Benotto Tandem: A Most Unusual Benotto: Part 2
Updated: Aug 13
Let's build this bike up.
When I last spoke to you about this bicycle, I had received it from shipping and I was getting ready to take it apart and really learn about it.
I stripped to bike down to the bones. I was very pleased to find all the components in exceptional condition and very well maintained. I did not stop there.
The graphics on the bike were damaged, and I did not care for the placement. I removed the graphics from the frame. I was very pleased as peeled the stickers from the frame. The paint underneath the vinyl was perfectly preserved Benotto champagne just as it looked when it left the factory. I now had another perfect color swatch of the original color, but this paint was in exceptionally good condition for a 40 year old bike.
When I was discussing this bicycle with Benotto expert Gus Solmon, he told me he had a Benotto road fork for the bike, but it needed chromed. I purchased the fork from Gus, as well as two sets of early 1970 graphics, and two sets of early 1980's graphics for the bike. I waited for the fork to be chromed in anticipation. Gus gave me a very good price on the fork and I was excited to get an original Benotto fork on this frame. I firmly believed that the bike was originally equipped with a Benotto road fork.
It was during this process that I learned about forks and tandems. This is a very important statement, so please pay attention:
Forks can fail on old steel tandems, and if you are not careful, you can be severely injured or killed on one of these bikes if it does not have an adequate fork. The fork can catastrophically break at the steer tube/crown joint, or at the fork crown/fork blade junction. This is fact and if you throw a leg over a tandem, you should consider this.
Remember I told you the bike had a replacement fork? I am just reminding you of that now. We will speak more of this later.
The graphics from Gus came in while I waited. They were perfect. I had several original Benotto's to compare the graphics with, and the quality and accuracy of the new graphics was impeccable. These graphics are better quality than some graphics I received in 1999-2000 from Mrs. Benotto herself. That is another story I will speak of later.
I decided to present the frame as a Benotto from around 1973 to 1977. I do not know why I decided this. Gus thought I should do a 1982 scheme. I might agree now. I still have very good, original paint, and I can change the graphics later. Who knows what the future holds for this bike? I do know the bikes current reality, this frame is going to look like an early 1970's Benotto for now. I applied the graphics and here is what I came up with:
The bike without the fork.......
I wanted a tandem that looked like a couple of nice Benotto's joined at the hip.....
That lug sure looks like an Italian 2500 to me......
More cutout lugs...the mark of a 2500. This would have been a fun frame to braze, and alot of work.
The original paint reflects war and tear, but it in very good condition and the color is very well maintained. This maintains the patina and is more attractive that a shiny, new paint job in my opinion.
That is the kind of headset you need on a tandem. This appears to be the stock unit.
Cable routing is above the Bottom Bracket in 1970's style. This was part of my decision on 1970's graphics.
This Campagnolo Graphic is lovely. I do not believe it is correct for the date. I do not care for now. The flying wheel logo is going on this bike. This should tell you what I have in mind.
I discovered an interesting thing as I applied to graphics for this bike. As I looked carefully at the frame, I noticed a seam on the steer tube starboard side. My heart sank a little bit. Let me show it to you:
That is what a seamed steel steer tube looks like through a thin coat of paint. That is not the light, but a seam. I cannot consider it a 2500 Oh well, it is still a nice bike.
This means that this bike has seamed tubing, and that Columbus Decal cannot be on the bike if I ever sell it. If you ever find yourself at this crossroads, that is the only acceptable answer to this question. Until I sell it though, it is staying on there.
1700's have Zeta tubing. That is seamed, and I raced it frequently. All is not lost.
If you would like to know more about this issue, I cannot explain it any clearer than Jonathan Whiting does in his excellent and informative website machiine.com where he describes tubing and Benotto's in wonderful detail. I highly suggest you read it carefully if you are interested in the Benotto bikes.
Did I mention that the seat lugs on this bike were 26.4? I do not believe I did. If you go to Jonathan's site, he will explain the significance of this. I think I did not notice this because I did not want to see this fact. I cannot deny the issue now that I see the seam.
I now am aware that I do not have a super high end Italian Tandem like a Pogliaghi or a Cinelli. I am not too disappointed, I never thought I did, and I did not pay thousands for the bike. I will say that I should have seen this coming because of the quality of the parts on the bike.
While I was playing with stickers, the fork came in. It was everything I had hoped for and more. Whoever Gus had do the chrome did an excellent job. The chrome was as thick and nice as any Italian fork I had ever seen. I slapped the fork on the bike and the result was very nice. I am aware, as I mount the beautiful, deeply chromed fork that is identical to the one on my top of the line 3000, and that the bike cannot be safely ridden with it. I had a very pretty paperweight that I cannot sell and cannot ride. Did I mention I was going through something?
I invested in every Campagnolo Tandem part I could get my hands on, including one of the first Campagnolo parts I ever fell in lust with: Nuovo Record Bar End Controls. I found a Campagnolo quick release for the stoker seat post, and I filled out the bike with old treasured parts and put together a component set you might see on this bike if it were ridden seriously in the mid to later 1970's.
I used a 3TTT Benotto stem and bars I had sitting around. With the fork, it really made the bike shine. It presented a very nice cockpit for the tandems pilot. When you were on the drops, where you should be, you had firm control of the bike.
I rode Concor saddles back then, and I secured a couple for this bike for a look I remember from back then. Later, when I test ride the bike, I was pleasantly reminded of how comfortable this saddle was. I remember paying the extravagant price of $49.95 for one when I was a young man. It seemed very expensive at the time.
I built a set of wheels so the bike could sport tubular tires. Clinchers were appropriate and I found some very nice Continental Vintage tires to use on the clinchers that came with the bike. The real wheels (tubies) for this bike turned out wonderfully. Let me tell you a little about them.
If you have read my theories on bikes, you will know that I am a fan of spoke wheels, 3 cross with high flanges for track riding. That makes a very strong wheel for a bike. We need a strong wheel for this bike, so here is how I built the wheel:
*High flange Campagnolo road hubs, 36 hole
*DT SS spokes, straight gauge for strength, and 4 cross for strength and a flex
*Nisi Countach rims 36 hole
These built up nicely and are acceptable for any vintage ride with friction shifting. The wheels are also gorgeous and offer an exceptional ride.
I slapped the bike together and here is what I would up with:
The Pilot Station Campagnolo Style.....
The Benotto Fork.....Thanks Gus!
From The Front ....
The Stoker setup. Notice the 1970's yellow Benotto shield on sat tube graphic.
The front end has the same configuration as my 3000 with a big, fat BB.
Here she is, ready to ride. I will write of the handling in Part 3.
This is the bike as it looks today. I removed the stoker lever handles for aesthetics.
In retrospect I am very pleased with the bicycle, but I have some issues with it. I will discuss those issues, and tandems in general, in the next part of this discussion. Until then I would like to bring up a couple of things about this experience:
*I mentioned that I was fully symptomatic for PTS when I undertook this project. I also mentioned I was obsessive in my behavior. As evidence of this, I still do not know how much money and resources I put into this project. I could research and find out, but I do not know. While I was careful about what I spent in the effort, I should have mindful of what was going on. I was not.
*If the result of my PTS results in something as unique and nice to look at as a vintage bike as cool as this one, then at least I have that. This is a very cool bike.
What until I tell you about riding the darn thing. Get ready for part 3.