Monday, February 04, 2008
RIP Sheldon Brown
The crazed looking man was a bounty to cyclist everywhere and last night he passed away, probably due to a heart attack. His name is Sheldon Brown and I've know of him and communicated with him almost as long as I've know and been on the Internet and into bicycles. His websites included those of the shop he worked for Harris Cyclery are the stuff of legend among cyclist. Often in some cycling discussion either on the Internet or in person when someone asked a question it would be followed by a question; "Have you checked Sheldon's site?"
On his site you could not only buy the normal parts like wheels, tires, saddles, brakes, shifters, but many of the little bits that no one else might carry. Then to top it he had or had others write guides to many things. Want to know the vintage and origin of some Japanese bicycle you scored at a garage sale? Its there. Want to know how to take off and correctly clean and then lube and re-install your first chain, tire, handle bars or whatever? Its there. Want to know how to adjust your brakes for the maximum stopping power? It's there and he'd tell you the brand and type of shoes that would work in the rain too.
The man was not only a font of knowledge. He was funny. Every April 1st you could depend upon Sheldon propagating some crazy method, product, or something that was hilarious to cyclist. A saddle for real men was a rock he found in exactly a saddle shape. Want to clean your chain right? He offered a kit and method where you completely disassemble the chain link by link until you had a completely useless pile of bits although spectacularly clean.
He was irascible. With his knowledge he would discuss, argue, and educate those who wanted to know in the best manner. There are those that write in a way INTENDED to make you feel foolish for not knowing what they are about to teach you, but that was not Sheldon. He didn't need to denigrate you to help you understand. Now if you chose to go out of your way irritate him, he'd simply ignore you.
He was more than a cyclist. He sang old sailing songs with a group in his Boston area home. He took photographs and was willing to share anything he knew about a piece of photographic gear that worked well or poorly with anyone that asked. He had websites to shed light on the accomplishments of his spouse. He could be depended upon to have updates on what his two children were doing as they grew from youngsters to teenagers to young adults in college.
Recently Sheldon had to stop cycling in the normal two wheel way. He'd come down with MS and it didn't stop him. He bought a trike style of recumbent and kept on moving. He had to resort to a scooter to get around the bike bike events, but that didn't stop him. He wrote volumes about his impressions of the shows and included dozens of photographs. I know others that would have been embarrassed. Not Sheldon. Not being able to walk a show about pedaling bicycles didn't matter. What mattered was being there. Probably harassing his friends and needling his enemies alike.
Once there was a great cyclist who wrote a great deal and had created a huge website for his writings. Unexpectedly he was killed, while riding, by a drunk driver. Sheldon took on the task of providing a home to all those valuable writings. Did he publicly ask for funding to support the weight of all those servers? Not that I've ever known. I've no idea what the cost of the bandwidth he had to manage cost, but it was significant.
Sheldon Brown was a great man of the highest sort. He gave to his community. He gave to his family. He gave to his fellow cyclists around the world. He was a champion of a variety of products and was one of the first to show the greater good the Internet could do. In Sheldon's world no bicycle couldn't be saved. In Sheldon's world, no cyclist couldn't learn more. And he I'm sure was a huge benefit for the shop he worked for.
So, how do they replace a man like Sheldon? You don't. So it goes...