1948-ish Alcon

Vintage, yesteryear and retro biking

1948-ish Alcon

Postby Johnj » Tue Nov 09, 2010 1:23 pm

(This post disappeared with the BNA crash so I've resurrected it from the Google cache.)

I recently purchased this bike from Jay (Rideon). I believe it dates from the late 1940s, but any extra info would be appreciated.

Alcon was set up at 312 Victoria Road, Marrickville in about 1948 by Alvia Mervyn Connolly (1918-1974), who (unsurprisingly) preferred to be known as Bill Connolly. Connolly was a former bike racer who was building bikes (employer unknown) by 1943. Alcon derives directly from his name, ALvia CONnolly. I understand that Mick Mazza was associated with Alcon and sold Alcon bikes. As best I can work out the Alcon name disappeared with Bill Connolly's death.

This bike was owned by (and probably built for) Jack Wolstenholme (1922?-?) who raced as an amateur for the Petersham and Dulwich Hill clubs. He had a start in the 1945 Goulburn Sydney (off 40 minutes) and also rode Sydney Goulburn in 1953 (off 35 minutes), probably on this bike.

The components list includes some of the highest-quality (and lightest) components available after WW2. Unfortunately the breakages prove the fragility of these early alloy components. Until I pulled the headset to pieces I had no idea that Cyclo built headsets, let alone out of alloy. I think the brakes are pre-war, but if anyone knows anything about Super Sport brakes (by Bowden I think) I'd be interested to know more.

The lugs are beautifully finished but no money was wasted on the paintwork, which is a single colour with lug-lining. I love the fact that it looks like the bike retired from its last race and hasn't been changed since. I intend to keep it as original as I can. It has a brazed-on gear boss and cable guides, showing it was intended as a geared bike from new, despite the rear-opening fork ends. Also it was clearly run on the road with singles.

Frame Alcon, unknown steel
Wheels Front: ? hub, Clement alloy single rim, Rear: Prior hub, Freebairn alloy single rim (completely disintegrated :cry:)
Chainset Hobbs Lytaloy cranks with Lytaloy chainring turned down to 3/32" (left crank has a great big crack :cry:) home made chain guide
Pedals None
Gears Cyclo Benelux 5-speed, replacing earlier Simplex Champion Du Monde (which came with the bike :) ), Simplex Tour De France lever, 14-15-16-18-20 freewheel
Brakes Bowden Super Sport? levers and rear caliper with VEW Continental front caliper
Stem/Bars Reynolds lugged steel stem with unknown chromed bars
Saddle Brooks B17 Narrow on gallows seatpost (installed backwards)
Headset Cyclo alloy
Bottle Cage Alumlite

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by BNA » Tue Nov 09, 2010 3:46 pm

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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby WyvernRH » Tue Nov 09, 2010 3:46 pm

That really is a beauty John! A real 'Allrounder' frame....
Those Lytalloy cranks were a bitch for splitting, I don't think I've seen an undamaged set outside of a box.
From what people have said on the forum it must be the exception to the rule for its period in Oz with all the alloy kit. Also it has mudguard eyes in the old 'British' style 2-3 inches up the fork and stays, as well as a lamp boss on the r/h fork! Very UK in style, most Oz bikes didn't have these fittings from what I've seen.
What do you reckon the little braze-on half-way up the r/h chainstay is for? A number? Surely not a dynamo?
Cheers
Richard
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Clydesdale Scot » Tue Nov 09, 2010 5:04 pm

WyvernRH wrote:What do you reckon the little braze-on half-way up the r/h chainstay is for? A number? Surely not a dynamo?

a tail light mount?
(same spot where I had to fill on the 1948 frame I am working on. It was where the rear light screw pin mount had been attached to the stay)
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby WyvernRH » Tue Nov 09, 2010 7:50 pm

Clydesdale Scot wrote:
WyvernRH wrote:What do you reckon the little braze-on half-way up the r/h chainstay is for? A number? Surely not a dynamo?

a tail light mount?
(same spot where I had to fill on the 1948 frame I am working on. It was where the rear light screw pin mount had been attached to the stay)


Yup, that is it, got to be! It matches the front lamp mount.
Maybe they were for carbide or early battery lamps given there is no matching dynamo mount? On such a well equipped bike you would expect a dynamo mount if the rider meant to use one.
Cheers
Richard
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Clydesdale Scot » Tue Nov 09, 2010 8:05 pm

WyvernRH wrote:Maybe they were for carbide or early battery lamps given there is no matching dynamo mount? On such a well equipped bike you would expect a dynamo mount if the rider meant to use one.


