So Who the Hell Made This Dropper Post?

I’ve recently been looking at the Brand-X Ascend Dropper.

Now this is a budget dropper post distributed by Hotlines but primarily sold by the mighty CRC (Chain Reaction Cycles). This dropper post falls firmly into the budget end of the spectrum, with other droppers with similar specs easily retailing at twice the price of the Ascend, which has a respectable RRP of £139.99.

The Ascend has been well received by both reviewers and riders, meaning it has built up something of a reputation as bit of a giant killer. It may not have adjustable air pressure but the Infinite adjustability, internal cable routing, replaceable internal cartridge and the stonking 2 year warranty offered by CRC makes it hard to overlook.

Now those who have been paying attention to such things will be aware that the post is infact a TranzX post, namely the TranzX model YSP12 (see foot note). What we have here is a bought and badged product or what is known as a private label product.

A private label product is something that has been made by one company, to be sold under the name of another. It is in essence, a form of outsourcing and one that is common in many industries. This can allow companies to offer broad product ranges or simply the same product under different brand names at different price points. This is usually done so as to not devaluing an existing premium brand.

We are all familiar with the supermarket home brand that is just as good as the name brand product. Turn over the packaging and you wont have to look far for two products to share the same address of manufacture.

There are some very successful businesses that have based entire business models on this approach, for example, Superstar Components. A budget, online, direct sale bicycle components brand based in the UK. They now offer a made in the UK range and manufacture with their own CNC machines. But browse closely and you will find the remnants of that private label beginning. Stems, bars, brake pads and floating brake rotors that are all available else where with different branding.

This is not a criticism of that business, Superstar identified that consumables like brake pads had a unjustifiable mark up. Bought from the same factories making for other big brands, put their logo on it and undercut the competition. Good for them and good for riders.


So how does this relate to the Ascend dropper post?

On closer inspection on the CRC website, I realized that parts of the post looked very familiar, namely the actuation mechanism at the bottom of the post. With further comparison between different spec sheets, I came to the conclusion that several brands where selling the same post.

I found that the PNW Rainier and the Shimano Koryak Dropper are most likely the same post or derived from the same post. They all have a replaceable internal cartridge, no air pressure adjust, and have either 120m or 125mm (in the case of the Rainier) of travel.

In the Tranx X 2017 Dropper post catalogue the post in question is available in 80mm, 100mm, 120mm and 125mm versions.

The lever is also a sign towards them being the same post. In the Tranz X catalogue two lever variants are available, a thumb lever and under the bar trigger style lever.

Now there are some variations as well. The Shimano seat clamp is a one bolt system similar to the Specialised Command post and the other two use the same two bolt design. The seal head is different on the Koryak to the other two which have the same as the catalogue model.

But it is not Inconceivable that Shimano specced sutble and easy to produce changes to an existing model as part of a manufacturing deal. The seal head is an easy alteration as they just turn a different pattern on a lathe. The clamp would be a different die for a cast, expensive in tooling, but not for the likes of Shimano.


We now know about private label products, so whats the problem?

In a way, there isn’t one, but interesting when one of the companies you suspect is selling this dropper is the infaliable Shimano.

But Shimano wouldn’t do something like that! Sure, they are generally slow with innovation but they are solid and dependable, right?

Well, yes and no.

Shimano are one of the largest sporting equipment companies on the planet. Whilst it might make some people think a little less fondly of the brand for them to learn Shimano don’t actually make everything that they sell. It would be naive to think that they did.

Buying a proven post from a catalogue is a far faster way of filling a gap in a product range than designing your own from scratch. It may in fact be a stop gap solution whilst Shimano finalises their own design, time will tell.

So whats does this mean? Nothing, absolutely nothing. In reality all it means is that it must be a reliable component for Shimano to buy in, stick their name on and then have to uphold the warranty. It also means that whilst Shimano are not known for having the most comprehensive spare parts catalogue, finding that replacement internal cartridge might be easy than I first thought.

So at a black friday sale price of £89.99 on CRC, it might just be the bargain of the season.


Footnotes
  • All images are screen grabs off of various websites, I do not own the images.
  • Tranz X are a sub brand/company of JD Components. JD Components are probably the largest component company you’ve never heard of. Making OE equipment and parts for all manner of bike brands and manufacturers. Their components and systems are everywhere from power assisted town bikes to proper rowdy all mountain rigs.
  • This was not a sponsored article.

Moray Monster Trails

Nestled far enough of the normal drag Moray Monster trails doesn’t get the rep it deserves.

Outside Fochabers and set over two hills with a road running between them, the trails are a superb mix of flowing jump and berm filled blue, red and technical blacks. Whilst having a tight natural character, the loops themselves aren’t too long. So a few laps of the red or a mix of all three trails is perfectly achievable in a few hours riding.

