What's Up at 9point8 - Crankworx Whistler 2017

Aug 17, 2017
by Richard Cunningham  

9point8 Zerode
JACK PITTENS:
What's Up at 9point8
Jack Pittens poses next to his Zerode Taniwha.

Before Jack Pittens set out to design a dropper seat post that wasn't gasping for breath after a month of use, he designed robots. His most recent project was to engineer a robot that could tunnel into the cores of active Canadian nuclear reactors to carve out slices of metal and return them to scientists for inspection. Pittens would not allude to how lucrative the project was, but he did mention that a shut-down costs the power plants a million dollars a day.

When asked about why he entered the moderately profitable world of mountain bikes with a new dropper post design, Pittens did not blink. "We wanted to develop a technology that we could own." Dropper seatposts couldn't have been a better choice. They require precise tolerances. They have a number of tiny moving parts, and they employ cross-over technologies, like hydraulics, gas springs and cables. Pittens loves that stuff, and he is also a pretty good trail rider, so he had to be aware at the time, that the products of his would-be competitors ranged from functional to adequate. Enter 9point8.

9point8 dropper post
Simplicity is the rule at 9point8. The insides of the Fall Line dropper post bear witness to that.

Rather than copying the air-sprung, oil-filled tube with a valve on one end that RockShox popularized, 9point8 used hydraulics in a different way. Their Fall Line dropper is controlled by a cylindrical hydraulic brake. The spring loaded brake squeezes a cylinder against the inside of the post which holds the dropper in position until the remote cable disengages the brake. The Fall Line's air spring is created by simply pressurizing the entire post. Admittedly, there are probably as many parts in a Fall Line as there are inside a Reverb, but 9point8's design eliminates the Reverb's (and its cousin's) "suspension post" air transfer issues, it's proven to be wonderfully reliable, and it can be disassembled and serviced by ordinary people. Oh, and one more thing.

The reason that 9point8 is in the PB spotlight today, is that the Fall Line post may be the only dropper made that can be adjusted with internal top-out spacers to fine tune its stroke. Why is that important? Many riders who's leg lengths fall mid-way between the two most popular dropper post lengths, or happen to own a bike with a seat tube design that prevents them from inserting their dropper posts far enough to get their proper saddle height, are forced to downsize to a significantly shorter stroke post. By accident or design, 9point8 solved that problem.

9point8
9point8's top-out spacer can reduce the Fall Line post's stroke by five millimeters (shown), to any value up to full lockout if you were crazy enough to want that.


Jack Pittens wants the longest stroke dropper post he can run (his Zerode Taniwha has a 200 mm post). 9point8 offers spacer kits that allow owners to tune the stroke of their droppers in five, ten and 20 millimeter increments. That means you can select the longest stroke post that will approximate your frame and leg length, and then fine tune it to your ideal ride height, while achieving the maximum possible drop. With the trend towards steep seat tube angles firmly established, the adjustable stroke is a timely feature that other dropper makers should seriously consider for their next-gen posts.

9point8
Another option for short riders is this 100mm stroke post that can be cut to length.
9point8
Up to half of the inserted section can be cut to fit small frames with bent or obstructed seat tubes.

9point8 Zerode
Jack Pittends' Zerode Taniwha.

The Product Engineer's Perfect Bike

Jack Pitten's Zerode Taniwha mirrors the design and execution of his dropper posts. It's beautiful, functional, and it crosses the boundaries of technologies in and outside the confines of the mountain bike industry. After our conversation at Crankworx, I couldn't imagine him riding anything else.

9point8 Zerode
Cane Creek Helm fork.
9point8 Zerode
SQ-Lab 611 Active saddle.
9point8 Zerode
Fox Float X2 shock
9point8 Zerode
Time pedals with 12mm wider axles.
9point8 Zerode
Chromag stem, Race Face carbon bars.

9point8 Zerode
Nox 29mm inner-width carbon rims with 2.6-inch Maxxis Minion rubber.

9point8 Zerode
Pinion 12-speed gearbox.
9point8
Magura MT Trail brakes and Pinion's rotary shifter.


