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!


Tina’s Benotto

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While I have known my friend Tina for decades, I didn’t know she was a bike racer back in the day until a few years ago.  Probably all of us have done some interesting things in our youth (some best forgotten), but I was really impressed to discover that Tina owned this beautiful Benotto, which she acquired new back in the 1970’s.  She competed in the races of the time, in her home state of California, on this extraordinary 20 lb full Nuovo Record Campagnolo machine, riding tubular Fiamme rims laced to high flange Campagnolo Nuovo Record hubs.

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When she stopped racing, she swapped out the wheelset for a more useful clincher set with a wider gearing ratio, shown below.  The bike is 100% original, except for the early Terry saddle added later, and these photos show its condition, unrestored, after decades of storage.  Amazingly, it is still lovely and appears easily restorable to its original glory.

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Extra clincher wheelset – Wolber T430 Alpine rims laced to Shimano 105 hubs

Since Tina doesn’t ride this bike any more, she asked me to evaluate it, and to see if any of my readers were interested in buying it from her.  Such a bike, if sold on eBay, would simply be stripped into its separate parts and re-sold at a profit, because it is now true that a complete bike is worth less than the sum of its parts.  But, not for Tina.  She would like the bike to go to someone who will keep it intact and enjoy riding it.  And that’s where I come in.

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I have no prior experience with Benotto’s, so my first task was to determine its provenance and date of manufacture.  The bottom bracket shell shows a 460 serial number.  Unfortunately, I learned that Benotto serial numbers, much like Peugeot’s aren’t really reliable for determining the model year of the frame.  Other clues included the chromed, forged Campagnolo drop-outs, the weight of the machine (20 lbs), the style of the fork and head lugs (chromed lugs, with chromed sloping fork crown), and the appearance of the components. Unfortunately, there are no tubing stickers present on the frame.

At first, I thought this bike dated to the late 1970’s, but Tina wasn’t quite sure in what year she purchased the bike. The above photo shows that the Campagnolo NR rear derailleur has “Patent-73” stamped into its body.

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This derailleur style was later replaced in the late 1970’s.  The presence of cable clamps provides further proof that the bike is earlier than late 1970’s because at that point, all the higher end Benotto’s had brazed on cable guides.  So, it is likely that this is a mid 70’s model.  But what model is it?

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Chromed head lugs with blue accent paint

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Head tube badge in great condition

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Seat tube logo

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Chromed sloping fork crown, blue accent paint, Campagnolo NR headset

Fortunately, I recently discovered some new information on the web that helped in my quest to correctly identify this Benotto. I think it is most likely a Model 2500 or 2000 based on the fact that the seatpost size is 27.2, which means that the tubing used is Columbus SL, a theory further supported by the incredibly light weight of the bike.  Although I haven’t found any catalogs which show this particular bike as configured, the chromed head lugs and fork crown indicate that it was one of the higher end models. Here are photos of the components:

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The frame size is 54 x 54, with a 100 cm wheelbase.  There are single eyelets front and rear.  There are no other braze-ons or bosses.  Components are:  Campagnolo NR:  brake levers, brake hoods, brake calipers, pedals, seatpost, cable clamps and cable guides, headset, bottom bracket, shifters, derailleurs, crank arms and rings, hubs, and quick releases. The shifters and quick releases are color matched with Campagnolo red covers. Other components include 3TTT bars and stem, Christophe toe clips and straps, a  Regina 5 speed freewheel, and of course that beautiful and iconic blue Benotto bar tape.

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There are some condition issues with the bike.  The Benotto logo on the down tube is in bad shape, and there is paint loss around the seatpost clamp. Overall, this bike is in amazing shape for being 4 decades old, and unridden for a couple of those decades.

I welcome any assistance on further identifying Tina’s Benotto.  If you are interested in purchasing it, please contact me – I have included a widget below to allow you to send me a private email.