McLean's workshop in Saxahawpaw, NC
Here is McLean with Bob Richmond, owner of
Cycles Imports in Cornish, Maine, in their display
at the New York International Bicycle Show. Bob became the exclusive USA distributor for McLean.
Originally from Wilmington, N.C., McLean Fonvielle
attended the School of the
Arts in Winston Salem to study visual arts, then traveled
to England to learn bike frame building. He became an apprentice at
Holdsworthy Ltd. in London, under the direction of Roy Thame.
McLean Fonvielle's aesthetic aim was a nearly
Shaker like simplicity; he foreswore razzle dazzle cutouts and multi color paint
jobs. He was VERY conservative in his design approach and scrupulous in his
integrity for build quality. He would study and sweat the relative matching of
pre-curved Reynolds fork blades, for instance. In the beginning he had only
gold or black (choice) head badge decals, no down tube decals at all. Sounds like he
was a retro-grouch, but actually he was a really great guy, very happy and generous.
He died of an unforeseen heart failure in his basement while riding an exercise bike. McLean was a non smoker, a vegetarian,& a fit person who only a year or so before his death had married Lanier. He was finally becoming well known after an 11 year career run at making frames. Toward the end, Cycle Imports in Cornish, Maine, had become an effective national sales outlet for the frames. McLean frames were displayed in the Cycle Imports booth at a few New York International Bike Shows and sold around the country in small numbers. There were a surprisingly large number of orders going to Texas. During the peak years, my shop (Toga at first, then changed to cycles de ORO) sold an average of two frames a month.
Over the years, McLean built 4 frames for me personally; I have three now, including the first one he made for me in 1975. I sold it and it changed hands many times when, through sheer luck, I was able to rescue it from ignominy... It was offered for sale to the shop as an unidentified "junker" ltossed in the back of the seller's pickup! Whew!
I am the "official" source for
what remains of the Silk Hope and McLean decals, which are available free to owners doing restoration;
however I will only send them to bonafide professional bicycle-painting businesses,
to ensure that there will be no sub-standard paint or not-really McLean's
work out there with new McLean decals.
Dale Brown, updated 2.12.2016
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