PNW Loam Dropper Post Review
Dropper posts seem to be everywhere these days and cross all genres of cycling from mountain biking into gravel (sure) and into road racing (wha?!). Even with this level of ubiquity, it took me two full years of thought and research (errr, procrastination) to finally join the dropper post crowd. On my local loop I have a few loose chunky gravel descents and I have come close to flying over my handlebars more than once.
Apart from the obvious benefit of not using my face as a brake pad, I have been putting thought into using a dropper post to adjust my riding position. Bikepacking has us spending huge days in the saddle with heavy bag laden bikes. Like office ergonomics, should we as bikepackers be adjusting our positions and postures frequently to avoid injury and pain?
There are a bunch of manufacturers out there building droppers including Fox, RockShox, OneUp and BikeYoke. I ended up choosing the Loam post from Seattle-based PNW. PNW has an entire lineup of products and components including pedals, bars, apparel and more. Out of all the brands, they seemed to have the largest line of dropper posts including suspension posts, externally and internally routed droppers and even a kids post. PNW was the path forward.
I chose the Loam with 125mm travel and matching lever, because well, why wouldn't you?
Specs & Features
The Loam is available in 4 travel options 125mm, 1500mm, 170mm, and for you uber tall folk a 200mm. They are also available in 3 seat-post diameters including 30.9mm, 31.66mm and 34.9mm. The posts are cable-actuated and work with all cable friendly levers from other brands.
|Seat Collar to Center of Rails||170mm||200mm||220mm||250mm|
|Min. Insertion Length||90mm||90mm||120mm||145mm|
|Full Insertion Length||215mm||240mm||260mm||290mm|
|30.9 ⌀ Weight||456g||504g||532g||576g|
|31.6 ⌀ Weight||474g||524g||554g||598g|
|34.9 ⌀ Weight||576g||638g||674g||734g|
One super neat feature of the Loam is that it allows riders to adjust the dropper's maximum height on the fly and without the need of any tools. By unscrewing the collar midcap, you have access to a white shim that can be turned to adjust the max height by up to 25mm. This came in super handy for me on my first ride with the Loam, when I realized my max height was slightly. too. high. ow. ugh. Check out this video that shows off the quick adjustment in detail.
Silicone Color Band
The Loam has a swappable color band that allows you to customize the post's look. On the surface this may scream as some sort of silly customization feature that allows you to express yourself... or whatever. However, I did not choose a color and opted for a black band while ordering. I am not exactly sure why, but I simply couldn't make a choice before hitting BUY. Now I regret it. The post looks great but these little color touches actually add some zing to the look of the post and if done properly could match your bike's highlight color. Alas, it's not an issue as PNW offers the bands independent of the posts. I will for sure be replacing my black band in the near future.
Notgonnalie, I was a bit intimidated before installing the Loam. I have recabled my bike many times before but this was the first time I've ever routed anything internally. That said, the installation of the post and lever was a breeze. If you have ever recabled anything you should be more than comfy installing a dropper post, internal or otherwise. PNW makes it super easy and has made some excellent videos walking you through the entire process.
Aller, Aller, Aller
With the post installed and adjusted it was time to shred. On the first ride, I couldn't stop playing with it. Adjusting to dynamic seat height is more than a novelty, it's damn fun.
The biggest shift has obviously come in how I approach and handle descents. Before the post, I was keeping my brakes engaged on chonky hills and releasing the brakes only when I felt comfy for a very slow roll down. I was also very used to having the seat in between my legs and using it as a lateral stabilizer.
The problem with this seat stabilization is two fold, it keeps your center of gravity high and over the front end of the bike and it ensures the bike is always headed in a straight (ish) line which isn't always helpful when speeding down loose gravel drops.
However, having the seat between my legs did help me feel connected to the bike and ultimately to the ground. Dropper posts remove the seat from the equation and that has changed how I move my body over the bike. Pushing all your weight lower and towards the back of the bike gives one the feeling of being a snake sliding over the rocks. Now that my thighs weren't holding the seat and bike straight, I was able to turn more fluidly and slither over pretty much anything. My body and bike felt separated and that is a huge change.
From the words above you may realize that I'm not an enduro mountain biker. I have always been more interested in distance and adventure than technical trail grinding. However, the Loam gave me the confidence to push my comfort zone a bit further. I ended up climbing a few larger rock outcrops and flowed down them with confidence. What. A. Feeling.
The post and lever work as promised. I struggle to find any cons with them. My only concern was after installation, I felt a little bit of wiggle in the post. At first, I thought that I hadn't tightened the clamp on the seat rails properly but it was a small amount of give in the post itself. It was a bit of a surprise but I didn't notice the wiggle on the bike and it made absolutely no impact on the performance of the post.
Do I need a dropper post for bikepacking?
As with most gear related questions the answer really depends on the type of riding you do while backpacking. If you are touring on gravel roads probably not. But if you're like me, and like to get into the singletrack while fully bagged out, you may want to consider moving to a dropper. However, you may need to make a few tweaks to your setup to accommodate.
Dropper Post Friendly Bags
The biggest change to your setup may be your saddle bag. You will need a bag that attaches much higher on the seat post to allow for the travel of the post. Obviously, anything that attaches too low will hinder the post's ability to drop. Nowadays, many bag manufacturers design bags for this exact use case. You can find a very thorough list of dropper compatible bags at bikepacking.com.
I borrowed a nifty little dropper post friendly bag from a friend here in Victoria named Sir Bikes A Lot. The loaner bag was from Outer Shell, a custom handmade bag maker from San Francisco. I wasn't able to give the Outer Shell a proper multi day test or anything but had it strapped to the Loam for an afternoon's ride. The bag was great and did its job although it did attach to the seat post a bit lower than I would have liked.
Another idea might be to swap out your saddle bag completely in favor of a T-Rack and mini-panniers. Personally, over the years, I have lost my patience with saddlebags and this season I will be moving to a carbon rack and mini-pannier setup from Tailfin. Full review coming soon :)
Back to the idea of the ergonomics of long distance off-road cycling. I'm no expert by any means but the idea of dynamically adjusting seat post height seems solid. I was making micro adjustments to the height every 5km or so to see how it would feel. The adjustments ended up allowing me to take pressure off my lower back and even use different leg muscles as I pedaled.
In the end, it felt great and I didn't experience any discomfort over 65km of chonk. If you take that same idea and multiply it over X amount of days and X00s of kms the idea of position adjustment starts making a lot of sense.
I may be new to the dropper post world but it's hard to find any fault with the Loam post and lever. I may revisit this review in the upcoming months but it does exactly as advertised—goes up and down at the press of a lever. Super simple.
In the very least, it's fun. However, this simple idea has made the biggest impact of any new piece of gear on how I ride. The feeling of being behind the bike and lower gives that snake-like feel that also embrews confidence and helps me push into new territory and new terrain.
I'm a dropper-post convert and plan on using this PNW Loam as long as it wants to keep my butt propped and dropped.
|Super affordable (compared to other brands)|
|Tool-free quick adjustment|
|Color bands can add some spice to your setup|
|Small wiggle movement in the post|