Crank Brothers Highline - Long Term Review
This review began over eight months ago when we included the $549 Highline in our dropper post group test. At the time we didn’t want to speculate on the longevity, partially because the Highline is a relatively new design and also due to the track record with their Kronolog; the last dropper post to wear the Crank Brothers logo.
We won’t dwell too much on the Kronolog but it was a mechanical post that had inherent design issues, as the sharp-edged steel locking jaws would dig into the sliding alloy mast. With poor setup or frequent saddle height adjustments the Kronolog would wear out very rapidly and it did their reputation no favours at all.
The Highline has nothing in common with its predecessor. Where the old design was mechanical, the new post runs a replaceable hydraulic cartridge. Crank Brothers states that they’ve put years of testing into the design and they back it up with a three year warranty. Having now spent the best part of a year on the Highline, it’s now time to take a look back and see how it performed.
It has been a while since we mounted the Highline but the process was about as easy as it gets. It’s supplied with the inner cable already fitted to the actuator at the base of the post. All you need to do is guide the outer casing through the frame, cut it to length and feed the pre-mounted inner wire through. The end of the inner cable is fed through the remote lever and clamped in place via a tiny grub screw. Cut off the excess and you’re just about done. There’s a fair margin for error with the cable tension and if you do get it wrong, the post won’t self-destruct like their previous effort.
When it comes to removing the post for servicing or bike packing, the nylon actuator at the bottom of the post simply unscrews and slips out—just make sure you don’t drop the knurled lock ring down into the seat tube! Refitting takes a little care, as you need to line up the keyway on the actuator but the process is pretty easy overall.
In our initial review we noted that the return speed is on the slow side compared to most of the competition. We’ve heard reports that the return gets faster over time but we haven’t noticed any real change in the period that we’ve been using it. While there’s no real option to speed it up, we’d prefer a post that returns sedately to one that leaves you feeling threatened. Compared to a Fox Transfer, KS Lev or Tranz-X post, the Highline requires more weight on the saddle to drop it all the way down—something for lighter riders to be aware of. We’d also like to see them offer more than 125mm of drop; apparently a longer travel version is in the works.
Like suspension forks, dropper posts require on-going maintenance. Crank Brothers recommends you wipe the post down after every ride and check the seal collar for tightness—pretty standard stuff there. After 150-175 hours of use, they suggest you undo the top seal and work fresh grease down into the quill. Once you get over the 450 hour mark (that’s a LOT of riding), they recommend you replace the keyways and bushings as required. These service intervals are very impressive and about as minimal as you could hope for. Upon reaching the first service interval, we popped up the wiper seal and there was still clean, fresh looking grease inside the post.
After eight months of varied conditions, including plenty of dampness, the Highline continues to perform as intended. Rotational play remains minimal, it moves without hesitation whenever you push the remote and the action remains silky smooth—no grating or grinding noises here.
Personally I’d like a slightly faster return speed and maybe a lighter action too, but the consistency of the Highline seems to be well and truly up there with the best of them. There are plenty of droppers that suffer on this front, so this is a real draw card for the Highline. Beyond the simple service instructions, the internal hydraulic cartridge carries a three year unconditional warranty. If it fails after that time you can buy a new one for $149. It sounds like a pretty solid deal to us and the Highline appears to be a good option for anyone who’d prefer to be riding rather than servicing their bike.