Thursday, November 17, 2011

Specialized Command Post BlackLite Review


This mechanical adjustable seatpost has three positions, and uses a collet system for locking, a remote cable actuation for release, and air spring for return. The post is an upgrade of last year's Command Post, and includes innovative quick-release remote, three travel options, improved internals and lighter weight. Collectively, the minor improvements and decreased price make it an outstanding seatpost in the highly  competitive adjustable seatpost market.

Command Post BlackLite
The Command Post BlackLite (CP) is a mechanical 3-position locking height-adjustable seatpost, that comes in 75, 100 and 125mm ranges, and has a handlebar mounted remote, and single bolt keyed saddle clamp system. It's available in 30.9mm and 31.6mm diameters, 75, 100 and 125mm travel options, and 330, 380 and 405mm lengths, respectively. The three height settings are the Power position or full extension, Cruiser, which is 35mm below Power, and the Descender, which is the lowest travel position, or 75, 100, 125mm below Power. The CP uses a mechanical collet to lock the stroke in position, and cable lever actuation to release the collet for up and down movement, and air controlled spring for return. The head is bonded into the shaft, and it uses a dual keyway design to keep the lateral twisting at a minimum, and things are protected by triple-lipped wiper with Dual-Lip X-Ring seal. The remote system has a quick-release at the head, and has an inline barrel adjuster for cable tension. The CP weighs 500, 530 and 545 grams, for the increasing travel options.



Installation
I first checked the pressure via its Schrader valve, which is located on the bottom of the post. The pressure range is 20-40 psi, with higher psi causing a faster rebound. Mine was at the minimum of 25 psi (factory default), so I increased it to 30 psi, since I liked a quicker movement. The insertion area of the post has a rough finish, which functions as anti-slippage zone, and helps prevent any creeping,

The remote can be integrated with Specialized locking grips, in which it replaces the lock, or mounted separately on the handlebar, and I choose the latter. I placed the remote snug up against my left Magura MT8 brake, and eyeballed the required cable housing length, and cut the excess off. I then located where I wanted the inline adjuster to be located, cut the cable, and spliced the inline section into the housing. I threaded the cable through the remote, the noodle and housing, and finally into the barrel. Measure out 17mm between the housing ferrule and the bottom of the barrel, and tighten it, and maneuver it into the slot, and pull the housing down into its guide.

Installing the saddle is an easy task due to the one bolt and keyed nut clamp, which use a wedge and rail clamp that each has a groove that holds the saddle's rails. Just loosen the bolt wide enough, so that the wedge and clamp will allow the rails to pop into the slot, and position the saddle fore and aft, and its horizontal pitch, and then clamp the bolt down tight using a 5mm hex. Make sure that the proper torque (120 in-lb/13.5 Nm) is applied to the bolt, else it the saddle can tilt at an inopportune moment. To perform the final tuning, actuate the remote, and press down on the saddle to the middle position, and let go. If the seat pops up loosen the cable with the inline barrel adjuster, and if the seat won't go down, tighten the cable. The sweet spot where the cable's tension works properly is small, and micro turns of the barrel adjuster is all it takes, but once it's located the system works like a charm.

Measured Specs (125mm travel):
  • Command Post weight – 499.5 grams
  • Remote w/cable/housing weight – 69.1 grams
  • Total weight - 568.6 grams
  • Insertion length – 233mm (9.2")
  • Stanchion length – 129mm (5.1")
Impressions
Being a mechanical system, it has no need for regular maintenance for functionality, it's reliable, and has great long-term durability. It is still a complex piece of engineering within the CP, but the lack of a finicky hydraulic based system, with the interaction of dampers, oil, seals, and bushings greatly alleviates problems. The CP uses an activation lever (worked via the remote), which pulls on an internal cable, and releases tension on a collet, so the post is free to move. When tension is released, the collet locks into any of the three different slots, which correspond with the Power, Cruiser and Descender positions. An air spring returns the post upwards, and its force or rebound speed is adjustable by varying the air pressure. The collet has a very solid feel, and its outward pressure and tight tolerances help keep the slop and wiggle to a minimum.


