Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
In today’s edition of Bikes of the Bunch we feature a custom-built steel frame belonging to Victorian rider Arie Wetsteyn: a Stelbel Rodano.
The story of Arie Wetsteyn’s Stelbel Rodano begins with his love of Italian cycling. After a riding trip to Italy a few years back Arie was inspired to build up a 1991 Zullo frame with an era-appropriate Campagnolo groupset (eight-speed Record). Having been so impressed with how well the nearly 25-year-old groupset functioned, Arie found himself wondering how well a new Campagnolo groupset would work.
He was keen to add another steel frame to his collection and when he saw a photo of a Stelbel on social media, the wheels started turning.
The man behind the Stelbel brand, Stelio Belletti is credited as the first Italian framebuilder to build TIG-welded frames and even went on to register a patent for the technique in Italy in 1975. That same year, the Polish national team went on win gold in the men’s world championship team time trial on Stelbel bikes.
Belletti shut down the Stelbel business in 1990 due to “personal problems” but more than two decades later, the brand was revived. A collaboration between Belletti and the Cicli Corsa brand meant that, starting in 2013, Stelbel bikes were once again being constructed.
Arie got in touch with the brand and decided to take his chances.
“It was a bit of a gamble,” Arie told CyclingTips. “They’ve only built 22 of them [Rodano frames] and [they’re] a very different organisation than the original Stelbel when Belletti was doing it. So I just took a bit of a punt.”
To get the custom build process started, the team at Stelbel sent Arie a form so he could document his measurements. They also wanted to know what sort of riding he did: “I’m an older bloke so I’m not interested in Strava KOMs or anything like that,” Arie said.
He sent in the form, paid the 50% deposit then “waited impatiently” for the frame to arrive.
“They said it would be fourth months; it was ready in three,” he said. “Everything was exactly the way I wanted. I got literally just the frame, the headset bearing and the seatpost.”
Arie picked up a Cinelli Ram 3 cockpit here in Australia and got a spray-painter to adorn it with the Italian flag.
One of the things that Arie liked most about the Stelbel Rodano was the reasonable price compared with other custom steel frames. But what started as a somewhat frugal build didn’t stay that way for long.
“It was going to be a cheap project but then I thought ‘I’ve got to get top Campagnolo stuff, because that’s the whole idea of a top-shelf one, because my other bike is from-the-era top shelf,” Arie said. “And then I happened to find a [Campagnolo] 80th Anniversary Groupset for a little bit more money.
“So of course it just started escalating and before you know it … my daughter and I ate bread and water for a little while, but we got through!”
In choosing wheels, Arie wanted something black, light, but not made of carbon — “It sorted of defeated the purpose a bit having a steel bike with carbon wheels — didn’t make a lot of sense.” He ended up going for a set of second-hand Mavic’s R-Sys SLR.
As for the saddle, the choice of Fizik Volta was driven both by aesthetics and practicality.
“The saddle intrigued because of the looks of it. I’m very much driven by aesthetics,” Arie said. “I do move around in my saddle, sliding, and I actually had a saddle a little while ago that didn’t allow me to do that comfortably and so I thought ‘Yeah, I’ll give it a whirl’.
“It’s every bit as good as I could want, to the extent that I’d like to put it on another bike but at the moment I can’t afford to.”
Arie says he’s not a racer and at 90kg, admits “I don’t go up hills fast”. Instead he prefers to “ride long distances in nice places”. So how does the Rodano go on such outings?
“It is beautiful to ride,” Arie said. “Long rides are very comfortable and what descending I have done till now, is precise and confidence inspiring.”
Additionally: “The only bike that I’ve had that is stiffer is a Ridley Noah that I had a lot of years ago.”
With a handful of bikes in his garage, the Rodano’s not a bike Arie will be taking out every day.
“I’m waiting for summer so I can ride a lot more,” he said. “I want to ride this as a Sunday best ride — I’m not going to ride this in the rain; I don’t need to.”
The bike’s paintwork is deliberately understated, just as Arie wanted it.
“I really like the minimalist aesthetic of it,” he said. “I’m not big into lots of labels and I must admit there’s another aspect that I really like to it: no one knows about it. It’s an on-the-edge product.”
As far as Arie’s aware, his Stelbel Rodano is the only one in Australia and this rarity has genuine appeal. As a furniture maker, Arie likes the idea of creating and owning unique pieces that won’t be found elsewhere.
“[Stelbel’s] not all that well known and there’s not going to be millions of them around,” Arie said. “[There’s a] bit of snob value.”
All in all, Arie is thrilled with how the bike turned out. He’d change “absolute nothing” about the custom build process, but would love to upgrade to Campagnolo wheels when he can afford them. “Because that would keep it totally Italian, apart from the pedals — there’s no Italian pedals around unfortunately …”
– Frame: Stelbel Rodano custom steel (size 57cm)
– Cockpit: Cinelli Ram 3
– Groupset: Campagnolo 80th Anniversary Edition
– Wheels: Mavic R-Sys SLR
– Tyres: Panaracer Race L Evo 2 25mm
– Pedals: Look Keo2Max
– Saddle: Fizik Volta
– Weight: 7.6kg (with pedals)