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Inside Fabric HQ | How Are Saddles Designed And Made?

Inside Fabric HQ | How Are Saddles Designed And Made?


– I’m not sure whether
I’ve talked about it much, but Matt and I rode the
epic Taiwan KOM Challenge back in October. And, we did so on two very
special super light weight bikes. Given how much we
suffered, in spite of them, it was just as well we had them. On those bikes were ALM
saddles made by Fabric. Now, they’re a relatively new brand. They were launched in 2014,
and that was actually the first opportunity I’d ever had to ride one. First impressions, aside from the ALM being super light weight,
and a nice place to sit, was that the design of it
was significantly different from anything I’ve seen before. And, so fortunately, the
Fabric HQ is just a 45 minute ride away from GCN, and so,
we’re gonna go meet the boss, and find out a little
bit more about the brand. Heads up, tunnel! (up-beat electronic music) Here we go. You did remember my trousers, didn’t you? Okay, you got my trousers, alright. Ready. (electronic synthesiser music) Want to have a little look around. Nick! – Hi Simon, how are you? – Yeah, very well, thanks. So, this is Nick. He’s
the founder of Fabric. Thanks for having us. – Yeah, I’m excited to have you here, show you around, show you what we do. Not many people have
been here, so it’s good to show what we’re up to. So, do you wanna come on up, and see what we do, see how things work. – Yes, please, alright. (electronic synthesiser music) – Well, so, here we go. – Right. – This is where it all happens. The first group of people
to introduce you to is Anthony, Rebecca, and Ian. – [Ian] Hi. – And these are our
industrial design team. And, as you can see, they’re workin’ on all sorts of crazy bits and pieces. Some of the things are
concepts, other things are things that are ready
to go to production. – I’m not gonna lie, I
can’t actually work out quite what that is, yet. – I could (laughs) – Can you tell us? – Yeah, it’s a bracket,
kind of our bracket… – [Simon] Oh, I see. – For luggage. So, that’s it there, printed in 3-D. – [Simon] Cool. – That’s it, there on the
screen, just makin’ some changes. – So, one thing that people don’t know is that later this year, we’re bringing some new sort of saddle
bags and luggage to market, and that’s what we’s
workin’ on at the moment. – Our first exclusive of the day. – [Nick] We have product managers, So, this is Logan. – [Logan] Hey. – These guys basically turn
the ideas into reality. They work with the factories and they turn all of the ideas that we come up with into actual products. – This is Steven. He’s another product manager,
and he works on lights. You can see that, so you
can see all the Lumarays on the table there. This is our graphics department. Not everyone’s in today. They do the website, all the advertising, all the point of sale. Everything that makes the product, and gets our brand out there. People to see it, so everything from what happens in
the shop, what you see on the website, all our Instagram feed, social media, everything is done here. And, on this side, this is
sort of the commercial side, and the marketing side, so
Neil’s events and marketing, sports marketing manager. Ben’s in charge of making
sure we sell tonnes of stuff everywhere. (laughter) So, come on into the
office, and we’ll give you a bit more detail about how we work. – Cool office, I like it! Right, so I’m hoping you can talk us through the design process
of actually a new saddle which, technically, no one’s seen yet. But, before we do, can you
give us a bit more info about Fabric, aside from the saddles. What else do you make? – We make a whole range
of different products. So, we do lights, we
do tools, we do pumps, and we’re working on all
sorts of different categories. But, the key thing with Fabric, is that what we’re trying
to do is we’re trying to identify areas of the market where we could be different by design, but also how we manufacture the
product to bring, like, real advantages to the
customer, as it were. – [Simon] So that kind of explains why you went, “Hey, you know, we
make really good saddles, let’s make multitools.” – Yeah. – Because it doesn’t seem
like there’s that kind of, you know, a link, product-wise,
certainly design-wise. They must be two completely different… – Yeah. – things to do. – I mean, we break innovation
down into two things. One is, design, so how we
can be different by design. But, also, I think innovation
is the way that you make stuff, and a lot of
stuff in the bike world has been made the same for 30-40 years. Especially in the areas
where it had huge benefits to the rider. – [Simon] For me, anyway,
there’s quite a lot of almost, heavy industry, heavy
materials in the saddles. So, for example, the ALM which is the one that Matt and I used in Taiwan, am I right thinking that you started out with 3-D printed titanium, for that one? – Yes, so the ALM had a
specific idea in mind. And I wondered whether or
not it would be possible to get the comfort from the rails. We know that titanium rails flex, we know that carbon rails have
