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

Benotto restoration

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

Benotto bicycle restoration – Where the love all started – Part 1

Ole Ritter breaks the hour record in 1968

The restoration – A background.

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a bright sunny morning and I had just gotten a phone call from my friend Ryan, “You’ve got to come quick … there’s another guy that really wants this bike.”

The bike was a $5 Benotto at Ryan’s garage sale. It was a killer deal. Granted this was 10 years ago and the love of all things classic hadn’t yet come into vogue.

Bikes have somehow been involved with all the big milestones in my life. One of my earliest memories is of my dad surprising me with my first bike. He had worked in the garage fixing up and painting it. My family moved countries when I was 8. That was when I sold my then red 6 speed bike. It was the most precious belonging I had. Selling it was a big deal for me – bigger than moving countries. My parents were perhaps aware of this. They let me sell the bike myself, barter for a fair price, and then throw in my lock because I liked the kid.

Later at the iconic age of 16 I got my first “real” mountain bike. It was a Giant ATX 870. Our family had moved again (we moved around a bit growing up – which may explain my nomadic inclinations). Shortly after arriving in the new town I got this beautiful machine. It was my pride and joy. I liked that it was a hard-tail and I liked that it was a bit more technical to ride down some trails. I took care learning to do drops and my first gap jump. I never dropped the bike, never crashed, or endoed. It was the perfect bike for me. Then it was stolen.

The next day my dad called to let me know he saw a guy riding downtown on a bike that looked identical. But the guy disappeared and that was the last time I ever heard about it.

I learned a valuable lesson. If you value something – look after it. Instead of looking after this bike I had left it behind a friends house because I didn’t want to bike back up the hill home. That’s where it was stolen.

Skipping a few years and I’ve been without a bike for about 3 years. That was when my friend Ryan called. He knew that I had been looking for a road bike and a family member had donated this bike for his garage sale. So I headed over there and closed the $5 deal.

For me this Benotto represented more than a bike. It felt like a gift from God. It was just what I needed that summer.

It was late spring when I picked up the bike and the weather was warming up. That bike became my primary mode of transportation. In those days I was working on a construction site. I would bike to the job site early in the morning, work through the day, and then ride back through the town, cross the bridge and then up the long steady hill climb home. The Benotto took me on weekend adventures, peddling up the roads with friends to explore and climb nearby mountains.

I didn’t know anything about the bike, all I knew was that I loved the way it was to ride.

Earlier that year I had helped out briefly at a local bike shop as a bike mechanic. As the shop was on my route home I swung by to give the bike a tune up. It was the guys there that let me know just how special the Benotto was – and how rare it was to find. Apparently Benotto was one of the best bike makers in the world from 1930s to the 1980s. Benotto team riders lead the world’s cycling scene in the 1960s to 80s – breaking records and winning races.

This was all news to me. I liked the frame and had sprayed it black right after getting it. Later converting it to a single speed and using it as my town commuter. Turns out this was a mistake. Benottos are like the holy grail – not to be tampered with.

This faithful bike has been with me now for about 10 years, through thick and thin, rain or shin, and I feel it deserves a new life – one fitting of the Benotto name.

So this week I’ve started the restoration. It proved really challenging to identify the model and year having removed all decals when I first got it (I did leave the front decal). Despite its legendary status there is surprisingly very little information available about the Benotto. I’ve tried to document what I’ve learned as I go and share that with the world on this site. You can learn more about the history of Benotto here.

The restoration – Part 1

First the dismantling. This is the fun part. Stripping off all the parts revealed some really nice brazing in the bottom bracket.

Benotto bottom bracketYou can see the original gold/champagne colour remained hidden beneath some of the parts.Benotto frameSanding begun. You can see Benotto’s signature heart cutout. Sanding the bottom bracketThe quality of a Benotto bicycle can be seen everywhere. Here are the cast rear wheel dropouts.Benotto rear dropout

As the black paint is removed, more quality craftsmanship is revealed. Here you can see the nicely built seat stays.

Benotto seat staysThen tragedy strikes. I accidentally broke one of the cable guides on the top tube with my bike stand’s clamp. Was hoping to braze it back in place, but it’s broken into 3 pieces. Not sure what I will do. Might grind off all the cable guides and replace them with new ones. Or I use the old fashioned cable guides. Will see what comes to mind tomorrow.

That’s all so far. Part 2 to follow shortly.

Part 2 – How to identify a Benotto frame