Benotto Bicycle Restoration – How to identify a vintage Benotto bike frame’s year and model – Part 2

I made the mistake of painting my Benotto black after first getting it about a decade ago. Today I’m restoring it back to something fitting of the Benotto name. But first I wanted to research and find out the model of my bike. It’s proving really difficult so I’m documenting what I’m learning about Benotto’s and hopefully it will help others identify their bikes in the future. Also, thanks to Kris for commenting on part 1 of the restoration, that encouraged me to document in more detail about the frame.

This bicycle restoration is turning out to be a bit addictive. Here’s a quick recap thus far. At first things were going pretty well, stripping the frame for sanding went quickly. Then, tragically while sanding the frame to prepare for paint the centre cable guide snapped off. I rotated the frame in my bike stand unfortunately catching the cable guide.

As a kid I learned to play the violin. My violin was the least expensive model from our local music store, but for my parents it was a big purchase. It was the middle of the day, a few years after first getting it, and I sat down on the edge of my bed, not noticing my violin behind me. I snapped the bridge. I was devastated. At that time of my life my violin was hugely important to me.

I remember my mom walking into the room, looked at the violin, looked at me, and said the last thing I could have expected, “Jon, you need to look at this as a positive thing. Be thankful that you broke your violin.” None of those words made any sense to me in that moment, yet I chose to follow her advice.

We went back to the local music store. The owner was standing behind the counter, he took a look at my violin, and calmly told us, “I may be able to fix this.” He rummaged around the supplies in the back corner and came back with a new bridge. “Ahh, I’ve got one, perfect.”

Taking my violin, the new bridge, and a small file he immediately went to work. About 15 minutes later my violin was back together, tuned and ready to play. I played a chord, it had never sounded so rich. A year or so later my instructor would marvel at the violin, she would go on to ask me how much I paid for it. After telling her, she responded that I must have gotten very lucky as it had a better sound than many violins thousands of dollars more expensive.

My mother’s comment now made sense.

So last week I took a deep breath and ground off the last 2 remaining cable guides from my Benotto. I looked online, found some new braze-on cable guides that I could purchase, but they would be different to the originals. Later, while watching the classic Paris-Roubaix documentary “A Sunday In Hell” a new idea formed.

Benotto used cable guide clamps until 1976-77. After which they moved to braze-on cable guides. Because I had already removed the cable guides, why not use the vintage cable guide clamps and restore the bike to be like the one used by Francesco Moser in the 1976 Paris Roubaix race.

With that decision made, it’s back on the restoration train.

Identifying 1979-1980s Benotto’s by the frame and fork:

In part 1 I explained why the original model and year is unknown. Also, some of the components are original, and some are not… all of which makes identifying the bike just that much more challenging.

Step 1: Benotto Chainstays

Benotto 3000 chain stays are diamond shape. All other models had the “eye” indents. Quick look at history, the Benotto 2500 was the highest model until the early 1970s, then by the late 1970s Modelo 3000 was the top model.

Benotto 3000 diamond shaped chain stay
Benotto 3000 diamond shaped chain stay

My Benotto’s chain stay definitely would indicate a model 2500 or lower.

Benotto chain stay

Step 2: Seat post opening.

Benotto frames have the same outside diameter. However, the inside diameter changes depending on the metal used. For example, Columbus SL has a seat post diameter of 27.2mm as the metal is 0.6mm thick. Columbus SP has a seat post diameter of 27.0mm as the steel is 0.7mm thick. Columbus Aelle has a seat post diameter of 26.8mm, the steel is 0.8mm thick. Columbus Zeta has a seat post of diameter of 26.6mm, the steel is 0.9mm thick. Finally, Columbus double butted steel and plain gauge steel is 0.10mm thick with a seat opening of 26.4mm.

Benotto racing road bikes are listed from highest model to lowest by numbers. Benotto Model0 100-800 are entry level bikes. The Modelo 850 is the first of the amateur series bikes.

Modelo 3000 used Columbus SL

Modelo 2500 used Columbus SL

Modelo 2000 used Columbus SP

Modelo 1600 used Columbus Zeta or Aelle

Modelo 1500 used Columbus Zeta or Aelle

Modelo 1000 used Columbus Zeta

Modelo 850 used Columbus Zeta

Modelo 800 used Columbus double-butted steel, or straight gauge moly steel.

Model 700 (unknown)

Model 500 (unknown)

Model 100 (unknown, but 1976 catalog says it uses light-weight steel.)

You can view a PDF document outlining all 1979 Columbus steel tubes here.

Measured my seat post and it was 26.6mm. That would put it somewhere between a Modelo 850-1600.

Step 3. Rear derailleur cable guide.