Dad had a dynamo also with a screw pin mount to the front right hand side fork blade. The front light was mounted near the front axle. (clear recollection from over 40 years ago!)
His bike had no mounting points or braze-ons anywhere, apart from drillings for brakes.
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Johnj » Tue Nov 09, 2010 9:47 pm

WyvernRH wrote:That really is a beauty John! A real 'Allrounder' frame...


Thanks Richard. I hadn't thought about it that way, but maybe the "track ends" are potentially for ... track work? That would really make it an Allrounder. And Wolstenholme did compete on the track.... :wink:

I'm pretty sure the rear fitting is for a tail light, and there's definitely no braze-on for a generator. My Bol D'or has a front lamp fitting without provision for a generator.

So, anyone know about "Super Sport" brakes? Or got a spare Lytaloy left crank (or maybe a set of 3-pin Chater Lea cranks) or a 40-hole 1940s single rim?
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby bicyclepassion » Wed Nov 10, 2010 8:23 am

Some riders used a sturmey Archer dyno hub in their training wheels, and the front fork mount for the headlight bracket was common. The tail light bracket not so common.
Are the headfittings all branded Cyclo, or just the special alloy two piece lock nut? I have seen the Cyclo alloy locknuts before, but I have thought they were an after market accessory, that replaced whatever standard steel locknut you had. They were and still are a clever design.
Great to find a time capsule bike like that, just hung up as you say 'after its last race'.
And I'm pleased to see it being restored to 'how it was', not to 'how we wanted it to be'.
Interesting to see the seat post arrangement, hope you leave it like that. UCI commissaires would be happy to see the seat more than 50mm behind the bracket, they wouldnt have to check this one at the start of a race.
If you study the old pictures of bike races, many of the riders had, to our eyes, unusual positions and daggy equipment dictated by low budgets and or lack of availabliity of the desirable stuff.
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby cludence » Wed Nov 10, 2010 10:20 pm

John,

I was talking to someone on Saturday who worked at Alcon but for the life of me I cannot recall who it was. (It was a crowded room, lots of people talking about old times, bikes etc.) I was trying to remember all that was said to me but it wasnt easy. I will check with a friend and see if they remember. Failing that, I will pm you contact info on another staff member from there.

In the meantime, the lugs on that bike look the same as one of my bikes. I will have to go check.

Karen.
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Johnj » Wed Nov 10, 2010 10:42 pm

bicyclepassion wrote:Are the headfittings all branded Cyclo, or just the special alloy two piece lock nut? I have seen the Cyclo alloy locknuts before, but I have thought they were an after market accessory, that replaced whatever standard steel locknut you had. They were and still are a clever design.
Great to find a time capsule bike like that, just hung up as you say 'after its last race'.
And I'm pleased to see it being restored to 'how it was', not to 'how we wanted it to be'.
Interesting to see the seat post arrangement, hope you leave it like that.
BP


I think you're right about the headset Warren, though the only marks on the headset itself say "Made in England" and "24" (TPI?). I presume the two-piece design of the locknut is to accommodate a hanger for centre-pull brakes?

I'll try to get it roadworthy, but otherwise leaving I'll be leaving it alone. Though the Champion Du Monde derailleur might find its way back onto the bike.

cludence wrote:John,

I was talking to someone on Saturday who worked at Alcon but for the life of me I cannot recall who it was. (It was a crowded room, lots of people talking about old times, bikes etc.) I was trying to remember all that was said to me but it wasnt easy. I will check with a friend and see if they remember. Failing that, I will pm you contact info on another staff member from there.

In the meantime, the lugs on that bike look the same as one of my bikes. I will have to go check.

Karen.


