Sheldon Brown (bicycle mechanic)

Sheldon Brown (July 14, 1944 – February 4, 2008) was an American bicycle mechanic, technical expert and author.[3][4][5][6] He contributed to print and online sources related to bicycling and bicycle mechanics, in particular the web site Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Technical Info. His knowledge of bicycles was described as "encyclopaedic" by The Times of London.[7]

Sheldon Brown
Brown, icebiking
Born(1944-07-14)July 14, 1944
DiedFebruary 4, 2008(2008-02-04) (aged 63)
Other namesChristopher Joyce (pen name);[1] Carapace Completed Umber (alter ego)[2]
  • bicycle mechanic
  • technical expert
  • author
EmployerHarris Cyclery
SpouseHarriet Fell

Background edit

Brown was the parts manager, webmaster and technical consultant of Harris Cyclery,[8] a bike shop in West Newton, Massachusetts, as well as an enthusiast of vintage and classic bicycles in addition to cycling in general.[8] Brown maintained Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Technical Info, a web site highlighting a broad range of cycling subjects ranging from how to fix a bicycle flat tire to details on Raleigh and English three-speed bicycles,[9] Sturmey-Archer hubs,[10] tandems,[11] and fixed-gear bicycles.[12] He repaired cameras and was an amateur photographer.[13][14] His site features his photographic work.[15]

Brown maintained an English-French cycling dictionary, having lived and cycled in France and written about his family's travels in France.[16]

Brown was an atheist.[17]

Online edit

Brown's website, developed with Harris Cyclery, includes a deeply knowledgeable and accessible database of technical bicycle information. In particular a wide selection of knowledge of common bicycles from the second half of the 20th century that use non-standard parts. The site remains current as of 2023, maintained by his widow, Harriet Fell, and his friend John Allen, "a nationally recognized bicycling expert who helped found the Cambridge Bicycle Committee."[18][19] Up until 2021, the commercial pages were maintained and updated by Harris Cyclery employees,[20] but Harris Cyclery closed in 2021 due to economic pressures and supply chain shortages.[21][22] Brown maintained the site's glossary of bicycling terminology, online guide to wheelbuilding, as well as the mirror sites of the technical work of Damon Rinard,[23] Jobst Brandt,[24] and others.[25] Brown had also participated in online cycling forums such as newsgroup and[13]

Brown was a proponent of fixed-gear, single-speed bicycles for ordinary street use.[26] Brown, with Galen Evans and Osman Isvan, developed a method to determine and compare bicycle gear ratios. For any combination of front chainring, rear cog, wheel size and crank length, his method results in a number that Brown terms the "gain ratio".[27] Also, Brown expressed opinions on chain cleaning, lubrication and wear,[28] a source of controversy in the field of bicycle maintenance.[28][29]

In addition to the wide array of bike mechanics and repair articles, Brown's website also contains sections on family cycling,[30] touring,[31] a bike humor section,[32] as well as essays and fiction about cycling.[33] His humorous online articles frequently appeared on April 1.[34]

Final years and death edit

After developing nerve deterioration over the last years of his life, Brown lost his ability to ride an upright bicycle[1] and continued riding with a recumbent tricycle.[35] In August 2007, Brown was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. He died on February 4, 2008, in Newton, Massachusetts,[36] after a heart attack.[7][14][37]

Print publications, awards, and citations edit

Brown was a contributing writer for Bike World magazine (USA)[38] and for Bicycling magazine (USA),[38] and then for the trade magazine American Bicyclist.[38] Brown wrote the "Mechanical Advantage" column for Adventure Cyclist, the magazine of the Adventure Cycling Association,[38][39] "from 1997 through 2007."[40]

In October 2003, Brown was awarded a certificate of commendation for his contribution to cycling by the UK's Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC).[41] Brown received the Classic Rendezvous Vintage Bicycle Award in 2005.[42] MassBike presented Brown the Influence Pedaler Award posthumously in 2008.[43]

