Update: After riding the saddle for a few months it was given to Eryn Stott to test and review. His impressions have been added in italics below to give a second perspective.
Fabric recently jumped into the cycling scene with saddles blazing. Based in Frome, Somerset, UK, their mission is to combine technology, design, and cycling expertise to create better cycling products. How do they do this? By using out of industry technology and process to manufacture their products. The Fabric product line has quickly expanded to cover the cockpit essentials of saddles, grips, tape, and now includes cageless water bottles and tools.
Most well known for their saddles, Fabric first caught a lot of attention for the ALM Ultimate that was co-designed by Airbus. Yes that Airbus, the Airbus that builds the A380 airplane. The full Fabric saddle family ranges in price from ~40GBP to ~225GBP and includes:
- ALM (carbon carbon carbon race saddle with buffalo leather cover co-designed with Airbus)
- Cell (round profile with cell structure cover)
- Line (traditional shaped saddle with relief channel)
- Scoop (traditional scoop shape saddle)
- Tri (short nosed triathlon purpose design)
While Fabric are new and rather rare in the Canadian Market, I was able to get a Fabric Scoop Shallow Race Saddle from Canadian Cycling Magazine through an online Twitter contest. My review below is based on my use of the saddle over the past few months.
One of the very first things I noticed about the saddle was its flex. The shell is quite soft and pliable. This is because while the Fabric Scoop saddle comes in four material varieties, the model I have is the Ti/Nylon (titanium rails and nylon shell.) This puts the model at the compliant end of the spectrum and considering my regular saddles (Fizik Antares 00) are carbon rail, carbon shell, the amount of flex of this saddle is not what I’m used to. That said, it’s not uncomfortable in any way. Just notably more flexible than what I’m used to. The shape is also very different than what I normally ride. I started riding traditional saddles when I was a lot younger but moved to a flat and wider saddle a few years ago. Getting back on a traditional scoop shape saddle did feel really familiar.
From an purely aesthetic point of view, the saddle is striking. The shape is well crafted and simplistic. With a white on white logo, the branding is about as minimal as you’re going to get without being there at all. The all white on white colour is really sharp and crisp. Although the saddle shape is not revolutionary, it is pleasing and definitely instills the confidence that this is a saddle to be ridden.
When it comes to performance (what really matters most), the saddle definitely doesn’t let you down. The Fabric Scoop Saddle has been awarded ‘best on test’ from Cycling Plus. I wouldn’t argue with that.
The Fabric Scoop Shallow was designed with a focus on flexibility and ergonomics. It is ideal for road cycling in forward race positions. The general profile of the saddle is what I would describe as a ‘traditional shape’ where the centre of the saddle dips to cradle the sit bones and the tail extends upwards at the back. Saddles of this shape profile are usually best for riders who tend to keep one position on the bike while riding. But that’s not a stead fast rule, just a guideline.
From a pure specifications perspective, the Fabric Scoop Shallow saddle is 142mm wide, 282mm long. Sitting on top of the hollow titanium rails and nylon shell, the upper is made of lightweight Polyurethane Foam and the cover is a waterproof microfibre. All of this is held together by a 3 part bonding process.
While the saddle is available in four material varieties, it’s also available in 3 shape profiles and in 6 color combinations. So there is definitely something for everyone available. All the potential options are listed below
The weight of the Fabric Scoop Shallow Ti/nylon saddle is 256 grams (by my scale). This is not the heaviest saddle by any means but it’s also not the lightest. Compared to a full carbon saddle with minimal padding it can feel like a swinging pendulum weight when sprinting out of the saddle. But you’re going to have pay a hefty premium to go carbon fibre and shave that weight off and you’re probably not going to notice it anyway.