a degree of flexibility. But, no one had really looked
at how you can construct it so that the rails became
like a leap spring. So, I actually went to
some carbon engineers, and said could we make a
whole saddle in carbon, and most people said no, which I felt was a good challenge. So, my objective with the ALM
was to make a carbon saddle that looked like other carbon saddles that are extremely uncomfortable, I would say, to majority of people ’cause
they’ve got no padding on. – [Simon] Yeah. – [Nick] They get all the
comfort from the rails. We’ve got a range of
different tools downstairs from almost like a design
technology workshop where we can sand and we can make clay and we can do things very much by hand. And, then we have a whole
host of 3-D printers that all do different jobs. – [Simon] Can we go have a look? – [Nick] We can do that. This is our, kind of, what we
call our industrial design, but it’s our dirty workshop. There’s no 3-D printers in here. This is all very hands on. This is also where we work on
all of our secret projects. Only four people in the
office are allowed in here. So, the three industrial
designers, and obviously me. Hopefully, my finger print will work. And, we’ll be able to go in. – Well, listen, don’t be shy, come on in. – So, we’re gonna talk you through a product from start to finish. – Right. – And, this is a product that’s
likely to come to market. It might not, necessarily. So, these two saddles here
are production line saddles. And, this is the narrow
version which we started with. This is a wider version. – [Simon] So, as in,
that’s narrow for someone with a narrow bum. – [Nick] That’s right, yeah. So, what we realised is that there’s also an opportunity to go even wider. Saddles are going through, lots of different trends
happen, come and go. What I really like about a wide saddle, is it’s a greater surface
area, more surface area. More surface area, more
contact distributing the weight when you’re
sitting on the saddle is obviously going to be
a more comfortable saddle. Ian and I have an idea
of what we want to do, but the first thing we
would do is we would start by modelling that arc in clay. – So, it’s automotive clay. It’s what they use to do car bodies with, so, you see, it’s really soft the heat of 58, which
is, where it needs to be. – Yeah. – And when it gets to room temperature, you’ll feel it goes a lot harder. – Okay, yeah. – So, it’s kind of different
from traditional clay. You kind of work backwards
almost, you don’t bake it. – [Simon] Yeah – [Nick] So, then it
goes back to the screen and Ian will model it on the screen. And, then that is a very quick process between making it on
screen, and then starting to 3-D print them out. Again, we have three different types of 3-D printing I can show you. I think, probably best to
go see the 3-D printers. – Look at these. – [Nick] So, this is our
bank of 3-D printers now. Each 3-D printer has quite a
different and specific role. We’ve got a printer here
called the MakerBot, and this prints the ideas that you saw on the computer screen. We get something that’s
like this, that’s very rough but it is still showing us what
the thing’s gonna look like. And, it gives us and idea
of how it’s gonna feel, and this also enables
us to quickly go back and change things very rapidly. It’s quite cheap to print, as I said. And, then we’ll go, actually,
there’s a second printer that is able to print the
models to a much higher quality. So, this is one like Ian made earlier, of what the saddle’s more
likely gonna look like. – [Simon] So, this is 3-D printed? – [Nick] This is 3-D printed. It’s still in pieces, as you can see. And, this is something so
that we can really visualise what it’s gonna look like. It’s also a really good sales tool. So, this, obviously is
an expensive product to tool up for injection moulding. – Yeah. – So, when we make something like this, this isn’t the best quality it can be, and I’m gonna show you one at the very highest
quality that we can make. But, this is a much better visualisation of what the product’s gonna look like, how it’s gonna feel, and also it’s a kind of a perfect thing you can put on a bike, to see how it looks, Have a really good idea of
what it’s gonna be like. So, as an example, this is a model that’s actually off this 3-D printer, and it’s been sprayed up
next door in the spray booth. And, this is a print out of the product, you can see it’s a bit rough
now, it’s been battered, it’s a couple’a years old. And, you can see how
accurate that actually is to the final product. So, this is a production
saddle, how accurate that is, and how close it looks. – Yeah, that’s pretty… – Just be careful, ’cause the
rails are obviously printed. – (whispers) didn’t mean to break that. – [Nick] This is another 3-D print, so you can see how amazing… – [Simon] That’s a 3-D print? – [Nick] they can look. So this is a Cell Saddle, a
different saddle that we make. Probably one of my favourite 3-D prints. Even the rails are printed on the printer, so you gotta be really careful with it. – Wow. If I had a top five
