Fabric Cycling is all about the connection between rider and bike. Whether that’s saddles and grips/tape or key accessories for keeping you riding like bottles, tools, pumps and safety lights.
Whatever the product it prides itself on providing fresh, innovative and stylish solutions and there’s some superb kit in the range. There are also pieces where prettiness can get in the way of practicality though.
That’s why we’ve gone through the Fabric gear we’ve used to highlight the many pros and occasional cons in the collection.
Jump to: Saddles, lights, bottles and cages, pumps, tools, bar tape and grips.
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Choosing a 140g one-piece carbon shell and rail saddle with minimal padding as the perch for a 24hr race on the brutally technical Fort William XC course is a bold choice. It certainly paid off for us with the ALM Ultimate though and we’ve been using that same saddle every time we’ve wanted to shed excess grams on bike builds ever since. The single-piece composite design was developed in conjunction with Airbus and the shell, rails and topper provide an impressively sprung long haul compatible ride. The shallow 142mm wide shape gives decent support without getting in the way and it’s proved very tough too. The unpadded edges are seriously sharp if you get slammed against them though so be careful if you’re on the rivet or hanging off the back on steep descents. The deep rectangular rails aren’t compatible with all seatpost clamps either, but while the price is very high it’s good value compared to most specialist full-carbon saddles of similar weight.
The Scoop was one of the first Fabric saddle families and it now covers three shapes - Flat, Shallow and Radius - on Ultimate (full carbon) Pro Team (carbon rails) Race (titanium rails) Elite (cro mo rails) and Sport (steel rails) chassis. The Shallow suits a really wide variety of riders and riding situations from trail to road with enough curve in the shape to keep you centralised when you’re grinding out the watts. The rounded 142mm wide rear stops snagging on shorts and slightly drooped nose for steep climbs or sitting on the rivet on the road. There’s a slight depression in the rear to add some air-con and articulation and the whole shell is flexible and forgiving. The Ti rails of the Team version we tested save significant weight over steel-railed siblings and it’s £5 cheaper than other Ti-railed saddles from Fabric. The fact the cover and padding are bonded on as a separate piece rather than pre-stretched means there’s less compression and more comfort, too. Lack of plastic bumpers on the side means the upholstery is unprotected if you crash or accidentally slide it down a wall but otherwise Fabric saddles tend to be super tough with a grippy-but-not-too-sticky hold on your shorts.
The Line Elite has the same range of chassis styles and shapes as the Scoop but at a slightly higher price. That’s because it features a full length central ‘trench’ for riders who like some air-con or pressure relief under their perineum. Depending on the exact model there’s the option of red, white or blue colourways for the channel and shell. Again upholstery and chassis are super tough however hard you ride but there’s no crash protection on the flanks if you're careless. The ‘trench’ also fills up with mud and water on filthy rides which can literally become a pain in the arse.
Designed in conjunction with the infamous ‘50to1' crew as a dirt jump saddle that you can actually ride a decent distance on, the dumpy-looking Magic Elite Radius is great for riders who don’t have an uplift or don’t want to push back up. The rounded shape is based on the Scoop Radius and has the same 142mm width but a shorter (255mm) shell.
The padding is deeper though, with a pronounced kick up at the back for support if you run your saddle nose up. The shell is also shorter (255mm) so there’s more clearance if you’re getting aerobatic and a ‘buzz channel’ at the back stops rear tyres chewing the seat if you really slam a landing. The rails and waterproof cover are heavy-duty and it’s proved impressively crash resistant so far but there’s no specific plastic or kevlar/Cordura panelling for protection. On the plus side that keeps it kind on your butt and your clothing when you put a couple of hours of conventional riding in, even in unpadded shorts.
Specifically designed for riding in non cycling clothing, the Cell uses an airtight top cushion with preformed pyramid shapes inside. This basically makes an air bed for your butt, hovering you over the shell and spreading sit pressure over a wider area. It feels weird at first as the ways the cells collapse slightly gives it a ‘crunchy’ sensation but it works great in civilian clothes for commuting, urban riding, bike packing or whenever you don’t want to use padded shorts.
The rounded Radius shape is also widened to 155mm to suit a more upright position and we know several riders - male and female - who’ve got comfy on a Cell after struggling on everything else. The slightly rubbery surface is more sweat prone than a standard topper though so if you’re going a long way, get your fast-wicking pants on.
Fabric’s cunning, super versatile LED flute is borderline bright enough to see with, but plenty visible at night and can be used both ends of your bike. 300 lumens isn’t much to see with on a dark country road but it’s better than nothing if you’re careful. The scoop sided lens can be seen from a wide range of angles in traffic though. The LEDs down the back can also be run red or white in various flashing modes so you can use it as a safety light on the back or front. The adjuster dial on the end is easier to use than a push-button with fat gloves/frozen fingers too. It weighs bugger all to pocket or put in your bike just in case and the rubber-strap-secured rotating mount can be fixed virtually anywhere. There’s a 150 Lumen Lumanate version for £39.99 too, but both are expensive in terms of basic output.
If you use a GPS computer this triangular Oreo cookie is a really clever way to add visibility to your ride without spoiling clean lines. The Lumaray simply sandwiches between the computer and the mount with internal LEDs giving 60 lumens of power in a 270-degree arc. Several flashing/constant modes let you dial in your desired level of attention-seeking, but because the computer sits on top there’s no distracting upward flash. It comes with an interchangeable Wahoo puck for Edge and Element users, though you’ll have to add an extra spacer for clearance on Bolt and Roam as the ‘aero’ lip will catch on the Lumaray otherwise.
