Seems when the topic of dropper levers arise, there are two brands that come recommended more than others. One of those is the Wolf Tooth ReMote (their name for a dropper lever), and the PNW Components Loam Lever.
I had been running the Wolf Tooth standard length lever for the last two years on both a Tranz-X and more recently, a OneUp V2 dropper. It’s interesting, because when you purchase from WT, their remote is offered in two different lengths, and they also include a compatibility chart that helps recommend a lever depending on which dropper post you’re pairing. You can read more on my thoughts of the Wolf Tooth ReMote here.
As for PNW, they don’t seem to list compatibility of their lever at all — so I’m just to assume it works well with any dropper that is actuated by a short tug of a cable.
So what makes the PNW Loam Lever a top selection?
Probably a few things.
First, PNW offers a lifetime warranty. I’ve never had to use it and I don’t know of anyone who has, but it’s nice to know.
Second, just like Wolf Tooth, their Loam Lever is make just about entirely of metal, but PNW’s pieces are cut from a 5 axis machine. All of the pieces are very smooth, with a refined finish and the matte black coating looks even and consistent.
Third, the sealed bearing is huge. I don’t know if it’s larger than Wolf Tooth’s 21mm.
Lastly, and probably the stand-out, is the soft rubber thumb pad that is currently offered in six different colors. Unfortunately, the pads are not designed to be removed. PNW states that they use a very particular adhesion method to keep them secure. Don’t pull them off!
Mounting the PNW Loam Lever was very easy. But then again, dropper levers aren’t terribly complex devices. In general, they have a single bolt connecting the base of the lever to the handlebar mount, and they have another bolt clamping the cable. Wallah, dropper lever!
Today, I was swapping out my trusty Wolf Tooth ReMote. First, I took a pair of needle nose pliers and removed the old cable end cap. Doing this prevented me from having to cut the cable, losing precious length. With the end cap off, I simply routed the cable through the PNW Loam Lever’s adjustment knob, installed a new cable end, and crimped it down. I found that crimping the cable end prior to clamping to be easier than fighting to crimp an end after it’s secure.
Next, I threaded a bolt through a standard 22.2mm handlebar mount and into the threaded hole in the lever base. The base has two threaded hole options, allowing for slight horizontal position adjustment. I first mounted inboard of the brake lever but found my thumbs didn’t quite have the reach. So, I mounted outboard this time, but had to temporarily unclamp the SLX levers in order to position the 22.2mm bar mount first. I then used the left-most mounting hole, which positioned the thumb pad further away from the grip. Turns out this positioned the Loam Lever about the same distance away as my shifter lever on the right side. Bingo.
Just from handling and installation, the build quality of the PNW Loam Lever appears extremely high.
In real-world use, effort to depress the lever when actuating the OneUp V2 dropper post felt slightly higher than the Wolf Tooth Standard Remote that it replaced. But honestly, I’m not sure that’s just my mind playing tricks on me as I have no scientific way to prove that true. It’s important to note that the effort required to actuate the dropper post can vary depending on the combination of dropper post and lever combination. For my particular combo, I definitely would not want the lever to require any more effort than this. That said, having a smooth and consistent push all the way through the range is a must, and PNW Loam lever delivers.
When it comes to feel on the naked thumb, the raised padding offers a smooth surface. However, I could see the pad getting slick if my thumb got sweaty. As luck would have it, it started raining while I writing this post, so I took the bike outside for a short ride. What I discovered was that while the rubber thumb pad did get a tad slicker, I never once felt my thumb would completely slip off. This may be due in part to a bit of engraving with the PNW name and squiggles, which also matched perfectly to the pattern and color of their Loam grips.
The primary reason I purchased this lever was because of the soft thumb pad and my desire to experience the other highly recommended lever on today’s market. The thumb pad should be a welcome change for my left thumb, especially on days I’m riding without gloves. Color matching is also spot-on, and I understand that could be a deal breaker to some people. After having stared at this new lever in matching sea foam color on my bike for a few days, I think I preferred a contrasting color to bring drama and attention to the left side of the handlebar — a bit like a having large red missile launch button in the movies.
Things I Don’t Like
So far this PNW Loam Lever has given me no reason not to suggestion this as a buy. However, if I’m going to dig deep for some potential cons, here’s what I might say:
While a lifetime warranty sounds great, with this particular component, the only part I could see failing would be the sealed bearing or the thumb pad peeling off, and I doubt PNW is going to cover either of those under their lifetime warranty. See the following sentence, last two bits: “This warranty does not cover damage caused by accident, improper care, improper installation, negligence, normal wear and tear, or the natural breakdown of colors and materials over extended time and use.”
This is what I figured, but there it is for your interpretation if you weren’t sure.
The real concern is directly related to the dropper post I’ve paired to the PNW Loam Lever. With the OneUp V2 dropper, the effort required is fine for me and the number of times I may actuate my dropper on the trails I ride, and the duration of my rides. However, if you’re riding all day and actuate the dropper at every opportunity, then the effort could at some point in your day become tiresome.
In the name of least resistance, weight weenies, and all things XC Race, I could see this becoming a potential issue, especially for somebody with shorter thumbs, or weaker hand strength.
In fact, if you review Wolf Tooth’s ReMote compatibility chart here, you’ll see that they recommend their shorter lever for PNW’s dropper post, while they recommend the longer lever for my OneUp dropper. This tells me that PNW’s dropper may actuate with less force, and why I felt the PNW Loam lever to require slightly more effort than the Wolf Tooth standard lever it replaced. I’d love to try this lever in combination with PNW’s own dropper post just to compare relative effort.
As for me, if I’m still rocking the OneUp V2 dropper, I think it’ll be just a matter of time before I swap this lever out for one that requires slightly less effort.