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Captain Bike

Since I have been writing this blog, I have linked to many sites that I consider to be great resources for anyone interested in the mechanics of the bicycle. Nowhere on the web can you find better resources than the many bike pages created by Sheldon Brown. Though I have never met Mr. Brown, I first bookmarked his bicycle glossary and fixed gear pages about ten years ago. Ten years! That is a really long time in Internet years, and Sheldon has been providing great information about bikes on the web for just that long. I don’t think it is an understatement to say that he has been an inspiration to many people over the last ten years, many of whom, like me, only know of him from his website. When I first found his pages in the mid to late nineties, I remember thinking that I had really stumbled onto something great. Back then, this portrait of Sheldon at the top of the pages, with a bushy dark beard and an eagle mounted on top of his helmet, immediately caught my attention. Today, his hair is a bit grayer and the beard seems to be getting shorter, but the amount of great bike content on his site, especially that related to fixed gears and single speeds, has continued to grow.

I was saddened to read recently on Bike Friday Walter’s site that Sheldon can no longer ride a bike. Unfortunately, he has primary-progressive MS, a version of the disease that is rare and mostly untreatable (read more directly from Sheldon on his health journal). Walter points out that Sheldon can still ride his Greenspeed trike, but even that is a bit shaky. Toward the end of his post, Walter mentions the MS 150 bike tours that take place all over the United States. I think he is on to something; everyone who values Sheldon Brown’s significant contributions to the bicycle industry should consider raising money for MS though these organized rides. If you can handle doing the whole ride on a fixed gear, that’s even better.

Photo from sheldonbrown.org

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13 Responses

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  1. Fritz says

    That is earth-shaking news about Sheldon. Even before he had a website, he’s always been a very active participant on Usenet.

  2. robodobo says

    I, too am saddened to hear this. I have read pretty much all of his stuff at one time or another, even the stuff like building a tandem from two single bikes. I have also ordered from his shop. If they can’t get what you are looking for, it is not available. Harris Cyclery makes a business not out of catering to tri geeks and yuppies but true cyclists looking for specific problem solving parts for unique project parts.
    Rush Limbaugh probably thinks he is faking it(like Michael J. Fox) for political reasons.He’d argue that Sheldon would gain more publicity as a martyr for the cause of cycling by not being able to ride, than he did as a rider.

  3. michael says

    I had the pleasure of meeting Sheldon Brown about three years ago on a research trip I conducted for Giant Bicycles and I got to hang around his basement (kind of like Mecca for bike geeks) under Harris Cyclery for an afternoon. He showed me his 1910 fixie with wooden rims,”Only for days when it doesn’t rain” he said.He was a gracious host and wonderful racontuer. Sad news indeed.

  4. James says

    Fritz, good point. I should have said 10 plus years to cover the early Usenet days.

    Robo, I am pretty sure that Limbaugh doesn’t read this, or any other cycling blog, so we don’t have to worry about what he would say. You are right about Harris Cyclery. I have ordered from them as well and they are a great place to find parts that aren’t available in many traditional bike shops.

    Michael, I bet the basement at Harris Cyclery is something else. Thanks for sharing the story.

    By the way, everyone who hasn’t already seen it should follow Michael’s profile link and check out his blog. Each post contains very nice groupings of his photos.

  5. Fritz says

    I gotta say it: What a strange non sequiturs from robododo and his small-minded disdain regarding those who stray from the One True Path of “True Cyclists,” whatever that is. Maybe we should get robododo onto talk radio.

  6. James says

    I took the first part of Robo’s comment as a compliment toward Harris Cyclery. It is true that many bike shops only cater to those cyclists who want the trendy new products that they see in magazines. Harris Cyclery sells the products that they think are best regardless of whether or not they are considered “cool” or “in” by the cycling media. I could be wrong, but that is how I interpreted the “true cyclist” reference in robo’s comment. Personally, I not at all against cool new “racer geek” bike stuff, I just don’t think that all customers should be pushed toward those products if they don’t fit their needs. I am starting to digress, so I will just say this. In my opinion, anyone who enjoys riding a bike is a true cyclist.

    I do agree that robo would be good on talk radio because the second part of his comment made very little sense. Apparently that was just a botched joke aimed at Limbaugh, but it was a bit out of place in this post.

  7. Biking Bis says

    This is sad news. Considering all the support he’s given bicyclists over the years, he certainly deserves ours now. Good idea to participate in a MS Tour.

  8. robodobo says

    Small minded huh? I have been a cyclist all my life. I have worked in bike shops, raced, toured, tinkered and just generally enjoyed everything associated with cycling. My comments were intended to compliment Harris Cyclery and Sheldon Brown in particular. I agree that everyone that rides a bike is a cyclist, but sadly all shops do not share his view. Many shops want little to do with the cyclist who has more time than money. Watch eyes roll in most shops when a customer comes in to get a couple of spokes or a single cog to keep their seven speed friction shift steed going. It seems that many shops only value the racing oriented customer, who is often has a fleeting existence with the sport.
    I have been on both sides of this. I remember as a 15 year old, struggling to build a set of wheels from used parts and looking to the local shop for some advice. Now 20+ years later, I have a top of the line bike for every purpose. I still identify with the person trying to squeeze some extra miles out of a set of bald tires. Let’s face it, bicycles are fairly simple inventions but if you want the latest and greatest, it becomes a very expensive sport.
    As for Limbaugh, I sure he doesn’t read this and I’m sure he has no interest in getting his fat butt on a bike. His comments about Michael J. Fox faking his Parkinson’s symptoms just made me mad. Perhaps this was not the forum and I don’t have a talk rdio show. It seems folks would much rather listen to conservative blowhards who make up facts to support their views. Sorry to offend anyone.

  9. Biking Bis says

    Back to Sheldon, an anonymous commenter at my blog said that Sheldon doesn’t really care for the idea of bike-a-thons, pledge rides, etc. They make biking appear as an ordeal to be endured, instead of something that’s fun. It’s all at his website… http://www.sheldonbrown.com/thons.html

  10. James says

    Robo, I don’t mind Limbaugh bashing at all. I just wanted to keep the comments on topic in this particular post. Perhaps I will post something else about the importance of cycling as solution to the problems associated with our car culture and you can fire away with political comments.

    Gene, I saw that on Cyclelicious as well. Talk about irony. Oh well, I’ll just have to disagree with Sheldon on that one.

  11. john says

    never disagree with sheldon. i’m giving a “ceremonial” speech about him for my public speaking class today. because he taught me most of the things i know about biking and bikes…for free.

  12. Anonymous says

    harris cyclery; prices consistently ten per cent above average

  13. Fritz says

    Sheldon passed last night of a heart attack :-(



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