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.
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.
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.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.