I'd appreciate that Karen. The lugs on this bike cetainly look like your "Universe" frame.
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Kid_Carbine » Wed Nov 10, 2010 11:44 pm

The components list includes some of the highest-quality (and lightest) components available after WW2. Unfortunately the breakages prove the fragility of these early alloy components. Until I pulled the headset to pieces I had no idea that Cyclo built headsets, let alone out of alloy. I think the brakes are pre-war, but if anyone knows anything about Super Sport brakes (by Bowden I think) I'd be interested to know more.

The lugs are beautifully finished but no money was wasted on the paintwork, which is a single colour with lug-lining. I love the fact that it looks like the bike retired from its last race and hasn't been changed since. I intend to keep it as original as I can. It has a brazed-on gear boss and cable guides, showing it was intended as a geared bike from new, despite the rear-opening fork ends. Also it was clearly run on the road with singles.

Frame Alcon, unknown steel
Wheels Front: ? hub, Clement alloy single rim, Rear: Prior hub, Freebairn alloy single rim (completely disintegrated :cry:)
Chainset Hobbs Lytaloy cranks with Lytaloy chainring turned down to 3/32" (left crank has a great big crack :cry:) home made chain guide
Pedals None
Gears Cyclo Benelux 5-speed, replacing earlier Simplex Champion Du Monde (which came with the bike :) ), Simplex Tour De France lever, 14-15-16-18-20 freewheel
Brakes Bowden Super Sport? levers and rear caliper with VEW Continental front caliper
Stem/Bars Reynolds lugged steel stem with unknown chromed bars
Saddle Brooks B17 Narrow on gallows seatpost (installed backwards)
Headset Cyclo alloy
Bottle Cage Alumlite

A wonderful find & it should provide many years of joy.

After looking at the pictures I note a couple of things.

The head lugs look to be of the pre war type although it's probable that existing stocks of these were still being used in the early post war period.
The brake levers are quite like some damaged ones that I have. Mine are completely devoid of markings & I wonder if yours have any markings on them.

I also found most of a front 'Bowden Sport' brake. Note that It is not marked 'Super Sport' If it is of use to you then drop me an e-mail.

A good picture of the rear hub will be useful as front hubs are usually easier to source & Prior made a rather interesting High Flange version. From memory, I might have a spare one of these. Can't help in matching up either of the rims unfortunately.

Your Lytaloy cranks are only the second Lytaloy components that I have seen as original fitment on an Aussie made bike. My mid 50's SJH road bike has a Lytaloy headset & I couldn't believe my luck when I realised it was there.

I am still unable to understand the use of the term "Track" ends. [dropouts, tips, etc] This type of wheel mounting on the frame was used by hundreds of thousands, nay, probably millions of bikes intended for road use as single speed or hub gear machines, but by comparison, only a handful of dedicated 'track' bikes.

It wasn't until dérailleur gear systems [chain gears] became both affordable & readily available that road dropouts became commonplace & this seems to have occurred during the 50's & 60's.
Prior to this the VAST majority of bike frames used these single speed tips yet few refer to them as road tips, or single speed tips, both of which would be more accurate from a numeric utilisation point of view.
None the less, it was commonplace for road bikes to be raced on the track when the need arose back when your bike was new.

Love your Alcon, treat it well & you will have a bike to be proud of for life.
Carbine & SJH cycles, & Quicksilver BMX
Now that's AUSTRALIAN to the core.
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby kathy » Thu Jul 21, 2011 10:26 am

Hi All, Not sure if you received my reply re Alcon Bikes. My uncle Alvia (Bill) Connolly made Alcon bikes. I remember visiting him at Marrickville lots of times when I was a small girl.with my father Ron Connolly who was Alvia's older brother. In fact
my brother & I were given custom made Alcon bikes as a Xmas surprise one year. Memories of a workshop with Lionel Cox's
poster on the wall & an Uncle who was always covered in grease. I also remember a cart made out of bicycle parts was pulled around by his Great Dane dog. He also made bikes for Russell Mockeridge. Many happy times were spent at his house with his wife Mary. Hope this is of some interest to you.Thanks Kathy Munro (nee Connolly)
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Gemma Currey » Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:36 pm

kathy wrote:Hi All, Not sure if you received my reply re Alcon Bikes. My uncle Alvia (Bill) Connolly made Alcon bikes. I remember visiting him at Marrickville lots of times when I was a small girl.with my father Ron Connolly who was Alvia's older brother. In fact
my brother & I were given custom made Alcon bikes as a Xmas surprise one year. Memories of a workshop with Lionel Cox's
poster on the wall & an Uncle who was always covered in grease. I also remember a cart made out of bicycle parts was pulled around by his Great Dane dog. He also made bikes for Russell Mockeridge. Many happy times were spent at his house with his wife Mary. Hope this is of some interest to you.Thanks Kathy Munro (nee Connolly)


