Suspension Seatpost Review
Linkage Seatposts

By Jon Sharp

You've been on the trail for hours, and the rocks aren't getting any less frequent. In fact, they seem to be growing in size and gaining sharp jagged edges. Wow, this hardtail is stiff. Too bad you don't have a spare $1500 to $3000 to spend on a great full suspension bike. What to do, what to do?

If you own a bike that is older than 3 years, chances are it's a hardtail. There is no real way to turn it into a full suspension bike. There are, however, a few partial remedies to this situation. First, get one of those big seats with even bigger springs underneath them. Or, you could buy a suspension seatpost. Thirdly, get some big beefy tires and run low air pressure in them. Comparing these three options really makes the suspension seatpost more attractive, doesn't it? There are a few varieties of suspension seatposts on the market. Almost all can be grouped into one of two categories: telescoping or linkage. I prefer the latter, because the linkage is generally designed to keep the distance from the seat to your pedals constant. This makes pedaling more enjoyable (which is pretty handy when riding a bike). There are two prevalent brands of linkage suspension seatposts. The Cane Creek Thudbuster and the Tamer Pivot Plus XC. Which one is better? Read on...

Cane Creek Thudbuster
Tamer USA Pivot Plus XC

Cane Creek Thudbuster
Cane Creek Thudbuster The Thudbuster uses two elastomers in the middle of the parallelogram-type linkage for its suspension. There are three different sets of elastomers to provide you with the best suspension for your type of riding and weight. The seatpost comes with a handy chart to tell you, based on what you weigh, which to install. Adjusting the seat was relatively easy, but changing elastomers wasn't. Luckily, once the elastomers are installed, you should never have touch them again.

The Thudbuster has 3.9 inches of travel. It soaked up bumps both large and small. I found myself sitting longer on rockier trails than I usually do. I did notice one problem with having so much undamped travel. Sometimes, large bumps had the effect of springing me right out of the saddle. This was never a problem with small bumps. I also found that with the recommended setup, there was enough sag in the seatpost to put my weight further back on the bike. This was a disadvantage on steep climbs, where remaining seated is necessary for good tracking with the rear wheel. It was much harder to keep the front wheel grounded on such climbs. That said, I found this seatpost to be more enjoyable to ride with after I switched one of the elastomers out for a harder one. Stiffer elastomers meant better climbing.

The Thudbuster isn't light at 495g, but if you compare that to a full suspension bike, it's not too shabby. One of the disadvantages of the Thudbuster is that you cannot have your seat lower than 5 inches above the top of the seat tube. this is about the size of the suspension mechanism, and therefore, the minimum height of the saddle. If you run your seat lower than that normally, you might run into problems. Retail price is $159.

For more information, contact:
Cane Creek
355 Cane Creek Road
Fletcher, NC 28732

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Tamer USA Pivot Plus XC
Tamer USA Pivot Plus XC The Pivot Plus XC also uses a parallelogram linkage. Instead of elastomers, it has a steel spring. This spring is housed inside the seatpost and is activated by a pushrod. This not only allows Tamer to keep the Spring out of the mud and dirt, but it also provides an easy way to set the preload. By merely removing the seatpost and turning a bolt at the bottom, the preload can be adjusted to suit your weight and riding style. While that is easy to adjust, the seat position is not. The Tamer requires you to remove the spring unit, mount the post and adjust the seat position with the suspension fully compressed. Then, once the seat is adjusted, the spring is re-installed and you're good to go. I recommend following the directions to the letter on this one.

The Pivot Plus XC gets 2.6 inches of travel. I found the smaller amount of travel to be better suited to this type of undamped suspension. This seatpost was less likely to throw me out of my seat than the Thudbuster. I should mention that the model I tested exhibited quite a lot of stiction which prevented it from moving smoothly and reacting to small bumps. It took fairly large bumps to initially compress the spring, and sometimes it stayed compressed until I got off the seat. I contacted Tamer and they stated that modifications have been made since my test model to prevent the problem. If Tamer has worked out these problems, then their seatpost should pose stiff competition for Cane Creek. The Pivot Plus XC weighed in at 470 g. Lighter than the Thudbuster, but still a little portly. The retail price is $149.

For more information, contact:
Tamer USA
4231 Progressive Ave. Suite 2
Lincoln, NE 68504

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Summary: These seatposts are expensive. If you are looking for an alternative to full suspension, however, they may seem cheap. I found that the Cane Creek Thudbuster worked better, but had too much travel. I think the travel was right for the Tamer Pivot Plus XC, but before buying, make sure and test ride it to see if the above issues have been solved. I should mention that suspension seatposts have been known to loosen at the pivots over time and develop slop. Make sure and clean regularly whichever post you get.

I should add that although these posts performed as linkage suspension seatposts ought to, I prefer to ride without. I found, in the end, that the movement made me uncomfortable and lead to more fatigue. I feel it is critical that the three body contact points (hands, buttocks, and feet) should always remain at a constant position relative to one another. Suspension seatposts (and suspension stems, for that matter) disrupt this balance. Even if the distance from the saddle to the cranks remains the same, the distance from the saddle to the handlebar changes. Overall bike handling with the suspension seatposts felt uncertain. with this extreme movement. That said, some people will enjoy a seatpost like the Thudbuster or Tamer. I recommend a test ride first, though.

Jon Sharp is a Contributing Editor to GearReview.com specializing in mountain biking.

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