CTC's Chris Juden mentioned Brown's site in his response to a letter to the editor email,[44] and Lennard Zinn, technical editor for VeloNews, cited Brown in his regular Technical FAQ with Lennard Zinn column.[45] [46] Frank Berto cites Brown's writing in The Dancing Chain, published by Van der Plas Publications,[47][48][49] and Zack Furness cites Brown's writing in One Less Car: Bicycling and the Politics of Automobility, published by Temple University Press.[50]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c Brown, Sheldon. "Sheldon Brown's Home Page". Retrieved February 4, 2008. Unfortunately, due to health problems, I have not been able to ride bicycles since early September, 2006.
  2. ^ Sheldon Brown. "Postings by Carapace Completed Umber". Retrieved December 27, 2012. Although I am well known to have no sense of humor whatever, my alter ego, Carapace Completed Umber, is silly enough for both of us. This page collects some of his postings to various bicycle-related newsgroups.
  3. ^ Candy Kosow Gold (February 6, 2008). "Newton cyclist, guru, long-time bike shop mechanic dies suddenly". The Newton TAB. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  4. ^ "Friends pay respect to Sheldon Brown". VeloNews. February 5, 2008. Retrieved January 19, 2013. Bike-tech wizard Sheldon Brown died of a heart attack on Sunday. He was 63.
  5. ^ Matt Wiebe (February 4, 2008). "Tech Guru Sheldon Brown Dies". Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. Retrieved January 19, 2013. Sheldon Brown, who could explain the intricacies of 40-year-old Sturmey Archer hubs with the same patient clarity with which he would explain suspension or integrated shifters, died from a sudden heart attack Sunday night.
  6. ^ John Mahoney (February 6, 2008). "Sheldon Brown, the Web's Foremost DIY Bike Guru, Passes Away". Popular Science. Retrieved January 19, 2013. Maintained the most prolific online bike encyclopedia since 1997
  7. ^ a b "Sheldon Brown Obituary". The Times. March 3, 2008. Retrieved December 25, 2012. His knowledge of bicycles ... was encyclopedic
  8. ^ a b Singel, Ryan. "Sheldon Brown, Web's Cycling Guru, Dies". Wired. Retrieved December 25, 2012. Brown worked as the technical guru and Webmaster for Harris Cyclery in West Newton, Massachusetts.
  9. ^ Brown, Sheldon. "Servicing English Three Speeds". Sheldon Brown. Retrieved February 5, 2008.
  10. ^ Sheldon Brown. "Sturmey-Archer Bicycle Hubs". Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  11. ^ Sheldon Brown. "Tandem Bicycle articles". Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  12. ^ Sheldon Brown. "Articles about Fixed Gear Cycling and Equipment". Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  13. ^ a b Kerber, Ross (February 8, 2008). "Homespun wisdom". The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 25, 2012. To a worldwide readership, Brown was a sage in cyberspace.
  14. ^ a b Boulanger, Gary (February 4, 2008). "Sheldon Brown: 1944 - 2008". BikeRadar. Bath, England: Future Publishing Limited. Retrieved December 25, 2012. Sheldon Brown, the human encyclopedia of bicycling knowledge and a famous employee of Harris Cyclery in Massachusetts, died of a massive heart attack Sunday evening, February 3.
  15. ^ Sheldon Brown. "Sheldon Brown's Photography Page". Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  16. ^ Sheldon Brown. "Sheldon Brown's France Page". Retrieved December 27, 2012. Our family lived in France for the 1988-89 school year, in Chevreuse, a small village 30 km southwest of Paris. We loved the place and the people, and we miss them very much.
  17. ^ "Some Things I Do Not Believe In: Angels, Astrology,... Devils, Elves, Faeries, Faith, Gods, "Intelligent Design", Leprechauns, ...Magic..."
  18. ^ Fell, Harriet. "What's New on". Harriet Fell and John Allen. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  19. ^ Kristen Lombardi (August 2002). "A dangerous & now deadly bicycle policy". The Boston Phoenix. Retrieved December 27, 2012. John Allen, a nationally recognized bicycling expert who helped found the Cambridge Bicycle Committee.
  20. ^ "Harris Cyclery Bicycle Accessories". Retrieved December 27, 2012. Copyright © 2005, 2008, 2012 Harris Cyclery
  21. ^ Hilliard, John (June 24, 2021). "'We had people with tears in their eyes': West Newton bicycle shop closes after 70 years". Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  22. ^ Simon MacMichael (June 15, 2021). "Sheldon Brown's website to continue despite bike shop where he worked closing down". Retrieved March 19, 2024.
