21 January 2016

A Wrap From The Past

It came in a rainbow of colors and was, by far, the lightest product in its category.  It was easy to apply and use, and even easier to replace.  As delicate as it seemed, it actually fared as well--or, at least no worse--than any other item in its category.

Even at 25 cents, nobody wanted it.  So, in the first bike shop in which I worked, we threw it out..

Fast-forward a few years:  I'm working in another bike shop.  Everyone, it seemed, wanted the stuff we tossed out of the previous shop.  Some even grew irate when we didn't have the color(s) they wanted.

What happened?  Well, the '70's became the '80's.  Neon colors became all the rage in everything from ski wear to cycle gear.  ( I rode several winters in a hot pink-and-black Italian cycling jacket.)  Some riders wanted multiple colors to create all sorts of patterns and special effects.

What am I describing?  

Image result for benotto cello handlebar tape

It's something you may well have used if you're about my age.  Maybe you're still using it.  If you weren't born the first time it  was en vogue, you may have discovered it recently and think it's the coolest stuff you've ever seen.

I'm talking about a thin cellophane handlebar tape from Benotto. Almost no bar wrap was ever slicker or shinier.  I, like many other riders, wondered how that stuff could ever provide any kind of grip.

Image result for benotto cello handlebar tape

Truth was, it didn't.  And that was part of its appeal, especially if you were a time trialist or some other kind of super-fast rider. You see, its surface made it easier to change hand positions on long rides.  On the other hand (pun intended), the only thing resembling grip the tape provided came from the overlaps. 

I'll admit, I used a couple of sets myself.  On my black Cannondale road bike, I wrapped my bars with red Benotto tape; on my Trek 510, I used a rather nice set in a kind of shimmery café crème hue.

Image result for benotto cello handlebar tape

 The tape could be had in almost any shade imaginable, as well as in certain patterns, including the flags of Italy, France, Germany and other countries.

By the time customers were demanding it, the price had gone up to around a dollar. At that price, you didn't worry about tearing it in a fall or some other mishap!  And it took practically no time to rewrap a bar with new Benotto tape.

I don't know how long it stayed on the market.  From what I could tell, production seemed to have stopped some time around 1990.  These days, new-old-stock Benotto tape goes for as much as $25 (yes, for a two-roll set) on eBay.  And some company is making reproductions of the thin cellophane tape. 

Imagine that:  A "retro" product made of cellophane. 


  1. My Cinelli #14 steel track 'bars are still wrapped in the blue and yellow Benotto tape i put on back in the early 80's. It still looks pretty good.
    Just in case, though, i have a stash of a few precious spare rolls i scored at a swap meet for way less than the ridiculous "collector's" prices seen on the Big Auction Site.
    Nowadays i've gone back to using Tressostar or Newbaum's cloth tape with generous coats of shellac. The grip is much better, but sometimes i miss the bright colourful sheen of the cello tape, and may come back to it one day.
    Thanks for the memories!

  2. Very interesting blog. I read this kind of a blog for the first time. Thank you so much for sharing. I really like it. carbon rims

  3. I loved the ivory-colored tape. Had sort of a pearlescent thing going on with it. Seems like it went well with any color bike. Also, it didn't hurt that I could easily afford a couple of rolls out of my meager savings and I thought it made my bikes look "classy". Of course, come mid-to-late 80's, the crazy neon took over. So tacky and delightful.

    I remember the bike shop had Benotto (actually, I can't remember for sure, but it seems like it may have been an off-brand), cloth (in black or white only), rolls of cork that seemed exorbitantly expensive to me at the time (heh, it was probably still less than a couple of dollars for handlebar's worth...), and that super-gross pipe-insulation foam that everybody with a cheap bike used on their bars. All in a colorful spread of boxes on a counter by the register.


  4. Hmm, I'm thinking that must not have been cork tape back in the 80's. More of a rubbery type? Wow, I can't remember, now...

  5. I loved this stuff, especially when you could pair it up with the cable housings that had the similarly glossy, almost translucent color.

  6. Mike--Benotto tape was indeed surprisingly durable. As long as your handlebars didn't have a close encounter with pavement or a brick wall, the tape would last a while.

    Wolf--I remember the ivory-colored tape. It is indeed as you describe it. Isn't it funny how we remember things like counter displays?

    Brooks--Your comment and Wolf's reveal something too many of us didn't want to admit: We loved Benotto tape--the looks of it, anyway. On my black Trek 930, I had the translucent red tape and translucent red cable housings (the ones on which the coils could be seen as traces underneath the red sheathing. I rode a tan Ideale 2002 saddle with it. It had, I thought, an interesting combination of class and flash.

    1. The first good bike I bought in 1964 had this tape on the bars: it was a Raleigh 10-speed that was stolen in 1968. I still sometimes shed a tear for this bike. Another one I had in the late 60's in Europe also had this tape. It too was stolen...

      But I have recently acquired a 1978 Somec with a complete set of Campagnolo components, Cinelli handlebars and stem and a Concor saddle, all original and all in mint condition. I bought it off a former pro who raced it in the 80's in Nordic Championships. Today he runs a LBS and rides crabon. The old Somec has it's original sky blue Benotto tape to match the frame.


  7. Leo--One thing about the Beonotto tape: You could get it in a color to match just about anything!

    Hmm...Two bikes with the tape, and both were stolen? Correlation, or mere coincidence? ;-)

    One thing I've noticed about racers and ex-racers is that they're almost never interested in anything "retro". So it doesn't surprise me that he's riding carbon. I wouldn't be surprised if his bike is black with red and white trim.