Splendid Cycles

Sheldon Brown R.I.P (1944-2008)

Posted by on February 4th, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Sheldon Brown
(1944-2008)

I just heard the news that Sheldon Brown passed away last night from a heart attack.

Brown was something of a living legend, known mostly for his website that was packed with vast amounts of bike information.

Back when I worked for Old Man Mountain racks in Santa Barbara, I connected with Brown via email and phone. I had sent him a pair of our pannier racks, and I was eager to hear his thoughts on them.

Brown was a fixture in the bike industry and known to millions of web surfers for his knowledgeable opinion on topics like fixed gears, gear ratios, vintage parts, and a myriad of other topics.

He was also a brilliant humorist whose April Fool’s Day articles were widely adored.

One of the first resources I would peruse when I started doing web research many years ago was his comprehensive list of bike-related links.

Here’s the message about his passing as posted to SheldonBrown.com:

“Dear…friends and customers,
It is with heavy hearts that we convey to you the news that Sheldon Brown has passed away. Our thoughts go out to his family at this time. The cycling community has lost one of it’s most passionate members.”

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

78 Comments
  • Daniel (teknotus) February 4, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    :\'(

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  • wyatt February 4, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    This is really sad news.

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  • rixtir February 4, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Sheldon was one of a kind, a giant in cycling. There will never be another Sheldon, generous beyond what anyone could expect with his knowledge, and a true character. I\’ve learned so much from him over the years. Just yesterday, I was on his website trying to figure out the answer to a braking question.

    You will be sorely missed, Sheldon. Rest in Peace.

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  • heather andrews February 4, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Oh, that\’s awful! His website was one of the first that I discovered, and was always the first place I would turn if I was trying to troubleshoot some bike-related problem.

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  • binny bin February 4, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Sheldon seemed like such a great guy and family man. He contributed so much to our sport and was one of the most knowledable person about bikes. I am speechless just thinking about him. What an amazing guy…he will be missed by many, including those who had never met him but respected him to the fullest.

    We will miss you always

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  • Matt Picio February 4, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I remember first coming across his site when looking for information about gear ratios – his site has more information than anywhere I\’ve ever seen, and not ust technical, but real-world stuff. This is really a great loss to the community.

    A nod in passing – fair skies and following winds, and keep the rubber side down!

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  • Joe February 4, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    wow, i used to read that dudes webpage it was like it never changed.. RIP bike bro.

    I think its safe to say that he made and impact on the cycling world as a whole.

    Joe

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  • Mmann February 4, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    So sad. I had heard his health was poor, but this is a blow. His example as someone for whom the bicycle was both lifestyle and teacher was one I can only hope to emulate.

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  • toddistic February 4, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    man, this really sucks. RIP

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  • Rick February 4, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Loved reading his articles. Truly nice guy. Wish Bicycling mag would do a story on him and his life.

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  • Robert Dobbs February 4, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    So very sad. Sheldon had produced such a wealth of information and made it all freely available to cyclists and amateur mechanics. I have spent hours and hours going through his writing and was always educated and entertained.

    He will be dearly missed. My thoughts go out to his family….

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  • Ted Diamond February 4, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Hats off to Sheldon, may his roads now be slightly downhill, with a slight tailwind.

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  • Adam February 4, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I\’ve learned a lot from reading his articles on his website. RIP.

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  • john February 4, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    I\’ve exchanged a few bike teche emails with him over the years, and of course would visit his web pages all of the time. As I know did countless others! His simple and nicely organized web pages were the cat\’s meow. And of course the information contained was invaluable, and most of it not easily attained anywhere else. And I loved all the pictures of his various bicycles he made over the years. In my opinion, he is a cycling superstar. And yet it appears his involvement in life and contributions were far beyond just bicycles.

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  • tonyt February 4, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    I heard he was ill just a few weeks ago. How sad.

    What a great guy with a great site devoted to details that makes cycling such a fascinating and unconquerable subject.

    Ride on Sheldon. Perhaps where you are, Shimano, Suntour, and Campy will all get along.

