This helically coiled spindle rotates when the seat post compresses or extends with a clutch engaging the spindle to let it move up and down or lock it into place.
There’s an air valve at the top of the post into which 30 to 60 psi is recommended to charge the system, and which you can use to adjust the rebound speed. More air for a faster return rate, less if you like it slow. It offers infinite adjustment with full internal cable routing. The shaft, head, and the Helix internals are machined from 7075 aluminum, and it's very cleanly constructed with the air of quality you expect at this price. The weight, 578-grams on my scales, is reasonably respectable but there are lighter posts if you're really concerned about that kind of thing. If you're shopping for a lengthy dropper post like this, I doubt weight is that high up the list.
A cable-operated remote lever actuates the seat post, with a large paddle embossed with the USE logo that makes hitting the lever in a hurry very easy. The supplied bar mount is nice and narrow so it doesn't take up much handlebar space, and the lever has a long reach which I found made it easy to get into the desired position with my brake lever and grip. The lever can be mounted left or right and above or below the handlebars depending on your preference. There are optional Matchmaker kits for Shimano and SRAM shifters for a clean cockpit. Cable tension is fine-tuned with a barrel adjuster. It did take me a little while to get the cable tension just right, but once dialed-in it was set-and-forget.
Securing the saddle in place is a one-bolt cradle with a 10mm setback, familiar to you if you’ve ever used any of the company’s regular seat posts. It's easy to use and provides quick adjustment and did a standup job of keeping the saddle securely in place at all times.Installation
Fitting the Helix to my bike was a very easy task. The cable nipple attaches to the bottom of the post, so I reused the like-new cable outer from the dropper post it replaced, which saved a bit of time and faff, and threaded a new cable through and attached it to the remove lever. The only tricky bit was keeping the cable tensioned to prevent it popping out of its holder at the bottom of the post. The air pressure, via a valve at the back of the saddle clamp, can be adjusted to suit your preference for a fast or slow returning post. I settled on about 50 psi providing a snappy response and a satisfying thunk when it fully extended.
USE offers the Helix in the usual 30.9mm and 31.6mm sizes. I used one of the company’s shims to fit the seat tube on my bike and had no issues with slip or twist. Buying the smaller post and shimming does provide the future upgrade path if you swap frame to one with a skinnier seat tube diameter but otherwise you might just prefer to get the right size in the first place, it's your choice.Performance
With Helix fitted, it was onto the trail to put it to use over several months of riding to see how it performs and if the reliability stacks up over time. I've been using the Helix on my Stumpjumper Evo and it's been all over the place, from local woodland trails to rockier destinations, and ridden through the full gamut of UK weather. I wash my bike regularly and I've not been kind to the post, so it's been scrubbed and hose piped loads to really test the durability of the design.
The stroke action of the Helix is silky smooth out of the box and remained this way several months down the line after repeated use. It works as smoothly now as it did new. The post drops with ease, it doesn't require much force through the saddle, no more than any rival dropper post, and the return speed is well-judged. You can adjust the return speed by adding or subtracting air pressure.
Infinite adjustment lets you drop the saddle to any height you need, and with 165mm of travel to play with you have loads of options to suit different situations, from fully slammed for the steepest tracks to just a little drop for traversing rooty tracks. On my bike, the extra 15mm of travel over the stock seat post came in useful on the very steepest and techiest trails where you want all the room to maneuver over and around obstacles. Whether you need 165mm drop depends on your riding and ultimately your bike: not all frames and rider heights will make it work. The tall collar doesn't help matters, either. Luckily the low slung top tube of my Evo and my long legs meant it was no problem at all, even with the seat post not fully slammed into the seat tube. The length of the post could be an issue on smaller frames or longer seat tubes, so best to measure before you buy to be sure.
The remote lever works easily with the CNC machined logo providing extra grip in wet and muddy conditions. There isn't much lever throw needed to activate the post, and it's smoother through the short range of movement. It doesn't feel as solidly built as some other dropper posts levers, like the Fox Transfer that I have on another test bike, but it works just fine. Durability has been fine, too, and it's survived a few brushes with the ground. The barrel adjuster provides easy adjustment of the cable tension which is really the only maintenance you face but I found it rarely needed any attention after the first couple of rides. There’s been no side-to-side play in the post developing after several months of use and I can’t fault the build quality and the unique Helix internals clearly work well. There were some issues with earlier production posts but USE says it has sorted those problems and my testing confirms that to be the case.
Remote lever could be nicer