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Should we all be running dropper posts on our road bikes?

Tech ed Sam's take on Matej Mohorič’s recent Milan-San Remo win that some credited to his choice of seatpost

Sam Challis
27 Apr 2022

After finding the legs to stick with the attacks launched on the ascent of the Poggio di San Remo by the best rider in the world right now, Tadej Pogačar, Matej Mohorič produced one of the most scintillating, heart-stopping descents that Milan-San Remo has ever seen.

The Bahrain Victorious star took descending to the limits of possibility, and once or twice just beyond it, to create a gap over the elite final group. It was a gap he held on to, and one that secured him the biggest win of his career so far.

As he crossed the line, still well ahead of the chasing pack, Mohorič dutifully acknowledged his sponsors by gesturing to his chest, but then, rather unusually, he recognised his bike too.

Photo: Velo Collection via Getty

The curious display of enthusiasm for the tool of his trade was explained in Mohorič’s post-race interviews. He had used a dropper post in his Merida Scultura V race bike, which was all part of a meticulous plan that had been formulated since the off-season.

What is a dropper post?

A dropper post is a height-adjustable seatpost that allows a rider to lower and raise their saddle height by a significant degree (some 60mm in Mohorič’s case) quickly and repeatedly by actuating a lever on the bars. They are ubiquitous in mountain biking and are fast becoming more prevalent in gravel riding too, but have remained anonymous in road cycling until now.

Off-road, a dropper post creates more space for the rider to shift around the bike to better tackle technical terrain, because the saddle is lowered out of the way. But Mohorič applied the post slightly differently.

He remained seated, using it to lower his centre of gravity and reduce his frontal area in an attempt to make himself more stable and more aerodynamic on the Poggio’s winding descent.

Essentially he used it to both partially recreate and improve upon the now-banned ‘super-tuck’ descending position, used to such headline-grabbing effect by Chris Froome at the 2016 Tour de France.

The cases for and against

As I see it, Mohorič’s adoption of the dropper post raises two avenues of discussion. The first is the component’s actual efficacy in a performance sense. Did it provide a real race-winning advantage? Clearly it has a case, but I’d argue not for the most direct reasons.

To fit the dropper in his bike, Mohorič had to switch from his usual Merida Reacto aero road bike to a Scultura V, which is more of a lightweight all-rounder. Milan-San Remo is a long, fast, flat race with average speeds generally above 40kmh, which meant Mohorič incurred a significant aerodynamic penalty for 300km before the Poggio as well as the crucial 2km or so after it.

Photo: Chris Auld

It’s true that he could offset much of that disadvantage by sheltering in the pack, but I’d bet that a data-based assessment would still rule that the extra drag of the less aero bike frame outweighed the supposed advantage of the dropper post on the Poggio descent.

But pro cyclists aren’t the most rational breed of athlete. I’d be inclined to believe that the post’s true advantage lay in the confidence that it fostered in Mohorič.

It made him believe that he could descend better, on top of the fact that he was in good enough condition – thanks to an early-season training plan focussed specifically around winning this race – to overcome the aerodynamic penalty.

Ultimately it was his heightened belief in his own skill and bravery on the descent that meant he took more risks than his rivals. That was what opened up his race-defining margin.

Something for everyone

The second discussion point is on the wider implications of the post’s use. If its inclusion wasn’t really the deciding factor at Milan San-Remo, what’s the point of using one? Should we road cyclists encourage this new trend or scoff at it, like we tend to about most technological developments?

Personally, I think we should break with tradition and embrace the use of dropper posts. While perhaps Mohorič’s wasn’t the perfect application, on longer descents I believe it could offer a genuine net performance gain.

There’s a good reason why the super-tuck position was so quickly and widely adopted, and the dropper post could create a similar advantage in a much safer way.

The ever-increasing ‘mountain-bikification’ of road bikes should hold some sway here too. I believe every technology road has adopted from mountain biking recently – disc brakes, 1× gearing, wider tyres, suspension systems – has made road bikes better and more enjoyable to ride.

It’s the same for dropper posts. They may have been created for mountain bikers, but they offer real benefits for road riders too.

That said, even I draw the line at baggy clothes.

Main image: Rob Milton