Review: Specialized’s lightweight Command Post BlackLite dropper

Dropper posts are, to me, like suspension and disc brakes.  Sure, we all moan about the added cost, maintenance, and weight- but after a few months, we really don’t want to give them up.  Using an expanding mechanical collet, the three-position Specialized Command Post BlackLite takes a different approach than most posts on the market.  At 497g (501g claimed) and $275, it’s certainly competitive weight- and price-wise- but is Specialized’s second effort an OEM sweetener or an aftermarket contender?


Available in two diameters (30.9 and 31.6mm) and three travel options (75mm, 100mm, and 125mm), Specialized offer a half- dozen Command Post BlackLites altogether.  Because I so rarely use the full travel on the dropper posts that I’ve tried, I opted to go for the shortest travel (and lightest) 30.9x75mm BlackLite on my go-to trail bike.

Installation of the Specialized post was simple.  The mating tapers of the saddle clamps are easily mounted and, torqued to spec, have been quiet and solid.  The cable fixing bolt is located in a removable barrel and the cable stop slotted, making for easy seatpost removal (if needed) and hanging form workstands.  Additional remote kits are also available, to allow the Control Post BlackLite to be swapped between bikes- a nice touch.

In use, I’ve become a big fan of the three-position post.  The -35mm “Cruiser Position” is ideal for long, occasionally pedal-y descents, allowing for good power without radically moving the bike’s contact points.  For steeper stuff, the full -75mm “Descender Position” is more than low enough for my Lycra-clad butt.  Play is minimal after several months’ use and the ‘winter tune’ (instructions available online) keeps things moving well until temps drop into the 40s.  The spring pressure is adjustable- and with it the return.  Thanks to the lack of extension damping, the return to full height can be pretty dramatic at full pressure- but there’s no question when the Specialized has hit full extension.

At the price and weight, and given its reliability, my complaints are few.  As with all dropper posts, a slicker and better-sealed stock cable would be appreciated. Even when new, the force required at the lever is a bit high- especially after playing with RockShox and Kind Shock’s latest models.  And of course, fixing the cable to the stationary lower post would be nice.  Though Tyler and others prefer an infinitely-adjustable post, I’ve come to favor the predictability of the Specialized’s three positions.  When all is said and done, the price, light weight, and mechanical reliability make the Command Post BlackLite more than just a bonus on Specialized’s trail bikes- it’s worth seeking out aftermarket.

marc

www.specialized.com

We should note that we believe Marc and Zach were provided different remotes, and if so there is a chance that the issues Zach saw with his remote may have already been addressed. We are checking in with Specialized for the answer, and will report back.

Like Marc, I also had a chance to put some time on a Command Post BlackLite. However, I opted for the 100mm extension, which meant I had a 31.6mm post with 100mm of drop – this is the post that is weighed above. I’m a believer of the benefits of dropper posts, but I still haven’t found one that didn’t have at least one serious drawback that prevented me from keeping it on my bike.

While there is a lot of debate on personal preference for features of dropper posts, there is no question that the biggest downers are durability issues. This is exactly why I think it’s important to point out that the BlackLite hasn’t shown any signs of weakness for the post itself. The dropper mechanism still functions flawlessly, and the seal has kept out the majority of crud keeping the action smooth and free. It’s sad to say, but that seems to be pretty rare with a lot of dropper posts.

However, that doesn’t mean it gets perfect marks. The BlackLite forgoes a hydraulic remote in favor of a cable actuated unit and while there is a lot of good about the remote, its functionality leaves a little to be desired. A lot of the issue seems to revolve around the quality of the cable and housing as Marc pointed out, though even after installing a higher quality cable and housing performance still suffered. Any sort of a cable issue combined with the long lever throw with a fairly ambiguous engagement point led to an uncertainty of when the post would actually drop. While riding on fairly tame trails this didn’t really prove to be an issue, but if you were trying to drop the post after you get into the rough stuff it’s easy to find yourself focusing too much on the post and not enough on the trail. On the plus side, the lever features one of the narrowest split clamps on the market making it easy to fit into cramped bar setups at most angles.

