E*THIRTEEN VARIO INFINITE DROPPER REVIEW
Review by Dario DiGiulio
It seems that just about every house brand and aftermarket outlet is pumping out a dropper post these days, but the field is still far from equal when it comes to performance and quality. People looking to upgrade their current setup are left with a wide field of choices, with little to base their decision on except brand loyalty and some nebulous marketing points. With a strong history making well-priced and cleverly designed products, e*thirteen has reentered the dropper fight with an updated new design in their Vario Infinite post, hoping to vastly improve upon their first iteration. Does their new design and novel detailing make for a post worth upgrading to? Amongst the myriad of choices out there, it certainly proves to be a contender.
e*Thirteen’s Vario Infinite dropper spans the gamut of sizes and bike styles, with drops ranging from 90mm all the way up to a yet-to-be-released 210mm, in 30.9mm and 31.6mm diameters. Each size in the range has 30mm of adjustable travel in 5mm increments, allowing you to tune the drop to fit your exact seatpost height no matter your frame and inseam. This is becoming standard on high end droppers, and e*thirteen’s solution is as easy as it gets – the whole process can be done without disconnecting the post, and only requires some spacers that come stock. As the “Infinite” name suggests, the post can be raised and lowered anywhere in its travel range. There are slick matte/polished graphics on the stanchion that correlate to the travel you’re running (think of a RockShox fork), and the post itself has graduated markings to make measuring your insertion a little bit easier. The heart of the post is a Wintek gas cartridge spring, which have become commonplace amongst many of the droppers on the market. On the lever end of things, the 1x is a simple and robust piece, taking the form of a gear shifter at first glance. Inside you will find dual cartridge bearings to keep things smooth, a grub screw to dial in lever angle, and a sleekly integrated barrel adjuster. The lever is Matchmaker compatible for Sram brake users, and there’s three mounting points to dial in the cockpit.
I initially installed just the Vario 1x lever onto my bike, as I was rushing out the door to meet a friend to ride. This means it was hooked up to a used and abused OneUp dropper (more on that workhorse later). Despite the old, unmaintained post, the lever felt fantastic, and even improved the action right off the bat. After that first ride, I popped the e*thirteen dropper into my frame, mounted my saddle up, and left for a spring day of riding on Vancouver’s North Shore. This context is a pretty ideal testing ground for a dropper post, as the riding tends to be pretty punchy, technical, and sloppy wet this time of year. After a day of cranking up and down Cypress and Seymour, I got a great feel for the post and lever, and over the months since, my options have firmed up.
First off, this lever is fantastic. Maybe the best I’ve used. It has a similar action to the PNW Loam Lever, with a long arm and easy actuation, but the other finishing points are a significant improvement. The cable retention is the cleanest I’ve seen, the grip tape on the thumb pad is a simple and excellent idea, and the bearings run smoothly and without play, despite some crashes and knee bangs. If there are any complaints about this lever, it would be from those types who complain about any excess grams on their bikes, as it does have a much beefier construction than other options out there. That being said, it’s only 70 grams, so c’mon, put the scale away and go for a ride.
Things are pretty sunny on the post side as well. I’m surprised to say this, but I noticed the change from my usual 210mm drop down to a 180, but that’s only on the steepest and jankiest trails around, where body English is the only thing getting me to the bottom safely. Luckily for leggy folks like me, there’s a 210mm option from e*thirteen on its way quite soon, and the rest of my experience should still hold true. I’ve used many different Wintek-equipped droppers over the years, and they have a pretty typical speed, sound, and feel, though the Vario was ever so slightly different. My first impression was just how little effort it took to compress the post, likely due to the massive brass keys they’ve used to keep the post from clocking or binding. Most other posts on the market use smaller keys, which can reduce weight, but start to stick as things wear, leading to a more difficult time getting the saddle down and out of the way. e*thirteen didn’t skimp here, thankfully. Both speed and sound were a bit different than other posts, as the Vario Infinite is ever so slightly slower to return, and with more auditory cues than I’m used to. The latter I like quite a bit, as you really know when the post is moving, with an almost digital sounding whoosh followed by a solid clunk at the topout. The slower speed is likely due to the amount of sealing in the post, which upon a quick teardown seems to be quite robust; this is a tradeoff I’ll happily take, as the wet climate up here in the PNW can wreak havoc on anything that attempts to keep the weather out. That said, some riders would appreciate a quicker return speed, so it’s worth considering if that includes you. The post remained predictable and consistent throughout the test period, and should it ever start to tire out, you can swap the gas cartridge for around fifty bucks.
The Wolf’s Last Word
There is no lack of options when it comes to dropper posts and levers these days, but no matter what bike you’re riding, the e*thirteen Vario Infinite dropper and 1x lever should be on your shortlist. The lever is my new favorite, thanks to its smooth action, dialed finishing points, and sturdy construction. Despite a slightly slow return, the Vario dropper is super sturdy, and should be a consistent performer for many seasons of use thanks to the attention to detail and clever design elements. The travel change is the easiest and quickest of any post I’ve used, so much so that it could be done ride-to-ride if need be. Couple that with the super wide range of travel options, and this could be the ticket for many riders looking to upgrade from their stock setup.
Vario Infinite Dropper – $219
Vario 1X Lever – $49.95
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