When the first dropper posts hit the market, it didn't seem like that much attention was paid to remote ergonomics. The fact that it was possible to raise and lower your seat was novel enough – who cares if the remote looked like it was designed by someone who'd never seen a human hand? Luckily, things have changed over the last few years, aided by the death of the front derailleur, which made it possible to create remote levers that mimicked the shape of a shifter.
Not all dropper levers are created equal, though, and a number of small companies have created their own aftermarket alternatives. PNW Components is one of those small companies, and the Loam Lever is the newest addition to their growing product lineup.
The aluminum lever rotates on a sealed cartridge bearing, and is designed to work with any cable actuated dropper post. Most remotes have some sort of ridges or dimples on the lever blade for extra thumb traction, but PNW Components went a step further by affixing an injection molded pad to the blade to create a comfy, non-slip target to aim for.
The Loam Lever is available with either a grey, orange, or teal thumb pad, and there are three mounting styles to choose from: a hinged clamp, a Matchmaker-compatible option, or one that works with Shimano's iSpec design. MSRP: $69 USD. When the first dropper posts hit the market, it didn't seem like that much attention was paid to remote ergonomics. The fact that it was possible to raise and lower your seat was novel enough – who cares if the remote looked like it was designed by someone who'd never seen a human hand? Luckily, things have changed over the last few years, aided by the death of the front derailleur, which made it possible to create remote levers that mimicked the shape of a shifter.
Installation and Design
I paired the Loam Lever with X-Fusion's Manic dropper post, and was able to get everything up and running in a matter of minutes. Even if you're not that mechanically inclined, installation is very simple. Attach the cable to the seatpost (on the Manic that required clamping the cable into an aluminum barrel), run it through the housing, and then clamp it to the lever. The Loam Lever has a little groove where the cable sits, and it's held in place by a 3mm, stainless steel Allen head bolt – there are no set screws to mangle the cable.
The Loam Lever has two possible mounting positions (similar to what you'd find on a SRAM shifter), along with a small set screw that can be threaded in to adjust where the paddle sits. That little set screw is a tiny detail, but it's nice to be able to have the lever positioned exactly where you want it, instead of needing to settle for 'almost perfect.'
The only nitpick I have about the lever's design is that there are a few sharp edges that could use a little more finish work. The area your thumb will contact is nice and rounded off, but the backside and the area above where the cable sits has a very square edge. It's a very minor detail, but some additional chamfering would be nice to see.
The feel of the Loam Lever was a definite upgrade over the Specialized Command Post SRL LE lever it replaced. Of course, it's also double the price, but the extra cost gets you an aluminum body rather than injection molded plastic, and a sealed cartridge bearing rather than a bushing. The Loam Lever's action is satisfyingly smooth, easy to activate, and the large thumb pad is easy to find no matter how rough the trail. It's also more comfortable to push compared to the machined ridges that other companies use for traction, ridges that can make it feel like your thumb is resting on a hand file. With the Loam Lever, it's as if your thumb is resting on a yoga mat each time you press it – I had more than one random rider who noticed the lever out on the trail ask if they could give it a try.
I've been using the Loam Lever for a little over six weeks, which isn't long enough to comment on really long-term durability, but so far it's running just as smooth as the day it arrived. Given that there aren't too many pieces, and the fact that the cartridge bearing would be easy to replace or rebuild if it ever became contaminated, I'm not expecting any issues.
What if that thumb pad wears out? Well, according to Aaron Kerson, the owner of PNW Components, “We did a lot of testing to ensure we chose a high quality adhesive that is outdoor rated. The one we chose has been used to keep things on metal (including headtube badges) for decades, but in the event the pad falls off we do offer them and replacing is super easy. You just clean the area with rubbing alcohol and place the pad on there by applying pressure to ensure a solid attachment.”