Reliable and affordable are two of the characteristics we aim for when releasing new products. We want you to have as much fun on your bike as possible, and it's difficult to do so if you're worried about a component breaking and how expensive it will be to replace it. Spoiler alert; reliable and affordable were both used by Vital MTB to describe the Loam Dropper and we couldn't be happier to hear it. Read on to learn more about the Loam Dropper and whether or not Vital MTB thinks it's a worthy addition to your bike
VitalMTB Review: The Loam Dropper
It's not often that a company puts out an improved version of a previous product AND drops the price at the same time, but that’s just what PNW Components did when they launched their new Loam Dropper Post. We’ve had one out on the trails for 4 months now, and it’s time to let you know what we think of it.
We’ve had good results with several dropper posts from PNW Components previously, and with their all-new Loam Dropper they went looking to improve things further. The Loam takes the place of the Bachelor, as PNW’s premium dropper. There’s nothing premium about the price tag however, as the Loam checks in at just $199, a $40 price reduction compared to the Bachelor. With PNW’s recent move to a lifetime warranty on their products, that becomes even more impressive.
You still get PNW’s own adjustable air cartridge backed by a lifetime warranty, but the Loam Dropper now also offers adjustable max travel via a simple travel-reduction system (similar to the one featured on the Rainier Dropper as well). If you find that you can’t quite fit a certain length of dropper in your frame, simply unthread the seat post collar, rotate the travel adjust bushing to achieve the desired amount of reduction, then thread the collar back on again. This is a great advantage for those riders who find themselves in-between dropper sizes, as it will allow them to maximize the amount of travel they can fit, given their body measurements and frame dimensions.
For the final party trick of the Loam Dropper, you can now customize it to match your bike with the help of a colored replacement rubber band around the post collar. This is obviously a bit of a gimmick, but at the same time, dropper posts do look pretty boring and a pop of color is sure to please many a fan of color-coordinated builds.
In terms of dimensions, the Loam really has all the bases covered – it’s available in 30.9, 31.6, and 34.9 mm diameter, in 4 different length options ranging from 125 to 200 mm's (as previously mentioned, each can be adjusted down by up to 25 mm's in 5 mm increments). PNW has also reduced the overall length of the post to make sure more riders can fit a longer post. With regards to this aspect, it compares particularly well to the current top contenders in the market place, with only the OneUp V2 dropper offering a slightly shorter overall length at comparable travel. The Loam dropper and the OneUp go toe-to-toe when it comes to pricing as well, both coming in substantially cheaper than any other premium offering out there today. You can learn more about how we rank a number of current contenders in our huge Dropper Post Face Off feature (the Loam has not yet been added but it will likely score slightly better than its predecessor, the Rainier, and as such, it looks poised to take a run at the top of the rankings).
On the Trail
Installing the Loam Dropper is simple. We opted to run ours with the excellent Loam Lever, but note that it can be used with a number of other options. This is particularly interesting if you already own a lever you are happy with, as the Loam Post is available to purchase without a lever which will save you a bit of money. The Loam Lever is easy to place in a good position, and the hardware on the seat post head feels good under the wrenches. We popped on an orange band to match one of our test bikes as well.
On the trail, the Loam has been going about its business with zero fuss since day one. The return speed can be adjusted via the cartridge air pressure, and once you are happy with that aspect, it’s set and forget. The Loam Lever falls naturally under your thumb, and the grippy rubber tab makes sure you never slip. The force required to activate the lever is average, not the lightest and not the heaviest. The actuator is very precise, and you can also activate it while seated on the post, without much increase in the force required to press it.
The force required to drop the seat is also average – not the lightest but far from the heaviest out there. We tested at different air pressures, going up towards the maximum of the recommended range (270-300 psi) yields about a 10-15% increase in return speed, but it's never really fast to the point of becoming scary. The increased air pressure does make the post a tiny little bit harder to compress, but it's a non-factor once out on the trail. The ability to fine-tune this aspect of the post’s behavior is a good benefit, especially at this price point. Add in the fact that you can adjust the travel in 5mm increments, and that the Loam is available in all three diameters and in 4 different travel configurations, and you’re looking at one of the most versatile posts out there bar none. That means more riders can find a way to optimize their post to their needs, and that’s a good thing!
Things That Could Be Improved
We’ve been scratching our head to come up with something for this section, and really the only aspect we have found to “complain” about is the soft top-out sound. Some of our testers tend to like a more distinct notification to let us know that the post has reached full extension, but given the fast-enough return speed and great lever feel of the Loam, this has not really been an issue in use.
Long Term Durability
To make sure we really put this aspect of the new Loam Dropper to the test, we handed the post over to a second tester after the initial in-house evaluation was done. Johan Hjord did the first quick test (and authored this review), and for the extra testing we turned to Tal Rozow. Tal works as a full-time MTB skills instructor, and as such, spends a huge number of hours in the saddle every week. 3 months under Tal is easily more than most riders will put in during a full year, and his equipment sees a lot of wear and tear. After being installed on two different bikes and many miles in the saddle, we’re happy to report that the Loam is still behaving exactly as it did on day one. The air cartridge has not developed any sagging, and the side-to-side play is still minimal. All signs point to a happy ownership experience ahead. PNW has also recently announced the move to a lifetime warranty on all their products, which is extra reassuring – should any faults occur due to failures in material or workmanship, PNW will replace or repair for the lifetime of the product, no questions asked (applicable to the original owner only).
What's the Bottom Line?
The dropper post market has really heated up over the past couple of years, and there are now a number of reliable options that will get the job done for you. When it comes to the top contenders however, getting the job done is not enough. Travel adjust, short overall dimensions and different sizes to suit all needs are now part of the basic requirements. Add in smooth action and great reliability, and you’re looking at a potential winner. PNW’s new Loam meets all these criteria, and the fact that it does so at one of the lowest price points in this category makes it even more impressive – AND you can configure the color of the collar-band to match your ride. One to add to your shortlist for sure.
Want more information on the Loam Dropper Post? Check it out here on our website.