Review: Your Rear Will Love This Fabric Cell Elite Saddle


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


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/


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


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

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/
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/

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.

Review: Kickr Indoor Bike Trainer

Photo: Scott Hill/
Photo: Scott Hill/

Today’s stationary trainer experience relies on such an octopus of ‘ware, hard and soft, that it is difficult to know where to direct your critical finger for either praise or blame. Is your firmware firm? Apps de-bugged? How does your dongle dangle? Operating equipment like this is about more than simply owning an object—it is a relationship, between, of course, yourself and a small host of chat-room CSRs and the authors of help forum discussion threads, but also between you and your aging Apple technology and HR monitors. Just to say, there are a lot of people in the room.

Spinning the heck out of a Computrainer for the past 18 years, my wife and I have grown used to its simplicity. Or maybe our well-grooved habit creates the appearance of simplicity. Either way, my recent long term relationship with a Kickr introduced me to a sleeker, more personalized world of indoor suffering.

The Kickr itself is a real looker, about as elegant as a trainer can get, requiring only a single cord and with lines so clean that even I could sketch them. And because I have to live indoors with my trainer, dealing with its guilty looks as I sneak by the guest room where it lives all winter, looks matter. Where our Computrainer requires a minimum of five cords to operate and looks like the time machine in Primer, like some project you never quite put away, the Kickr looks self-contained and intentional in your home. And wherever you place it, it will probably stay there; though it has legs that fold, the Kickr’s heft—which is also a sign of its solid construction—makes it unlikely you will be sliding it under your Eames chair after every use.

The folks at Wahoo assert that a Kickr can be assembled in 90 seconds, and, depending on your wheel-change karma, that is true, but assembly is only the beginning of the process. Questions await you: What apps are refined enough to run this thing well? Even finding them on the app store is not without its complications. How do you keep your apps talking to your device of choice?

People like to think of today’s app-based interfaces as “intuitive,” but I am beginning to see this word as a euphemism for “you’re on your own; figure it out.” And, though my experience is my own, I had a lot to figure out. Most of my issues were related to a minor, but persistent refusal of the Segments app, for importing Strava rides, to actually control the resistance I experienced on the bike. With the help of an extremely efficient and responsive Wahoo CSR, this issue was fixed…until the next time I tried to ride. I found myself forced to re-install the app nearly every time I rode. In my experience, then, this 90 second set-up turned into something of a continuous tinkering.

Once connected, the Segments app is more or less very cool. I suggest importing long private segments that you create yourself because, at least where I ride, most segments tend to be less than a mile. I enjoyed this option quite a bit, and the Segment app really lets you feel like you are rehearsing for your next PR assault. As a result, I found myself gravitating toward this one app and spending less time customizing or downloading workouts calibrated for specific goals, as is possible, for example, with Wahoo Fitness.

During your workout, the Kickr is dreamy in the consistency of its resistance and especially in its quiet. The Computrainer creates enough noise that my workout soundtrack or podcast has to be played loudly enough that I worry about my hearing. But the Kickr is much less imposing on your home environment here, and everyone in my house who was not riding my bike when I was, appreciated that greatly. Also missing with the Kickr, is the wear and tear on the bike itself created by the Computrainer like scratches on your quick-release or worn rear tires. Don’t get me wrong: I love my CT, and I’m glad I have it; I just regret having to end my Kickr relationship just when we were starting to understand each other.

Photo: Scott Hill/
Photo: Scott Hill/

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

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

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/