The CO2/Lever Kit is part of Fabric's new range of tools and accessories to sit alongside the saddles and bar tape the company is better known for. There are some clever design ideas here, as you'd expect from Fabric, but in use it's not quite as good as I'd hoped.
Pair the kit with an inner tube and you're pretty much set up for any puncture fixing shenanigans that may crop up. You have two tyre levers, two gas cartridges with a foam sleeve and an inflator head, plus a couple of silicone straps should you want to attach it all to your seatpost rather than carry it in your pocket/saddle bag.
The tyre levers are pretty good: a decent size to offer plenty of leverage on stubborn tyre/wheel combinations, and with large hooks on the rear for locating the first one around a spoke while you slide the second around the rim.
They took some abuse and showed no signs of being brittle even when seeing some big loads to remove a tight clincher tyre. The full radius lip hooks easily under the tyre bead without being sharp enough to damage anything. And for easy storage they click together.
The silicone band for the seatpost fits a range of diameters and kept the kit secure on both alloy and shiny carbon seatposts for the majority of the time. Really rough sections of road would see the kit bounce around a bit, but nothing alarming. It didn't leave any marks on the seatpost either.
Compared with the Topeak Airbooster and VEL inflator heads recently tested, the Fabric isn't as easy to use. The VEL and Topeak just push on, with the gas expelling under pressure; release and it stops, with the secure fit allowing for quick one-handed operation. Your other hand can push down the tyre, stopping the valve from pushing away from the inflator.
The Fabric is different, it still pushes onto the valve so you need to apply pressure there to keep it on, but you need to use your other hand to turn the knob that controls the flow rate of the gas. If you are using a tube without a lockring you have to kind of juggle everything to stop the valve disappearing up into the rim, especially if it's a short one because the alloy spacer on the head will bottom out on the wheel. If it becomes detached from the valve you just end up spraying CO2 everywhere other than into the tube.
Saying that, the idea of a control knob is a good one, allowing you to keep the flow rate low to begin with, to make sure the tyre is seated correctly, before giving it the full monty and pumping the tyre up to pressure. If you run your tyres soft and only use half a cartridge, you can close it off, storing the rest of the CO2 for another day so the fabric becomes more cost effective.
The head will only work with threaded cartridges and once screwed into position they don't leak at all, plus they can be used on both Presta and Schrader valve types without changing the head setup at all.
A welcome feature is a foam cover for the cartridges. If you've never used CO2 before, you soon realise that if you let the gas out at a rapid pace the cartridge will become very, very cold to the point where it will freeze to your skin – not nice. If, like me, you don't wear mitts when riding, something like the foam cover is essential.
In terms of value, I think £20 is a reasonable ask when taking the kit as a whole. The BTwin we recently tested was only £8 including a cartridge, but the inflator head design here offers a bit more with regards to the control knob. Plus you've got to take into account the levers, straps and a couple of cartridges too.
Overall, I like the idea of the Fabric kit, but with so many out there that are just so much easier to use, I think it could do with some refinement.
Some intuitive design ideas but a bit of a clumsy feel
road.cc test report
Make and model: Fabric CO2/Lever Kit
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Fabric says, "Our ultra compact Co2 kit brings together simplicity and function. A simple, stylish & lightweight solution that securely fixes to your seatpost."
All you need to do is add an inner tube and you're good to go.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Handy & neat all in 1 tyre repair kit -
Strapped securely to a seat post or stored neatly in a saddle bag, the C02/Lever Kit contains all the tools you need to quickly and efficiently fix a flat.
Precision head fits presta or schrader valve -
The head unit offers precision control and can be shut completely after initial use, saving any remaining gas for further use. The simple to use head easily accepts both presta and schrader valves.
Equipped with spare cartridge & tough, fibre reinforced levers -
The kit is supplied with a rubber strap that keeps it together and secures it to a seat post, as well as durable and dependable tyre levers and a spare co2 cartridge.
For the money it's all pretty good kit.
Personally I prefer the type of head that screws onto the valve and inflates the tyre by pressure for a secure fit. The Fabric is okay at inflating the tyre as long as you keep it pushed onto the valve, but you feel like you need an extra pair of hands. Being able to control the flow of gas is a big bonus though.
The tyre levers are strong and don't seem to be brittle as they coped with removing some very tight, stubborn tyres. The inflator head feels a little cheap with its plastic body but should stand the test of time.
Including the two 16g cartridges, weight is a very respectable 130g.
The device doesn't fit all that well in the hand. But Fabric does get an extra point for including a foam sleeve in the kit to cover the cartridge when the gas is being expelled.
Twenty quid is about right for the kit. You can get cheaper like the BTwin recently tested, but if you only use half the cartridge at a time this Fabric design allows you to store it for another time, making it more cost effective.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It inflates your tyres well enough, but isn't as user-friendly as some.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Being able to control the flow rate of the gas.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The ergonomics of the inflator head design.
Did you enjoy using the product? It was okay.
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your score
While the Fabric has a lot going for it, such as the flow rate control and being able to store gas inside the cartridge for later use, I'm not keen on its overall design and or ease of use. It seems like a good idea that needs to be better executed.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Mason Definition
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.