Sea Otter Expo: Fabric
Mark Hallinger reports from the 2018 Sea Otter Expo: Fabric is a relatively young UK company with an eye for neat designs and a mission to make better accessories.
Fabric was founded in 2014 in Somerset, southwestern England, as a sister to the Charge brand. Snippets from the company’s mission statement read thus: “We obsessively search for new technology and innovation to produce simple, well designed products.” And, “We challenge existing solutions and strive to improve the cycling experience for everyone.”
It’s hardly surprising, then, that the Charge Scoop saddles quickly received positive reviews and were appreciated by the industry and consumers alike in the UK. But the Charge name was proving restrictive, and so Fabric was formed.
Neil Cousins, of Fabric, claims the Scoop saddles were the first to be made with three-piece construction: a cover that is bonded (not stapled or screwed) to the base, a base, and rails. Saddles typically have a cover stretched across the base, pulled tight and stapled. Cousins says this adds to rigidity and can lead to an inconsistent feel as well as pressure points if sit-bone pressure degrades a foam layer.
The Fabric Scoop saddles, lacking stitching and staples, are more flexible, Cousins tells us. Their construction method enables the base, cover, and even the rails to flex more freely.
The idea being that more flex equals more comfort.
In addition to allowing greater flex, Cousins says their method allows use of a softer foam, because it’s not under tension created by the cover.
Customers can choose from steel, titanium or carbon rails, depending on their weight and flex preferences. The carbon rail/carbon base option provides the stiffest seat, and is used mainly by track and criterium racers.
Cousins tells us the steel and carbon rails are similarly stiff, while the titanium option is more supple.
As for saddle shape, Cousins explains that the company determined that there are really only three positions that almost everybody adopts on a bike, so Fabric ministered to those with three distinct shapes.
Fabric's Scoop Pro Team Flat saddle. Note the position advice graphic, bottom right. Photo: fabric.cc
Scoop Flat is flat when viewed from the side, to best suit a more aggressive flat back riding position where more weight is focused between the bar and saddle. It also has less padding.
Scoop Shallow is bowed slightly to best suit a somewhat universal 45 degree position. It has a bit more padding and is the company’s most popular saddle.
Scoop Radius is for more upright positions, with even more curve and more padding designed in.
Also available are saddles made with bases similar to the air soles sometimes found in shoes. The Cell Elite saddle eliminates hot spots, says the company.
At the other extreme, the company offers a 140 gram saddle, made in conjunction with the airline manufacturer Airbus, that is all carbon, very sleek, and effectively has built in suspension.
Fabric’s second big product line is for the second point of contact with the bike: The hands. The company now offers a range of grips: some super slim and light, some ergonomic, and some that are in between. The company’s range of silicone grips are very popular for riding without gloves, and offer excellent grip in wet conditions.
The same silicone technology is also available in a line of bar tape that Cousins says provides a very positive feel while being tough and long-lasting.
The company has in-house designers who try to look at cycling products with a fresh eye with a view to innovation.
An example is the 3 gram waterbottle mount. This comprises studs that screw into the bottle mounts on a frame. The bottle has a sliding groove built in that slips over the studs. The result weighs little and looks clean. We are interested to see for ourselves how effectively this mounting system would secure a full bottle on a bumpy trail
The company has also been designing bottles with better gripping surfaces. This year the slotted grip has been joined by one employing a pimpled surface with lots of grippy bumps. For anybody who has dropped, or nearly dropped a bottle, this is a welcome addition to bottle tech.
Neil Cousins holds up the high grip bottle.
Fabric is also offering a range of smart-looking tools and pumps, each of which offers some kind of upgrade from similar designs, says Cousins. An example is the elegant small chain tool. Its hollow handle holds spare pins, which is preferable to having these float around in your tool bag.
Floor pumps come in three versions, and large easy-to-read numbers in the pressure gauge are long overdue in pump designs. The foot supports feature non-slip pads so the pump can be operated more easily even when wearing cycling shoes.
The Fabric range of USB-chargeable lights has made a splash in the past year or two, most notably the Lumaray light, which encases a Garmin GPS mount and thus reduces handlebar clutter. Cousins says it’s a challenge to keep up with the demand for these units.
Without having tested any of these products we cannot say how well they work for us. But one thing we are certain about: It is encouraging to see accessory companies coming into the cycling market with a genuine desire not just to be there, but to do the job better.