On The Trail
From a mechanical standpoint, the Switchgrade works great. It’s easy to operate and can be moved while on the bike (especially toggling between flat and climb modes) with a little practice. Going into descending mode on the bike is a little tricker, but it’s probably best saved for when you’re about to drop into an extended, steep descent anyway — if you’re in rolling terrain where you’re toggling your dropper a lot, the flat mode is a better bet. And it’s been totally solid in my time on it thus far — there’s essentially no play in it, and it’s shrugged off at least one notably hard landing to the seat without complaint.
I did an A/B/C test of a 210 mm drop OneUp post on its own, the same post with the Switchgrade, and the 240 mm version of the OneUp dropper on its own on my Nicolai G1 (I don’t have enough height to work with to pair the longer dropper with the Switchgrade). Just from the standpoint of descending feel, the 210-drop + Switchgrade combo is my favorite. Even the 210 mm OneUp post on its own affords a lot of clearance, but getting the back of the seat lower helps even more while also reducing the angle of the back of the seat, making it less likely that you’ll get hung up on the back of the seat when getting way off the back of the bike in super steep terrain. And compared to the 240 mm drop post, it also has the benefit of keeping the nose of the seat higher, putting it in a better position to steady the bike against the inside of your leg while descending. I genuinely didn’t realize how much I did that until I ran this little experiment, and thought hard about why the Switchgrade felt better — but I really think that’s a big part of it. The 240 mm drop post gives me all the clearance I could ever want but also makes the seat a bit less useful for steadying against my legs, and borderline too low to pedal on when seated (in part because my left knee is a bit short on range of motion).
As I said up top, there’s a reason World Cup DH pros set their bikes up like that (and it’s not just that it looks cool). Having the seat a bit nose-up is genuinely nice for descending on very steep trails, and the Switchgrade makes it possible on bikes that are going to be pedaled back up to the top without major compromise. And it’s a real boon on the way back up, too — at least if the climb is steep enough.
Aenomaly says that the nose-down climb position also helps keep your weight forward on the bike when climbing, and reduces pressure from the nose of the seat on the way up. And it does. But at least for my personal preferences and anatomy, the threshold for how steep a climb has to be before the nose down position feels natural is pretty high. On flatter terrain, the nose-down position causes you to slide forward on the seat and put more pressure on your hands to resist that tendency. Once things get steeper, it balances out — and does eventually feel really nice, once the climb gets steep enough — but I think it would be more useful, more often, if the nose-down angle was moderated a bit.
I did experiment with setting up my “flat” position to slightly nose up with that goal in mind, and it did indeed make the “climb” position more usable. But it also meant that the “flat” mode became uncomfortable on even fairly gentle climbs, which in turn meant that I needed to toggle the Switchgrade a lot more frequently if I was on anything other than a super long, sustained climb. Depending on where you’re riding, that might be a totally viable option, but I personally prefer to leave the “flat” mode truly flat, and just accept that I’m going to use the climb setting somewhat less frequently. But it’s still there if I want it, and apart from the extra 90-some-odd grams (on a bike that’s… let’s just say not light), there’s really no downside to having the Switchgrade installed. And for the benefits on the way back down, plus the odd mega-steep climb, I’m more than happy to put up with a little extra weight.
The Switchgrade is a really nicely made (in Canada), very clever product, and while its appeal might be somewhat niche, I think it’s of very real benefit to at least certain riders — particularly folks who spend a lot of time in very steep terrain.