Review: USE's UK-Made Ultimate Helix Dropper Post

Jul 17, 2019
by David Arthur  
use helix post


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
Infinite adjustment
CNC machined lever
Price: £285
Weight: 578-grams
More info: ultimateuse.com

use helix post
Press to activate
USE Ultimate Helix
Scores on the doors


Construction

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.

helix dropper
Helix is the name, after the internal helical shaft

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 Ultimate Helix
Slot your nipple in the groove
helix
The air valve is in the line of mud but it has a cap

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.

use helix post
Fully extended...
Gloucestershire
...And now slammed.


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.


Pros

+ Reliable
+ Smooth travel
Cons

- Remote lever could be nicer



Pinkbike's Take
bigquotesThe USE Helix is a good upgrade option with a beautiful design and British construction that offers smooth and light action with good durability and reliability, a generous 165mm drop (if your frame accepts it), and it’s reasonably light for the travel. It also doesn't hurt that it's less expensive than a Fox Transfer and RockShox Reverb. David Arthur






71 Comments

  • + 33
 Helix, she sucks.
  • - 2
 Not sure I'd call a dropper "reliable" after only using it a few months.
  • + 2
 @sarahlh: hi!
I have been using it for 10 months now without a single problem, and im a fit and forget kind of guy! Super reliable and bombproof.
  • + 25
 Remarkable. I have exactly the same kitchen scale.
  • + 17
 I'm just waiting for Trust Performances new carbon linkage dropper post with 130mm travel, I need the added complexity in my life
  • + 4
 Leg or nut pinch city
  • + 14
 What a weird, interesting design. I'd love to know how that 'helical shaft' helps eliminate the problems of air-sprung droppers - whilst still being an air-sprung design.

'Fully slammed' is not exactly fully slammed, is it? There's what, 50mm of post beneath the saddle still? Was it just not entirely down, or is that how it functions?
  • + 6
 Unless it's written differently somewhere else in the article, “avoid the pitfalls of air and oil systems" sounds to me like the combination of air and oil, not one or the other. The only problen you can get with simply air sprung droppers is an air leak, but with a hydraulic system in combination with an air spring you can get all the problems some Reverb owners know just all too well.

I'm also curious about that "fully slammed" picture, as if it actually were at full drop in that picture, it wouldn't fit in most frames for people who are otherwise able to run a 170/175mm post.
  • + 3
 @NickBosshard: Just to add that pic isn't actually fully slammed, I'll add one to the gallery today of it fully slammed
  • + 1
 I was hoping the helical shaft would eliminate sag/play that most droppers suffer over time.
  • + 4
 @sevensixtwo: that's exactly what it's supposed to do
  • + 1
 The dropper is "slammed" in the pic. As in fully compressed. That's what they're testing here. Not an unnamed frames ability to "slam" a comically long post all the way down into the frame... Or am I missing something?
  • + 1
 @RGonz: Yeah you are, the picture was updated. Razz
  • + 1
 @gkeele: I know :/ I wish there was a delete comment button..
  • + 7
 Would be nice to see USE have another go at the suspension fork business. Now that the higher end OEM market has started to look beyond the biggest players again and linkage forks may become fashionable again, time seems right.
  • + 1
 What a good idea!! I will pass it onto the design team!!
  • + 5
 I purchased a USE Shockpost in the early 90's, and was still using it on a Kona Explosif that I gave away a few weeks ago. It worked flawlessly all those years. I purchased a rebuild kit, but never needed it. The damn thing was bullet-proof, it seemed. I only let it go because it was pretty-much shimmed to the max at 27.2mm, which probably won't be returning for an MTB standard in my lifetime. I look forward to trying a new high-quality USE product.
  • + 4
 I also had a USE Shockpost on a hardtail for over five seasons of New England mud riding/racing back in the 90's and it was bulletproof. Sold a fair number of them as well when working in shops back then and we never had any issues, just happy customers. USE is a good quality brand, but it's a crowded space with dropper posts. Good luck to them moving forward.
  • + 5
 "Securing the saddle in place is a one-bolt cradle with a 10mm setback"

Because slack seat angles are really hot right now...
  • + 12
 Yeah, one-bolt saddle clamp, tall overall design, setback seat post, not overly light or inexpensive means a hard pass for me.
  • + 3
 The clamp itself it's quite short, shorter than most other designs, which means the seat might be a little more forward relative to the clamp. I guess that compensates the setback
  • + 4
 One bolt is all it takes for me to say no thank you.
  • + 12
 With this design you could flip it around and have a 10mm set forward if you wanted to correct a crap seatpost angle.
  • + 3
 Because 77 deg angles dont work for everyone?
  • + 4
 @Arierep: I hate narrow clamps that only contact the rails over a short distance, it's way too easy to bend the rails during even a very minor crash or by missing a pedal, and then ruin a nice saddle.
  • + 2
 @Arierep: i'm seeing easily bent rails as well.
  • + 2
 @bishopsmike: the stack height seems huge! The collar is pretty long and the distance from the top of the stanchions to the rails as well
  • + 7
 Reads like a press-release as much as a review.
  • + 3
 unless it broke during the test it would be hard to be critical of a seatpost
  • + 3
 No mention about ease of servicing.
  • + 2
 I think every dropper post review article must have a video showing the post pop-up. I want to see the action. Just like every bike review article should have the squish video.
  • + 2
 The USE Shokpost is a thing of wonder. Exposure Lights... impressive but have the longevity of a penis in a blender. As for the USE dropper...hope no one gets fucked by a blender...
  • + 3
 My older Diablo (2011) handled cycle commuting daily and a long weekly evening ride - and being in the UK with our short winter days that was a lot of use. The button started getting finicky recently so I bought a new one and relegated the original to torch duties. And I've had my Maxx-D since 2013. This seems like much longer lifespan than your blender example...