Must Read This Week

125 Comments

  • + 88
 I feel like engineers are the only riders that don't feel the need to align rim decals and tire decals.
  • + 10
 I never even thought to do that before reading your comment lol, I guess I dont have any logos on my stans anyways Smile
  • + 10
 I knew there would be a comment about the tyre/rim alignment somewhere, and it is the first post!
  • + 5
 I'm now most excited about aftermarket tire decals!
  • + 17
 @VPS13: ya, I just remove all decals.. Less is more for me!
  • + 45
 I align the psi rating with the valve stem.
  • + 9
 @huntingbears: thanks for that one !
  • + 14
 Yeah, but how do you align two tire decals to three rim decals?
  • + 2
 I am an engineer and I always align my rim decals with tire logos, well more specifically the valve holes but that is generally the same thing. BOOM there goes that theory =D
  • + 57
 I am an engineer and I always misalign rim/tyre decals on purpose, because I like to watch the world burn
  • + 8
 @WAKIdesigns: I can't believe you'd do that just to troll people Waki...
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: Similarly, after so many wheel builds... i intentionally misalign the valve hole and hub logo. Feels deliciously sinful.
  • + 0
 They are pretty closely matched front and back with nox logo just uunder last but if dhr related 411 logos.
  • + 8
 @scottzg: the best way to fk with people is to misalign something just a tiny bit... like photo frames on the wall. Put 4 of them next to each other, 3 in precise even distance from each other and the last one like an inch too close. It just makes people go nuts...
  • + 1
 @huntingbears: That's genius! I don't need it for my mtb, but I've got 3 bikes I commute on at various times and can never remember the psi!
  • + 1
 @hardcore-hardtail: yeah- when ppl used to flat because stuff stuck in your tire if you aligned the logo in the tire with the valve stem you could know where to check the tire for a thorn, or piece of metal or whatever... now i am pretty sure thats only useful on road bikes since MTBs dotn get that kind of flat much anymore...
  • + 2
 The Maxxis logos on the tires are more or less aligned with the valve stems, but in the end the bike is to be ridden so don't really care about those details much.
  • + 4
 @huntingbears: i used to do this but then realized it doesnt give me useful information. Maxxis tires only list a max psi, 60 for dfh, and no one run tires eith that much presure. Those that list a lowerbound in my experience list a min of 30 psi or more, which again is too high imo, so ya not useful info therefore not worth effort of aligning with
  • + 3
 Can you imagine Jack Pittens at a party - some smart ass comes up to him and says "Hi, I'm a high flying lawyer/banker/dentist, what do you do?" So Jack says, well, I mostly design robots that go inside a live nuclear reactor and stuff like that" He he.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Comment of the day!
  • + 47
 That shifter cable on both sides of the brake lever bugs me more than it should
  • + 3
 Thought the same thing.... kind of a weird alignment.
  • + 5
 I guess it's practical, I mean the lever probably helps protect the cables and noodles... But holy shit is my OCD ever pinging!
  • + 3
 i do not like that set up at all Madder
  • + 3
 @beeboo: It makes me itch.
  • + 1
 I didn't pay much attention to it until i read this comment..... I wish I didn't read this comment.
  • + 27
 Biggest take away from this article on 9.8: The Pinion gripshift still makes me upset.
  • + 8
 It shouldn't. Shifts are buttery, quick and only moves when you want it to. I shift a lot more now and every one is ultra sharp/perfect
  • + 3
 Going in I would have preferred a trigger option, but as that option does not exist to the best of my knowledge, grip shit it was. Once you get use to it, not big deal.
  • + 3
 @jackp: Have you considered designing/creating one yourself? I'm sure there are 10s of people who'd want such a thing. FYI the throttle-style shifter is really the only reason I'm not on a pinion frame now.
  • + 3
 @gonecoastal: Sure I have, but haven't found the time to put a lot of effort into it. I bet there is way more than 10's of people wanting a trigger shifter for a Pinion and I bet many would more seriously consider the Pinion if it had a trigger style shifter. I know of a company making a twin trigger shifter where the upshift is on one side the down shift is other, but that is not appealing to me.
  • + 1
 @jackp: That's not too appealing for myself either. Although with the SRAM Red system its a great idea, possibly better than Road Di2.
I'm happy to see you running a chain with the Pinion and not a belt drive. Wish Nicolai would supply their bikes with a chain.
  • + 1
 It the grip shift is as good as a Sram grip shift, i don't see a reason for not liking it. Been on a XO-9 speed gripper before and really liked it, best decision for a trail-bike. But that bike's gone now and i'm only on my DH-bike with Saint 820 all over. But if i go back to enduro-bikes, i guess the only way i get a 1x11/12 would be Sram with a gripper. Smile
  • + 1
 I have the same bike. The gripshift is mint for city or trail but to punch up or down 1 gear on a race run is a bit tricky.

