Fabric XL Grips, Scoop Saddle, & Cageless Bottle

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Nov 14, 2016

Fabric

Fabric is a relatively new player in the contact point and accessory market whose mission statement is to “use innovative design, pioneering techniques and fresh thinking to create unique and world first cycling products.” It sounds grand but in my limited experience their most mundane products, namely saddles and grips, are their most exemplary. Here I am looking back on a summer riding the Fabric XL grips, Scoop saddle, and Cageless water bottle system.

I think it bears noting that they are a division of Cycling Sports Group (CSG); home to Cannondale, GT, Sombrio, and Sugoi among other brands. While OE spec on CSG bikes is a given, it is impressive how many non-CSG companies are equipping their saddles as standard.

Fabric XL Grips

The Fabric XL is an awesome grip. It’s tight tolerance to the bar and the hidden inboard aluminum clamp fix it in place tenaciously. The traction, support, and comfort are great for the narrow-ish profile.

Fabric XL grips

The Fabric XL grips are about 31mm in diameter, and a generous 143mm long. They offer a great mix of comfort, support, and traction compared to other grips with similar diameters.

I generally wrap my lever pullers in a pair of gloves before heading downhill, but the comfort and barehanded grip for climbing and light descents is fantastic and the shape with a thin set of gloves is great. I’m definitely in no hurry to take them off my bike.

Speaking of taking them on/off a bike. I was surprised, pleasantly that is, how tight the Fabric grips slide onto a bar even with no tension on the clamp. No tools or excessive elbow grease was required, but the friction definitely assists the single inboard clamp in holding the grips in place.

Fabric XL Grips

Logo text up top is a softer durometer for comfort and a textured bottom provides awesome grip with gloves or without.

The dual-form grip, with the comfortable logo on top and more textured lower, also seems to be wearing better than most grips I’ve used recently so check the box for value-via-longevity as well. They are definitely a bit slippery-when-wet if you’re riding bare handed.

What Would I Change?

With apologies to Tenacious-D: these are not the greatest grips in the world. No. But they have attributes.

What is the best grip in the world? Okay, obviously it’s a matter of opinion. If it’s me then I’m combining traits from my three favourite hand holds. The width and pattern of the Sensus Swayze lock-on, the magical better-every-ride compound of  Renthal’s Kevlar grips,  and the tight handlebar tolerance (semi friction fit) and hidden single clamp of the Fabric grips to make my perfect perches.

Yes, that’s being persnickety to the point of obstinance. Sorry. If we’re talking about grips that are available on market? The Fabric XL (~$35 CAD) is a great grip whether you ride sans gloves or with your meat hooks covered.

Fabric XL Grips

I always get a fern-y feeling about grip reviews. If you like grips ~31mm in diameter, are okay with the single lock-on clamp, and one of the five colour options works for you then the Fabric XL grips have been a great choice to me. If you like thick(er) grips, these aren’t for you.

Fabric Scoop Carbon Saddle

Starting out on the ‘personal preference’ front, I found the shape and padding of the Fabric Scoop Carbon saddle to be very comfortable. I did run the saddle slightly rearward compared to others but it has an appreciably long usable rail clamp length. For a rider trying to find a happy place with zero-offset posts and steep seat angles, it’s a great option.

As a point of comparison I usually run the Chromag Moon, the Fizik Gobi XM, and – with the right pair of shorts – the SDG Ti-Fly. I would suggest that the shape and padding of the Scoop are a bit more comfort minded than the other saddles I’ve mentioned but if your eyes read “Chromag Moon” or “Gobi XM” and your brain screamed “ASS HATCHET!!!” then the Scoop is not for you.

Fabric Scoop saddle

The Fabric Scoop saddle in the carbon railed & nylon base version. You can spend about half as much on the Ti railed version or twice as much on the carbon railed & carbon base version.

This carbon rail & nylon base version is a stiff saddle. A STIFF saddle. The full carbon option ($290 CAD) must be an experience. Once I moved the Scoop over to a full suspension bike, from my hardtail, saddle flex was more of an issue for my wallet than my rear end but I never truly came to love it.

In comparison the Ti-railed version of the Scoop on the Intense Primer I have been riding is awesome. Half the money ($100 CAD vs. $190 CAD) and notably more comfortable over a long ride.

