Italian craftsmanship par excellence. At a time when carbon frames of all shapes are ubiquitous, the high-end bike forge Stelbel prefer using stainless Columbus steel for the Nina frame, paired with a smart selection of components. Read on to find out how it compares with the 18 best gravel bikes of the year.

For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best gravel bike 2022 – 19 models on test

Stelbel Nina XCr | 8.92 kg in size Custom | Manufacturer’s website

Stelbel founder and namesake Stelio Belletti is a master of his craft and a pioneer of new technologies. He was the first frame builder to use TIG welding and proved all doubters wrong. Even today, Stelbel are pioneers of new technologies and methods, constantly tuning and optimising their tube sets and processes. The Nina XCr is a continuously evolving project too. The TIG-welded Columbus stainless steel frame is said to be even lighter and stiffer than the standard Nina model. Although the frame features a classic design, it complies with the latest standards such as flat-mount disc brakes and 12 mm thru-axles, designed for all-road and high-performance gravel riding. It comes with lots of mounting points and is wrapped in a breathtaking glossy finish.

For propulsion, our test bike relies on the Campagnolo Ekar 1×13 drivetrain and is one of the few bikes on test to feature a mechanical shifter. The gearing consists of a 40 t chainring and a 9–42 t cassette, offering small jumps in the faster gears and a suitably easy gear for a wide range. The two-part Campagnolo crankset is made of carbon crank arms and a steel axle, ensuring optimal power transmission from the pedals to the chain. That way, the weight can be kept to a minimum without compromising pedalling efficiency.

Chris is King
The Chris King headset is a perfect match for the bike’s timeless design, offering smooth and precise steering through the corners.
The seat post clamp has been beautifully integrated into the frame. However, the sensitive glossy finish of the seat post gets scratched very easily when adjusting the saddle height. However, you shouldn’t have to adjust it very often.
Steel is real
The frame is TIG welded from legendary, stainless steel Columbus tubing. The namesake and founder of Stelbel is known for his outstanding craftsmanship.

Stelbel Nina XCr

€ 8,100


Seatpost Stelbel
Brakes Campagnolo EKAR 160/140 mm
Drivetrain Campagnolo EKAR 1x13
Stem Stelbel 120 mm
Handlebar Stelbel 440 mm
Wheelset Campagnolo Shamal Carbon C21 CB
Tires Vittoria Terreno Dry Graphene 2.0 700 x 35C

Technical Data

Size Custom
Weight 8.92 kg

Specific Features

each frame is made to measure
frame set costs € 4,290
seat post, stem and handlebar are colour-matched to the frame
the steel frame of your dreams

Pack mule
Thanks to all its mounting points, the Stelbel Nina XCr is well-suited for bikepacking adventures on smoother terrain, offering lots of cargo-carrying options.
Partially integrated
The cable routing on the Nina is at least partially internal. This keeps the bike looking tidy and doesn’t disturb the frame’s timeless lines.
If you want to fit a larger rotor, you’ll need an adapter since the calliper gets bolted directly to the frame with the 140 mm version.

Outstanding craftsmanship – classic look meets excellent workmanship and modern components. Bella!

The 130 mm long stem and 440 mm wide Deda Superleggera handlebar ensure that you always stay in control. However, the handlebar doesn’t score high regarding ergonomics due to the short drops and the forward sweep of the tops. In size 55.5, the bike weighs 8.93 kg and costs € 8.100.

Helmet POC Ventral SPIN | Glasses Alba Optics ANVMA
Jersey Rapha Santa Cruz HTSQD Trail Technical T-Shirt | Pants Rapha Core Cargo Bib
Shoes Rapha Explore Shoes | Special Watch Uhr

When pulling away, the Nina XCr needs a little more encouragement than the other bikes on test, though it accelerates well when you’re cruising along at a moderate pace. Once the Stelbel has been brought up to speed, it’s efficient enough to sustain long days in the saddle. That said, it can’t keep up with the best bikes on test. For that, the bike lacks the necessary aerodynamics and compliance. In terms of comfort, the Nina XCr is on the stiffer side of the spectrum yet pleasently grounded on the ground. For a steel bike, there’s a surprising lack of compliance offered by the frame, passing on both big and small bumps with a comparatively little damping.