I also reversed my shift cables to feel more moto. The stock pussy / win gear selection direction was counterintuative to me.
  • + 1
 @jackp: I don't get it I've used triggers on shimano's Alfine internal gears and they rock. Also why do some pinions have free hubs in the rear instead of a solid axle as there is a freewheel in the gearbox itself. Are there no solid disc hubs? Seems like excessive engagement lag.
  • + 2
 @choppertank3e: I'd say because of the drag... Constantly coasting chain would generate more drag than the freehub...
  • + 1
 Can't remember the name of the other gearbox company- but they have a trigger shifter.
  • + 1
 @TheOriginalTwoTone: Effigear. French company. They have a return spring.
  • + 1
 @choppertank3e: Pinion uses two shifter cables; one for upshifts and one for downshifts. That's why a Pinion twist shifter is used and not a regular GripShift, it's not too "out German the other German companies." I guess some form of mod could be done where a trigger shifter and cable are rigged up to a mech which would actuate the two cables. Who knows?
@lordchewington @TheOriginalTwoTone Effigear. They have SRAM/Shimano trigger compatibility. Some guy is racing the Effigear for WC DH this season. It ends up being a high pivot single pivot.
  • + 1
 @gonecoastal: I'll admit I don't know how the opinion shifter works, but if it needs two cables couldn't you do up shifts from a trigger on the right and down shifts from a trigger on the left? Two trigger shifters, problem solved?
  • + 1
 @graeme187: One would lose that sweet sweet under-the-bar dropper post lever position then.
  • + 1
 @choppertank3e: There are very limited options for rear wheel hubs without a freehub, but even then, I'd still prefer the chain not move when you're coasting. With 120 POE in the back and a relatively coarse engagement in the Pinion, the additional effects of the rear freehub are minimal IMO.
  • + 1
 @jackp: youtu.be/-eIuDiNczwo
This reviewer seemed to think that there was a freewheel in the gearbox. Chain wouldn't move just like on a trials front freewheel or mid drive ebike setup. Waiting for two sets of pawls to engage is said to suck even when one is a Chris King. This is the first I'd heard of it so maybe he is mistaken. He did compete an enduro on one though.
  • + 1
 Correction the hub is not Chris king he just used a pic of one to show a non dished wheel.
  • + 2
 There are two ratchets in the gearbox (+ one in the rear hub), each having 12PoE IIRC. These ratchets selectively engage a pair of wheels on the shifting shaft for the selected gear ratio, and they are the reason for the overall slow engagement and a need to shift without load. Both issues arise from the gearbox design which obviously wasn't originally designed for MTB applications.
  • + 1
 @StiHacka: so why have one in the rear hub at all?
  • + 1
 @choppertank3e: Having the chain constantly running when coasting isn't ideal - you get extra drag, you get a much higher chance of dropping it, you risk having sticks / loose shoelaces entangled in it.
  • + 18
 when you don't want to piss anyone off so you get a cane creek, fox and 9.8 all in the same ride.
  • - 3
 You do realize he created 9point8?
  • + 10
 hahaha yeah that feels like the most PC bike ever.
  • + 12
 I run Guide brakes, Lyrik, X2, Turbine cranks, X1 drivetrain, 9.8, Diety bars, Maxxis/Bontrager tires, Spec saddle. If it works and makes you happy, who cares.
  • + 7
 The Helm was by choice. Great fork BTW. The frameset came with the Fox shock. It may end up with another shock some time in the future.
  • + 12
 Ok, but if you can custom tune your dropper to the perfect stroke, why rock a QR seatpost clamp? This is small but always bugs me. Lighter and cleaner to rock a single pinch bolt collar.
  • + 12
 Probably so he can quickly raise or lower ...... Oh.
  • + 8
 I would imagine if you design dropper post you are constantly removing and installing posts in the bike. Function over form
  • - 2
 So you can fine tune the max height. I sometimes lower the whole post from my full height if the trail has a lot of tech climbing.
  • + 4
 Besides changing out posts for product development, it also gets used at demo events so the QR is easier to deal with.
  • + 0
 @Legbacon:@Legbacon: I didn't know you could do this. I thought droppers had to stay put or else cable tension had to be adjusted. As the 280mm of adjustment on my non dropper post still isn't high or low enough I never even thought of running one with my comically long inseam.
  • + 6
 I have a 9point8 fall line. With directions from their excellent customer service I custom tuned my stroke from I believe 100 up to 128 mm stroke. Setup was very easy. Maintenance is no big deal. I have had NO ISSUES with this post over 2 years. All I can say is that my next bike will have a 9point8 too.
  • + 5
 "Pittens would not allude to how lucrative the project was, but he did mention that a shut-down costs the power plants a million dollars a day". That's allusion, he would not tell, but he certainly alluded to getting paid allude of money.
  • + 5
 Yacked with these guys when I was at Crankworx last weekend. We lined a 200mm post up to my bike (Pole Evolink 140 size L) amd figured out I needed a 185mm stroke. Pretty awesome imo. When I got back to my hotel I figured out an extra 15mm would actually be good so I'll just be getting the 200mm anyway. Still I was impressed with the customer service and options (travel and shifter options)
  • + 5
 I have a Fall Line dropper and it died after about a month. Leaking air. Customer service has been excellent so my hope is when I get it back I don't have any future issues. When it works it's the best one I've had but I only had about a dozen rides before it started leaking air.
  • + 1
 Ditto, mine leaks right at the wiper when fully extended.
  • + 5
 Sorry you've had some problems. Please contact our customer service and they will get any issues resolved.
  • + 1
 Jack, the Fall Line is awesome. I'm the biggest fan of my 200mm. But the weak link seems to be the damn X-ring for holding pressure. Admittedly it's a 5 minute affair to pressurize given the best in class head design but if you truly want the utmost reliability, how about a mechanical return spring option? I would gladly take the weight penalty for the improved reliability/decreased maintenance. Rock on, best post out there regardless.
  • + 1
 I don't mean to nitpick, but on a frame that nice with so much thought into the design the chain and chain stay contacting as it looks like they would notwithstanding a guard is unacceptable to me. Not to mention Zerode ditched their stand apart and awesome high pivot point on the Taniwha?!
  • + 1
 Nope - it's a single speed, the tensioner is only for chain growth, so there is no chain slap - so no need for a guard.
  • + 2
 There is very robust guard top on bottom on the chain stay. Much better than most bikes. The bike it totally silent other than the whir from the gearbox. I think the design goals between their DH bike and this bike are very different and hence the different suspension design.
  • + 1
 Don't forget about stack height!