Fabric Cageless Water Bottle

Fabric’s bottle is formed such that it slides onto two plastic bosses in place of a traditional bottle cage. Light, Cheap, no more “ugly” cage as advertised…

Fabric Cageless Water Bottle

I have to think that beginning a product review with the words ‘in all fairness’ generally foreshadows an ugly conclusion. That’s certainly the case here.

In all fairness to Fabric, their Cageless water bottle system absolutely lives up to the three product claims they highlight on their website. It’s “ultra lightweight”. It’s “inexpensive” ($20 CAD). And there’s “no more ugly cage”. Being a cynical jerk by nature I will now point out that bottle retention and on-the-fly usability are not on that list.

With some practice I was able to remove, drink, and replace the Fabric bottle in its anchors while moving in most situations where I would normally be able to drink from a bottle. This became progressively more difficult as I cranked down the anchors to expand the interface with the bottle in an effort to keep the bottle from ejecting.

Fabric Cageless Water Bottle

The more you tighten the bolts into the bosses the more it deforms the anchors. The more you deform the anchors the better they retain the bottle. The better they retain the bottle the hard it is to remove and replace it while riding.

After the first mountain bike experience with the Fabric system I moved it over to my toddler puller, commuter, etc, bike and as rowdy as one can get pulling a Thule/Chariot trailer on gravel fire-roads and light trails I’ve managed to ditch the bottle again since then.

Buy a King Cage

I actually cannot remember the last time I lost a bottle from my cage under any circumstance including crashing. Over sixteen years ago my aunt Trish presented me with a King Ti Cage and I’ve never looked back – for a missing bottle. I know, we should all be so lucky. The stainless steel version of the King Cage kicks ass too and it’s under $20 (USD) so really there is no excuse to buy anything else.

But wait, a King stainless steel cage doesn’t include a bottle? Who cares. In lieu of a spout, the Fabric bottle itself has a massive mud-catching basin where the water comes out. If you ride anywhere mucky the self-ejecting feature may actually be a bonus. Better to be a bit dehydrated ripping it up on the trail than a lot dehydrated ripping it up at home.

King Ti Cage

In all fairness to Fabric, and any other brand of cage, this is what I’m comparing your product to. King Ti cage and King Stainless cage. Zero bottles dropped in over sixteen years.

The Fabric XL grips are great and the Scoop saddle is good. Actually, the Scoop saddle is great with Ti rails instead of carbon at half the price. I’ll take a definite pass on the “Revolutionary” water bottle system.

Fabric has a lot of interesting products and “fresh thinking” is a major design goal, so I’m very interested to see what else they come up with.


Two out of three ain’t bad, right?

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Comments

craw
0
Cr4w  - Nov. 15, 2016, 5:51 p.m.

Well Oury and Eastons come in 33mm diameter and some of the silicone options come in 34mm and 36mm so 31mm is hardly XL. Nice try though.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 15, 2016, 6:14 p.m.

XL Length not Width. 143mm is longer than most lock-ons. Swayze being an obvious - and freakin' awesome - exemption.

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Nov. 15, 2016, 8:02 p.m.

For extra wide tiny hands. Makes sense.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 15, 2016, 8:55 p.m.

Hey, who you calling "tiny hands"? coughsizestcough

I don't have XL hands (generally wear a large glove… sometimes a medium for the more generous brands) and my favourite grips (Renthal) are definitely bordering on too narrow. If they made an "XL" version I would definitely buy it.

Actually, none of the guys I know who love the Swayze have Sasquatch hands either…

Luckily for you there is lots of variety in grip land. Chromag makes some Swayze-long grips that are too wide for my meat hooks. Give those a try?

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Nov. 16, 2016, 8:36 a.m.

None of those options are larger in diameter than the Oury or Eastons. Curiously though for all the grips out there you can't get anything thicker than 33mm, which is odd. There are a couple of thicker options in silicone but they are so squishy and compressible that you're basically squeezing the bar so really, they suck. It's odd that not one brand, even one that sponsors a guy like Kyle Strait with known bear paws who wraps grips over grips to get it to feel right, could make one offering in 36mm.

