Monday, February 04, 2008

Sheldon Brown

A wise, gentle, witty, caring, thoughtful and generous man has left the world of the living, but he leaves behind a great example of what one man can do with a passionate life, freely shared. In the past few hours, the internet has bloomed with tributes to Sheldon, folks telling how he touched their lives, how he was always generous with his time and patient with his answers.

Sheldon lived an astoundingly full life and somehow found time to log his discoveries in rich detail. He certainly knew bikes but he also laid down some of the first tracks in a wilderness called the internet and he taught a lot of people how to homestead here. How to homestead and how to behave. Share what you know, do what you love, live life beyond the computer screen and report back. Sign your work. Laugh often. Read. Sing. Rejoice.

Sheldon was so encyclopedic in his knowledge, so prolific in his postings that some of us wondered sometimes if perhaps he'd actually joined with his computer, his email filters and databases of arcane facts welded together with home-brew scripts that of course he'd freely share. And now they tell us Sheldon is gone, his mighty heart has beat its last.

His cyber opus will live on, of course. Google's spiders will tell you how deeply wound the man's knowlege is woven into the world's web. But no more postings from the man himself? No more delightful bikes? No more reports of his lovely family, the books he's read, the songs he's sung? Our world is poorer for his passing, but so rich for his having been here with us, showing us a wonderful way to live.

Sheldon Brown had perhaps the richest home page on the internet, a page that gave the reader perhaps the truest sense of the man. Sheldon is gone, but in a way he's not. He gave us so much, so freely and because of that we can still go here:

Thank you Sheldon. Thank you for everything.


Dan Gurney said...

Kent, thank you for your wonderful tribute to a man who, more than a gentleman, acted like a friend. Sheldon answered all my questions with patience and respect. I always felt honored to correspond with him online, but for Sheldon it was ordinary.

Kent, your words, here, read almost like Robert Fulgham's Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

"He taught a lot of people how to behave. Share what you know, do what you love, live life beyond the computer screen and report back. Sign your work. Laugh often. Read. Sing. Rejoice."

I'm joining thousands of others in missing Sheldon tonight.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and so true.

"Our world is poorer for his passing, but so rich for his having been here with us, showing us a wonderful way to live."

Sheldon will be missed but not forgotten. Thank you, Kent.

runawayscreaming said...

Very eloquent Kent. Your tribute is worthy of the man. Sheldon was definitely one of the great men of cycling, who also had a personal effect on so many of us.

David Cambon
Vancouver, BC

twodeadpoets said...

I did not know Sheldon but had one email exchange with him as he took the time to answer a couple of questions I had as a new(ish) cyclists.

When I found Sheldon's site I at first thought, "who was this mad man?" But the more I read about him, his knowledge, and his family, the more I felt I actually did know him and the more I felt that I wanted to know more about cycling.

What a major loss for his family and friends and the hole it leaves in the cycling community.

Good luck Sheldon on your grand tour.

Stetz said...

Sheldon's site was one of my mentors as well. I never had the pleasure of meeting the man, but my cycling was greatly enriched by his generosity.

All the cycling community will want his website to continue, and not to be a burden to his family. How do we provide support to his survivors and to the cycling community going forward?

Anonymous said...

That has to be one of the most beautiful posts to Sheldon. I never met or emailed him, but used his website more than I can even remember.

He will be missed.

Marla said...

This is one of the most beautiful posts to him that I've read. I didn't know him, but sure used his website.

Anonymous said...

Nicely said, Kent.

Sheldon was always the "source" on the web, the page(s) one could click on to get that final, definitive word on whatever the bicycle-related topic was.

He'll be missed. My thoughts are with his family.

Anonymous said...

Kent, the dignity of your posts
remind me of Sheldon's work.
This is such a sad day.

SeattleM&M said...

Thanks Kent. Several years ago, after having stopped cycling five years prior and grown increasingly out of shape, I stumbled across Sheldon Brown's website, got reminded why I used to love riding bikes, and started riding again. Won't know until the end whether Sheldon "added years to my life" as I suspect, but as the cliche goes, I know he's "added life to my years". As you say, beyond having an encyclopedic knowledge of bicycles, he showed people how to behave -- with civility and kindness.

Peter McKay said...


Thank you for your post. I would like to add my thoughts.

Sheldon means very much to the bicycling community. To many of us, he was a resource, a friend, a mentor and an inspiration. He wrote with passion, authenticity and with a love for humankind and bicycles. He shared his wealth of knowledge so that we would benefit. Thank you, Sheldon! We will honor you by sharing with others your passion, love and the knowledge that you gave to us.

ifny said...

very beautiful, very wise. reminds me of cicero, "non nobis solum nati sumus" = we are not born for ourselves alone. sheldon really lived like this, practising a constant exchange of kindnesses.

i've linked to your post from

if anyone wants to organize a sheldon ride, there is a place to list it there.

peace all.

MarcusP said...

"When there are so many we shall have to mourn,
when grief has been made so public, and exposed
to the critique of a whole epoch
the frailty of our conscience and anguish,

of whom shall we speak? For every day they die
among us, those who were doing us some good,
who knew it was never enough but
hoped to improve a little by living."

-- W.H. Auden

Anonymous said...

I had the unique opportunity to mee Sheldon at a bike show. I even had the good luck to capture him taking a photo of one of my vintage bikes a RIGI. This brief encounter was followed with a minute of discussion about the bike. He wanted the photo as he said he never saw one for real. Here is the photo and my small tribute to Sheldon.

RIP Sheldon


Anonymous said...

My first encounter with Sheldon Brown came via an article he wrote about wheelbuilding. Because of him, I have built wheels and can do basically any kind of work on a bike except a frame repair. I say this is because of him because I am not a "tecchie." Sheldon made the world of mechanics, and later cyberspace, accessible and even inviting to people like me.

More important, though, is the example of his life, upon which Kent commented so eloquently. I e-mailed him a number of times, and every time was astounded by the speed, relevance and humaneness of his responses. And his website reflected his generosity of spirit about things bike-related and not.

I am reminded of what Pere Teilhard de Chardin said: "We are not human beings having spiritual experiences. We are spiritual beings having human experiences."

Upstanding Shitizen said...

i've read a lot of what he's written, in fact, my good friend is building a fixie on my porch with a bottom bracket (in transit) from harris cyclery. Sheldon is amazing. is.

on a very side note, edit this out later, you have an {it's} where there ought be an {its}. some of us are typophiles, grammar slaves, and cyclists to boot. sorry, but go figure.

bIKE pUNK said...

What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful man. He is sorely missed. I have made a tribute to Sheldon in the form of stickers. gives the info on how to get them. RIP Sheldon.

Unknown said...

Just heard the word about Sheldon Brown. I used his web site all the time and considered him a hero. Thank you for paying tribute to him.

Anonymous said...

I live in Bucharest, Romania and I miss Sheldon. He's website was gold for me.