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  • SteelLover February 4, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    RIP sheldon brown… the man is most of the \’how\’ and much of the \’why\’ I\’m a bike mechanic/enthusiast. huge loss.

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  • Nelson Muntz February 4, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    This is a huge loss. Rest in peace, Sheldon.

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  • Torfinn February 4, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Oh man, RIP.

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  • michael downes February 4, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I had the pleasure of meeting Sheldon many years ago while conducting research for Giant Bicycles. His basement headquarters was an Alladin\’s cave of obscure and hard to get gear and Sheldon was a gentleman and a great host. We played a game for a couple hours with me trying to come up with really obscure components and him locating the said part. Sach\’s Duopar long cage rear mech? Third row, bottom shelf on the right. French threaded Stronglight alloy headset? Sixth row, second shelf down on the left and so on and until I ran out of ideas. I particularly remember him proudly showing us his 1910 track bike with wooden tubular rims, \”for riding on dry days only\’ he said. He will be greatly missed.

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  • Russell February 4, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Terrible news, I am an avid user of his website. My sympathy goes out to his family.

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  • Zaphod February 4, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Great fellow cyclist indeed. I\’ve read so many of his articles and turned to his web site on more occasions that I can count. One of the most respected voices in cycling.

    Keep on rolling

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  • Brian E February 4, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Bicycling web-pioneer. RIP

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  • […] Here is the announcement on Harris Cyclery, and an article on Bike Portland […]

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  • Jason February 4, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    A great loss. One of the true unsung heros of the modern cycling era. I\’m grateful for all that he has contributed through his online instruction guides. I too will remember him for evoking the passion through his web-based how-to\’s and the Bicycle Science forum.

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  • Steven J. February 4, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Rip Sheldon.

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  • Opus the Poet February 4, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    I greatly admired Sheldon (it still seems so disrespectful to refer to him by his first name) and his web site. I built my first wheel following a printout from his site, and kept that page handy for the next several sets of wheels (when you build 20\” wheel recumbents you learn how to build good road wheels from parts). I used knowledge gleaned from his web site to keep friends\’ and neighbors\’ bike alive, and also save them money.

    May your trip to the Summerlands be swift and smooth Sheldon Brown.

    Opus

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  • joe adamski February 4, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Well, he certainly will be remembered and was admired in life as well as in death.Few of we mere mortals will be able to say that..! He looks like he had a great ride and a grand time.

    Maybe we ought to take a little inspiration from him?

    go get some fresh air, eh?

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  • Fritz February 4, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Godspeed Sheldon…what a loss.

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  • Grimm February 4, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Wow.

    What terrible news. His tireless effort has given the cycling community more than enough. Im sure most everyone here has found valuable information from his site.

    RIP Sheldon.

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  • Qwendolyn February 4, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    so sad

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  • nuovorecord February 4, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…

    What a loss. I took the train out to East Newton last time I was in Boston to visit the shop and hopefully meet the great man himself. Sadly, he wasn\’t there that day. I\’ve learned so much about bicycles…and life…from reading his writings.

    He\’ll be missed a great deal. Ride In Peace, Sheldon.

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  • Tomascosauce February 4, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    I hope his legend will live on…

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  • Hollie February 4, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    It strikes me, reading about his death here and other places online today, how folks seem to feel a personal connection with Sheldon Brown beyond just his voluminous collection of bike websites. Something about him was so personable and folksy– I never met him, but I feel as deeply sad at the news of his death as if he were an old friend.

    Go in peace, Sheldon.

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  • ericbuilds February 4, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    legend indeed. RIP sheldon brown. best wishes to his family.

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  • John Russell February 4, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    His website was one of the main things that turned me on to cycling in the first place.
    He will be missed by all. I just hope that his site can be maintained.

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  • Guy Bouchard February 4, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    It is a sad news. I was really lucky to meet him at interbike 2004 after exchanging email over almost 10 years. Really sad.

