04 November 2009

bikefix Exclusive Review: Race Face Next SL Carbon seatpost

Back in April, we did a quick review of the Race Face Evolve XC seatpost that came stock on our Giant Anthem X2 test bike. The company's unnamed clamp design offers some very clear advantages over both 1-bolt and 2-bolt designs- it's easy to adjust, provides some appreciated setback and rail support, and prevents the adjusting bolt from bearing the bulk of the forces coming through the saddle. The $55 Evolve XC was a good deal too- only 30g heavier than the ubiquitous Thomson but $35 cheaper. Of course, we can't help but want a bit more bling and it wasn't long before the carbon fiber Next SL Carbon version found it's way into the bikefix test fleet.

At 230g (about the same as a Thomson), the Next-SL isn't a superlight post. In fact, it's pretty average- not necessarily a bad thing. A broken seatpost can be a very unpleasant event- it's no fun to land on one, nor is a 10-mile standing ride to the trailhead. The clamp, which appears all but identical to the Evolve version's, is still pretty cool. A pivot at the top of the seatpost is attached to a supportive 35mm long rail cradle, to which the saddle is attached with two clamps. Downward forces are supported by the cradle itself and not the bolt, which should greatly reduce the likelihood of bolt failure. At the rear of the clamp is a second pivot, to which a dogbone is attached. The dogbone runs in turn to a band around the post itself. Sliding the band up and down the post provides angular adjustment and a second bolt holds that adjustment. The shaft is built out of 3K carbon fiber and uses Race Face's "proven Next carbon technology."

As much as we're suckers for bling, it's really hard to see where the $140 Next SL fits in. The clamp design has a lot to recommend it, but the company has since introduced the $70 6061 aluminum Deus XC, which weighs a mere 15g more. I can't say that I felt much damping or suspension coming from our 30.9mm example (smaller diameter posts may be a bit more compliant), either. Those who are looking for superlight gear tend to be willing to accept carbon fiber's perceived risks but will likely rule the Next SL out on weight alone. Riders looking for a sturdier posts seem to avoid carbon fiber altogether and will be more than happy with the aluminum Deus XC for half the money. That 3K carbon weave also seemed to show scratches more than other posts (but that could have just been the result of a burr in the bike's seat tube)- which will only be an issue for habitual saddle-droppers and aesthetes. The Next SL Carbon a very nicely made post, and we haven't had any real problems with it, but has plainly been beat out by its own stablemate.




Matt said...

I have a hard time trusting companies that do not make their own carbon products but hire private label manufacturers to do so. Easton, Reynolds, I trust.....but Salsa, Race Face, et al make me wonder a bit......

bikefix said...

Matt- I hear you... Doing it yourself is no guarantee, though. FWIW, Alpha Q make some (if not all) of Salsa's bars and the Race Face bars are suspiciously similar to Syntace's- the lightweight gear I tend to trust the most. marc