As many of you know we recently reviewed the Fabric Scoop saddle here on TriedOnline. You may remember that this was the flattest and lowest priced option, the Flat Elite. So when our friends at Broadribb Cycles Banbury let us know that they had a Fabric ALM Ultimate saddle available for us to test it was an unmissable opportunity. The ALM is the range above the Scoop series and it was exciting to test the entry level against the higher spec option from the same manufacturer, Fabric. Speaking of which…
Description and Specification
Carbon. Lovely light carbon. Some minimal padding, but mostly carbon. This minimalism converts into a whole unit of only 140 grams.
The base is formed of one piece of carbon, crucially including the rails. A sliver of PU foam padding is vacuum bonded to this base, so there is not a single gram there that is not absolutely essential.
The reasons behind this ‘monocoque’ construction (apart from the weight saving) are that the flex in the saddle is built into the rails and base, so thick, heavy, padding is not needed.
I must confess that when I read this bumf on Fabric’s website I was mighty sceptical as to how good this was actually going to be. Unlike the Scoop range there is only the one ‘shape’ to choose from. Despite the fact that unless anchored down it would probably float away in a stiff breeze it did not feel flimsy and I had no doubts about the vacuum bonding – when you part with your cash one thing is assured; you get a quality product. Having said this the money that you part with is quite considerable and for £224.99 I would rather expect some quality! However it is now time to but bum to seat and see what’s what.
I got a good mix of riding done on the saddle. I did a set of regular shorter rides of 7 miles (my commute) which are mostly flat with a couple of very short but steep climbs but decided that it deserved something more than a time-trial-esque route so I decamped from Banbury to North Wales for a week in order to apply some mountains and rain.
On the short rides I was impressed from the start. Despite looking unforgiving the saddle was in no way uncomfortable and seemed to almost mould to my posterior.
It provides a very solid base to put power down and despite the steepness of the short climbs I found myself staying in the saddle because it gave a comfortable and good position to pedal from. I was impressed and even on the mid-range Giant that it was mounted on I did actually feel a difference, both in the better position that I was able to attain and even in comfort over the stock saddle that it had ousted. On this particular bike even the weight loss was evident, and I felt myself to be better set up all round (although this may have been partly psychological). Trawsfynydd was calling however.
We were based in the middle of nowhere, at the bottom of a spectacular valley, which meant that every ride started with a climb. The first couple of hundred meters were a farm track that made for some interesting cyclocross style riding, interspersed with some irritating farm gates and surprise sheep. In the photograph the hills that rise behind the cottage were the ones that I made tracks for. By chance there were a mix of roads, one was some of the smoothest, flowing, tarmac that I have ridden on (I think because the road is used about once a year and goes nowhere, so it was an out and back course) and the saddle was just as comfortable on this longer section of uphill as it had been on the shorter climbs at home. On the descent it was, if anything, even better and there was an element of responsiveness and control that one simply does not get from squishier saddles. The next climb, up the other side of the hills, was longer and more winding and the road, although not in bad condition, had large patches of very loose gravel, so changing lines on the descent (another out and back job) was very tricky in places and that little bit of extra control given by having a saddle that gave good feedback was much appreciated.
These rides had shown that the saddle was comfortable but they were in the sun, and Wales did not fail to live up to its reputation and it was not long before the rain came down in torrents, with that very specific Welsh way of being able to get absolutely everywhere, and soak everything down to the last fibre of clothing.
The saddle’s PU foam pad provided good grip and even in torrential (painful) rain provided a secure seat with not even a hint of sliding about on the fairly smooth surface. The surfaces on both top and bottom cleaned very easily. On longer rides it was comfortable and whilst I suspect that 100 miles or so on it might not be the most pleasant of experiences, it would be perfectly acceptable, despite its minimalistic padding.
Good. Very good in fact. When I was handed the saddle in Broadribbs I was overcome with suspicion and doubt. The slimness looked frankly painful and yes it is light, but two hundred and twenty five quid – how can that be worth it? For a saddle? Well, amazingly, yes. Comfort is good, and such is the design that you can use it in almost any position. Start with it normally and inch it forward and down as the weeks go by to attain that aggressive aero-road-bike position that is becoming more popular by the day. I’m sure durability is good and the materials and construction are unrivalled. So the bottom line: excellent performance, and worth every one of those 22499 pennies. However £224.99 is still a hell of a lot to pay for a saddle but the dividends could well be worth the outlay. The seconds gained by having a saddle this good with the potential for such an excellent, sustainable, and fast riding position could well be the same as the number of seconds that those shiny wheels that costs four times as much that I can see you eyeing up might claw you back. If you subscribe to the idea that you make improvements to the motor (you and your riding) before you make incredible outlays on kit this could well actually be a bargain along the same lines as the greatest gains in pounds (£s) expended per second shaved off that an aero helmet gives a timetriallist or triathlete.
To read about the Fabric Scoop range click here