What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Talk: Airbrusher To The Stars Stefano Barzaghi

You’ve just won the Worlds and you want a ‘trick’ paint finish for your helmet and frame; or your rider has just taken the polka dot jersey in the Tour and you want a frame to match the his spotty threads – tomorrow! “Who ya gonna call?” Enter, 39 year-old Stefano Barzaghi from Como, Italy.

PEZ: What’s your background, Stefano?
Stefano: My first job was as a car mechanic and later on a tire repairman.

Stefano Barzaghi with his own handiwork: Franco Pellizotti’s beautiful bike.

PEZ: How did you get into customising?
Stefano: I’ve been airbrushing since 1989; first it was my hobby but from 2002 it has been my main job. I started to paint my helmet – I was a motocross rider – and later my friends ask me to paint their helmets too.

PEZ: Can you remember your first order?
Stefano: I don’t remember the very first order but I can say the first in the cycling world was Luca Paolini’s helmet.

PEZ: What are you working on just now?
Stefano: Today I’m working on 32 helmets for the Italian Motorcycle Federation; they must be ready by the end of August!

PEZ: Where do your ideas come from?
Stefano: Usually I show my ideas to the clients and 95% of them agree with my proposals. Of course I don’t want to copy others; everything I do is my idea 100%. Sometimes my clients show me their ideas but it often happens that the ideas are very bad; they chose the wrong colours to go together or they propose graphics for a bike or moto which are completely wrong!

PEZ: Where do you get your work from?
Stefano: 70% of my jobs come by word of mouth; the other 30% come from my website.

The fallen Killer was a client of Stefano’s. We might be through with Di Luca, but that bike is still gorgeous.

PEZ: Are most of your clients Italian?
Stefano: My customers are from all around the world; from Sweden to South Africa to Hawaii.

PEZ: Which job are you proudest of?
Stefano: I’m proud of all my jobs because they all are for important events and people. One in particular was Colin Mc Rae’s helmet; he used that one for the Race of Champions in Paris – I’m not sure, but maybe that was one of his last races before he died in the helicopter crash.

Colin McRae.

PEZ: What was your craziest job?
Stefano: The craziest one was one in Dubai. I went there to paint nine electric cars for a golf playground. The sheik wanted all of them to look like tigers; mouth in front and the skin hairy around the car – It was 12 days work.

PEZ: Do you have clients in Moto GP?
Stefano: I haven’t got clients in Moto GP, but last November I painted a rally helmet for Paolo Bettini – now he drive in some rally races. At that event Valentino Rossi (he also drives in some rallies) came to meet me and gave me compliments about Paolo’s helmet.

In Formula One I don’t have a client but David Coulthard asked my permission to display my graphics on his helmet – the ones I designed for Colin McRae; he’s from Scotland like Colin and he wanted to use the same graphic in Colin’s memory. I have a client in F1 Powerboat racing – Guido Cappellini, nine times World Champion. And one in WRC rally Gigi Galli – he drove for Stobart an English rally team. Also one in Superbike; Ben Spies, I painted his new Specialized bike for him; he’s a very good cyclist.

PEZ: Is there much difference between working on carbon and aluminium?
Stefano: There isn’t difference between the carbon and aluminium; the way to customize them is the same. I use the same paint for both; water based for the graphics and designs and after that acrylic clear paint, four or five coats to seal.

PEZ: What sort of time is involved in a frame?
Stefano: For an artwork like the Pelli dolphin I need about two working days. For Bettini’s world champion bike I needed three days; under the white there’s blue metal flake. Specialized did the replica but with base white under the main colour, all the bikers prefer metal flake, so the frame will be more shiny.

Two years ago I painted a frame for Pozzato at the Tour; it was green violet with the decals in gold sheet, very cool! I painted the pois (polka dot) frame for Pelli at the Tour de France. Liquigas called me at 6:30 pm and I started right away; I worked all night long and finished it at 9:00 am the next day.

PEZ: What are the most difficult jobs?
Stefano: There aren’t jobs which are more difficult than others – all the jobs are difficult, if you want do them well. There are only long or short jobs.

PEZ: Do you collaborate with companies?
Stefano: I’m working for the Liquigas team, Cannondale bikes, Garmin GPS for bikes (Ballan, Cunego, Basso) and last year for the Quick Step team – Specialized bikes (Devolder, Boonen, Bettini).

At the moment, I’m painting some frames for xxxxx (maybe this information must be kept secret!), he’s doing a custom bike line and also clothing. I also do some frames for Danish Principia company – but for sure I’ll have to paint those 32 helmets first!

Check out Stefano’s website:

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