In the last couple of years Stelbel have been at the forefront of some of the best looking custom steel bicycles around. They seemed to come out of nowhere, but meeting them at their HQ near Bergamo, Italy; we found out there is a rich history of framebuilding behind them.
Stelbel was officially started in 1973 by Stelio Belletti. After learning his craft working on aeroplanes and racing motorbikes, Stelio turned his attention to bicycles. The same principles he learnt early in his career, led him to patent the first bicycle ever made using TIG welding techniques. The results were impressive. The Polish National team rode unbranded Stelbel TT bikes to gold medal victory at the World Championship Team Time Trials in 1975.
Throughout the 70’s Stelbel went from strength to strength producing a number of fine steel bikes for both amateur and professional alike. Unfortunately, the company hit hard times in the early 90’s and was forced to close down; Stelio walked away from the industry with the feeling that he had not achieved all he wanted.
Fast-forward almost 25 years and you will find Andrea and Alessandro of Cicli Corsa buying their first vintage Stelbel track pursuit bike, which started their obsession with the brand and the idea of its re-birth. They went on to collect a number of original machines created by Stelio and eventually tracked him down to speak about his past work.
The conversations led to the idea of bringing Stelbel back and so with the guidance from Stelio, Andrea and Alessandro set out on a two-year journey to do so.
Their first move was to create a range of steel bikes which used Stelio’s original techniques and paired them with newer innovations such as modern tube sizes, bottom bracket and headtube standards. They also created some contemporary replicas of the original Stelbel models.
Once the engineering work was done, they found ten local frame builders and gave them the same brief. Out of the original ten, only one met with Stelio’s approval and with some further training in his methods, they were ready to bring the bikes to market.
In its present form Stelbel offers three road frames; the Rodano, an endurance focused frame; SB/03, a performance machine with a stiffer response and the Antenore, which is somewhere in between the two making use of Columbus XCr. There is also a gravel/cross frame called Nina as well as the vintage replicas Integrale and Strada.
Stelio is now in his mid-80’s and still rides regularly to the office to see what Andrea and Alesandro are doing. The ride is a 100km round trip for which the guys have recently built him his very own Rodano frame in mint green.
Stelbel bikes are full custom with made to measure geometry which takes into account the riders dimensions as well as the type of riding they want to do. As well as customising the existing models they also offer something they call OSB (Officina Stelio Belletti) which is a full custom program for anything the customer wants. There are only two rules to OSB; it has to be metal and it has to be TIG welded.
Staying close to the heritage of Stelbel is important not only for Stelio, but also for Alessandro and Andrea. They will only produce bikes in metal and of that it is predominantly steel. However, there is a benchmark in Stelbel’s history for a titanium bike, so there could well be some interesting news coming soon!