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Fabric's ALM Ultimate saddle is an extremely lightweight saddle that's beautifully made. It's best suited to those who like a firm feel and don't mind paying a premium price.
The first time I got on board the ALM I was a little surprised at just how firm it felt. The 'ultra-light PU foam' padding is quite thin and there's not masses of give in the 'aerospace UD carbon fibre' base or the carbon-fibre rails. Don't get me wrong, it's not solid, but it isn't soft either.
Fabric developed the ALM design with Airbus, originally with 3D-printed titanium rails, although that version would be prohibitively expensive to produce – the RRP would have been over £700. This model isn't exactly cheap but we've reviewed more expensive saddles.
The base and rails are produced as one piece. The idea is that those rails act as a leaf spring to add comfort to the ride.
Put pressure on the top of the saddle and you can see both the rails and the base flex a little. Like I said, you don't get loads of movement but you get enough to dampen vibration and take the edge off bumpy roads.
What's funny, though, is that although the saddle is firm, that doesn't lead to discomfort, or at least it didn't for me. I got to like the feel over the course of a few rides and the discomfort I expected to experience over longer periods in the saddle never materialised. I wouldn't want to use the ALM with anything other than well-padded shorts, but I've certainly come to like it a lot over the past few weeks, and I was never left with the feeling of having been kicked about on longer rides.
The ALM is very well made and, hand-in-hand with that, it looks very cool, in my opinion. The carbon rails blend seamlessly into the base so even when viewed from below the ALM is very neat – there's no ragged edging, no staples, no nuffink. Unless things go very wrong you probably won't be seeing it from that angle much, but the lack of fussy details on the underside makes cleaning very simple.
The upper comprises the polyurethane foam I mentioned and a vacuum bonded cover, neither of which extends right to the edges, stopping a few millimetres short all the way around (a little like the back end of the Selle Italia Flite Tekno Flow we reviewed last year).
I must say that I half expected the cover to start coming away from the base with use but that hasn't happened so far. Admittedly, I've only had the chance to use the ALM for a month or so but I've used it in all weathers and there are no signs of detachment yet, or any visible signs of weakness.
I wondered whether the lack of any padding at the edges of the nose would be uncomfortable but that's not an issue. I couldn't feel any difference between this saddle and a more conventional model in that respect.
The one thing I would say about this aspect of the design is that you have to be careful when leaning your bike up against things because the exposed carbon base can mark easily. You just have to be attentive if that's the sort of thing that bothers you.
One other thing to note is that the ALM Ultimate has a rider weight limit of 100kg (15st 10lb), although that's probably not an issue for the vast majority of potential buyers.
Very light, firm saddle for those who don't mind shelling out for innovative design
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Fabric ALM Ultimate
Size tested: Width 142mm, length 282mm, black
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?
Charge says, "Right from the outset, we wanted to push the boundaries of saddle design to deliver a beautiful cutting-edge product that performs at the highest level. Working closely with engineers from Airbus Group Innovation and utilising Additive Layer Manufacturing technology enabled us to create a saddle design previously considered unachievable using carbon material. The result is an ultra-lightweight saddle with a distinctly unique, organic form."
It's a very lightweight, performance-type saddle.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Charge says, "The carbon rails of the ALM saddle are laid in a unique way that allows them to work as a leaf spring, making them incredibly strong yet with in-built flexibility for rider comfort.
"Fabric searches for technologies & materials from other industries that can benefit cyclists. A collaboration with Airbus Group Innovations introduced aerospace technology to cycling, resulting in the development of the ALM saddle."
The rails are 7mm x 9mm oval and the clamping area is 70mm long.
The rails and base are made as a single item. This looks very neat and also makes cleaning a cinch because the underside is so smooth with nowhere for dirt to cling to or hide.
I can't see into the future (more's the pity) but the bonding of the cover to the base so far remains perfect.
If you want a plush, deeply padded saddle, this isn't it. But if you like quite a firm saddle and you're prepared to pay for light weight, this is definitely worth checking out.
As mentioned above, the cover and base have so far shown no signs at all of parting company.
You do have to be careful not to scratch the edges of the base, but even if you do that, it's only going to affect the looks, not the durability
You can find lighter carbon-shell saddles without any padding http://road.cc/content/review/148320-selle-italia-slr-tekno-saddle but this is one of the lightest padded saddle we've ever reviewed.
It depends what you're after. Soft saddles aren't inherently better than firm saddles, they're just different. If you like a firm, supportive (not harsh) saddle you'll find this very comfortable.
Well, no getting around it, £225 is a lot to pay for a saddle. On the other hand, this isn't a 'me too' design, it's genuinely innovative. Fabric has spent a lot of time bringing in new technology and that costs. Personally, I don't have a problem paying a higher price for that.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performs well. After a couple of rides I stopped thinking too much about it, and that's generally a good sign.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I like the shape, the lightweight and the very tidy design.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Well, you'd rather it was cheaper, obviously.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Would definitely consider it
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
There's no question that £225 is a lot to spend on a saddle. If it was a traditional-style saddle with just a few grams chopped off I'd struggle to recommend it, but this is an innovative design and that usually means you have to pay extra.
If you want to save grams without going to the harshness of a simple carbon shell saddle, the ALM Ultimate is certainly worth checking out.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
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: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.