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  • BikeDenver.org » R.I.P Sheldon Brown February 4, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    […] The news is out this afternoon that Sheldon Brown has passed away. […]

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  • Metal Cowboy February 4, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    I had the great fortune to have Sheldon as a resource for some of my work as a columnist in Bicycling… he was an original. When I did one of my performances in Boston – Jamacia Plains bookstore and funk cafe, there was Sheldon and some of his friends sitting in the front row, he had that budha-like smile on his face and what surprised me was how much he appreciated the actual riding and touring and adventure side of biking – because his site and the man himself was so connected to the mechanic/tech side of things, it was easy to forget that he loved not just the bike as graceful machine but where the sum of those parts could take a person.

    One more thing that I haven\’t seen mentioned in these email remembrances: Sheldon had a dry but very solid sense of humor – this was evident in his annual April Fool\’s Day emails: he was great at hiding the name and sender so I was fooled every time I think last year he showed a step by step ridiculously detailed primer about how to break down and clean a chain – it went on and on and showed the dipping of individual parts into various liquids, polishing with toothbrushes etc. I got to the bottom and there was the smiling image of Sheldon, one eyebrow raised riminding me what day it was.

    My best to his family. He spoke of his days touring on a tandem when I started pedaling my brood around the country.

    You left us too soon, but your efforts and work will live on.

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  • Andrew February 4, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I never knew him… and yet he made my life better. His clear web site explanations washed away mechanical frustrations.

    May he have eternal heavenly rides.

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  • rixtir February 4, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    last year he showed a step by step ridiculously detailed primer about how to break down and clean a chain – it went on and on and showed the dipping of individual parts into various liquids, polishing with toothbrushes etc.

    http://sheldonbrown.com/chainclean.html

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  • chelsea February 4, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    rixtir, i think that was part of an april fools thing or some such joke.

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  • Donna February 4, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Over the last year, I had the great privilege of interacting with Sheldon Brown in the course of my moderation work on Bikeforums.net. I have never encountered a more gracious, patient, and good-humored soul. Sheldon would help people new to bicycle mechanics and experienced folk alike. He deflected insults and flames with grace and style. He would answer some of the most obscure questions one could possibly imagine. All one would have to do is send up the “Sheldon Brown Bat Signal”. Just mention his name in a post, and you could expect him to fly in after about 24-48 hours to save the day. I understand he did this at many bicycle related sites and message boards. What an incredible man. It’s sad to think that his Bat Signal is gone to this world now.

    My condolences to his wife and children. Ride on, Sheldon.

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  • bikerinNE February 4, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    RIP. Sad day.

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  • Metal Cowboy February 4, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Rixtir – as mentioned in my post, that chain breakdown and cleaning primer was an April Fool\’s joke. Every April 1st, Sheldon would send these out – priceless.

    It was one of Sheldon\’s website videos that taught me once and for all time how to fold a tire properly to stow away on a bike tour. Before that I resembled the Sanford and Son junk truck.

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  • rixtir February 4, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Yes, I know it was a joke, MC and Chelsea. I was just providing a link for those who hadn\’t seen it.

    There are some other \”ShelBroCo\” links at the bottom of that page, by the way, that people might also enjoy visiting.

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  • Hollie February 4, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Perhaps in honor of his April Fools tradition, on April 1st cyclists across the country/world could all gather at the same time and all go for a ride in his honor.

    I\’d love to have participate in something like this– The Sheldon Brown Memorial Chain Cleaning Ride or some such thing.

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  • Meg February 4, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    🙁

    I too got a lot of my bike insight from reading his site, and I felt that connection with his folksyness even though I\’ve never met or written to him. 🙂 He just seemed like the kind of person you\’d want to meet and be friends with. RIP, Sheldon!

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  • Clark February 4, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    I\’m shocked. He was truly a legend in our own time. I\’m grateful for the odd bits of wisdom he shared with me over the years.

    Sunny skies and warm days, Sheldon; ride in peace.

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  • Metal Cowboy February 4, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    Hollie,

    That\’s too good an idea to pass up. No joke, we should start a Sheldon Brown April First Memorial Chain Cleaning Ride – My suggestion would be that we make stops at half a dozen bike shops along the route and end up at OMSI wear we could demo/do a program of some of Sheldon\’s science of the bike. Make if fun and educational. Course it would have to include loud jersey\’s, funny headgear and every rider bringing at least one piece of obsecure bike equipment to share and laugh about- the man knew every bike related product ever hoisted on the world.

