This whole gravel thing has really blown up over the last few years. Yeah, I know you probably aren't on Pinkbike to hear that, so consider this your gravel content trigger warning. And don't worry, we're not about to start covering curly bars any time soon, but there could be a couple bits of SRAM's just-released XPLR (it's short for "explore") gravel-focused group that make sense on your mountain bike. If you are a gravel rider in hiding, head to CyclingTips for all the details on the new Zipp XLPR wheels
, SRAM 10-44 tooth XPLR cassette
(and the required derailleur), and the Rudy suspension fork
We're going to take a closer look at the also-new, $600 USD RockShox Reverb AXS XPLR dropper that, at the push of a button, can also act as a suspension post. I'm sure there will be plenty of clever jokes about that in the comment section, but it might mean that the short-travel e-Verb makes sense for hardtail riders looking to take some of the edge off their body.Reverb AXS XPLR Dropper
With just 50 or 75mm of travel, and the same AXS battery tucked under your seat, the XPLR dropper looks like a pint-sized version of the standard wireless Reverb.
It even employs the same dual-adjust head as the mountain bike version, and you can also control it with the normal Reverb remote that you'd run on a mountain bike handlebar. Internally, however, it's very different from a standard Reverb. It's only available in a 27.2mm diameter, meaning those who aren't letting go of their steel hardtails now have a wireless Reverb option, while riders who don't need more travel but have larger seat tube (most droppers are either 30.9mm or 31.6mm) can shim the shorty e-Verb to fit.
Thing is, that smaller, 27.2mm diameter necessitated a complete redesign of the standard Reverb's hydraulic internals.
And by "redesign," I mean they decided to not use any oil at all inside the XPLR dropper. Instead, there's an air-based system that can either lock the post into position or, at the push of a button, turn it into what RockShox is calling "ActiveRide" mode. I know it doesn't make it sound as cool, but I'm gonna call it a suspension seat post instead. Without any oil for the air to mix with, RockShox could skip using their Vent Valve system you'll find on the bottom of the mountain version.
Yes, I realize that suspension seat posts probably bring beach cruisers and hybrid bikes to mind, but they still do have a niche following with some hardtail riders. Being more comfortable is more better for a lot of people, but it can also give riders an advantage on choppy climbs where staying seated might be the difference between spinning out and being the only one in your group to clean it. The spring rate is adjusted via the same air valve that controls the return speed; more air means quicker rebound and a firmer suspension post, er, ActiveRide. And I know things can get a bit enduro-centric around here and we're spoiled with droppers that make your seat completely disappear, but there are plenty of places in the world where 75mm of stroke is more than enough.
The other possible upside: Thanks to its air-based internals, the 50mm version weighs 560-grams (with a battery), or about 100-grams lighter than the standard mountain bike Reverb and, according to James Huang over at the CyclingTips
, 200-grams less than PNW's suspension/dropper post once the required cable and housing is put on the scale. That might not seem like many grams, but there are plenty of riders and racers out there who always want a lighter bike under them.
Let's do a little thought experiment: Pretend for a few minutes that you're a cross-country rider or racer who has zero interest in getting too rowdy, but you also know that a lower seat means more confidence, faster cornering, and maybe a bit fewer of those over-the-handlebar crashes. It never looks good when you're folded in half backward while wearing Lycra. Is the Reverb AXS XPLR something you'd consider, or would you choose a normal dropper or keep up the sketchy high-posting?