From all the research I’ve done I’ve concluded that Benotto moved their brazed on derailleur cable guides from above the bottom bracket prior to below the bottom bracket in 1979. 1976 and earlier had the clamp on guides.

1978 benotto
1977-78 Benotto brazed on cable holders were above the chain stay and bottom bracket
1979 modello 800
1979 and later models have the brazed on cable holder below the chain stay and bottom bracket

Looking at my bike’s rear derailleur cable guides and bottom bracket would indicate that it is a 1979 and later model.

Step 4. Rear drop outs

Benotto Modelo 3000 has Campagnolo rear drop outs.

Benotto 3000 Campagnolo rear drop outs
Benotto 3000 Campagnolo rear drop outs

Benotto Modelo 2500, 2000, 1600, 1500, 850 had Benotto rear drop outs

Benotto 1500-2000 rear drop outs
Benotto 1500 rear drop out
Benotto 2500 rear drop out
Benotto 2500 rear drop out

Benotto Model 800 and lower had Suntour, Benotto or other rear dropout

Benotto Modelo 800 Suntour dropout
Benotto Modelo 800 Suntour dropout

My bike has the Benotto rear drop outs

Benotto rear drop out

Step 5. Tubing vs Pipe

It’s not always possible to see this. In my case, because I sanded my frame down to bare metal I could make this observation.

Steel Tubing frames are made in forms and molds. Whereas piped frames are rolled metal. From a strength perspective there are tradeoffs. Randy from mytenspeeds.com mentioned that tubing can be more fragile than piping. But Tubing can generally be made to be thinner in some areas and thicker in others to save weight. Piping is uniform in thickness. Columbus frames are made of tubing.

I noticed what appear to be seams in the metal. That would mean that the frame is made of piping. It’s interesting to note that my seat tube was 26.6mm. So perhaps Benotto used a thinner piping. Either way my Benotto must be a Modelo 800 or lower.

Okay, so that’s where I am in the process so far.

More posts to come. Will write a piece about Benotto Forks as that should give some more clues. Will hopefully have the sanding completed and primer soon.

Part 1 – Benotto Restoration – Where the love all started

38 Replies to “Benotto Bicycle Restoration – How to identify a vintage Benotto bike frame’s year and model – Part 2”

  1. I take a closer look again again tonight and I think I have a modelo 1500 or 1600 from mid 80’s.
    Rear dropout is Benotto
    Front dropout Benotto
    Chainstay not diamond
    Rear dereillieur cables on the bottom
    Seat tube is a 26,8 indicating Benotto Aelle. Therefore Modelo 1500 or 1600.

    Cool thanks for the useful info and hopefully you publish part three on the front drop outs. Now to decide if I incur the expense of a sand and respray full restoration. Still got all the Campagnolo brakes and gears on it and the original San Marco Lazer saddle.

  2. Well 2 years and a new comment. I am trying to place a red and white Benotto I inherited from my Dad. He got it in mid 80’s. Thanks for all the information it is going to help me place this better. No heart shaped cut out and no I stamped in the serial number so looks like a Mexican one. Back in the day it was the Business

  3. Hi Jonathan,

    Thank you so much for the detailed, info-rich posts. I have a 1985 Benotto Modelo 800 that I bought this past Summer, and it’s a wonderful, comfortable and stable ride. Just checked the seat post, pretty sure it’s original as it came and it’s 26.8 mm, indicating Columbus Aelle tubing. I had a feeling it had good tubing, as the ride quality is super.

    Mine has Benotto dropouts at back, not sure about the front fork ones. It has Suntour shifters, a Suntou ARX front derailleur and came with a much more recent Shimano Sora as RD. Replaced that with a Suntour GT, which allowed me to use more chain range. The chainset uses 110mm BCD, and I found a 34t ring for an affordable price on AliExpress. Now in the bike, and it shifts perfectly from the big 53 to the 34 and back. Great way to add gear range.

    Again many thanks for the great posts.

  4. I bought a Benotto youth 5-speed road bike for my son when he was about 8 years old. This was back around 1986. It was a great little bike and he had no problem staying up on group rides 18-22 mph. I handed the bike down to relatives and it disappeared. Would love to find one for grandsons. Any idea where they could be found?

      1. A 24″ wheel 5 speed was just on eBay for about $300. Very nice little frame too, had diamond stays but no lugs. Didn’t buy it, should have. Also saw a similar poghliagi. Cool little sleds, hope you find one…

  5. Hi, I live in Italy and recently I bought a benotto bike but I dont have an idea which model it is. I was wondering if you could help me to find out.
    I’ve some pictures but I dont know how to put them here.
    Thanks!

