Stelbel - The path to modern times
It was the passion for vintage cycling, that brought two strangers together 10 years ago. It was their unstoppable hunger to achieve the perfect restoration process, that kept them going over the years. It was their incredible will to develop, design and construct bicycle frames - in both - aesthetic and technical perfection, that brought them to the place where they are now.
What started with “Eroica Cicli”, became “Cicli Corsa”. And what once was just a dream in their mind, has revived an almost forgotten name in the industry - Stelbel.
But who are the guys behind the wheels?
Earlier this summer, we visited Andrea Cimò and Alessandro Caccia in their new location in Bergamo.
In the following interview, we’d like to give you a more personal impression of the two friends, their passion for bicycles and how their work developed in the past decade.
Andrea & Alessandro in the empty hall of their new location
The early years
Q: So Andrea. You were living in Berlin for some time. When was that and how did this time influence your passion for cycling?
Andrea: I moved to Berlin in 2008, because I was tired of my job in Italy and I was missing an experience abroad.
After living there for 6 months, I had to figure out a way to make a living. I found out that my personal passion with mechanics in general, was going to be paired quiet well with the bicycle business. So for me, it all started in regards of the classics, meaning Italian classic racers that I was getting from Italy, bringing them to Berlin and fixing them up. After that I had to find a way to sell them.
That's when the first “Eroica Cicli” blog was founded - to give an opportunity to the people, to have a look at the bicycles I was fixing and to buy them.
Q: How did you and Ale meet?
Andrea: I had an old frame that I wanted to be restored by the very builder of it. He was from Bergamo, so I went to visit him. Ale was working at his workshop, so we met and started talking in regards of this restoration project. We figured out that we had a good base to exchange our knowledge about vintage cycling. From this moment on we stayed in contact, because we shared the same passion about bicycles - we were basically doing the same things, but in two different places.
Q: Alessandro, you are from Bergamo originally. How did it all start for you?
Ale: Yes, I am from Bergamo and I started being more interested in cycling during my studies. I fell in love with the bicycle as an object - with the geometry of different frames, the looks of them and the aesthetics of especially vintage race bikes. I got the opportunity to work with this frame builder in Bergamo. It also started with a personal restoration project, where I was seeking advice at his workshop. I realized that he could use some help in getting his business back on track, since they were mostly working for other builders and didn’t focus anymore on their own products. He agreed and I had my job.
At the same time I kept working in my garage on my personal projects, collecting bikes and frames in and around Bergamo and reselling them online.
During this time, Andrea and me started meeting more often in Bergamo and also in Berlin.
Andrea: It was actually getting more serious for me when Ale came to Berlin for a bike exhibition. I had a conversation with the frame builder from Bergamo, who accompanied Ale, about a personal project of mine. For a long time already, I was very keen on designing and having some frames manufactured under my own name. This meeting indicated a lot of potential for me and my ideas. So after three years in Berlin, I decided to drop everything and move back to Italy, to Bergamo, to make it all happen.
Taking the risk
Q: How did things work out with that project?
Andrea: I had been working on this project for quiet some time while I was still in Berlin. So everything was practically ready by the time I came to Bergamo in August 2011. In September I started working on the first prototypes.
About 7 “Cimò” frames were built as prototypes. They were all steel frames, designed to be fillet braced and TIG welded.
But in the following months I started realizing that things weren’t happening as planned.
I don't want to make this too long - It was a project, I decided to trust a frame builder to do a certain kind of job, with the details we discussed and at the right price. You have to know, I am an absolute perfectionist with these things. So the effort from my side to guide this frame builder to reach all my expectations, was unbearable. To me, theses frames were true pieces of art and I am really proud of the quality achieved with them. But the amount of time that went into every single frame, made it impossible to keep this project going on an economic basis.
Let's just say, in the end I found a better way to express my passion for bicycles and mechanics, by founding Cicli Corsa together with Ale.
Cimò Cicli - An Overview of the amazing work of a creative mind. (Photo Credit Gianmarco Dodesini)
Q: How was “Cicli Corsa” founded?
Ale: As every collector knows, it is key to have good contacts when you think about finding nice and collectable pieces.
So one day it happened that one of my contacts offered the opportunity of buying a very large stock of about 35 Colnago track bikes.
Looking at this opportunity, we knew that it was only possible to handle all that work together, since these bikes needed a lot of tlc before they were ready to be sold again. The decision to buy the stock, was basically the birth hour of our company. We founded “Cicli Corsa” by the end of February 2012 and moved to our first location in Curno, right outside of Bergamo.
Q: What happened with your first project “Eroica Cicli” ?
Andrea: “Eroica Cicli” was something very personal for me. It was the beginning and the developement of my passion for bicyles, moving deeper and deeper into the material. But now there was Ale and me and we wanted to build something on common ground.
