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Monday, February 04, 2008

Sheldon Brown: 1944 - 2008

Painting of bicycle authority Sheldon Brown
Like many in the bicycle world, I was saddened to learn today of the death of Sheldon Brown, known to many as the "parts manager, webmaster and general tech guru" of Harris Cyclery in West Newton, Massachusetts. Brown was an intelligent and humorous cycling authority, generous with his knowledge and time. He received and responded to hundreds of emails a day, contributed to numerous bicycling listserves, and created a comprehensive cycling glossary on the Harris Cyclery website.

I first became aware of Brown in the mid-1990s, when web resources were scarce for novice bike commuters like myself. I discovered the Harris Cyclery site, self-described as "This site was established December 4, 1995...The first southern New England bicycle shop with a Web site!"

In part inspired by Brown's efforts at cyberspace cycling edification, I created my own Bike Commuting Tips site in 1997. My occasional correspondence with Brown commenced shortly after, as I sought his advice for my own cycling challenges, or directed my site's visitors to him. Especially those who inquired about obscure French vintage bicycles.

A few years ago, on a visit to my family in Massachusetts, I made the pilgrimage to Harris Cyclery to meet the grand cycling wizard himself. He had to be summoned from the shop's basement, where he was perhaps responding to his voluminous email. We chatted briefly, as he seemed to take delight in a visit from a fan (both of us impossible Francophiles), showing me some of the newest gadgets in the shop.

Brown's humor is apparent throughout his essays and contributions on the Harris Cyclery site. One of my favorite Sheldon Brown bon mots was his response to a question about how many bicycles he owned: "It's hard to say where the parts pile ends and the bike collection begins." (My paraphrase.)

Sheldon will be greatly missed. A deep reservoir of bicycling history has been lost. "Personne n'est aussi grand comme vous."

Image: Bicycle Guru, painting by Richard Junila Brown
Visit: Boston Globe obituary of Sheldon Brown
Visit: Sheldon Brown, Web's Cycling Guru, Dies, Wired, 02.05.08.
Visit: Friends pay respect to Sheldon Brown, VeloNews, 02.05.08
Visit: Sheldon Brown: 1944-2008, Bike Radar, UK
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Anonymous said...

The great eagle and Igor have landed: "I have always loved riding bicycles, especially for the feeling of freedom and self-sufficiency that they give."

"Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia." The world of cycling owes a great deal of gratitude to Sheldon, RIP.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Sheldon will be missed. My thoughts are with his family.

Da' Square Wheelman, said...

I didn't know The Bike G-d personally but we exchanged emails on the various technological challenges of restoring/repairing 3speed Steeds. It will be lonely without him.