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.
Superstar Components Alpine EVO Rotor
Uberbike Radiator Floating Rotor
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.
Brand X Ascend
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.
Tranz X Catalogue Screen Grab
Tranz X Catalogue Screen Grab
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.
Brand X Ascend Lever
Shimano Koryak Lever
PNW Rainier Replacement Lever Kit
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.
- 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.