At the beginning, “Eroica Cicli” was still there for the classic and collectible sector. “Cicli Corsa” was the alternative to the collectibles and for us the way to start proper business in the modern cycling industry, with the mission of quality Italian brands only.
By one point “Eroica Cicli” turned into “Cicli Corsa Classico”. Originally we had a gentlemen’s agreement with the founders of l'eroica, allowing us to use the name for our cause. Long story short - l'eroica was sold to a mayor company and that was the end of that agreement.
Andrea: There's one thing that needs to be said that is not really romantic of anything. The cycling business is a tough business to survive. Back then, there were a lot of people doing, what we were doing with the classics.
The big difference to most of our competitors, was our decision to do it in a very official way, with founding a company - a company that had to pay taxes, salaries and generate money for future investments.
Ale: I agree. Dealing with classics only, wasn't going to pay the bills. The step into modern cycling was the only logic option to keep standing, to feed the company with the resources it needed. It was and still is a lot of effort to be succesful in this business. But we are doing what we like, every day is different and there are new projects every day.
Especially now because of the things happening with Stelbel, which we are really proud of.
Stelbel is reborn
Q: Finally I’d like to talk about the whole Stelbel story. How did things turn out the way they are right now? How did you get to know Mr. Belletti?
Andrea: It's all linked. It's all connected. We have to go back to 2008 again, when I was taking the first steps in the area of classic cycles. One of my contacts one day called me up (Grazie Angelo!) and said that he found a Stelbel bike. I didn't know what that was. It didn't even sound like an Italian brand to me, but I was just curious to see it. Once I got back to Italy, I went to see it. I didn't really understand what I had in front of me, because it was so weird. So different. It struck my eyes that it was TIG-welded, but equipped with parts from the 80's. So things just weren't adding up. It kinda puzzled me.
It took months to find out more about the brand. Not much information was available back then. But eventually we were able to get in contact with the old guy, with Stelio Belletti himself. And he started telling his story. His story was fantastic! He got super passioned about his job, his life, his career and everything that was related to what he achieved. We became friends back then and kept contact throughout the years.
Andrea: Now we have to jump to a day in September 2013. On that day, Ale, me and Stelio signed a contract, in which he was allowing us to take over the Stelbel brand, to put it back on the market. And yes, it was the greatest thing happening for Ale and for me - finally being able to express what we originally wanted: Our own frames. Our own designs. Our own ideas. Everything we believe that is important in todays market - bringing out something new, that is still classic, but with a great performance. It was challenging. It was interesting. It was hard. And of course it still is.
We spent more than one year in developing the new Stelbel range. If you want to talk in dates: In September 2013 we signed that document. And in March 2015 we officially launched the website.
Q: With how many different models did you launch?
Ale: At the beginning we had seven different models. The Rodano, the SB03, the Ortica and the Nina. This selection was completed by three classic models: The Integrale (Only 2015 limited series), the Strada Super and the Pista. And by the end of the year we introduced the Antenore, which simply took longer to develop. It was a challenge in a challenge, so to say.
Q: A challenge was probabely also the development of the newly released Ti-9 model?
Andrea: The Ti-9 is the new titanium frameset. And with this frame, as with everything else that we’ve done, we've always followed the ethics and the guidelines of the Stelbel heritage. To us it's really important having people not only understanding, but also seeing and realizing, that everything was done following specifically all Stelbel guidelines in terms of attention to quality and welding style.
The Ti-9 was designed because it could be TIG-welded. Stelio actually experimented with titanium already during his early years. There are at least 2 old prototype titanium Stelbel frames that Stelio did in collaboration with Mr. Amelio Riva - Mr. Trecià. They were good friends and were racing together in local circuits. We know that these prototypes were made thanks to the knowledge of Stelio in TIG-welding, combined with Mr. Treciàs know-how of the material itself.
Ale: It took us nearly two years to develop the titanium frame. So we are really thrilled that it is finally out and ready to order. We know that we designed a frame that is really good to ride. People who tested it - and quiet a lot of people tested it already, had to say incredible things about it.
I believe that we achieved what we had in mind with this model. And we are expecting good things coming out of it!
From left to right: Njazi (Scampi), Andrea, Ale, Michael (Scampi) and Maicol
Addendum: Today, Stelbel has 3 employees - Maicol from Italy, Gokhan from Istanbul and Barney from London. More than 10 people are involved in the making and finishing of a Stelbel frame. Riding a Stelbel is a commitment to real elegance, style and technical perfection. It satisfies the need for individuality in todays copy-paste, mass production society. Of course - beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. But in this case, it is absolutely worthwhile to take a closer look.