The CP didn't have any stichion issues, and it slid up and down smoothly, with very little slop felt in the saddle. Compared to hydraulic systems, it did have a more mechanical and clunky feel when it locked into the collet, but I liked how quickly it could be moved between positions, especially the top and bottom locations. The only rare maintenance I have performed is an occasional dab of some Slick Honey lubricant on the stanchion, and keeping the saddle clamp bolt tightened to spec, and checking the air pressure. The seat clamp has been creak and squeak free, and it didn't move if the bolt was clamped down properly with the proper torque. I made sure the bolt had Blue Loctite applied, and was cranked down hard, else it would loosen, and with the single pivot design, it would put the saddle in some awkward positions when it would happen.

Using the CP system is quite easy, press and hold the remote lever, and either weight the saddle into the lower positions, or unweight, and let it pop up to the desired location, and then release. Some mild weight on the saddle is all it takes to control the downward movement, and the Descender mode is effortless to locate since it stops solidly at the bottom, but the Cruiser or middle spot is trickier to find. Extending the saddle to the top Power mode is simple since it pops upwards to its maximum stop, while the Cruiser takes some slight weighting to control its location. I do admit that the middle position can sometimes be indistinct and hard to locate, especially on the way up, and it takes some practice to learn the sweet spot. The upward return speed can be controlled by adjusting the air pressure (20-40 psi) at the Schrader valve located on the bottom of the seatpost. I have used the infinite adjustable seatposts, and I have found that the CP three positions work just fine, although putting the other posts in the Cruiser range is easier, since there isn't a notch to have to locate.


The middle Cruiser position was quite handy, and was useful in technical spots and climbs, as it gave you more maneuverability and stability. In addition, it worked well on downhills if the slope wasn't too steep, letting you keep the saddle out of the way, and your center of gravity low. Any time it got steep and deep, or in really ugly terrain, the Descender mode was used, since it allowed maximum movement without any saddle interference, and you could remain seated with a low centering. The lower spot was tedious to try in pedal in, since it put some awkward pressure on the knee. I really liked how fast the stroke was on the post, and it moved where it was needed lighting quick, with no stichion issues. On occasion, I would hit the remote accidentally when I was trying to shift, and vice versa, due to there close proximity to each other, giving me a somewhat awkward moment. The quick-release for the remote system was pretty sweet, and with a simple couple of moves, the cable could be disconnected from the post, which made cleaning the bike, changing parts or swapping the post to another bike very handy.


Bottom Line
The Specialized Command Post BlackLite that has been reliable, smooth and a very functional three position mechanical seatpost that is simple to use. Having the options of 75, 100 and 125mm of travel, opens up a whole slew of uses, from x-country to freeride. The mechanical system gave me no issues, and the collet and adjustable air spring internals have worked exceptionally well, with three solid locking positions, although the middle one can be indistinct to locate. The remote worked decently, and the inline adjuster was easy to use on the fly, but the lever throw was stiff and awkward to use. The ability to use the quick-release functionality made it handy to swap the seatpost between different bikes, albeit it does require a second remote. The saddle clamp needs to be cranked down tightly, else it can loosen, making for an interesting riding experience.

The Command Post has been a fine mechanical adjustable seatpost, that has done its job without issue, and I enjoyed how stichion free and quick the stroke was.


Strengths
  • Reliable and durable
  • Simple
  • Stroke was fast with no stichion
  • Collet locking is solid
  • 3 positions
  • Quick-release remote system
Weaknesses
  • Middle Cruiser position is indistinct
  • Air spring return is loud and forceful, some damping would be nice
  • Remote lever throw was stiff and awkward
MSRP: $275

Overall Rating: 4 Flamin’ Chili Peppers



Specs
  • Visit Specialized CP Website
  • 100g lighter than previous model
  • Bonded head for a lighter and more secure fitting on seatpost
  • Three versions of drop-adjustability for bike and rider size: 125mm, 100mm, and 75mm
  • Available in 30.9mm and 31.6mm seatpost diameter
  • Quick-release engagement cable on the post head makes setup and removal simple

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