Hi Kathy,
My father is Raymond Connolly... nephew of Alvia Connolly. He was telling me about reading your post on this site and sharing many of the same memories as you, especially the huge dog! Cycling has been, and still is, a huge part of his life. I know he would love to catch up with you if possible. Please contact me if you are interested. Thanks, Gemma Currey (nee Connolly)
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Stuey » Tue Dec 27, 2011 3:49 pm

Hi Gemma,

Just in case Kathy doesn't re-visit as that posting was some time ago, it might be worth sending her a private message through this site (click on the PM button under her name). She'll be notified by email.

Cheers

Stuey
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Gemma Currey » Tue Dec 27, 2011 6:56 pm

Good on you Stuey!
I hadn't noticed that. I was hoping she would automatically be notified by email, but I will definitely do that.
We are very keen to hear from this long lost family member!
Many thanks
Gemma :D
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Saro28 » Tue Dec 27, 2011 11:47 pm

Hi Gemma

I was thrilled to get a call from Mr. R. Connolly yesterday. Thanks so much. I had a good 1/2 hr of chat about many things revolving around his cycling life ( his doorbell kept going off with visitors arriving ) so I have vowed to meet him in the new year and chat further, and also have him pose for a pic with his bike.

As it happened, I was helping a fellow from the forum here build up his brand new bike, Titanium frame, carbon left and right, latest mod cons. I reckon I had a bigger buzz chatting with your Dad about old school. A GREAT day for me in so many ways.

Good luck with reaching your extended family, as Stuey suggested, a PM will reach Kathy's email inbox.

Regards
Andy
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Gemma Currey » Wed Dec 28, 2011 12:40 pm

That's great Andy!
I'm sure he got just as big a thrill to share his stories with you, and you can bet he has many more!
As I posted before, cycling is Dad's passion and he still rides every day. I am happy he has found you to chat with about your common interest.
As suggested, I did send Kathy a personal message. Dad would really be thrilled to hear from her.
Thanks for the update, have a Happy New Year!
Gemma
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Gemma Currey » Thu Dec 29, 2011 10:32 am

For those of you following this story, great news!

We have made contact with Kathy and couldn't be more thrilled!

What a difference a week makes on the internet. It really is amazing!

Thanks for your help,

Gemma :D
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby munga » Thu Dec 29, 2011 10:39 am

aww shucks.
pitty43 wrote:Thanks all for your help. Better change my Gumtree add now.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/retroclassiccycling/
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Saro28 » Thu Dec 29, 2011 10:55 am

Cyberspace- one big :D family :lol:
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby spirito » Thu Dec 29, 2011 11:22 am

Saro28 wrote:Cyberspace- one big :D family :lol:


:mrgreen:

Hey Dad ... got $50 I can borrow?
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Stuey » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:35 pm

Good news! You Connollys seem terribly windswept and interesting... :lol:
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Gemma Currey » Sun Jan 08, 2012 5:08 pm

Ha ha Stuey!

Not sure if we're related to THAT Bill Connolly, but I do love his work :lol:

Happy New Year!

Gemma
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Stuey » Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:39 pm

To you, too, Gemma. Glad you got it. I could've looked pretty stupid... :wink:
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Rachel » Fri Oct 12, 2012 10:09 pm

Bill Connolly was my Dad. I don't know much about him and only have a few photo's and a sign from the shop that Mick Mazza gave me. Any photo's or information would be great.
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Re: 1948-ish Alcon

Postby Gemma Currey » Sat Oct 13, 2012 12:40 pm

Hi Rachel, I will send you a personal message with contact details for my Dad, Ray Connolly. He may be able to help you fill in some blanks :)
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