If you're a regular reader of our blog or follow us on social media you'll know that we're big fans of steel frames here at AVT. So you can imagine that when Chris King ceased production of their house-brand Cielo frames back in 2017 we were naturally disappointed. Since then we've been looking hard for a comparable replacement, something that matches the exceptionally high standards of engineering, product design combined with custom geometry to create a truly world-class frame.
We think we've found the answer to that in Italy, with STELBEL frames and I'm pleased we're now able to offer them on AVT.bike as the perfect canvas for the high end parts we know and love from Chris King and others. A worthy successor to Cielo, I'm sure you'll agree!
Who are STELBEL?
Certainly not as well known as many Italian builders, STELBEL fly under the radar, and not just for their understated paint designs. I first came across them during a discussion with a colleague a few years back about whether TIG welding high end steel frames was something that was first done in the USA. Turns out it wasn't... that honor goes to Stelio Beletti in Italy back in 1973 (which he went on to patent in 1975). Back then this was cutting edge stuff! Remember pretty much everything was lugged or filet brazed at that time, both heavier forms of construction, and limiting in terms of tubing profiles and frame design.
1977 Stelbel Integrale.
So why STELBEL?
With so many high end steel frames to choose from today, both off the peg and custom why choose STELBEL? Given the competition in the steel frame category I guess it comes down to details that really make a frame stand out in a crowded market. For me there are a few things that jump right out with STELBEL:
- Frame Design Details. I think it was the dropouts that first caught my eye a few years ago and they still look sharper than anything out there today. Classic Italian design & engineering that creates something so visually compelling and functional at the same time, combined with the chunky chainstays they contribute to a stiffer frame ensuring all the power goes to the rear wheel. This thinking carries over into all the other frame components such as Headtube and BB Shell which are both engraved with the STELBEL logo.
- A full range combining specific models with custom geometry. Yes custom geometry is great, but there are also some benefits to a frame designer spending the time to create a range of bikes for specific purposes. It means as a customer we're not starting 100% from scratch each time and we can pick the frame best suited to the type of riding we're going to do. This means that certain elements of the frame design like tubing selection, frame components such as the type of BB shell and fork have all been carefully designed for the intended usage.
Having this, combined with custom geometry gives a perfect combination of made to measure plus a frame that's designed by an engineer who's carefully considered the intended use and has gone through many prototypes to refine the frame design. Within each model design there are still plenty of options to customize the frame for whichever electronic shifting system you use, plus options like extra bottle cages, fender mounts and more.
- Just enough customization but not too much.... In the same vein as the frame design, STELBEL's approach to paint is a combination of leaning on their in house design expertise combined with a high level of customer customization. What this means is that the paint design schema (ie the patterns, logos, panels etc) is fixed for each model, but then the actual choice of the color used is totally open to whatever the customer wishes.
Given the current trend towards rattle-can finishes (personally I'm not a fan, they look great from a far, but up close terrible) I'd rather let a professional designer handle the paint design in a way that really showcases the amazing craftsmanship that goes into producing the frame. Paint color can also be carried over to matching bars, stem and seatpost to complete the matchy, matchy look we strive so hard to help you achieve here with components from Chris King, White Industries, Phil Wood and more.
Right now we have our first frame on order, a staff build perfectly suited to the Pacific North West comprising an Antenore Disc stainless steel frame with matching fenders, practical in winter, fast in summer. Stay tuned as we take you through the build and design process and give us a shout if you have any questions on ordering a STELBEL for yourself.
When looking for a low-profile aero rim that's tubeless compatible, light-weight, and made-in-USA, there aren't a whole lot of options, but luckily Velocity USA has a very good one: the Aileron. That's the rim that's featured on this week's Wheel Build of the Week, so check it out!