At first, I thought the editor was going to send me a fat bike. The iPhone email said’ Fabike’ and I assumed a fat finger had had somehow bypassed the T key. The following email confirmed this would be no fatty, and that the Fabike and I would rendezvous soon. Cue Google. What is this? It’s the Flexibly Adjustable bike!
The Fabike is the most unusual bike I have ridden, not in terms of the actual riding, but more so the physical incarnation of the machine itself. We’re continuously seeing concept bikes and bold one-off machines at trade shows and on the net. Bikes that have been dreamt up and fabricated to show what is possible, or to push the limits of perception and categorisation. The Fabike is what happens when a bike like this makes it to production.
The man behind the Fabike is Fabio Putzolu. Fabio is a designer by trade, Italian, and descended from a family of cyclists. He doesn’t purport to be a racer or even high-performance rider in any way. Fabio rides for transport and leisure in and around Prague, and Milan before that. The cold winters and rough roads of Prague inspired Fabio to design an all conditions urban bike. One that was light, could handle wide tires, could be run geared or single speed, and that had an aesthetic a designer could be proud of. This is far removed from 99% of the bikes that we get to test, which refine or tweak existing concepts of road race or fondo bikes. The Fabike comes from the opposite direction and openly challenges the fundamental design foundations that we accept each day, without question. Fabio believes that the future of cycling is in flexibility, and a new category of bike that can do road, urban and even dirt will appeal to high end cyclists for whom one bike has traditionally been too few.
This bike can be set up sooooo many different ways, by virtue of some unique design features. It can be many bikes to many people, many bikes to one person, or just run in one configuration. Fabike hold patents for their intricately designed rear dropouts, and it’s these little masterpieces that make the Fabike tick. The dropout can be moved fore and aft by up to 13mm, which allows the Fabike to be run singlespeed, just like a track/fixie bike. This also means that internally geared hubs can be used without the additional clutter of a chain tensioner. The dropout pieces can be swapped from side to side, and by design this alters the dropout width from 120mm (traditional track hub width) to 130mm (standard road bike hub width). Finally, the drive side dropout can be swapped for a unit which integrates a derailleur hanger for mounting a derailleur (as we had the bike). It accepts belt drive too, by the way. Talk about options!
The second really unique feature of the Fabike frame and fork is the tire clearance. Most pros are racing on 25mm tires these days, which is a far cry from a few years ago (my 6 year old pro level frame won’t even fit a 25mm tire!), and we see 28’s and even 30’s during classics season (although usually on special ‘classics only’ frames). As Fabio wanted his bike to ride sure footedly over the rough and frozen cobbles of Prague, the Fabike will fit a tire as wide as 35mm. The ability to run such a wide tyre is a potential game changer for some. The range of riding that the Fabike can take on is worlds removed from that of a conventional road bike. Think of this little list of a few possible set ups: fixed gear urban assault bike with skinny flat bar and no brakes. Freewheel singlespeed belt drive with wide bar and brakes for cruising bohemian Prague. Dura Ace equipped drop bar road bike with 60mm carbon wheels. Fat tire clad 1×11 cyclocross beast. Could your bike do even two of those things??
The dropouts are very nicely done, but there’s no reason why they couldn’t be featured on any road frame. The tire clearance is a different matter altogether though. Conventional road bike brake calipers could never dream of clearing a 35mm tire. Instead, Fabike has integrated their own v-brake style calipers, which will accept the big tyres without fuss. The brakes are mounted on the rear of the fork legs and the underside of the chainstays, as is increasingly popular with aero road bikes. Fabio admits that the placement of the brakes is not for any performance benefit, but solely for the benefit of aesthetics. The seat tube of the Fabike has been distinctly curved in order to clear the extra rubber, and the seatstays have plenty of clearance, as they don’t need a brake bridge.
The Fabike almost looks ‘normal’ from side on, but the curved seat tube and huge tubes mean that you can’t forget the Fabike once you’ve seen it. Size matters with the Fabike when it comes to tires, and also the frame. This bike is big! Every tube on the Fabike is drastically oversized, with the sole exception being the top tube. The bottom bracket and head tube junctions are so cavernous that you wouldn’t be shocked if your mechanic discovered stalactites inside. The seat stays are unfashionably burly too, but the chainstays take it to the next level. From bottom bracket to drop out, they are as large as you’re likely to see. This is in part to house the fancy adjustable dropouts and mount the v-brakes, but no doubt they boost the rigidity of the Fabike.
The frame was originally designed without a front derailleur, a strong indication of the mindset behind the machine. Initial specs ran a single front ring with gears at the back if the customer required, but revisions along the way conceded to likely demand for a front derailleur too. As such, the front derailleur is attached to a removable alloy mount, which ensures that the frame looks sleek when run with a single front ring. All cables are routed internally to maintain the clean lines. The derailleur and rear brake cables enter the top of the top tube via another removable alloy cap, much like many time trial bikes and Cervelo’s S series aero bikes. Interestingly, the front derailleur cable exits the down tube before the bottom bracket, and then pierces the drive side chain stay on it’s way up to the derailleur. Most bikes have enough material behind the bottom bracket that the cable need not go through the stay itself, but the Fabike has had all material behind the bottom bracket removed to make sure that wide tires will fit.
The curvaceous seat tube and rear-of-the-bottom bracket tire clearance hint towards another unique attribute of the Fabike. The geometry is somewhere between a track bike and a fast road bike. Track frames are so popular for fixed gear street rides due to their super fast handling, and as such the Fabike is a very agile ride. The chainstay length is only 387mm when the drop outs are as far forwards as they can go (which is how they’re anticipated to be run). Anything less than 405mm is considered short for a road bike, so 387mm is very short indeed. Our large size frame has an overall wheelbase of 987mm, which is as short as you’re likely to find on a geared road bike in this size range. I had expected front shifting to be poor, but it was perfectly passable despite the chainstay length being shorter than Shimano recommends.