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The trails are in a really good state of repair, probably partially to do with the lack of traffic compared to other remote centres like Wolftraxs.

The Lord of the Rings themed red has a few big features like some drops and beefy sized kickers, but they are so well made and with clear landings that they are very easy to send. Alongside the red is a sadly short, steep, northshore infested orange “freeride” trail. The flipside is that the short nature of the trail means pushing back up is pleasingly quick.

The other hill has a a blue figure of eight loop and the infamous Gully Monster trail. The Gully Monster is a very different beastie to the other trails on offer and I cant really think of any other trail like it. Whilst being a fairly fast and undulating red, the thing that sets this trail apart is its exposure.

Tightly hugging the side a decidedly steep gully, the trail is flanked by thick ferns and blae berries hiding both the precipitous drop and the trail ahead. The trail may be mostly flowing narrow singletrack, but there are a few steep chutes and rooty sections with little room for error which keeps you on your toes.

So in short, its a rad little trail centre. It has a very distinct flavour and is well worth the trip over other bigger names if your looking for something a little bit different from your trail centre this winter.

Pannanich DH

On a recent ride I went to find a local legendary trail called Heart Break Ridge.

A long sinuous line flowing singletrack cutting over a open hillside along a wide ridge before dropping steeplly into the tree line for a rooty technical finale. Or so I was hoping for.

Setting off up a burner of a fireroad climb, the elevation grew quickly, as did the wind chill. Hoping to get some higher routes before the winter settled in, I hadn’t fully appreciated the conditions higher up.

With the climb put to bed, I found frozen trails and high cross winds. The climb was followed by an undulating plateau of frozen trail, a sugar dusting of snow covered the frozen puddles. The wind chill steadily grew, and I regretted not digging out all my winter riding gear as my feet began to really feel the chill.

Reaching the start of Heart Break Ridge the cross wind was what you could call, bracing. Remembering caution is the better part of valour, I took a different descent to get into the tree line faster and down into the ley side of the hill.

The Panannich DH was still a good trail, but having seen the ribbon of frozen single track that is Heart Break ridge extending into the distance. I just want to go back in better weather and get that trail under the belt!

Single Speedz

3×8, 2×8, 1×8, 1×1, 1×9, 1×1

The evolution of Sven the Spesh continues, this time returning to a single speed setup.


The how is a fairly straight forward process, converting your MTB (or any geared bike) into a single speed wunder-hack bike requires a conversion kit and a selection of basic tools.

  • Allen Keys
  • Cable Cutters
  • Chain Whip
  • Cassette Removal Tool
  • Adjustable Wrench
  • Chain Breaker

The how is only part of the story, more interestingly is the why?

Running a single speed is like riding in the wrong gear, almost all of the time. You spin out on the flats, hurt more than you want on the climbs and once up to a certain speed, pedaling is essentially a futile gesture.

But it is for these reasons that it is such a useful exercise in helping your overall riding, or so the theory goes.

The idea is, riding single speed will make you a smoother rider, let me explain.

There are a few situations where riding single speed in a sloppy style will make for a  slower ride. To maintain speed with single speed you have to ride smoothly and aim to keep a more consistent average speed.

For example when coming into a corner, if you come in too fast and end up braking hard round the corner you will lose speed and risk stalling. With a fully geared setup, you can drop through the gears and pedal hard to build your speed back up. This results in a fast-slow-fast-slow clunky riding style.

With a single speed rig, if you ride like this, as you exit a corner having lost all your speed, your gearing will generally be too high to easily build your speed back up by pedaling. To keep speed on a SS setup, you are forced to focus on your form and ride smoothly. Braking hard before the entrance of the corner, being slow in and building speed back up as you exit the corner.

On descents and flatter undulating sections of trail, on a fully geared setup its all too easy to just mash the pedals. With SS once up to pace (something around 15mph), there is little pace to be gained by burning the legs and mashing the pedals. Working the bike and pumping the trail will build pace. Keeping the bike light and hopping over rougher sections and making better line choices by joining up contact patches.

Flowing down the trail, smooth is fast.

Climbing is probably the biggest hurdle stopping those who have not a ridden single speed from trying it. I’m not saying it isn’t harder, but on the climbs you are forced to keep a consistent cadence and keep good even pedal technique. Constant, smooth circles.

And aside of all this but not to be other looked is the simplicity of the experience and the mental energy it frees up. Riding fast down hill is a very complex task, lots of technical actions are carried out instantaneously and unconsciously by a rider. Shifting gears to match an approaching trail feature or your pace requires a level of concentration. That concentration can be applied elsewhere when there are no gears to move between. The experience is simplified, I wouldn’t say it is better, it is different and worthwhile.

There is certainly a learning curve, I found myself shifting fresh air for a few KM’s but once familiarized, it can be a refreshingly simple way to ride. At the very least every rider should try single speeding at least once and winter is the perfect time of year to try.