Bottles and cages
An instant icon when they appeared, Fabric’s cageless bottles and tool kegs and its mushroom-mounting studs look beautifully clean on a bike. The Cageless bottles come in 600ml and 750ml standard formats as well as a 525ml insulated version. The Keg gets a screw top and a neoprene liner ‘sock’ to stop the contents rattling and slide them out easily. The plastic mushroom studs line up with tapering keyhole shoe indents on the bottle/keg and you can tune the connection/release pressure by tightening up the mounting bolts and slightly spreading the mushroom heads out. As long as the studs aren’t set too ‘sticky’ release is simple and once you’ve got the knack of lining the studs up with the shoes getting it back in is relatively easy on smoother terrain. Tighten it up though and it’s more of a fight to get them in and out and even at the tightest ‘setting’ we’ve still had issues with regular bottle and keg loss on rougher trails. On the bright side, if you lose yours you’ll often find somebody else’s shortly afterwards so the purchase price is more of a subscription. Whether that’s your original bottle or not they are stiffer to squeeze than a standard bottle which slows down flow rates.
If you’re worried about the security issues of the Cageless system, then Fabric has just introduced a more conventional Gripper bottle and cage. The cage uses a sprung design with internal ridges to increase the pressure on the bottle and stop it shaking/sliding out and it works really effectively even with a standard bottle. Add the Gripper bottle with its squarer profile and you’ve got a rock-solid combination that still squeezes and flows like a standard bottle through the large-volume silicone mouthpiece. The Gripper bottles also get a raised ‘braille’ texture around the top section to make sure it doesn’t slip out of your hand either. They come in 600ml and 750ml standard formats as well as a 550ml and 650ml insulated version.
The Sport is the cheapest track pump in the Fabric line-up which means you get a nylon base and handle rather than polished alloy barrel (Stratosphere Race) or wooden base, handle and steel hose (Stratosphere Pro). You still get a large, easy reading dial on the base though and a metal levered head that fits Presta or Schraeder valves on the end of an extra-long hose. The long-stroke gets pressure up fast enough to blow up tubeless tyres if you’re fast with your hands but not so much air it’s hard work getting three-figure PSIs into road tyres. It’s tough enough for full-time workshop life too and reasonably accurate in terms of gauge readings if you’re a teen pressure plus tyre or cyclo-cross fetishist.
Fabric’s fat-bodied Millibar is designed for blowing up high-volume MTB (or fat gravel) tyres super fast. The 104cc stroke will even shift enough air to seat and seal a tubeless tyre if you’re prepared to get a sweat on. The extending hose also means you can attach the lever secured head easily between spokes.
The high volume makes it hard to get pressure over 30psi though and any grit or grime on the shaft makes it very sticky and hard to use. It’s a chunky piece to try and fit in a pocket or hip pack although a frame-mount clip is included.
Fabric does a couple of conventional ‘penknife’ tools but the company's passion for smart design really shines through in the Chamber. The chubby bullet design hides a pop-out cartridge holding six double-ended tool bits giving 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm Hex heads, two Philips and one flat-head screwdriver and T10 and T25 Torx bits. These can be removed and slotted into the double-sided ratcheting eye at the top of the Chamber for plenty of leverage. Push the bits further through gives easy access to places that are hard to reach with a normal tool.
Fabric also does a similarly styled compact chain splitter to complete your trail-tool arsenal.
We first came across Fabric’s super grippy, stretchy silicon tape as standard fit on Vielo’s V+1 bike and we’ve been massive fans ever since. The way it stretches as it wraps on keeps it very secure on the bars without the need for finishing tape. The silicon naturally damps road/trail shock without adding obvious bulk and it comes in red, black, blue and green. The tacky surface also gives excellent grip with or without gloves even when wet or dirty and it cleans up easily and lasts well, too. That leaves the high price as the only downside but it’s worth it for maximum control and comfort.
If you want a distinctive two-tone look on your bike then Fabric’s Duo tape comes in red/black, blue/black, green/black, white/black colourways. It also comes in all black with the same hexagonal pattern of mini raised hexagons giving trustworthy wet or dry grip with or without gloves. The silicon backing stops it slipping, makes rewrapping easy and reduces bar buzz on rougher roads and trails. The texture does make it slightly more awkward to clean if it gets really filthy though and lining up both sides of the bar the same takes some skill with the twin-colour tapes.
Another collaboration between Fabric and 50to1, the Magic Grip takes the classic ribbed ‘mushroom’ design and uses changing rib diameters to create a centrally bulged ‘hourglass’ shape. A single clamp holds the grip in place while the outside end gets a tough, nylon-reinforced end cap for bar protection. The ribbed design and 30a durometer rubber give excellent grip even when hands/gloves/grips are wet or dirty. The fatter centre and softer rubber also sucks up slams without oversizing the whole grip and causing arm pump. Not everyone will like the fat centre though and the movement of the mushroom ribs also slightly reduces feedback accuracy. They’re well priced and come in red, black, blue and green colours, too.
Fabric’s new twin-pattern FunGuy grip uses a micro hex ‘scale’ pattern with two open ‘barnacle’ rows for maximum hand traction. The other half uses a low-profile mushroom rib design. Rather than bulging the centre ribs outwards, the internal diameter of the grip is very subtle reduced in the centre. That means the ribs are fractionally longer for more cushioning but the external shape is flat so feedback from tyres and trail is still in high definition. The soft-compound rubber keeps things tacky without tearing up immediately and it comes in red, black, blue and green colour options for a reasonable price. The outboard end uses a closed cup while a single ‘Fabric’ marked clamp cinches up to hold the whole unit in place and it’s rapidly becoming one of our test team’s favourite trail grips.