  23. ^ "Damon Rinard's Bicycle Tech Site". Retrieved December 27, 2012. Damon Rinard maintained and hosted the Rinard Tech Pages up until May, 2001, when a change in employment made it impractical for him to continue. Since this site is too good to be allowed to disappear from the Web, Harris Cyclery is now hosting it, with Damon's permission and cooperation.
  24. ^ Jobst Brandt. "Frequently Asked Questions about Bicycles and Bicycling". Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  25. ^ John Schubert (February 2008). "Sheldon Brown 1944-2008" (PDF). Adventure Cycling. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  26. ^ Sheldon Brown. "Singlespeed Bicycle Conversions". Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  27. ^ Brown, Sheldon. "Gain Ratios". Sheldon Brown. Retrieved February 8, 2008.
  28. ^ a b Sheldon Brown & John Allen. "Chain Maintenance". Retrieved January 10, 2013. Chain maintenance is one of the most controversial aspects of bicycle mechanics.
  29. ^ Greg Kopecky (December 16, 2012). "Chain How-To - Part 1". Retrieved December 31, 2012. Why then, is there so much controversy surrounding chains? For such a (seemingly) black-and-white topic, there is an astounding amount of perceived 'chain black magic'. How do they work? Why do they break? What's the proper way to lube a chain – wax, oil plus additives, sewing machine oil, or something else entirely?
  30. ^ Sheldon Brown. "Family Cycling Articles". Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  31. ^ Sheldon Brown. "Articles about Touring". Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  32. ^ Sheldon Brown. "Bicycle Humor". Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  33. ^ Sheldon Brown. "Bicycle Essays and Fiction". Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  34. ^ List of April 1 and other articles
  35. ^ Brown, Sheldon. "The Bright Side of MS by Sheldon Brown". Sheldon Brown. Retrieved February 5, 2008. I haven't been able to ride a bike since early September, 2006 though I can still ride my Greenspeed trike, very slowly.
  36. ^ Commonwealth of Massachusetts Standard Certificate of Death
  37. ^ "Sheldon Brown: 1944 - 2008". Retrieved February 5, 2008.
  38. ^ a b c d Sheldon Brown. "Sheldon Brown's Home Page". Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  39. ^ Sheldon Brown (July 1999). "Who Needs Fenders? All but fair-weather cyclists" (PDF). Adventure Cycling Association. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  40. ^ John Allen (July 23, 2011). "Sheldon Brown's Adventure Cycling Articles". Retrieved January 21, 2013.
  41. ^ Cyclists' Touring Club (October 6, 2003). "Sheldon Brown's Journal". Sheldon Brown. Retrieved December 31, 2012. One of the oldest and most highly respected cycling organizations in the world is the 125 year old Cyclists Touring Club. I'm very, very proud that they have voted to issue a Certificate of Commendation to me for my Website and other Internet activities.
  42. ^ "Classic Rendezvous Vintage Bicycle Award". The Classic Rendezvous: dedicated to Lightweight Vintage Bicycles, circa 1900~1983. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  43. ^ Susan Westemeyer (March 22, 2008). "Brown & Porter to receive MassBike awards". CyclingNews. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  44. ^ Juden, Chris. "Cranks & Bottom Brackets Q&A". Retrieved May 24, 2007.
  45. ^ Lennard Zinn (October 26, 2010). "Technical FAQ with Lennard Zinn: A detailed look at canti' geometry". VeloNews. Retrieved January 19, 2013. Nobody said it better than the late Sheldon Brown in his eloquent description of the geometry that determines the leverage ratio of cantilever brakes
  46. ^ Lennard Zinn (October 18, 2011). "Technical FAQ with Lennard Zinn: Fixie chain tension and nipples threads". VeloNews. Retrieved January 19, 2013. As for getting the tension exactly right, you can't improve on Sheldon Brown on this one.
  47. ^ Berto, Frank J.; Ron Shepherd; et al. (2008) [2000]. The Dancing Chain: History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA, USA: Cycle Publishing/Van der Plas Publications. p. 393. ISBN 978-1-892495-59-4. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  48. ^ Berto, Frank J.; et al. (2016) [2000]. The Dancing Chain: History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA, USA: Cycle Publishing/Van der Plas Publications. ISBN 978-1-892495-77-8. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  49. ^ Sheldon Brown (April 1996). "Chuck Harris and the First American Derailleur" (PDF). Rivendell Reader. No. 5. p. 28.
  50. ^ Zack Furness (March 28, 2010). One Less Car: Bicycling and the Politics of Automobility\. Temple University Press. p. 299. ISBN 9781592136148. Brown, Sheldon "Fixed Gear Bicycles for the Road." Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Technical Information ... "Single Speed Conversions."

External links edit