Friday, February 08, 2008

sheldon brown

sheldon brown died a few days ago, quite suddenly, by my way of thinking. i had no idea he was 63, but i often forget how old i am, so that's how that works. i never met sheldon, although we did--unwittingly--exchange emails two or three times over the years. "unwittingly" because to me he was just some guy who knew the answer to every question i ever asked him, and as he was available at my fingertips, that was pretty damned good.
but as time passed, and i became more curious about certain things and more adept at finding the answers myself, i grew to know and appreciate him more and more. i admire and respect folks with vast and to many folks obscure stores of knowledge and wisdom. and i really enjoy the subset of those who don't mind sharing that knowledge, wisdom and insight with others. but sheldon, while maybe not unique, certainly was a rare one, given his apparent passion for, among all these obvious things, disseminating these gems. sheldon was--and will remain--ubiquitous. if you google just about anything about bikes [common to obscure] a link to one of his many sites will appear. and the depth of the information is astounding. i suspect i'm not alone when i say that i can enter a site of his and come out two, three hours later, head spinning with new nuggets, and have no clue how i lost track of that time...and not really caring.
so thanks, seldon. i hope someone keeps your sites available; they're like carnegie libraries.
and like carnegie libraries, folks with knowledge stores akin to sheldon brown's while though rare, are not impossible to find.
i can think of a few right here in the central iowa area.
and like a really great library, it's a shame not to use it.
so here's my list of libraries [in no particular order, and certainly not in its entirety]: ronn ritz, now of skunk river cycles in ames, but who cut his teeth at michael's; micheal fatka, also still of ames; bill rumme, of bike world on merle hay; jeff bock, who lives just around the corner from the orphanage; ernie fisher, in west des moines.
like i said, this is just an off-the-top-of-my-scabby-head list, but it should be enough to give you and idea. i love talking to these guys, although, honestly, i don't think i've actually ever met ernie. might have, but i think if i had, i'd remember him. i like talking to people like him, and ronn, and so forth.
you guys should, too. the things you learn go well beyond bicycles, and that's why i ride 'em.
favorite ronn ritz quote discovered while trying to find a photo of him for this story: ronn was asked "how many bikes does a person need?" to which he replied "one more than he actually owns."


the mostly reverend said...

now, before y'all start jumpin' my shit for not mentioning your name, relax.
i THOUGHT of you, for sure.
but what i'd like to see here in the comment section are the names of folks who YOU think fit this description, and why?
and share some stories...

and to those of you i mentioned and to those of whom i thought while writing this, thanks, guys!

Anonymous said...

once a week, over my lunch break I walk 2 blocks north and either visit w/ Ron or sit and listen. the few wheels I have are always spinning in my head on the return to work.

Neve_r_est said...

You should come out to my HPRA race in CR this Oct. Nearly every participant is a wealth of knowledge of this nature. I suppose thats what you get that when you're racing with a group of elders who have been designing, building, and testing the machines they race for the past 30 or 40 years.
It's part of why I work as hard as I do to get people involved, make them notice whats possible. There has to be younger generations in the mix to keep the knowledge base alive.


S.Fuller said...

Random thoughts:

Sheldon's passing was sudden and sad. He was a great source of knowledge and had a great sense of humor. I can't think of seeing anything bad written about him anywhere. He will be missed. I would hope that his site is maintained somehow for others to use as a reference.

What is the head tube angle on that bike in the photo?

Also, I have to agree with Mr. Ritz. Just one more bike... I'm going to assume that Mr. Ritz was not married? :)

the mostly reverend said...

nope, he's married, kids, the whole thing.

S.Fuller said...


The esteemed Reverend hasn't quite figured out the attraction of some of us to anything other than the bog standard UCI approved cycling hardware. I'm hoping he'll come around someday.

the mostly reverend said...

that headtube angle looks like about 62, 63 degrees...not quite a 60. back in the mid-80s, maybe, steve bauer had a 7-11 eddie merckx built with 60 degree head and seat tube angles. i don't think it ever really mattered how his bike was built; he was just so strong.
i'd love to ride with HIM some time.

gpickle said...

Ken Lefler. I felt bad leaving him out of my quick list on bikeiowa but I was only thinking of people currently working in shops. Kenny has the knowing of a lot of shit.