The primary source of comfort is offered by the 700 x 35C Vittoria Terreno Dry Graphene 2.0 tires. The frame can’t accommodate much wider models, which corresponds to the bike’s intended use. Despite the generally stiff ride, the vibration damping is nicely balanced between the front and rear. Due to the very aggressive, stretched riding position, the Stelbel isn’t comfortable enough for long distances on rough gravel roads – the bike simply doesn’t belong there. However, it’s a very different story on hardpack or asphalt.

Tuning tip: replace the handlebar with a model that offers better ergonomics

The handling of the Stelbel Nina XCr is agile and direct, which is somewhat defused by the tires. If the road surface changes from gravel to rocky, the direct handling becomes too demanding. The Nina XCr excels on gravel highways, compact surfaces and woodland roads, allowing you to hold your chosen line with pinpoint precision, putting a big grin on your face as you carve through the turns. Strade Bianche, ti amo! The long stem and low front end play into this since it places a lot of weight on the front wheel and thereby generates a lot of cornering traction. However, the low front end makes it difficult to keep the bike in control on steep descents and in demanding terrain. You’ve also got to be careful of the large toe-overlap through very slow and tight corners! On the other hand, the reliable Campagnolo Ekar brakes offer a big confidence boost, combined with a 160 mm rotor up front and a 140 mm model at the rear. They’re very easy to modulate and the stopping power is impressive. Moreover, the very versatile tires offer plenty of grip and are fitted to the superb Campagnolo Shamal carbon wheels.

Riding Characteristics



  1. cumbersome
  2. playful


  1. nervous
  2. confident


  1. demanding
  2. balanced

Fun factor

  1. boring
  2. lively


  1. firm
  2. comfortable

Value for money

  1. terrible
  2. very good

Technical Data

Nina XCr

Size: Custom
Weight: 8.92 kg
Price: € 8,100

Indended Use

Smooth tarmac 1
Allroad/Gravel 2
Everyday/Commuting 3

Our Conclusion on the Stelbel Nina XCr

The Stelbel Nina XCr boasts workmanship of the highest quality, a timeless and elegant look and well-specced components. Thanks to the agile handling, you can carve through corners on gravel and compact surfaces at top speed. However, the bike lacks the comfort needed to excel on rougher terrain and the handling isn’t suited for that kind of riding either. As such, its versatility is rather limited compared to the competition, which is why it can’t keep up with the best bikes on test.


  • a lot of mounting points
  • beautiful look and top-quality steel workmanship
  • integrated seat post clamp
  • vibration damping of the wheels and tires


  • limited clearance for wider tires
  • glossy finish is sensitive
  • limited versatility and long distance comfort

You can find out more about at

The testfield

For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best gravel bike 2022 – 19 models on test

All bikes on review: 3T Exploro Ultra (Click for review) | BMC URS LT ONE (Click for review) | Cannondale SuperSix EVO SE (Click for review) | Canyon Grizl CF SLX 8 eTap Suspension (Click for review) | Cervélo Áspero GRX Di2 (Click for review) | CUBE Nuroad C:62 SLT (Click for review) | Curve Kevin of Steel III (Click for review) | Falkenjagd Aristos R (Click for review) | Felt Breed 20 (Click for review) | FOCUS ATLAS 6.8 (Click for review) | GIANT Revolt Advanced 0 (Click for review) | OPEN WI.DE. (Click for review) | Ridley Kanzo Fast (Click for review) | ROSE BACKROAD EKAR LTD (Click for review) | SCOTT Addict Gravel Tuned (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Crux (Click for review) | Stelbel Nina XCr | Storck GRIX.2 Platinum (Click for review) | Wilier Rave SLR (Click for review)

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of GRAN FONDO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality cycling journalism. Click here to learn more.

Words: Mike Hunger Photos: Benjamin Topf, Peter Walker