I was in between 150mm and 175mm. I ended up going 150 with the insertion up about 10mm rather than the 175 slammed with spacer(s) since the stack height is slightly taller on the 175-200 posts.
  • + 2
 too bad the in reality the 9point8 is anything but reliable. my first one self destructed in under 100 miles. The replacement lasted about 300 miles before the carnage started.
  • + 2
 How did it fail? Been curious about the longevity of these posts.
  • + 1
 @bentplate: first post was slipping, loosing air, and eventually ended up with gouges in the stanchion from the internal keyways.
the replacement was ok for a while other than the slight leakage from the air spring. eventually got very rough and the stanchion gouges appeared the same day.
  • + 2
 @rollertoaster: wow, did they take care of you? all of mine have been flawless, one is 2 years old, and all ive done is relube the top cap.
  • + 2
 Mine is on a similar path. I think it's the slip collar they use near the bottom to keep the pins in. In the 2nd photo above it is the grey band at the bottom of the shaft in the top left. It is a friction fit, and it's hard to clamp of the ends of band close enough such that it does not rub the wall.
  • + 4
 Gravity dropper Is extremely reliable, is not as expensive, but doesn't look as cool
  • + 3
 Gravity dropper look says 'i don't give a fuck about your trendy nonsense.' Very cool.
  • + 2
 @scottzg: yeah it just works without the high price
  • + 5
 It just makes sense. All of it.
  • + 1
 I've been running my 9.8 for about a year and a half and after a year it formed a bit of play (little) and when it drops below 10 degrees celcius the return speed can be really slow, but inconsistently so. My friends reverbs seem to break within 3 months, so I'm pretty happy with this, but I'm not sure it's flawless.
  • + 1
 My 9point8 has been flawless from day one in all conditions and temps. When the existing Reverb from another bike $hits the bed again (It will) it will be replaced with a second 9point8.
Not cheap but Canadian so all good.
  • + 2
 Good for this guy. But, the most reliable piece of gear on my bike, over the past year, has been my Transfer post. Rock solid. Totally fiddle free.
  • + 1
 Great bike setup. The shifter is annoying but these guys do a tidy lever for rohloff. Surely it could adapted. singletrackworld.com/2015/10/cinq5-paddle-shifters-for-rohloff
  • + 0
 Unfortunately, Magura mis-designed the lever for their anker (aka MT Trail). It is a 2finger lever, which doesn't make any sense for such a excellent performing brake (one reason I don't get the headline (product's engineer perfect bike)). As I did, one would directly take the 1finger option as available.
  • + 0
 I own a bike with a 34.9 diameter seat tube. I stopped by 9point8's booth at SOC this year to find out when their new 34.9 posts would be released (were originally supposed to be released last fall per PB article). During my conversation with the dude at the 9point8 booth, I was told that the forthcoming 34.9 posts are designed to use the same diameter stanchion tube as the 30.9 posts and are actually heavier than running the narrower post with a shim. This is a major fail. The reason companies like Evil, Specialized, etc. are moving to the larger seat tube diameter is so that a dropper post can ultimately have a larger diameter stanchion (and are thus lighter because the tube walls can be thinner). Skinny 200mm stanchions are just silly. 9point8, I have owned several Fall Line posts and have been happy with them, but you really missed the mark with 34.9 posts.
  • + 5
 In a perfect world, I totally agree that a dedicated chassis for the 34.9 size would be a benefit, but as the production volumes for that size are expected to be quite low given there are only a hand full of bike models on the market with that size, the resulting retail price of the post would be too high if it had a dedicated chassis. If the 34.9 becomes more popular in the future, there could be justification for a dedicated platform. I would lover to see that, but we are not the ones driving if this size will take off or remain a bit of an oddity.
