What to Do With a Benotto?

A few years back I wrote about a 1970’s Benotto that an acquaintance had entrusted into my care for safekeeping.  She finally decided to sell the bike to me, and now I’ve had a chance to disassemble the frame to begin the restoration process.

For a long time I wasn’t sure what model and year this Benotto was.  However, from the Campagnolo component group, with its helpful date codes, I was able to determine that this is a 1972 or 1973 model.  Meanwhile, over the years several enthusiasts have written to me, suggesting this is a 1972 Model 2500 and after looking at the few catalogs available online, I believe I agree.

This interesting lug design, beautifully chromed, has been used on much earlier models as well.

While this model doesn’t have the fancy cutouts in the bottom bracket shell, it is still nicely brazed, with chrome Campagnolo dropouts and fork ends.  It also has eyelets front and rear, adding to its utility.

I’ve been preparing the frame for some touch-up painting.  Fortunately, the areas of paint loss are minimal and pretty contained.  I also encountered a bit of rust on the fork and bottom bracket threads, so I also treated the frame with FrameSaver to prevent any further rust (after thorough cleaning of course).

As expected, the frame was built up with a full Campagnolo groupset.  The components are in very nice condition.  The above photo was taken before beginning the clean up and you can see that my job looks pretty easy.

The crankset (pictured before cleaning) is just a work of art!

The gearing is racing oriented, with a close ratio Regina 5 speed freewheel and 52/42 rings up front.  Likewise, the high-flange Campagnolo Record hubs laced to Fiamme tubular rims speak to this bike’s original function as a racing bike.  And therein lies my dilemma:  what to do with this fine old machine?  Tubulars are just not practical for most cyclists, so one thought I had was to re-lace the hubs to 700c period correct rims (I’ve got a nice NOS set of Mavic’s ready for this purpose).  Alternatively, I could replace the wheelset entirely.  However, I recently read an interesting article by Jobst Brandt about how to re-lace to a new rim without removing the spokes from the hub.  The process involves lining up the replacement rim’s “key hole” with the current rim, and, one-by-one, unlacing the spoke from the existing rim and lacing into the replacement.  Sounds interesting and even more Zen-like than regular wheel building!

Fortunately, this bike is blessed with rear spacing that will accommodate a 126mm hub.  I tried fitting one in and it floated up into the dropouts with no trouble at all, even though the spacing measures at 123.5mm.  That means that a 6 or even 7 speed freewheel is a possibility.  Likewise, clearance at the fork crown and rear brake was large enough to accommodate a 700c 32mm tire and fenders, based on a preliminary dry mount of an alternative wheelset.  So that makes for a lot of reinterpretation possibilities.

However, maybe this is a bike that should be left as is.  A new owner could decide on the tires and wheelset.  But, since my focus is on making vintage bikes accessible and rideable, I’m leaning toward something else, but I just don’t know what that is yet.  Any ideas are welcome!


17 thoughts on “What to Do With a Benotto?

  1. The direction that I have been taking my projects towards recently is that of an “all roads” bike, with say 32c tires, sub-compact crank set and wide range gearing. You can use a bike like that for anything almost, century rides, randonneuring, commuting or JRA. It is probably the most versatile type of bike around! On an older frame like this, with 32c tires there is usually plenty of room for fenders. Glad to see that your preserving the original paint as well! 😊

  2. A lovely original frame, I would maybe keep the original wheels intact and use a different set for general riding. Alternatively, I’ve had good results on old tubular rims with 25mm Tufo tubulars used with Tufo tub tape and carrying a little sealant on rides, just in case.
    For me, anything is possible, even a completely new build, as long it can be reversed without damage !

  3. I have replaced many rims by taping the new rim to the old. Your taped together rims should have the drilled valve stem holes right next to one another. The important part is that all the off center drilled spoke holes are at the same place on both rims. If not then you will have to take all the spokes out and respoke to your new rim. I’ve only had to take out the spokes a couple of times using this technique. Both rims need to use the same length spoke within a couple of millimeters both ways. Having raced on Clement tubulars in a very different younger slimmer guise I would opt for clincher tires and tubes now. But I’m not buying this bike so I guess the market and your good sensibilities will figure that out. This bike is a lovely reminder of the beautiful bikes I rode in the early 70’s in my short unimpressive road racing career.

