Review: Your Rear Will Love This Fabric Cell Elite Saddle

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Fabric Cell Elite saddle in Blue. The translucent top just glows in the light. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

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A durable polyurethane top, the hex-shaped air cell core, and a flexible nylon base that makes up the Fabric Cell Elite Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Elemently_FabricCell

At 155mm at its widest, the Cell Elite has plenty of cushy real estate for your rear. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

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The top view of the Fabric Cell Elite Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

At first glance, the Fabric Cell Elite looks like a normal saddle with a bright-colored top. Well, it’s much more than that. And if you’ve never heard of Fabric, you should.

Launched in 2014 by the founder behind the hugely popular UK brand Charge Bikes, Fabric has in a short time brought on quite a few innovative products: The striking carbon ALM saddle designed in collaboration with Airbus, the Chamber multi-tool, and the cageless water bottle system. The Fabric guys are obviously onto something.

The Cell, in true Fabric fashion, is not your ordinary comfort saddle. No gel, no cutouts, no crazy amount of padding.

Beneath that opaque waterproof cover is a trick air-cell that acts as an air spring just like those neon Nike Air Max 95s you wanted so bad when you were young. Unlike the pressurized air cell in running shoes where an unfortunate puncture will spell it’s premature demise, the Cell’s airsprung will not be affected even if its polyurethane top is punctured or torn. ‘Cause you know, stuff happens.

A durable polyurethane top, the hex-shaped air cell core, and a flexible nylon base that makes up the Fabric Cell Elite Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
A durable polyurethane top, the hex-shaped air cell core, and a flexible nylon base that makes up the Fabric Cell Elite. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

My first ride on the saddle was during a wet cyclocross race (tells you how much I love the saddle that came with the bike) and my initial thought was it’s one bitchin’ saddle. I was a bit skeptical on the effectiveness of the air cell core and that slight noise it made when I squeezed it with my hands. However, I never heard a thing when I was out on rides. And the air cell? It works. Not only does it act as a nice landing during my remounts, but the top has just the right amount of grip even in the rain. One extra credit for the Cell’s nylon base is that it makes post ride clean up a whole lot faster. Just rinse and repeat.

It’s been a month since the Cell was bolted onto my bike and it’s such a comfortable ride it’s staying on there. Its generous 155mm-wide platform reminded me of the old WTB SST (with a different cushion feel, of course.) Oh, and it’s a unique looking saddle that’s not black or white (Fabric does offer a black and opaque top).

At 354 grams, The Cell elite is not going to win a weightweenie contest; it’s not what it’s designed for. It’s one heck of a saddle for all it’s intended purpose, though. Super comfortable, a clean look, plus the price is right at around $65 with 6 different color ways to match your steed.


You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ’Til It’s Gone

Peter Rubin's ride of choice. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

It was a rainy winter. Or maybe it was a regular winter, and the past two winters had been so dry that I wasn’t ready for it. But the upshot was the same: hastened by the permeability of the shed behind my house, my road bike developed a nasty cold.



It’s my fault, really; I didn’t take good enough care of it. I kept it clean, sure, but I took it for granted. And when the tickle in its sinus began, the shifting got little wonky. It’s January, I told myself. The shop’ll take forever. So I wiped the bike down instead, and gave it some new tires. Then it got sluggish, and I dropped the chain going down to the little ring. I’ll bring it to in this week, I told myself. It’s the right thing to do. So I wiped the bike down instead, and made sure the chain was lubed.

But then, toward the end of a Sunday spin last weekend, my rear shifter cable gave up the ghost. Just…snapped. Somewhere up inside the brake hoods where mortals dare not tread. I pulled it out of the derailleur, stuck the housing in my pocket, and rode the last five miles on a singlespeed, 82 gear inches into a bitch of a headwind, cursing my negligence with every mash.

Now, my bike is out of commission until the shop can get to it—which happens to be eight days from now. All of this is to say, don’t be like me. But that’s obvious. So it’s also to say that while you might not even be aware of the rhythms that have developed between you and your steed, they exist, and they are sacred.

It’s plain when you jump on another bike for a ride. Climbs are guessing games, descents a gamble. It’s not like my backup bike is 30 pounds of creak, either. It’s more than sufficient, and it’s taken me through centuries and up mountains. It’s just not my real bike.

