"Our overarching goal was to offer a robust post with tool-free travel adjustment,'' e*thirteen's Connor Bondlow told me while we disassembled their new dropper in his workshop. And with a straightforward design that's dead-simple to work on, the fresh Vario looks like it ticks those boxes.
The all-black Vario is available in two travel options: One with 120mm to 150mm of drop, and another with 150mm to 180mm of drop, both being adjustable by 30mm in just 5mm increments, without tools, via a clever rotating upper bushing. It's controlled by a redesigned remote, and e*thirteen says that it weighs between 550 and 618-grams, depending on the model.
• Travel: 120 - 150mm, 150 - 180mm (adj)
• 30mm travel adj, 5mm increments
• 3D forged, one-piece head
• M6 T25 hardware
• Redesigned, 3-position remote
• Weight: 550-grams (30.9mm, 120 - 150mm)
• Sizes: 30.9, 31.6mm
• Max length: 460mm (120-150), 520mm (150-180)
• MSRP: $209 USD (post), $49.95 (remote)
• More info: www.ethirteen.com
The Vario sells for $209 USD, and the remote is sold separately for $49.95. Those who prefer to look after things themselves will also be stoked to see small parts, rebuild kits, and cartridges available directly from e*thirteen's website at very reasonable prices. What's Outside the Vario?One-Piece, 3D-Forged Head
: Fewer pieces, fewer troubles, right? That's the idea, with e*thirteen going from using a separate head and stanchion on their old design to a forged one-piece setup on the Vario that mirrors how it's done on other high-end droppers. That means there's no head/stanchion interface to make annoying creaks, and the whole thing should weigh less than a two-piece layout to boot.
Speaking of noises, who here has chased creaking seatpost hardware? Talk about annoying... e*thirteen has moved from M5 bolts to larger M6 hardware with T25 heads and spring washers, along with semi-captive nuts on the other end rather than the usual barrel-nut arrangement. The changes should mean that everything stays quieter and tight for longer. On top of that, the redesigned top and bottom seat rail clamps offer more support, an extra 12mm of fore/aft adjustment, and a whopping 28-degrees of angle adjustment in case your bike has a wonky seat tube. Wonky being too slack, of course. New Remote
: e*thirteen's previous thumb paddle remote was actually pretty good, but they've updated its adjustment range and have gone with a more ergonomic paddle position. It still resembles a gutted shifter, but now there are three horizontal settings instead of two to ensure it plays nice with everyone's brakes, and the paddle's resting position is adjusted via a set screw rather than the old SRAM-like band-clamp.
Like a lot of newer remotes, the thumb paddle has been tucked up closer to the underside of the grip, the intention being that riders don't have to unwrap their digits as much to reach the paddle. It also uses a firm return spring that gives it a super-positive feel, as well as a large barrel adjuster that makes on-trail adjustments easy; it shouldn't ever seize up. One more small but thoughtful detail: The same 3mm hex key can be used to install the remote on your handlebar, adjust the paddle's position, and clamp the cable. I've always argued that nothing on your bike should require a hex key smaller than 3mm, and we're slowly getting there.
The $49.95 USD remote is sold separately, as are a bunch of the Vario's small parts. Assuming it's not a warranty issue, a new cartridge costs $49.95 as well, a rebuild kit (bushings, seals, keys, etc.) $24.99, replacement seat clamp hardware is $20.99, and the actuator assembly sells for $15.99 USD. What's Inside the Vario?Tool-free Travel Change
: The robust and easy to work on theme continues inside the Vario, with e*thirteen employing a tool-free method to adjust the post's travel and overall length. In fact, it's much like how it's done inside some suspension forks: Top-out spacers of differing heights. While a spacer at bottom-out would limit travel but still let the fork extend to its full length, a different top-out spacer can be used at the opposite end to literally hold the fork down in its travel.
This is the exact idea used inside many dropper posts where the top-out spacer also acts as the upper bushing, including the new Vario, but e*thirteen did incorporate one clever trick.
Instead of having to use a bunch of top-out spacers of differing heights, it's a single piece that has a sort of stepped shape to it. These "steps" interact with the two (new and longer) brass keys on the stanchion to limit how far the post can extend, thereby also limiting its travel.
To e*thirteen's credit, Bondlow did say that Tomo Ichikawa's stepped, adjustable headset spacer design
served as inspiration.
The upper bushing, AKA the stepped top-out spacer, offers 30mm of adjustment range in 5mm increments, and it's a job that requires zero tools. All you need to do is lower the post a bit, unthread the seal head and pull it up to expose the spacer, rotate said spacer to the appropriate position, then reinstall the collar.
To make the job a real no-brainer, e*thirteen put an indexing mark on the spacer that you simply line up with the laser-etched travel indicators.
The idea behind all those 5mm increments in travel is to get the most possible drop out of your seat post. With there being around one zillion different seat tube lengths out there, this should let you lower the post in your frame as much as possible while still achieving proper leg extension and the maximum amount of travel. Maybe your frame and inseam length allows you 175mm of drop, or maybe it ends up being 160, or maybe you're on the shorter post and can only eke out 135mm; the Vario's adjustment range allows for any and all of that. New Bushings, Proven Cartridge
Since we're talking bushings, e*thirteen also updated the bottom one that rides on the inner tube with channels to let air pass by easier. When the post is lowered, it has to displace air in the same way that a damper has to displace oil, and the channels let that air pass through with less resistance. That way the post can drop with, well, less resistance, and e*thirteen says that this, along with the Wintek cartridge inside of it, means that 20-percent less force is needed to lower it than some of their competition.
Wait, what the heck is a Wintek? They're the people who manufacture the gas-charged cartridge that's inside the Vario and a bunch of other dropper posts on the market. It's not as interesting as some trick, previously unthought-of internals, but the relatively inexpensive Wintek cartridge's impressive reliability means it made zero sense for e*thirteen to use something proprietary. If you're not a suspension company selling your own dropper post, the proprietary route can be nothing but trouble.
Taking the Vario apart gives us a look at what's going on inside e*thirteen's new dropper post, but it's certainly not a review. Stay tuned.