  • + 1
 @jackp: Speaking of Specialized, can we expect some variable saddle pitch dropper from 9point8 in the not so distant future (with a decent drop at that, unlike the Specialized's offering)?
  • + 1
 @jackp: will it be possible to size up to 34.9 on my 31.6 post with just a new outer tube?
  • + 1
 @MmmBones: The lower tube and bottom end cap are unique to the 34.9. It will be possible to swap these out, but if you wanted the laser graphics to align with the top of the post, you'd have to send the post back so we could get them aligned. Contact our customer service once the product is out if this is something you'd like to pursue and they can work out the details.
  • + 1
 @jackp: That's great news. Thank you Jack. BTW I love my post.
  • + 1
 anyone have much experience with 9point8? Thinking about picking up a 185 post as I'm tired of dealing with my 150 being shorter than I want it....don't know anyone who has one of these. They look legit?
  • + 4
 that bike just seems like it needs a DBCoil
  • + 2
 I have a DBCoil and DBAir to try in it, just haven't tried them yet. One of these days.
  • + 2
 How about making that remote upgrade stock instead of charging extra for it as an upgrade, the stock one is a poor design and chews through derailleur cables.
  • + 3
 When you buy the post, you select which of the 3 lever options you want. The Digit is a bit more costly so the delta on price between the lever options is all that is charged. We feel this is quite fair and far better than having the post come with a default lever and if you want a different one you have to buy it outright. This way the customer decides what they want and they don't have to pay for stuff they don't want.
  • + 2
 @jackp: yeah the new one is super nice but the way the old one bends derailleur cables they snap every month or two right by the remote, still way better than a hydrallic system though since you can pull the seat out and manually adjust it even with a broken cable.
  • + 4
 The ladies love him.
  • + 2
 So much going on with that bike. Not even sure where to look....Pretty sweet ride though!
  • + 1
 Where can one find more info about this cutting down the 100mm dropper post and what the min length would be after cutting it down?
  • + 3
 The post you are referring to is not a currently available product, Once the product is released, details will be released. Look for that in early 2018. To give you and idea where this product is going, the post that is on display at CrankWorx is 75mm travel and is about 265mm when cut to the shortest length. These numbers are not finalized though.
  • + 1
 Is nice to see Jack & his team's innovation and success recognized in this platform, well done!
  • + 3
 Geek bike, love it!
  • + 2
 Perhaps he can help Pinion design a proper shifter for their box...
  • + 1
 How about a dual clutch type gearbox like in cars so you don't have to back off when changing gears.
  • + 1
 How do you get time pedals with wider springs? I've junked four in the past two years from bending those suckers.
  • + 2
 Looks like spindle extensions not the springs?
  • + 1
 The springs are standard. I made some custom axles to space the pedal out an additional 12mm over the standard axle.
  • + 1
 @jackp: I would buy these if you sold them!
  • + 1
 Has anyone tried to add spacers to a Fox Transfer post? My 150mm is about 1cm to long with the post on as low as it can go.
  • - 1
 How dare you come back at me with an objective and reasonable argument. Although I have to admit I stopped reading the article after "Jack Pittens poses next to his Zerode Taniwha".
  • + 0
 Misplaced post.
  • - 1
 @BenPea: life is meanigless...
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: that's irrelevant, shut up and pretend like the rest of us.
  • + 1
 That bike looks amazing - very good integration of the gear box...
  • + 1
 That bike is just so right!
  • + 1
 the saddle is very good...
  • + 1
 Jack's bike is badass, and his post is the best on the market
  • + 1
 Totally rad.
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