I’m still really not a fan of the 3 position droppers, but that’s more of a personal preference than anything. I found myself thinking that I had pushed the saddle down far enough to reach one of the lower positions, only to let up and have the saddle spring back up with the force of a Saturn V rocket leading to some unexpected meetings with the saddle. On that note, you can decrease the rebound pressure via the schraeder valve on the bottom of the post – which is a good thing.

Even though the remote could use some improvement, it still seems like this would be a great post for the XC and Light Trail riders out there, especially given the durability. For more aggressive Trail and All Mountain riding however, riders may find other posts to be more user friendly.

-Zach

Comments

TrailJUnky - 05/17/12 - 1:27pm

I’ve had the original command posts, and now run a blacklight on my bike. They seem to have solved several original issues i had with the saddle clamps, as they no longer slip, and require less torquing than the first gen.

Reliability is excellent, I’ve run my first one for over a year in rain, shine, dust, and grime and it it never faltered.

The added weight reduction with the new model is also greatly appreciated!

CJ - 05/17/12 - 1:45pm

I don’t race so made a cable ghetto dropper(thanks Pinkbike) for my Turner. It works great and weighs nothing and costs next to nothing. I drop 6″ rather quickly. These posts seem like a racing only item and that is a relatively small market. If they make one that only adds 200g and is reliable and reasonably priced I may consider it.
I think they need furhter development before I would buy one. Every test I read is a chronicle of issues.

satisFACTORYrider - 05/17/12 - 2:25pm

i like that you guys bolted it specifically to a Bontrager saddle on a Trek! what are you guys up to?
back on point…i think we’re still a couple of years away from getting droppers sorted.

ZachOverholt - 05/17/12 - 2:35pm

Haha, most of my bikes have SDG I-beam set ups, meaning the saddles I have lying around with rails are what came stock on my bikes.

Ding - 05/17/12 - 3:50pm

@ satisFACTORY

I know. What if it was WTB saddle on a Santa Cruz? WHAT WOULD THAT MEAN?

satisFACTORYrider - 05/17/12 - 4:14pm

@Ding – it better be a WTB on a SC. that’s a sheffield steel sponsor!

dave - 05/17/12 - 5:04pm

so do you have to unweight when changing position like the gravity dropper?

ZachOverholt - 05/17/12 - 6:48pm

@Dave, no you can remain seated.

Marc - 05/17/12 - 10:42pm

satisFACTORYrider,
FWIW, mine is on a Maverick (RIP) with an awesome Specialized Henge saddle (reviewed in April). As far as being sorted, I think that we’re closer than you think- the BlackLite has been pretty awesome. And reliable. Like I say in the intro- once you try one, it’s hard to see going back. BTW: Are you in the Midlands? Sheffield has plenty of steeps where one would come in handy…

CJ,
I had a look at RC’s ghetto dropper post- I’m having trouble envisioning how you would pull the saddle up and close the QR without stopping… Am I missing something?

marc

satisFACTORYrider - 05/17/12 - 11:44pm

Marc- just long time dh and peaty fan from the states

Nanci Drew - 05/18/12 - 10:21am

Any issues with the top-mounted cable interacting with the rear tire or suspension?

larsv - 05/18/12 - 1:15pm

…this afternoon i just installed a 125mm Blacklite on my Trek Rumblefish Pro :-)

Al lthe new designs with stationary cables look nice, I chose the CP for its reliability and the setback.

Installation was a bit finicky, it took me some time to get the right remote position, lever clearance and cable routing, in combination with the I-spec XTR trail brakes+ shifters, but ended up with a standard setup in like the second picture.

with the saddle dropped, the cable has no clearance issues with other moving parts, but then again:
I’m riding a 21″ bike with a maxed out saddle height :-)

In way way do the two remotes differ, could you post some more picture?

Chris - 05/18/12 - 3:37pm

Am I the only person here old enough to remember the Hite Rite? Every MTB had them back in the day and then people suddenly deemed the whole notion of raising/lowering your seat while riding to be useless and they vanished. Now it’s back again proving once again there are few truly original ideas despite what component makers would lead us to believe. Wonder how long it will be before cross country racers start running drop bars again. ;)

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