In addition to general frame and fork set characteristics, there are other frame/component situations, a blend if you will, that needs to be aware of when estimating the vintage of an old bike.

With that in mind, consider this old Benotto road bicycle.  Upon considering a purchase, one must question three or four absolutely fundamental things.

The question, most people first want to know, how much is the bike worth?  How much should I pay for the bike, or how much should I sell it for?  In fact, the question is so common that the Bicycle Forums (Google it) actually has a section devoted to that exact query.

The third, commonly asked question focuses on the bicycle's state of repair.  Every buyer wants to know what he, or she, is getting.  No one wants to buy a damaged or non-functioning bicycle.  Well, that statement is not entirely true, but the point is the buyer does want to know if the bicycle works, or not.

To those first two question, questions that are asked in every purchase, be it a can of soup, or a top of the line vintage racing bicycle, are now supplemented with a third - How Old Is My Bike?

Value and state of repair concerns have been addressed elsewhere, leaving one remaining is How Old Is The Bike?  To answer that question, one might well have to travel, back in time, to the day the bicycle was made.  In other words, even someone, with years of study and experience, might not be able to determine a vintage road bicycle's exact vintage.  And, if a professional bicycle restorer cannot determine vintage, what chance do the rest of us have?

Actually, we all have a pretty good chance of figuring out how old a bike is.  All it takes is a bit of time to learn how.

Take the time Walk Though determining a bicycle's vintage, and that last question might well answer itself.  Consider the complete frame and fork set, focusing on all of the possible frame set details, that can help to determine when the bicycle was made.  With practice and experience, those features will leap out at you, as you approach a bike.  In fact, once you learn what to watch for, you will have trouble not seeing the bevy of vintage determining clues, that will present themselves.

How and when, this old Benotto entered The Old Shed, is information lost in time.  Know only that it was one of many vintage bicycles hanging in the Velo gloom.  Know also that little, if anything, was known about the bicycle, including its country of origin.  The only clue, as to what the bicycle actually was, is contained on the tops of the seat stays.  Were it not for the word Benotto being embossed there, no clue would present itself regarding the bicycle's make.  Make no mistake about it, this is a very common occurrence in the vintage road bicycle world.   Many bicycles will find their way into the hands of new owners, owners who will never know, for sure, what kind of bicycle they actually have.  It happens all the time.  Back to the task at hand - determining vintage.

The first vintage defining feature that jumps out at the viewer is the shifter braze-ons.  These permanent characteristics suggest, immediately, that the bicycle is at the very least late seventies.  Good, the vintage determining process is working.  And the shifters, themselves, like most other components, can prove useful in the age determining process.  Of course, that is another part of the story.

Benotto, embossed on the tops of the seat stays, offers a very valuable piece of identification information.  But some features, distances for example, might not prove to be so apparent.

In the case of the Benotto, the inside rear drop-out faces were set at 120mm apart and the bike was fitted with a five cog freewheel.  This would suggest earlier than mid seventies.  With that piece of information, the window of age is beginning to form but it would prove to be misleading at this point.

A second measurement, that can help with the identification process, but not necessarily with determining how old the bicycleis, is the bottom bracket housing width.  Almost all old road bicycles had a 68mm wide bottom bracket housing, with Italy being the only country to fit 70mm wide housings.  However, the width of the Benotto's bb is 70mm.  Does this suggest that the bicycle is of Italian origin?  Normally, it would but not this time.  As it turns out, the Benotto was built in Mexico.

Some time in the sixties, Benotto construction moved from Torino, Italy to Mexico.  Hence, most Benottos found in the western hemisphere, will be of Mexican origin.  Does that help with dating the year of manufacture?  Not the exact year, but one would know that, being of Mexican origin, the bike would have to be post move.  There are, of course, a few very high end exceptions to this general rule.  Apparently, the Benotto top dog, the Model 5000 continued in limited production, in Italy, for many years after the move to Mexico.

Though bottom bracket width is of little value in determining vintage, its appearance can help to determine age.  The absence of transmission cable guide braze-ons suggests mid-seventies, or earlier.  Other identical Benottos do feature this horribly ugly and less than user friendly frame attachment.  Late seventies steeds would not have the feature, while early eighties would begin to incorporate the idea into the frame sets.

With no bottom bracket cable guide braze-ons present, one would have to assume that the bicycle is of seventies vintage, falling somewhere between 1975 and 1979.  The vintage window narrows.  But, remember, this is not an exact science.  This is simple educated guessing.  Though the evidence, so far suggests seventies, other clues might point elsewhere.

What about the derailleur mount?  Is it clamp-on or braze-on.  Clamp on would suggest anything from the fifties on, while the brazed on frame set feature indicates a bicycle of late seventies, and newer, origins.  The Benotto featured the clamp-on front derailleur, once again supporting seventies vintage.  The evidence grows stronger as the vintage mystery slowly evaporates.

The rear drop-outs are short horizontal forged units.  The fact that the drops are short, once again, suggests late seventies or newer.  The drops alone, help to move the vintage window away from the mid-seventies, towards the late.  A narrower window, indeed!

In support of that last revelation, consider the flat fork crown, suggesting anything from the fifties on.  However, the crown presents a gigantic vintage determining clue - the hex nut used to secure the front brake to the fork.  Hex nuts fasteners were the standard up until the late seventies.  However, the socket head fastener had come into being, being used more and more commonly on bicycle components.  Though the fastener feature began showing up on components in the mid seventies, it was not until a few years later that the value was incorporated into the bicycle frame and fork.

A vintage road bicycle frame or fork set, designed to accept the socket head screw, is not Old School.  This single feature, on a frame or fork set, points to the eighties decade and newer.  Of course, in keeping with the not exact science argument, there were some examples offered earlier, but they are few and far between.

By now, most, if not all of the evidence, points to the late seventies, but probably early eighties.  The Benotto is probably of 1979 to 1982/3 vintage.  That is a pretty narrow window to work with.  But, the window can be narrowed even more, if one takes the time to inspect the components themselves.  They too have, and can tell, a vintage story, and a rather precise one, at that.  Components can actually reveal year and month of manufacture..!