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Friday, February 08, 2008

Sheldon Brown who died 03/02/08

Sheldon Brown, was akin to the Michelangelo of the biking world. His articles and bike modifications were an inspiration to many, and he always had time to answer individual queries, mine included. This is one of the many tributes.

Two wheels
Matt Seaton
The Guardian,
Thursday February 7 2008

This article appeared in the Guardian on Thursday February 07 2008 on p20 of the G2 features section. It was last updated at 12:04 on February 07 2008.

Not many bicycle mechanics have earned their own Wikipedia entry. But then, not many would claim the writings of Martin Luther King and Bertrand Russell as formative influences, or enjoy performing in Gilbert and Sullivan operas either.
But such was Sheldon Brown, who died this week at the age of 63. Cycling forums the world over have threads mourning his passing. From his native Massachusetts to the English Midlands, memorial rides are being organised. All for a guy who mended bikes in a Boston suburb.
So who was Sheldon Brown? The answer is immediately accessible at sheldonbrown.com. At first, you wonder what kind of weird world you have landed in when you see a picture of a portly New Englander, with shaved head and bushy, red-dyed beard - a kind of punk-Amish look. Sheldon, who worked as a mechanic for Harris Cyclery, was an eccentric genius. Thanks to the web, and his gloriously idiosyncratic presence on it, he became a guru to millions.
Anyone, for instance, researching a fixed-gear bicycle, would find themselves directed to Sheldon's homepage. A good mechanic is hard to find, and those who are brilliant with a wrench are often less talented in the "people-person" department. But Sheldon had an extraordinary gift for communication and a generous impulse to share the incredible accumulation of information he had acquired in his years of pulling apart and putting back together the bikes of Bostonians. Though an expert in all types of gearing, he was an evangelist for single-speed riding. As it turns out, he was years ahead of his time. But he must have enjoyed seeing his mission being heard and taken up by so many in the current "fixie" craze.
His site also includes probably the most comprehensive glossary of bicycle maintenance available anywhere. But check out his online journal and you discover a man who, though increasingly disabled (yet undaunted) by multiple sclerosis, absolutely devoured culture, with a daily commentary on his reading and viewing. And yet, he could describe eloquently the difference between swaging and forging or the mathematics of gain ratios. The phrase "Renaissance man" is hackneyed, but that is what Sheldon was: part-engineer, part-artist, and all human.
As with many communities of interest, the internet has been a huge boon for cyclists. When I first started racing and got placed, I would scan the back pages of Cycling Weekly the following week to see if the results were in, and my name in 8-point type. Nowadays, results go up the same day on a site such as londoncyclesport.com, with a picture gallery a day or two later. These virtual pelotons bring us together as never before; commerce has necessarily become part of it, but for their origins we have the pure- enthusiast pioneers to thank. Of all these great souls, Sheldon was perhaps the greatest.


  1. He sounds like a wonderful man and friend. I so sure he will be missed by many.

    You have given us a great story of him.


  2. Thank you Dave for introducing me to this man. Not being a biker rider, I likely would never have known of him except for you.

  3. It sounds like he was a wonderful guy and an inspiration to many. You've given him a lovely tribute here.

  4. Dave, I'm going to give this info and tribute to my partner, who used to race bicycles. He will surely know of this man.

    He sounds like he had a full and very interesting life. Too young, however, to go.

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As you have taken the time to read my blog and comment then whenever possible I will always reply. Thank you. Dave