    My speaking and travel scheule is still open for April 1 – anyone want to step up and co-lead this ride with me?

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  • Donna February 4, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Harris Cyclery has set up a Guestbook so that all may pay their respects.

    http://htmlgear.tripod.com/guest/control.guest?u=captbike

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  • Paul in Vancouver February 4, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Hollie,

    A Sheldon Brown Memorial Ride seems to be almost mandatory… April 1 seems appropriate. Preferably rides in every major cycling city.

    Paul

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  • Donna February 4, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    My apologies – the above link will not work. Try this

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  • Todd B February 4, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Hi Paul…

    …I was thinking of the same thing especially with the hand made bike show in town…

    …perhaps a wreath at the show, a ride with friends on old and vintage inspired bikes along the river and a full glass of beer in the evening.

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  • Donna February 4, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Also, there is a movement afoot to see if Sun Race Sturmey Archer will name their new ASC fixed 3 speed hub in Sheldon\’s honor. It would be most fitting. If you would like to write Sun Race, you can send it to: info@sunrace.com

    Below are some sample letters. The people who wrote them encourage you to crib if you need to.

    \”To whom it may concern:

    As you may or may not have heard already, cycling guru Sheldon Brown has passed away. He was a strong advocate for fixed gear bicycles, and cherished the old Sturmey Archer ASC 3-speed fixed. He was also big in the push (at least outside of Sun Race) for a re-make of such a hub. Now that plans are in the works for such a hub, I feel that it would be very appropriate that this new ASC be somehow tied to Mr. Brown\’s name and memory. I hope you seriously consider this, as he has touched more lives than many could even dream of.\”

    \”To whom it may concern.

    On February 3rd, Sheldon Brown passed away. His life was solely devoted to the bicycle and to help out people who were looking for advice regarding the maintenance of their bikes. The bulk of those bikes were old three speeds, ten speeds and fixed gears. If there was anyone who knew about every part of a bike and could describe how to adjust it, repair it regardless of model or age, Mr. Brown was the guy who knew it. Sheldon Brown was a big advocate of the fixed gear bike and was a major voice outside of Sun Race to bring back the 3 speed fixed hub. Now that there is plans of a new 3 speed fixed hub, the ASC hub, I think it would be proper to have the hub made in Sheldon Brown\’s honor and name, being that he has had a positive impact on the industry and about every single person out there who works on and rides a bike. It is within great hope that you could seriously consider this.\”

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  • rev February 4, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    I hear a memorial ride is being planned

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  • Jeff Wills February 4, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    I, for one, will be riding in the Worst Day of the Year ride Sunday. Although I agree that April 1st would be more appropriate as an annual celebration, I will dedicate every pedal stroke I make Sunday to Sheldon.

    After that ride, I\’m heading over to the NAHBS- no matter what the weather, it\’ll be a great way to celebrate him: a long bike ride and drooling on creative bikes.

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  • deadlyvernis February 4, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    i will be doing a painting in honor of sheldon. he is one of the reasons that i ride fixie.

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  • Robin February 5, 2008 at 12:59 am

    The man who has helped my (bike-wise) the most ever.
    Thanks for not selling me on hype Sheldon.

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  • Dave February 5, 2008 at 5:56 am

    Renaissance man (look at the non-cycling parts of his website,) family man, music and art appreciator and creator, and the dean of US bike mechanics as well as an appreciator of French bikes and fixed gear riding–Sunrace really should use the initials \”SB\” for their new 3/fixed hub. Sheldon was also a good BS filter when it came to \”new\” technologies and products! The man should have been cloned. Tailwinds forever to him.

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  • Hollie February 5, 2008 at 7:39 am

    I\’ll gladly do whatever I can to help organize an April 1st ride, and I love the idea of doing whatever we can to have it reflect Sheldon\’s kooky spirit with helmet ornaments and everyone riding their most obscure/kludged together bike.

