The name of Stelio Belletti may not be as well known as that of Ernesto Colnago, Irio Tommasini or Giovanni Pinnarello, but it is as crucially significant to the world of the Italian racing bicycle. Stelio began a prodigious career as a fabricator at the tender age of 12 and grew into one of Italy’s most innovative and revered custom frame builders.
Today, Stelbel frames are collectors items. They are quite rare—Stelio only produced around a thousand over a twenty year period—so if you come across one, hang on to it. It’s not just because of their low quantity that they are sought after, but for the quality of Stelio’s skill with the torch. This time trial bike is a good example, cleaned up by the experts in classic Italian bicycles, Eroica Cicli.
Steel fabrication was instilled in Stelio’s blood by his father, Antenore, who was the chief welder at a major aeronautical company near Milan. After the Second World War, Antenore thrust a torch into Stelio’s hands at the age of twelve, helping his father in their own workshop, contracting their services to various aviation industries.
By 1955, airplanes turned into motorcycles and the Belletti workshop began producing motorcycle frames—including one for a certain Mike ‘The Bike’ Hailwood, who took it to win a 500CC GP Championship in 1968. Thankfully Stelio always had a passion for bicycles, and when he couldn’t find a frame he really liked, began manufacturing his own frames.
TIG welding was Stelio’s specialty, so that’s what he used to build a bicycle frame. He developed this style to become one of the first and finest TIG builders, sidestepping the need for lugs because they simply weren’t necessary. The fork design of this TT bike came about from a lack of a crown and a knowledge that he could build his own.
“The bike in the pictures is a late 70’s TT bike,” Andrea from Eroica Cicli tells us, “with aero shaped and extremely light tubing. The shifters are at the handlebar, 25mm seatpost, nice newly made ALMARC handlebar leather cover and an OMAS extra light headset. Assos rims with 24 spokes, Campy record hubs, OMAS titanium cones and quick releases.”
For more information on Stelio Belletti and some fine examples of his frames, head to the Eroica Cicli website. Special thanks to Andrea for the photos and the scoop.