With my backside still grumbling from its time on the Brooks Cambium, the next saddle to arrive for testing couldn't have been much more different. The Fabric Cell Radius Elite is basically the result of someone saying “look at my trainers – wouldn't it be comfortable to sit on something like that?” It's a wide and rather novel-looking design where the entire upper section is effectively a big air pocket, given some reinforcement with internal flexible hexagonal structures. It works pretty well, too, providing a lot of isolation from bumpy roads and trails.
Fabric was launched as a brand a couple of years ago to spin off the saddle line previously sold as Charge, with the Scoop range a re-imagining of the very popular Spoon saddle. The range is relatively small, with three basic models, but those three really couldn't be more different. As well as the Scoop and the Cell, there is the ultra-lightweight and pricey ALM, made from 3D printed carbon.
Whereas the ALM is all feathery and futuristic, with barely a whiff of padding, the Cell is cush incarnate. The first impression is of a really compliant saddle, with that huge Nike-Air-esque air cell yielding dramatically under thumb. Seated on it, with your weight spread over a larger area, that impression changes a little, and it feels comfortable but not indecently squishy.
Popular theory has it that the further and the harder you ride, the less padding you want on your saddle, so it was with a little trepidation that I set off for longer club runs on the Cell.
Fabric says it provides "unbeatable comfort for all day riding", and in truth, it really is pretty comfortable. At 155mm wide, it is notably broader than a typical performance saddle, and that width was my only real complaint when using it for brisk, longer rides, where a narrower saddle better suits a more aggressive position on the bike. In fairness, Fabric says that the Cell is best for those with a more upright posture.
With it fitted to my commuter bike, an On-One Bish Bash Bosh all-roader set up with a less racy position, it was flat-out brilliant when blatting along bridleways and towpaths, providing a really impressive level of isolation from the rougher surfaces, and meaning I could stay seated where otherwise I would have tended to lift a couple of inches off the saddle. If you like to take your bike off the tarmac, this saddle is really worth trying.
Over larger bumps and undulations, the inherent elasticity of an air spring does tend to result in you getting bounced off the saddle; the reason why suspension systems have dampers as well as springs. It would great on typical UK cobbles but the bigger hits on the likes of Paris-Roubaix would still be too much to remain seated.
When you squeeze the saddle between finger and thumb, you can feel the hexagonal cells under the top surface, but when seated on it I was never aware of these. The design of those cells has changed a little since the original prototype that Fabric showed us, with the production unit having hexagonal cells which taper towards the top surface.
With the chromoly steel rails and the fairly substantial moulded plastic base, the Cell isn't a light saddle – weighing more than twice the ALM (which is a very light saddle). At the moment there is only one variant, as tested here, but it may be that Fabric broadens the range in the same way it has done with the Scoop, to offer lighter or narrower versions.
Coming in at £50, the Cell is a reasonable price given the inherent costs in designing something truly different to the competition and bringing it to market. It is available in a wide range of funky colours for fans of coordination. It certainly looks quite novel and attracted quite a few comments; if I'm honest, I don't think it enhanced the look of the bike I fitted it to, but that may be a secondary consideration to comfort.
Innovative and striking saddle uses air cells to provide excellent isolation on rough surfaces. Best for more upright positions
road.cc test report
Make and model: Fabric Cell Radius Elite
Size tested: width 155mm, length 282mm
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: "We have revolutionised saddle design with the Cell. Unique air-sprung technology distributes weight evenly across the saddle providing unbeatable comfort for all day riding.
Unique airsprung technology
It looks great and it's very durable but comfort is first and foremost with the Cell. The world's first airsprung saddle uses cushioning technology seen in high end running shoes to provide unrivalled rider support and comfort.
Wide choice of bold colours
The Cell saddle has a durable, weatherproof TPU cover and comes in a range of 6 striking colours.
Comfort riding position
With a width of 155mm, the Cell saddle is designed to offer unrivalled comfort for riders adopting a more upright, relaxed position. Ideal for urban, commuting and all terrain use."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
upper_Water proof TPU rubber
core_Unique Hex-Air cells
Nicely put together although the use of steel rails and plastic base adds to weight.
Very effective at cushioning you from bumps – I've got on fine with it on longer rides too. It's probably too wide (and maybe too heavy) for fast bike use, but a decent choice for commuting or off-roading.
Seems pretty durable. No stitches or staples thanks to moulded construction.
Heavier than quite a few others at this sort of price.
If you like a well-padded saddle then it's likely you'll get on with this one. I particularly valued the extra give when hammering along bridleways. The width means it's less suitable for a more racy position.
Pretty reasonable price for quite a novel design.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Fabric says it offers "unbeatable comfort for all day riding". It's probably a bit wider than I'd want for long rides, but it certainly is comfortable.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The extra isolation when riding over rough surfaces.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It looks quite unusual – this could be appealing to some people but I thought it just looked a bit odd on my bike.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
It's good to see manufacturers looking to innovate, and this saddle is certainly different from the established designs. I found it pretty comfortable, and I'd expect that it's less subjective in this respect than most, as the top surface can really yield to suit different shapes.
About the tester
I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.