Charge Bikes founder Nick Larsen has launched a new parts and accessories brand called Fabric with a range of innovative saddle designs including the ALM, Line and Cell, plus the classic Scoop.
Charge have enjoyed incredible success with their saddles, such as the Knife, Scoop and Spoon over the years, and the new brand will allow them to expand their range of saddles in a brand-neutral direction. Not only will this enable them to increase their saddle range, it'll also help them appeal to the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) market - Cannondale are first on board and will offer several 2015 bikes with Fabric saddles.
Of the range, the Scoop is instantly recognisable. It will still be offered under the Charge brand, and is the first starting block in the new Fabric range. The Scoop was introduced just last year and introduced a new manufacturing technique that moulded the padding and waterproof microfibre cover to a one-piece nylon base. A traditional saddle has the cover wrapped around the base and stapled in place, but that’s not the case with the Scoop. The result is an elegantly clean design, it looks very sleek.
The Scoop range will start from just £39.99 for the Elite, the Race is £59.99, the Pro £109.99 (carbon rail with reinfoced fibre-nylon base) and the Ultimate is £159.99 (carbon base and carbon rail).
So that’s the Scoop, a modern classic. Brand new under the Fabric umbrella is the range topping ALM. It’s a super lightweight minimalist saddle that is sure to look good on any svelte road bike. It was originally developed in collaboration with aerospace company Airbus, who Charge have history with having worked on the pioneering 3D printed titanium dropouts for the Freezer cyclo-cross bike a few years back. You can watch a video of the process here.
Charge worked with Airbus on developing 3D printed titanium rails for this ALM saddle, and it worked, producing a very lightweight saddle. The highly prohibitive costs (in excess of £700!) however meant it wasn’t feasible to make it a regular production saddle.
Fortunately their manufacturing partner in Taiwan suggested that they could make it out of carbon fibre, and make it easier and lighter. And they did. The production ALM saddle is complete manufactured from carbon fibre, the rails and the base. It's going to be available in two versions, the ALM Ultimate at £225, and the ALM Ltd with the Buffalo leather is £250.
The rails have been designed to provide a high level of flex, mimicking a leaf spring design. This way the saddle offers a lot of comfort, and that means they can get away with only minimal padding across the top. The base is made from unidirectional carbon fibre with carbon fibre tapered rails.
There’s a hand finished Buffalo leather top with laser etched detailing, vacuum bonded to the base. It’s beautifully clean, following in the design footsteps of the Scoop in that department. Yes there isn’t a great deal of padding, but the design principle behind the saddle is that the rails flex to provide the necessary comfort through dissipating vibrations. It’s very light too, in fact they claim it is just 139g. It certainly feels light in the hand.
That’s the ALM sitting right at the top of the range then. Underneath it, Fabric offer three models, the Scoop that we’ve already talked about, the Line and Cell, both of which are brand new. The key difference you need to know about the saddles is their width; the Line is the narrowest at 134mm, the Scoop is in the middle at 142mm, and the Cell is the widest at 155mm.
In addition to the three widths, each saddle is offered in three shapes; flat, shallow and radius. the range is starting to look pretty extensive now. Most saddle manufacturers now offer a range of saddle shapes and widths to allow you to get the right fit, and this is Fabric’s version. They even have a handy fit guide on their website to help you pick the right one, just stick in a few measurements and it recommends the right saddle for you http://fabric.cc/fit/
Put simply, the Flat saddle is for people with an aggressive or extreme fit, with minimal padding and a flatter nose area. Radius is the most curved shape with the highest level of padding for people that sit more upright in the saddle. The Shallow sits somewhere between these two extremes.
The Line saddle is an interesting design. It has a pressure relieving channel, but without a hole, made possible due to the manufacturing technique they use.
Two lightweight pieces of foam are bonded to a reinforced fibre-nylon base with hollow rails. The Line should be available early next year and cost from £49.99.
The Cell is a revolutionary looking saddle if ever there was one. It uses a novel Hex-air technology with the walls of the many pressurised air-cells manufactured from a flexible polyurethane material that allows them to expand and contract during impacts.
“We wanted to produce the most comfortable saddle possible," says Fabric.
"By looking outside of the cycling industry, we've been able to use technology associated with other performance sports."
This is still just a prototype at the moment, other colours will be offered when it’s properly launched. The Cell is coming early next year and will be priced from £39.99.
As well as saddles, Fabric also have a nice range of grips and bar tape. And that’s not all, we’re told there is more coming from the brand in the future, and not necessarily saddles.
The Fabric saddle range should start becoming available from September onwards. We don't have all the prices yet, we'll update this article when they are announced. Fabric also launching a demo program as well so custom coloured saddles can be tried on your own bike. You can take a closer look at the saddles here http://fabric.cc/shop/saddles/
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.