    1. I really like this bike. You have a treasure there. Appears to be mid to late seventies. Benotto was a popular and trusted brand with a long history at this point, but was starting to react to global demand. The bikes are nicely made and solid. It is a lower line bike, but still a good one and an excellent example of the Benotto line of bicycles. It would be lovely just cleaned up and restored, which is what I hope you do. If not, it will ride nice and race well if you hang some decent mid level parts on it. Please try and keep it the champagne color. I have a source of very high quality graphics that are correct. If interested, please let me know…

      1. Thanks for the information! Yes, I would like to restore it and keep it with the champagne color. Just one last question: do you know if the frame is Columbus?

        Can you show me the graphics? I’m interested on it.

        And just for curiosity do you’ve an idea how much this bike costs? A lot of persons already asked me about it, but not knowing the real price I just tell them it’s not in sale.

        1. Santiago,
          So sorry for the delayed response. Contact Gus Salmon Decals….he has worked very hard to make exacting restoration graphics, and is very knowledgeable on Benotto’s. Just Google his name and you will find what you are looking for.

    1. When I look at this bike, like most Benotto’s, I see a steel bike that will ride well regardless of the tube set, which is the detail that determines the model. It is post 1984, but early because they built the frame with some of the old Benotto cast lugs. O don’t know a lot about later Benotto’s, but do recognize the same Benotto manufacturing traits recognized in earlier bikes.

  6. Hi, Thanx a lot for the research!
    I think that my Benotto is a model 2500 cr but mine have Campagnolo dropouts. Did you see that before?

  7. I am so pleased to see your interest in Benotto’s. I remember seeing them in storefronts in Mexico City in the late 70’s, as well as they were ridden by my hero’s Moser and De Vlaeminck. I have been following the bikes since about ’75 when a company named L.A. White Cycles started advertising in early cycling mags. I still have a poster I got from them in my workshop.
    Mr. Benotto had a dream of making racing bikes from the top of the line down to entry level racers that were close to the same geometry but of materials of gradually lower price and quality. All of his bikes that were built in this mold were good bikes for the day. His idea was to move part of his business to Mexico City and produce all but the highest end bikes for the emerging American market. These were the days of Ciocc and Guerciotti’s. I bought a 3000 (Italian) for $325.00. I later purchased another for $525.00. Mr. Benotto’s dream was realized when a guy like me could buy a 1700 track frame with Campagnolo ends, a 38 rake chrome fork with a Cinelli crown and steerer and Columbs Zeta tubing (seamed, but raced OK) for less than $150.00. You could crash them at that price, and mine still race OK.

    I have owned six, and have restored two. I still have three left. My old 3000, My old 1700, and another 1700 I picked up recently that is really nice.

    The bikes are so mired in history and mystique. Enjoy the journey you are having. Don’t forget the team bikes, which will break all the rules you are establishing. I once owned a bike that belonged to the Simonatta team and it looked like an early 3000 hybrid with a 2500. braze on cable guides, cable guides brazed to the BB top, and no diamond stays…..but it was SL/SP mix and reeked of a high end race bike.

    Have fun friend. Enjoy bikes and Benotto’s!

    Mr. Benotto

    1. Hi Steven, thanks so much for your comment. It’s true there is a lot of mystique around Benottos. I guess part is legend and part is because not a lot of information survives about them. Thank you for providing a bit more, especially about the team bikes.

      1. Jonathan,
        I still have a sales poster from Benotto that shows all the bikes in the Benotto line in 1979 along with general specs of each of the bikes. I have a multi- page scan of the document. If you would like a copy please contact me.

  8. Hi Jonathan. I have a similar project to yours going and am wondering if you have any thoughts about identifying the frame… hope you’ll allow a longish comment. A friend has a Benotto that, before he got it, was given a truly hideous brushed-on white primer paint job. Very very sloppily done, presumably as a theft deterrent. I’m trying to identify the model. Many of the components have been switched (eg. an XT derailleur), but the cranks are Campy “Strada” from 1981, Campy headset and brake levers. Haven’t looked at the BB, but there is no heart cutout in the BB shell. Rest is a weird mix of Dura Ace and Suntour. Seatpost is 27.0. Bike current weighs 21.4 lbs. After using a little paint remover, I’ve found the color scheme is like this, as far as I can tell: http://www.ebay.com/itm/BENOTTO-FRAME-AND-FORK-59-CM-COLUMBUS-TUBING-600-HEADSET-BOTTOM-BRACKET-/161765012312?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item25a9f23358

    So, I’m pretty sure it is a mid 1980s 2500, although there are some inconsistencies. First, you say above that it should have a 27.2 seatpost, while it has a 27.0. According to that ebay ad, 27.0 was used at some point, your thoughts? The other problem is that it appears that it was equipped with Campy Super Record, given the complete lack of Shimano 600 and Campy being used in the harder-to-replace spots. My interneting indicates on Shimano 600 for this model and paint scheme (black, transitioning to grey, chromed fork). I feel like this is a big clue as to when it was made and whether I’ve got the model right. Again, your thoughts? Thanks in advance, and especially for putting this blog together!