- flat: aerodynamic race position
- shallow: all day comfort
- radius: upright comfort position
- Chromoly rails/nylon shell
- Titanium rails/nylon shell
- carbon rails/nylon shell
- carbon rails/carbon shell
From my experience, traditional scoop saddles are usually the hardest to set up. Each manufacturers design is slightly different so finding where to measure to ensure the saddle is flat or 1-2 degrees down at the front can be a bit of trial and error. For me I tend to measure with a spirit level across the top of the front and extended until touches the tail. Visualize this as a bridge across the valley or ‘scoop’ of the saddle when looking at it from the side. It takes a bit of eyeballing to make sure you’re putting the bridge in the right place.
Setting saddle height for traditional scoop saddles can also be harder than a flat saddle. What point in the valley do you measure to? Especially if your saddle is far forward or back. For me, I try to find the lowest spot closest to an imaginary straight line extending through the top of the seat post originating from the centre of the bottom bracket. Again saddle position forward or back meant it took me a few quick spins around the block before I felt I was ready to take it on a longer ride.
Once I got the saddle position dialed I was really happy. It felt comfortable and ready to go the distance. The width of the nose and centre are really good. I haven't noticed and unnecessary rubbing or interference while pedaling.
My butt loves this saddle as much as my design sense does too. But the world isn’t perfect. The white on white color of the saddle is really eye catching… when it’s clean. The microfibre cover is soft to the touch but it’s also a dirt and grease magnet. It seemed like every time I turned my back for two seconds there was a new dark spot on the saddle and the microfibre material really didn’t want to give it up. I even tried my old faithful trick of using a baby wipe to clean the grease. It does come off but you need to put some elbow grease into it. Maybe the black colour versions either don’t have this problem or don’t show it. But it’s my one nit to pick on this saddle.
A new habit of never grabbing the bike by the saddle was essential to keeping it looking crisp. My one request to Fabric would be to offer more than just the ALM in buffalo leather or add a synthetic leather option to the cover materials.
Here is my take on the Fabric Scoop Shallow saddle. Hands down it’s a great saddle with a lot of value to offer. It’s not cut from the same cloth as all the other saddles on the shop wall. That's a good thing. It’s well designed and manufactured to be different so if you want something in a traditional scoop shape that’s easy on the eyes and just as comfortable on the bike, then this is a saddle to put high on the list. If you’re currently riding something like a Prologo Nago or Fizik Aliante and are considering something new, find a dealer and see if they have a demo to try out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Although the traditional shape of the Scoop Shallow is a departure from what I usually ride, but I did have a chance to ride the comparable Fabric ALM Ultimate flat on a friends bike and I was instantly blown away. It’s a lusty worth saddle that I really didn’t want to give back. Surely I’ll end up with one at some point.
Fabric Saddles are distributed in Canada by Dorel Sports. If your local shop is carrying Fabric Saddles please reply in the comments below with their name and website.
Eryn Stotts' review
There’s a couple of things I’m nervous about changing when it comes to my bike and cycling in general, and the saddle has to be #1 for me. You spend a lot of time and pressure on that saddle so it better be comfortable because shit can happen down there if you aren’t paying attention.
That being said I jumped at the chance to try Fabric’s “Scoop” saddle. I first saw them just before NAHBS 2015 and immediately loved the aesthetics to them; the one piece solid look was calling my name. But being on the same saddle for the better part of 5 years I was nervous to say the least.
First impressions, the padding was surprisingly cushy, it doesn’t look like it but it’s soft. The only downside to the material is that it is fairly slippery in comparison to previous saddles I’ve ridden and I found myself adjusting back more often than normal, however this isn’t off putting to me and it’s no longer a problem. All around I felt really comfortable riding on this saddle, longer rides, harder efforts I never felt discomfort. The shallow cut out is great and there was no numbing at all.
It’s a fairly wide base and with the generous (but not bulky) padding my sit bones were never asking me “wtf have you done?”. I like to slide forward a bit and put in a few digs and on the Fabric it felt great, I forgot what a longer nosed saddle can offer and I wasn’t disappointed or unstable at any time.
I’m stoked I got out on this saddle and I’m going to keep running it. The sleek lines and one piece look area a great addition to my Mosaic. It’s subtle but stands out enough for people to ask me what saddle it is. I might not tell them, but then again everyone deserves some sort of comfort right?