  4. Sounds to me like it might be enjoyed by an old ex racer in original spec for special rides out.

  5. Great bike, and I’m not saying that simply because it looks close to my size. It’s also similar to a bike I rode in the late 70s—a bike I wish I still had. If it were me, I’d restore and hang it, because I know if I were to ride it, I’d slowly change it into the bike I ride today: higher handlebars, lower gears, clinchers. Better to display it and build an updated interpretation of it.

  6. Having ridden sewups since 1972, I would vote to keep the original rims intact, especially if the next owner is unknown. I like the suggestion to fit a different set of wheels, if one insists on clinchers, or wants wider tires. Remember that bigger tires will subtly change the handling of the bike. The Challenge Paris-Roubaix tire is pricey, at $120, but a sublime ride with its 27mm width, which will feel much like a 32mm clincher due to its profile. Yellow Jersey is doing their part in keeping the smell of rim cement alive, http://www.yellowjersey.org/moretubs.html, and their “pair and a spare” for 50 bucks means you can put a decent set of balogna skins on the existing rims for less than the cost of the rubber for a clincher conversion and leave the decision for the next owner. This bike just cries for tubulars, as lightweight 700C tires didn’t exist in 1972. I know, I was there!

    • Thanks for the yellow Jersey link. I have been coming to the same conclusion. It’s getting more and more unusual to find a bike like this in all original condition. Not a fan of the gluing process, but new tubulars are on the horizon I think.

  7. When your Benotto was new riding tubulars meant patching tubulars and doing so on a very regular basis. Current production is not like that. And it is finally again easy to buy wide tubulars. I ride clinchers and tubulars equally and there are not enough flats I could even guess which is more vulnerable.

    When I started on tubulars in 1967 most of us were using tires at 27-30mm and occasionally real wide tires could be had. Again, we shot ourselves in the foot by pumping all of them to 100psi. The Campionatos and Paris-Roubaix tires would take that without a care, Veltro’s and Elvezias and 50s pumped that high did not last long. Do not put skinny tires on this bike. Until 1973 only track tires and No.1s were narrower than 25.

    Similarly those Fiamme rims had a bad reputation when new. There was never anything wrong with them, the problem was very few knew had the knack for building good wheels. For most of us building was guesswork, tension meters did not exist. Pull those rims up to 120kgpf and you will have no trouble. The only limitation they have is you must stay with traditional hubs, they will not take the disparate tension that comes with 11spd wheels.

  8. Perhaps not the ideal spot to ask (but rims are being discussed), but what is to be done with some chromed steel 650B rims of a low-end Peugeot from late 60s/early 70s?

    The chrome is flaking and there are widespread spots of rust on the rims.

    I’m not concerned about historical authenticity for this bike, so I suppose I could just clean and paint it?

    • If you are still using them on the Peugeot, I’d just clean off as much rust as you can, polish what you can, and put them right back on. You can use Fibrax brake pads with steel rims, which work much better than regular pads, especially in the rain.

    • I have a PH50, circa 1960, and I would not call it a “low end bike.” it is definitely not “high end,” but it has a lot of neat details, decent tubing, and it applies the technology of its era well. Remember, aluminum cranks, rims, and other components were not common on mid-range bikes until the 1970s, when they started to work their way down the pecking order. The Japanese really accelerated this change. Before then, some pretty nice bikes came with many steel components. Perhaps your bike is a different model than mine.

      If you want to spiff up your Peugeot and don’t want to pay the silly money needed to obtain a decent pair of steel 650B rims, consider Velo Orange’s aluminum rims in silver. Their Voyager model would look at home on your bike and is in stock right now in the 36-hole version that should match your hubs.

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