Fabio rides his own personal Fabike as a non-fixed singlespeed, and in this format the Fabike would be pretty darn cool, but we tested the Fabike as a road bike and this is a road cycling magazine. How does it fare as a road bike? In short, the same as you know, but a bit different. We could have ripped the build kit off of our Fabike and attached it to any premium road frame, and things would have looked right (although we would have had to swap brakes to suit whichever frame we chose). All quirks would come down to the Fabike itself, not any oddball specs.
The Fabike feels solid as a rock from the first clip in, even before pedaling. Throw a leg over this bike and you immediately notice the fat tubes, big section aero rims, and badass black cockpit parts. You feel like you’ve just saddled up on a race-performance tank that’s ready to plow the road at high speed. The frames overbuilt tubes deliver precisely the ride quality that you would expect. There is no mystery revelation to be had here, the Fabike is extremely rigid and it’s not particularly compliant. The Fast Forward wheels definitely enhance the powerful and stiff feel, but even with regular low profile clinchers fitted the Fabike is a really stiff-riding bike.
So over built and solid, it’s fitting that this bike has such a short wheelbase and aggressive geometry. If it had even a hint of laziness in the angles it would be all wrong. Mixing it up at high speed is where the Fabike is best as a road bike. Sprints, in the drops, and fast descents are where this beast finds its rhythm. Slower speeds highlight the agility of the Fabike; it’s not one for the nervous bike handler! Road feel is quite chattery at low speeds too, but once you hit the mid to high 30’s the Fabike starts to take some of the buzz away.
Short and punchy suits this bike to a tee. An unexpected omission on the Fabike is that of a second bottle cage mount. I had been planning a really long day out to see how she’d fare (in honesty, I was a little fearful of how I’d feel afterwards) but the lack of a second cage mount put this idea to rest before I could test my theory.
I also mounted some bigger tires on the Fabike, some 33mm Schwalbe commuter treads I had in the warehouse. They fitted as I had expected, and with just this simple component switch I had added even more oomph to the performance tank. Looks wise, I can’t deny that I thought the bike looked incredibly cool (Fabio would be happy!). The big bag of the tires took the edge off the road, and once I dialed the air pressure the bike was a blast to rail around the twisty streets of my neighborhood like a pre-teen BMX bandit. This was when I enjoyed the Fabike the most. This also asks the question of performance minded riders that ride really dead or even dirt roads regularly: why wouldn’t the Fabike with a 30mm slick be perfect?
I haven’t touched on the components of our test bike at all, as this is a non-standard build and each of the components is well known and reliable. The range of uses for the Fabike suggests that no two would be quite the same, and as such the Fabike is offered as a frame kit only in Australia at the moment (frame kit includes all the various drop outs) via the importer for $3,500, including shipping to anywhere in Oz. Frames can also be ordered via any bike shop, and customized complete bikes featuring components from SRAM and Zipp are in the pipeline. Keep an eye on Blue Globe’s (the importer) website for details as they develop. Blue Globe will be keeping a small number of frames in stock, with special orders taking between 2 and 6 weeks to arrive.
If considered only as a road bike, this is a very unique offering. Super fast handling and extreme rigidity could make this a favorite for powerful racer types, but the Fabike is intended to be many bikes rather than just one. Some fat tires make it useful on dead roads or dirt, and as a single speed or fixed gear urban device it could be striking, light and traffic stopping. It has some limitations as a regular road bike and it’s far from cheap, but those limitations are unlikely to be a barrier for someone that looks at this bike and instantly thinks ‘YES!’.
Fabike is a design and development company rather than a materials specialist or master craftsman. The Fabike frame is made from Toray T800 fibers, which are the industry benchmark. The frame is finished cleanly, with all graphics painted crisply on top of the clear coat. The dropouts are super trick and well executed, and the Fabike v-brakes are quite neat too.
Three frames for $3,500 seems pretty good, although you can only use one at a time! Value is not a factor with the Fabike, if you really want it and you can afford it, you’d buy it. There is more than $3,500 worth of water cooler and coffee table banter in the Fabike, that’s for sure.
Solid and fast. As a road bike, the Fabike has these two desirable attributes by the bucket load. The dropouts didn’t budge or creak, and the v-brakes offer power and modulation. Final performance will depend on the individual set up.
There isn’t really anything to compare the Fabike with to gauge its overall status, it’s a unique bike. It did everything it said it would, and is more versatile than anything that comes to mind. It has looks, technology, colour, performance and adaptability, and a price tag to match such an elaborate sum. For some it is total overkill, but for others it will tick boxes they’ve never even seen before.
Frame: Fabike T800 carbon
Stem: 3T ARX 2 Team
Handlebars: 3T Ergoterra Team
Saddle: Selle Italia SLR Max Gel Flow
Seat Post: Fabike carbon
Shift Levers: Shimano Dura Ace 7900
Brakes: Fabike v-brake
F Derailleur: Shimano Dura Ace 7900
R Derailleur: Shimano Dura Ace 7900
Cassette: Shimano Dura Ace 7900
Crankset: Shimano Dura Ace 7900
Bottom Bracket: Praxis Works
Wheelset: Fast Forward F6R-C
Tyres: Schwalbe Ultremo ZX
Weight: 7.4kg, 56cm
Price: $3,500 frame only
Distributor: Blue Globe Alliance