To be fair, it’s not like I knew my bike was my real bike when it first came into my life. My line of work allows me to ride a lot of different things, most of which are lighter than a loaf of bread and all of which are thoroughly above my pay grade. That’s a wonderful thing, but it’s also given me an almost monastic aversion to the idea of bike permanence. So the first thing I thought when I saw my bike was “I guess bikes are murdered out now.” Specialized’s Roubaix line of Classics/endurance rides has been around for more than a decade, but 2013 was the first year it was available in stunning black on black.

It was also the first year the company had married the idea of comfort with its SL4 top-tier frame—so while my first impression was visual, my second was “smooooooth.” That wasn’t a thought, it was an actual involuntary utterance when I hit a chattery stretch of road. (And in Oakland, “chattery” is close to the best you can hope for until you get to the blacktop up in the hills.)

Everything about it was perfect, but subtle. Dura-Ace, but not digital. An 11-speed cassette that got me up just about anything, and Zertz dampers that let my legs feel the road without my…other parts feeling the road. Brakes that I trusted, on in-house wheels that were light without leaving me vulnerable to crosswinds. It didn’t jump off the line, but it didn’t need to—it got there fast, and it gave back to the road everything that I put into it. It made me stronger. Faster. And now it’s gone.

Look, yeah, I get it. It’s not gone forever. I’ll be back on it in a week. But mark my words: I’ll never take it for granted again. Q-tip was right: Joni Mitchell never lied.

Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

How to be Precious and Still Love Winter Riding

jersey, kit, castelli, gabba, san, francisco, specialized, twin, peaks,

Nicknames are a strange thing. There’s a good chance your family has one for you your friends don’t know about; there’s a much better chance that it’s vice versa. They’re mutable, nonsensical, and the only thing you can ever really hope for is that, at some point in your short stupid life, one will stick that isn’t completely embarrassing.

Thanks to my riding partner, that hasn’t happened yet. Instead, I’m Precious.

I’m not saying there’s not good reason for it. It’s not the suffering that gets me about cycling—that’s the part I like. The despair that whispers in your ear when you come around a hairpin and see a whole new dizzying grade? Fine. That sensation when you’re 15 miles from home and concrete is settling in your legs? Bring it on. No, what I hate is discomfort. Headwinds; rain; drafts curling under your neck. So I’ve always done what I can to prevent it. Maybe that means a neck gaiter on a cold day, maybe it means keeping my warmers on even as the mercury rises past 70. Maybe it means begging off when there’s even a hint of mist in the air. So yeah, I’m Precious.

Or at least I was until this winter, when I finally realized what was possible in the rarefied air of Castelli’s Rosso Corsa tier.

(I should probably point out here that my definition of “winter” has changed over the years. Growing up in the midwest, it meant face-freezing cold and wind that bit through everything I wore; over my 15 years in New York City, it meant three months of filthy slush and de facto hibernation in a tiny apartment. Now, in the Bay Area, it means January early-morning lows in the low 40s. Yes, I realize that year-round riding leaves me very little to complain about.)

First came the Gabba 2 jersey ($180), which finally managed to integrate admirable qualities like “windproof” and “water-resistant” without also including less admirable ones like “feeling like a trash bag.” The thing’s already become such a staple in the peloton during inclement Classics that last year Castelli trolled us all by releasing a “pro edition,” the sole distinguishing characteristic of which is a magic marker so that riders sponsored by other apparel companies can black out the offending logos. The thing somehow combines the warmth and proetction of a softshell jacket with a regular jersey profile, never leaving you feeling overburdened or vulnerable to the elements. Paired with Nanoflex warmers, it kept me comfortable down to just about 50—in dense fog, rain, even pure brilliant sunshine.

jersey, kit, castelli, gabba, san, francisco, specialized, twin, peaks,

When the mercury dropped and the wind really picked up, though, I found myself throwing a wind jacket on over it—which was fine, but still wasn’t quite the all-in-one solution I’d been hoping for. So for the worst that Northern California could throw at me (again, I realize that that’s better than the best that many other states can muster up in late winter), I reached for the Alpha Wind Jersey ($250). It’s rated down to the low 40s, which made it the perfect choice for those weekday early-morning rides when I needed lights as much as I needed a good hat. A lightweight insulation layer is sewn into the jersey’s front so that you can unzip the windproof panel on a long climb to avoid overheating while still keeping things comfy. A super-high collar means that your neck stays warm no matter what, and the same extra-long rear flap as the Gabba’s keeps you dry from road spray. And when I say “you,” I mean “me,” because not only have I been riding outside all winter, but I’ve been doing so happily—which is a first for ol’ Precious.