I've read some terrible reviews of early Helix posts failing. I hope they've got the design sorted now.
  • + 2
 'the longevity of a penis in a blender' HAHAHA
  • + 2
 I got a Race (480 Lumens) in about 2007 and it's been used as my night-riding light and daily commute light ever since.

I've crashed numerous times, it's taken the full brunt of a bike dropping on concrete and even bounced down the road a few times when I'd carelessly mounted it.

Living in the UK and then the PNW, it's seen more than its fair share of rain, mud, snow, deep-freeze, dust and everything in-between.

12 years on, it still works without fail and full-on still lasts 3 hours.

Anything BUT a lack of longevity... or you have a titanium penis that you put in a plastic blender for shits & giggles...


I can't speak from any experience about the dropper though.
  • + 1
 @The-BIG-GT:

Yep, another Exposure light here that had run faultlessly for years in the shittiest conditions the UK can throw at it: sodden commutes, night rides in freezing mud and being left in a hot loft in a box all summer. And yet every time I put it on the bike it’s spot on.
  • + 2
 in this scenario is the blended turned on?
  • + 1
 Sadly ive broken 3 of those saddle clamps trying to get them tight enough to not move if they take a big hit. They seem fine then one ride you hit a hols sat down and the saddle points to the sky. Ive tried grease, no grease, fricton paste. I noticed recently they changed from blocky machined to nicer forged(?) cups for the saddle rail to sit on, still cracked.
  • + 2
 I got a couple too, needs to be clean as anything, IPA to make sure there is no grease at all and then about 12Nm i find is about right to keep from slipping with 80kgs
  • + 4
 id like to know how that clutch works
  • + 2
 The split aprt photo doesn't look too complex... So is it easily user servicable with no dicking about with oil levels, bleeding etc?
  • + 1
 I had a USE Ti seat post back in the 90's, Bent it first ride. Got a second on warranty, Bent it first ride. They replaced with a suss post as they didn't want to give me another Ti post.
Guess what..................?
  • + 8
 Haha! What the hell are you doing to your saddle to be bending posts so easy!?
  • + 8
 Silly boy,put a seat on your bike!JK
  • + 1
 @shanelad: those where my "slim" days too!
  • + 1
 That's not slammed, that seat is still very much up! Am i the only one that wants to be able to actually SLAM their dropper post? This thing is taller than a Specialized Wu dropper!
  • + 1
 Have added a pic with it properly slammed now!
  • + 2
 Visit of the USE 'factory' in 2014: road.cc/content/feature/113913-quick-look-see-use Loved their seatposts, so retro!
  • + 0
 "If you're shopping for a lengthy dropper post like this, I doubt weight is that high up the list."

Are you for real? How can you be a mtb journaflist and have your finger that far off the pulse?

Years in development has lead to a dropper that's well engineered but two years too late.
  • + 2
 biggest piece of shit, know of guys who have been through 3 in 6 months. reliability is ass.
  • + 1
 Out of interest, did you weigh the stock x-fusion post when you took it out? Would love to know the weight of it for comparison.
  • + 1
 I happen to have the OEM post from my Stumpy Evo within reach, so let's take a look:

695g for the post and saddle clamp, no remote or cable so a like-for-like with the picture above.

Weird thing is this article mentions shimming a 31.6 to 30.9, but the Stumpy Evo (and therefore the post I've weighed) is 34.9. I shimmed mine to 31.6 and fitted a Fox Transfer Factory.
  • + 1
 Thanks for the info @brit-100 the X-fusion is a little on the porky side then...

I don't understand the shimming comment either, Stumpjumper is definitely 34.9mm, weird.
  • + 1
 Hang on. USE is still going, the same company that bought us the suspension seatpost in the 90s? Whoooaaa!

So good to see a small company surviving the crazy! Amazing!
  • + 1
 Dear Pinkbike, could you please post the maximum insertion for every dropper post. This can be a dealbreaker on small frames or those with interrupted seat tubes.
  • + 2
 Just had a response from USE

165 = 308mm insertion, 60mm stack
125 = 250mm insertion, 60mm stack,
  • + 2
 No extremal routing option Frown
  • + 0
 Mechanical plus air. If it has this helical spring thing why does it need air for rebound? Shouldn’t the spring push the seat back up?
  • + 1
 The helix is not a spring - it's a guide system to allow a controlled mechanical lock off at any point in the post's drop.
  • + 1
 Sort of the opposite way round of a helix drive system:
youtu.be/Zl-zYvXoJIA
  • + 1
 All these dumba$$ droppers coming out on the market...and none of them will beat the reliability of my KS LEV.
  • + 2
 Had terrible luck with the Lev. Exploded cartridges over and over and over. E13 is stupid simple and reliable.
  • + 1
 @mestapho: exactly why I have an E13. Simple and reliable. They have some issues, but that simplicity is worth it. I’m always on the look out for another option. This one I don’t think is it.
  • + 1
 i am board of rebuilding reverbs hydraulics so maybe this is an option.
  • + 8
 `bored`and not `board`, na?
  • + 3
 @Franzzz: ha correct should have been bored.
  • + 2
 Get a BikeYoke or a Fox Transfer and be set Wink
  • + 2
 Get a KS LEV
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