Brand-X Ascend – Best Budget Dropper Post

A Dropper Post can really help improve your riding experience. With the saddle dropped out of the way, you’re free to lower and maneuver your body weight easier. They also help stop the saddle from trying to buck you over the bars. All these improvements allow you to ride steep and/or technical descents easier, faster and safer. Dropper posts have been around since 2003 when the Gravity Dropper was released.

However, they only started becoming mainstream in 2010 when Rockshox released the Reverb. Unfortunately, these hydraulic actuated posts were, and still are expensive and therefore not attainable by everyone. Thankfully, in the last couple of years companies like Brand-X have released, good quality, reliable dropper posts that are much more affordable.

Brand-X Ascend II

I recently bought my very first dropper post, the Brand-X Ascend II. I bought the post while it was on offer for £100. But even at it’s retail price of £119.99, it’s still one of the cheapest and most reliable Dropper Posts on the market. Brand-X are Chain Reaction Cycles in-house brand providing low budget but good quality MTB components. I’ve been using the post for a few months now and can definitely feel the benefits. It has helped improve my confidence and speed, particularly on steeper descents and drop-offs.

The post is available in external or internally routed versions with travel options ranging from 125 up to 200mm. They are also available in either 30.9 or 31.6mm diameters. This range of options should cater for the majority of mountain bike brands and rider heights. They also do a short travel 85 and 105mm version aimed at Cyclocross bikes and/or children. Please see the table below for all the options available and where to buy them.

ModelRoutingTravel (mm)Diameter (mm)Price (may change at any time)
Brand-X AscendInternal 125 & 15030.9, 31.6CRC - £139.99
Wiggle - £139.99
Brand-X Ascend XLInternal170 & 20030.9, 31.6CRC - £169.99
Wiggle - £169.99
Brand-X Ascend IIExternal105, 125 & 15027.2 (105mm only), 30.9, 31.6
CRC - £119.99
Wiggle - £119.99
Brand-X Ascend II XLExternal17030.9, 31.6CRC - £129.99
Wiggle - £129.99
Brand-X Ascend CXInternal85 & 10530.9, 31.6CRC - £129.99
Wiggle - £129.99

Installation

Installing the Brand-X Ascend II dropper post was relatively straight-forward and it came with some basic instructions. My bike doesn’t have internal cable routing but I was able to just route the cable under the top tube and zip-tie it to one of my other cables. Just make sure to cut the cable long enough to allow your handlebars to rotate freely without pulling on the cable.

Although an externally routed post may not look as tidy as the internal version it is much easier to install!. Unfortunately because of my 2x setup I wasn’t able to use the included 1x under bar lever. Despite this, the post works perfectly fine with my XLC SP-X06 lever.

However, there is a slight issue with using a over-bar style dropper post lever with a 2x setup. It’s quite difficult to get the dropper lever close enough to activate without it interfering with the gear shifter levers. In my case I have to stretch my thumb slightly to reach the gear shifters and the dropper lever is slightly too close to the grips. This means I have to lift my hand slightly to be able to press the dropper lever properly. For these reasons I would highly recommend converting to a 1x setup and use the included under-bar lever.

Performance & Durability

Despite it being a ‘budget’ dropper post, the build quality feels very good. There is a small amount of lateral play, but this is common on most dropper posts and cannot be felt while riding. The actual movement of the post through it’s travel is pretty quick with a nice definitive clunk as it reaches the top of it’s travel. This just gives you that audible confirmation that it’s returned to your optimum height for pedaling.

I’ve been using the post for a few months now and not experienced any real issues. Very occasionally and only in cold weather it has been a little stiff to drop down, but this may have been because I’d not had it long and wasn’t pressing the lever far enough.

Pros

  • Good build quality and reliability
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to other droppers on the market
  • Good return speed with a definitive clunk at top of stroke
  • Available in various travel lengths and seat post diameter sizes
  • Available with external or internal cable routing

Cons

  • Only comes with a 1x lever
  • Small amount of lateral play

Choosing the correct size Dropper Post

After you’ve decided which brand of Dropper Post you’re going to buy, you’ll need to determine what size you need and how it will be installed. So before you press that buy button here are all the things you’ll need to know:

Cable Routing

Dropper posts come in 2 main types, either external or internal also known as stealth routing. Non-stealth posts have the cable routed outside of the frame, the cable then connects to the post either at the bottom of it’s travel to the side or at the top of the post. Internal or ‘Stealth’ posts have the cable routed inside the frame using a series of holes or ‘ports’.

Most modern bikes made post-2015 will likely have internal/stealth routing for a dropper post. To find out if your bike has stealth routing there is normally an exit hole/port near the bottom of the downtube and also a hole either at the side or the back of the seat tube. Obviously the advantage of having a stealth dropper is it looks much neater, however it’s also much harder to install. Please remember that the Brand-X Dropper post comes in both Stealth and Externally routed versions so make sure you buy the right one for your frame.

Seat Tube Diameter

Most modern bike frames will have a seat tube diameter of either 30.9 or 31.6mm, however it can be the rarer 27.2 or 34.9mm. Brand-X only do a 27.2 version with 105mm of travel and there is no 34.9mm model, but there are other brands who do. You can usually find the diameter of your seat tube by taking your current seat post out and looking for the numbers painted/engraved on it. If the numbers aren’t there you can usually find the online spec sheet for your bike which will list the seat post diameter. Failing that use a caliper and measure it yourself.

Stack Height

The amount of seat post showing out of the frame is known as the Stack Height. This is measured from the top of the seat post collar to the saddle rails. So to find your stack height, set your current seat post to the height used for climbing and measure from the middle of the saddle rail down to the top of the seat collar on the frame. You can then determine what the maximum travel of the post you can fit by subtracting 50mm for the dropper post collar and the saddle clamp. So for example if your stack height is 175mm you can run a dropper post with up to 125mm of travel but no more.

Maximum Insertion Length

The Insertion length is the part of the dropper post that sits inside the frame. This is measured from the top of the seat post collar to the bottom of the post. To determine the max insertion length of your frame, measure from where the seat post stops inside your frame to the top of your seat tube. Depending on your particular frame this stop might be a bend in the seat tube, a bottle cage boss or a pivot. So as long as the minimum insertion length marked on the dropper post is less than your frames maximum insertion length than it should fit ok.

Seat Height

The last measurement to know is your current seat height, this will ensure your new dropper post will match your current set-up. To get this measurement go from the centre of the bottom bracket/crank spindle to the top of the saddle. Never try to fit a dropper post that is too long for a frame as it will not have the minimum amount


Other Budget Dropper Posts Worth Considering

There are 3 other budget dropper posts on the market which are also worth considering, the PNW Cascade (external), PNW Rainier (internal) and the X-Fusion Manic (internal). The PNW posts are available to buy with or without levers in sizes 30.9, 31.6mm and travel options from 125 to 170mm. The X-Fusion Manic is an internal only post which comes with a lever and in sizes 30.9, 31.6 and 34.9mm with travel options from 100mm to 170mm.

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