things that 3-D printed, this would definitely be in it. That’s amazing! – Now, Nick has just been called off for a meeting, so I thought we’d come and have a little look around
the warehouse space, ’cause there are some
absolute gems in here. So, as you can see, most of
the bikes are Charge bikes. This one up here, is a personal favourite. This is like a Vans collaboration. I just think that’s wicked,
a 29, a BMX, amazing. And then, further down,
I guess you got bikes that people are actually riding to work. Again, there’s some pretty
nice ones, yeah, I’ve always wanted like a Cruiser BMX. And, there’s a few knockin’
around that you think, that might, not like I’d know what to do with a Cruiser BMX, you
understand, other than cruise, but. Yeah, check it out, state
of the art grips here. More steel wool ties than
you can shake a stick at Right, so we’ve just come back upstairs to actually talk through the
next step of the process. Hypothetically, which would
be manufacturing right? So, this is our 3-D printed prototype. How do you, then, go
about getting this made. I mean, obviously, you
make lots of saddles, so I guess you have a
factory that you use. – [Nick] Yep. We would then start working with a factory to turn that into a
drawing to make a tool, and then to produce the product. And, we have a couple of
tools, we have to have. We have a tool for the cover,
so that’s why this is all in separate pieces. A tool for the plastic base
or nylon base or carbon base. And, then a tool for the rails. And, each thing costs money
to invest in those tools. Significant investment, and
there’s 10s of thousands of pounds to start to make this product. So, it’s important that we know that all of the ideas we thought about are actually gonna turn into sales. – [Simon] Now, there’s one last thing that I really want to ask you about. It was that trainer factory. – Yep. – And this is the saddle that gets made in a trainer factory. – [Nick] Correct, so what’s
cool about this saddle is that by using the
technology that’s in shoes this saddle, if you put
your hand on top of it, it’s really hard, but when
you get to the pressure points of the sit bones, these things deflect, and what’s great about them,
is these little pyramids are basically the same
softness all the way through their travel. So, what you have is a saddle
that’s really supportive where you need it to be supportive, and then where the pressure
points are, it’s softer than foam, and then the
final thing with this is that it’s completely air-tight. So, when it hits the
bottom of this travel, it’s cushioned by air. – Well, Nick, thank you so
much for taking the time to talk us through the design
and manufacture process. You know, my overriding
impression from walking around and seeing the wide
variety of Charge bikes that you make, and then
everything from a 140 gramme one piece carbon saddle
to an air sprung saddle, it seems like you have
or you’ve given yourself quite a lot of creative freedom,
so I’m really interested to know what comes next. What’s next for Fabric? – What’s coming next for
Fabric, well, I can’t tell you everything that’s
coming next for Fabric. I can tell you that the
saddle that you’ve seen is probably likely to be in production. You’ve seen a few tips
of other things that might be coming, luggage
later this autumn. And, one of the things
you’re gonna see more of in the future, is I’m also
motivated by making sure that we’re environmentally
sensitive in a way that we approach those products. Whether it’s how long they
last or their recycleability, things like that, it’s
absolutely the forefront of what we’re doing. But, in terms of new
categories, we’re after all the new categories. I’d like to look at every single one. And, we will only rule them
out if we truly believe we can’t be better or have
an advantage in those areas. – Well, I hope you found that
as fascinating as I have. Not only a bit of insight
into Fabric, the brand, but also into how a product is designed, and ultimately brought to market. Do make sure you give the
video a big thumbs up, if you have enjoyed it. And, if you want to watch
another one right now, how about checking out the
factory and headquarters of Tektro TRP over in
Taiwan, it’s pretty nuts.

9 comments on “Inside Fabric HQ | How Are Saddles Designed And Made?

  1. I have a Charge scoop saddle on my Fixie and loved it. I didn’t get on with the pro logo that came with my Orbea so wanted to get another charge scoop but they don’t seem to make those anymore I started looking at the GCN show videos on saddles and saw this video for fabric and I was like that looks familiar and when I saw Simon riding through the two tunnels route to visit the HQ I realised they’re local that got my interest. I do want to try some of their other saddles as well but at the moment I have a fabric scoop for my or Orbea and it’s much more comfortable and looks really nice 😊🌶🌶👍

  2. Just bought some Fabric Lumacell lights absolutely fantastic. Perfect for my Term X11 and they didn't cost the earth either. Better value from money than knog.

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