It wasn't that long ago that I could have summed up most dropper posts by using just a few words: expensive, unreliable, and really unreliable. But this one component has added so much fun to mountain biking that a lot of us couldn't live without one, regardless of the costs and sometimes inconstant performance. There are still some issues in 2017, sure, but dropper post prices have come down (a bit) and, at least in my experience, reliability has gone up. X-Fusion is aiming to hit both of those targets with their new Manic, a $199 USD dropper that the company is saying won't break down, is easy to service and, if it comes down to it, costs just $25 USD to replace the hydraulic cartridge.
• Travel: 125mm, non-indexed (150mm avail. this July) • Replaceable sealed cartridge • Adjustable remote position • Actuation linkage to reduce lever force • Reduced overall length compared to Hilo • Internal cable routing only • Sizes: 30.9 and 31.6mm • Length: 421mm • Weight: 667-grams (incl. remote) • MSRP: $199 USD • www.xfusionshox.com
Weighing 621-grams (plus another 46-grams for the remote), the Manic isn't a lightweight, but I doubt that will matter to a lot of riders if X-Fusion's new $199 USD dropper proves to be trustworthy. So let's find out if it is.
The Hilo dropper post, which is the Manic's predecessor, employed an emulsion-style cartridge that allowed the air and oil within it to mix. This meant that it could sag slightly at times and that a rider could pull the seat up without pushing the lever. Thankfully, the Manic sees an entirely different sealed cartridge that uses an internal floating piston to separate the air and oil—this means that there shouldn't ever be any sagging when the post is at full extension, and the cartridge removes any internal pressure from the post's main seal head, a known issue with the Hilo.
The Manic features very different internals than the Hilo, and also a lower profile seat clamp and seal head.
X-Fusion wasn't trying to come up with a groundbreaking design with the Manic's internals—its cartridge is actually sourced from the same manufacturer that builds internals for a lot of other droppers on the market—but they were aiming to employ a simple and easy to service post. And when someone does need a new cartridge, they retail for a pretty reasonable $25 USD.
Activating the Manic's cartridge is a compact linkage assembly at the bottom of the post, X-Fusion's secret weapon that they've used to create incredibly light thumb pressure required at the lever. This linkage multiplies the lever force being applied, while a small spring at the linkage helps the lever snap back firmly. The design does mean that the Manic will only ever be offered with internal cable routing, however.
This small linkage multiplies the force applied at the lever to make for very light actuation.
A short spring in the linkage helps the lever to snap back with a positive feel.
The rest of the Manic is pretty straightforward: a two-bolt, low profile head is the best way to hold a seat, so that's what X-Fusion has gone with. Its seal head is also 25mm lower compared to the Hilo, which means that shorter riders who could otherwise be stuck using a 100mm dropper might be able to get away with the Manic's 125mm of travel.
As neat as the Manic's cheater linkage may be, the real pièce de résistance is the post's remote. It's a thumb paddle-style remote, much like a front shifter, with a split clamp to make installation and removal a no-brainer. The neat bit is how the remote's paddle can be adjusted every which way thanks to a ball joint-type connection between it and the perch. Simply back off the aluminum nut that's under the barrel adjuster to loosen the paddle and tweak its position, then snug it back up to lock in in place.
You can angle the Manic's thumb paddle to best suit you.
A ball joint-type mount at the thumb paddle allows it to be adjusted to sit where the rider wants it.
Much like the majority of cable operated droppers, getting the Manic installed and setup is pretty straightforward. The supplied gear shift cable is run through the remote and housing, and it's clamped in an aluminum barrel with a tiny set screw (a micro-sized 2mm hex key is required) that sits in the actuation linkage. A turn or two at the barrel adjuster was all it took to get the cable tension set correctly, and it has required exactly zero tinkering since that initial installation. The same can be said of the two-bolt head that's been creak-free.
The remote's split perch makes life easy at the other end, and while the ability to tweak the angle of the paddle thanks to the ball-joint-style clamp is neat, the remote ended up feeling best when clamped straight relative to the handlebar.
The Manic's remote was installed next to a SRAM Guide brake, and the ergo's are spot-on, too, with the paddle sitting exactly where it should. More impressive is the ridiculously light touch that the paddle requires to active the Manic; it's almost as if you could blow on the thumb paddle to get the seat to move up or down.
Now, it's not like other droppers require two hands to get them to move or anything, but the difference between them and the Manic's remote is night and day. This might be especially important if your bike has convoluted internal cable routing that can add friction into the system.
Aside from the remote's impressively light touch, the Manic functions a lot like a dropper post should. It doesn't require a ton of weight on the seat to get it moving, and the post's non-adjustable return speed is quick enough that it feels near instant but not so fast that you'd need to be concerned about getting tagged where it can hurt. And, just as important, there's a slight 'clunk' at top-out that lets you know your seat is back up to full mast—there's no guessing here.
It doesn't matter how good the action is or how much cheaper the Manic is than the competition if it isn't reliable, but X-Fusion seems to have nailed that as well. There's still just the slightest amount of lateral free play at the nose of the seat—far less than other droppers when they're new - and that play hasn't increased at all during testing. The Manic was smooth right out of the box, and it's still just as trouble-free, too, with zero sag or perceptible change in action.
X-Fusion has a winner with the Manic. While the 150mm travel version won't be available until July, the shorter stroke Manic displayed zero issues during testing, and it offers a great feel at the lever. No, it's not the lightest option out there, but at $199 USD and a reliable design, the Manic is easy to recommend.— Mike Levy