    1. Hi Corwin,

      Thanks for the question. Based on the seatpost size it’s likely a Modelo 2000, which is still a great bike. The way you describe the part replacement makes sense. As for year, there are a couple things you can check. Is the rear derailleur cable guide sitting on the top or underside of the chain stay? Also, what make are the rear dropouts? That will be a clue as well.

      1. Hmmm… so you think that 2500 on ebay is listing the wrong seatpost size?

        The dropouts are Benotto. Cable guides are below the BB.

        1. Yes, it’s likely that the measurement is wrong on the ebay ad or the bike is actually a 2000. The 2500 used Columbus SL tubing, so that would be 27.2 seatpost size.

          From what you’ve described I would agree with you on the age, somewhere between a 1981 and 1985 model. Because some of the components are switched out it makes it very difficult to determine an exact age. You could research the components that you believe to be original and take an average of that age. It would give you accurate estimate.

          Very lucky, nice bike and year. Let me know how the project goes. Also, do you have any photos?

          1. Great, thanks for your thoughts! I’m confident enough in the ID to recommend going beyond a powder coat to my friend. Only worry left is that since it is almost certainly a Mexican Benotto, that it might be prone to a failure of the seat tube near the BB, as widely reported on various forums. My friend and I are hoping to ride L’Eroica California next year, and the rough dirt roads may accelerate a failure. Hope not.

            I have photos… the paint is truly hideous, so be warned. It may take me a few days to send them along. Shall I email them to you?

          2. Nice, I might see you at L’Eroica next year.

            As far as the seat tube concern. Take a look at the brazing around the seat tube. If you see any cracks then it is easy to rebraze it. You could even take it to your local mechanic and they will be able to do it for you. You can do this before you paint it. If you don’t see any cracks, then the bike is sound. This is true of any vintage steel bicycle.

            Even if it were to fail it’s not a dangerous issue and nothing to be concerned about. Worst case scenario the bike will feel a bit weird as it will allow for more flex. But it will still be rideable.

            There was one bike mechanic that reported that he saw dozens of Benotto’s fail in the late 80s. But since then it seems that the bikes that didn’t crack are lasting 30+ years. So it may be a case where just a few unlucky bikes were effected. Benotto’s are loved for their geometry, stiffness and build quality. If one does fail, I would recommend rebrazing it. Then it will last forever.

  9. Thank you for your details on this project. I owned a 1987 Benotto 850 from Mexico. I regret losing this bicycle in a sale and am looking to build up a steel frame vintage from the 80s. Naturally I am looking to Benotto, and your information is helping plugging in the gaps of information as I scour Ebay and Craigslist ads. Your time and effort is not wasted because you have taught me much!

  10. Hi! I have a Benotto Modello 900, made in 1987. As far as I know, the frame building was moved to Mexico somewhere in the 70s. Most people say that the frames from Mexico can be identified by the bottom bracket. The higher end Benottos were still made in Italy, they had a heart shaped cutout in the bottom bracket. The models from Mexico also had the heart shaped cutout, but it was seperated in two parts. Also, Benottos from Mexico were spelled “Modello” (spanish), whereas the models from Italy were spellded “Modelo” (italian).
    If you want, I can send you pictures of my Modello 900, and identify the parts.

    Regards from Germany

    Oliver

    1. Hi Oliver, Oh good to know, didn’t know that about the Modello. Would you be interested in contributing photos of your bike for the project?

    2. Oliver…I specifically ordered an italian made Benotto 3000 frame from my local bike shop in San Diego in 1982. I had shipping papers from Italy as well. I already had the mexican made Benotto 800 and knew all about the two plants. My observations are opposite of what you have stated above.

      My 1981 mexican frame had a complete heart shaped cutout and “Benotto” stamped on the BB. My italian made frame had the seperated heart cutout and an “I” stamped on the BB. The “I” stands for Italy. It was common knowledge back then that Benotto stamped their Italian made 3000’s with the “I” to differeniate between the two plants after a certain date. All of the 3000’s I have seen after 1980 or so have had the “I” stamped on the BB and all were from owners who stated they also bought directly from Italy.

      Jonathan…nice blog on the Benottos.

      1. I concur with Pat. His statements are as I remember them in the late seventies and early eighties. My 1983 3000 has the “I” clearly stamped.

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