Benotto was founded by Giacinto Benotto, in Torino, Italy, 1931. Like so many Italian bike manufacturers of the era, Benotto himself was a passionate racer and had first hand experience of the competitive world of racing. He knew of the need for high-quality designs.
Giacinto, together with his brother, researched extensively into the development of racing bikes for the future. However, early in 1948, the story of the brand took an unusual turn. Having read about the newly discovered oil in Venezuela, Benotto was keen to travel to South America in order to set up his classic bicycle brand and capitalise on this new found area of wealth.
The Benotto brothers reached port La Guaira in the summer of 1948, along with 200 newly designed Benotto bikes. As they went through customs, Giacinto explained his concept of introducing bikes to Latin America. Despite his best efforts, they weren't convinced. They maintained, 'here in Venezuela we don’t ride bicycles, we drive Cadillacs'. Despite this initial opposition, Giacinto became a successful bicycle pioneer. Benotto developed the first Venezuelan folding bike, the first tandem and a five person bicycle which became famous through television appearances.
Alongside the pioneering business vision of the Benotto brothers, their synonymous brand would also sponsor a series of successful professional cycling teams. 11 World Championship titles have been won by riders of Benotto bicycles, the most most notable winner being Franscesco Moser in San Cristobal, Venezuela, 1977. In addition, Ole Ritter set an hour record on a Benotto bicycle in 1968; 48.653 km in Mexico City.
Established in 1896, Emmo Ghelfi founded the Frejus brand in Torino, Italy, building a small workshop in the courtyard of the Piazza Statuto. He would be one of the first manufacturers of bicycles in the whole of Italy, naming his brand after the nearby Monte Frejus, on the border of Italy and France.
Emmo and his brother designed and hand-built every frame Frejus produced, focusing on sleek lines, simple lug-work and balanced handling. The Frejus name grew to acclaim during the 1930s, as the great Gino Bartali rode to victory during the 1935 Giro d’Italia upon a Frejus bicycle. Many successes would follow, from 6 world championship titles to Ferdie Kubler’s win of the Tour de France in 1950. Their world championship successes were immortalised on every bicycle, as for every victory came a new Campione del Mondo stamp on the head tube.
As the second half of the 20th Century turned, Frejus were looking to expand. Sales negotiations with Emilio Bozzi of Legnano began and the Turin workshop was moved to Milan, with the intention of co-producing bicycles with Bozzi. However, this partnership was shortlived following the unfortunate events surrounding Bozzi’s death. It wasn’t long before Bianchi bought the rights to the Frejus name; from then on, Frejus ceased to manufacture bicycles.