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drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 16, 2016, 8:47 a.m.

Technically the Chromag Squarewave XL is a larger diameter. 34mm in the centre vs. 32mm in the centre for Oury. The SWXL tapers down to 32mm at the clamps.

The Easton is 33mm (so technically the Chromag is wider too) if you measure the centre.

I'm a bit lost on the point though? Fabric XL is referencing the length relative to their other grips (extra long).

Are you looking for grips wider than 32-34mm?

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craw
0
Cr4w  - Nov. 16, 2016, 8:53 a.m.

I guess my point is that these grips are all basically the same size and not that big. Did you see Kyle Strait's double grips? And he's not that tall. A couple of options that were actually bigger than these would be welcome I'm sure. I'm surprised Sensus isn't making one for Strait.

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drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 16, 2016, 9:05 a.m.

Right. Diminishing returns as grips get wider (in terms of sales to support them) maybe especially since the biggest market for fat grips is the bike packing/adventure crowd and lock-ons don't work well with a lot of alt-bars (grips need to bend to conform).

I know a few guys who don't like the silicone grips and would like to try something fatter than 32/34mm so there is some kind of market is there and currently no competition.

Have you ever tried using good roadie bar tape (like Lizard skins)? Put a solid slug end on the bar (like an eNVy barend cap for ODI) and then wrap as many layers of bar tape as you'd like as long as you like between the end and the brake lever. Finish with electrical tape tying the outboard grip tape end to the bar end cap.

Apparently if you alternate the direction of the wraps for each layer the twisting isn't bad when you're pulling hard on the bar.

Reply

poo-stance
0
Poo Stance  - Nov. 15, 2016, 5:43 p.m.

A certain company gave me a free Fabric cageless bottle this summer. I have no idea what to do with it…

I'm fine withe Leyzne cages and Camelbak bottles

Reply

andy-eunson
0
Andy Eunson  - Nov. 15, 2016, 5:04 p.m.

Arundel make excellent cages as well. I have one that has been on a couple bikes now and never lets go plus it is very smooth in and out. Every now and then someone makes something that looks brilliant and you want to like it but the product turns out to be crap. A certain clipless pedal comes to mind.

Reply

extraspecialandbitter
0
ExtraSpecialandBitter  - Nov. 15, 2016, 12:22 p.m.

I can't fit a regular bottle in my medium Knolly Endorphin front triangle, but I can fit a Fabric cageless bottle quite comfortably. The clearance is such that it's damn near impossible to remove it while moving, and I have the nubbins cranked down which makes it even harder. However, I haven't lost a bottle once.
I sort of see this as the niche for the fabric bottle, tight fitting front triangles that can't fit a traditional cage.

I see no reason on putting it on my hardtail, which has plenty of space. I also put them on my road bike on the seat tube in order to maintain a proper aesthetic, but I left the normal cage on the downtube.

Reply

drewm
+1 Zero-cool
DrewM  - Nov. 15, 2016, 1:36 p.m.

I'd go with a side loading cage (like a Specialized Zee cage - $20 and you pick RH or LH access). If your frame doesn't clear a medium sized water bottle then go with your choice of kids water bottle: All the functionality of a proper bottle cage (easy in and out) and you can get a sick Princess or Dinosaur or Construction or etc motif bottle.

Fabric is enough of an ass pain to drink out of as it is without also having to fight your frame. I guess, like you say, the bottle can't fall out.

Reply

extraspecialandbitter
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ExtraSpecialandBitter  - Nov. 15, 2016, 1:47 p.m.

I tried the side load first and it didn't work very well. Even a 500 mL bottle would be a tight fit. I never tried the kids bottle (the princess motif would be tempting). I prefer the fabric cageless system over the tight fitting side load; both had a similar fiddle factor in my mind.

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Nov. 24, 2016, 1:34 p.m.

Do you have a side view of the install you wouldn't mind sharing?

Reply

extraspecialandbitter
0
ExtraSpecialandBitter  - Nov. 24, 2016, 4:34 p.m.

I had to zoom in a bit to make it look okay. All the rest were a little blurry or didn't show the bottle very well.

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Nov. 24, 2016, 4:41 p.m.

Thank you 🙂

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