    Even if it\’s just here in Portland, we gotta do it.

    Anybody interested in doing this, ideas for it or helping to organize it, please email me: hollie at reed dot edu.

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  • Anonymous February 5, 2008 at 7:49 am

    There\’s a memorial site here: http://sheldonbrown.blogspot.com/

    It\’s got a place to leave info about memorial rides there.

    (We\’re having a wake ride in Vancouver BC on Friday night.)

    Peace all, dream of Sheldon

    ~Ifny

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  • brady February 5, 2008 at 8:16 am

    A true giant has left us.

    As Red would say, \”I have to remind myself that some birds aren\’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they\’re gone.\”

    Sheldon, thanks for sharing your genius with the world… and we miss you already. Rest in peace.

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  • Jonathon Severdia February 5, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Like with many of us, Sheldon Brown\’s website was for me the tipping point whereby bicycling and bicycle mechanics went from practical eco-nomics to major abiding interest. As I later discovered, Sheldon had influenced me before I even knew his name: he was the photographer for the book which got me into bicycle commuting many years earlier. When my sister flew to Boston a year ago, I had her get that book autographed for me. I\’ve never been such a fanboy, but in the spirit of kookiness, it just felt right.

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 5, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    It seems like his website is a resource that practically anyone who needs intelligence on how to repair anything bike-related that isn\’t easily solvable by referencing a popular bike mechanics book off the shelf will eventually have to resort to. Few people come close to contributing the free educational resources that he has. A truly huge loss.

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  • zeldabee February 5, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Oh, no! How very sad!

    I met Sheldon several years ago at the bike store in Newton, after having exchanged Usenet posts with him for years. I\’ve spent countless hours on his web site. He will be sorely missed.

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  • david February 5, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    I never met him but felt I knew him from the hours I spent on his site – smooth riding Sheldon – my thoughts to your family.

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  • G.A.R. February 5, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    I feel like I have lost a friend–the kind that brings a smile upon each encounter. Just two weeks ago I built a wheel, which I haven\’t done for many years. I relied, as usual, on Sheldon\’s instructions. How sad. The wheel is fine. I\’m not. Thank you, Sheldon, for being the close friend of millions of us. This is a great loss.

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  • chris February 6, 2008 at 12:29 am

    \”A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” -Bob Dylan

    He will be missed dearly.

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  • coyote4130 February 6, 2008 at 5:07 am

    I\’m speechless.

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  • […] Other obituaries/tributes: on Belgium Kneewarmers on BikeBiz on Bike Portland […]

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  • 180mm_DaN February 6, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    His web site is an excellent example of how the internet can allow knowledge, not simply data or information, to be inexpensively shared worldwide. Sad news.

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  • phil crepeau February 6, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    hi,

    ten years ago i was in the market for a good, inexpensive touring bike. being impressed with sheldon and his web site, i ordered a fuji 1000 model from harris cyclery. the fuji became not a bike but my friend (from \’the fonz\’). what a memorial that bike is now. it\’s great to know that everytime i go out on it, sheldon is with me.

    phil crepeau, san diego

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  • Mark BC February 6, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Very sad to hear this. My condolences to family and friends. Through his website, I learned a lot about bicycling.

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  • Ric February 6, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    I never met Mr. Brown and was introduced to his website a year or two ago. It had a major impact on me because it was clearly written by an incredible guy. He inspired me to begin the restoration of upgrade an older bike. I hope his web site remains, but I realize he will clearly be missed. Those he inspired will carry his memory on.

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  • Brian February 6, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    The cycling community is certainly better for the many contributions and great sharing of Sheldon Brown. I, for one, have referenced his writings in a number of situations, and I have pointed numerous people to those sources as well. I believe Sheldon was THE subject matter expert on cycling, and we have all suffered a great loss in his passing.

    Hopefully, through the power and access provided by the Internet, those who have not had the good fortune to meet him or benefit from his wisdom during his time on this planet will be able to do so for many years to come.

    May his legend live forever.

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  • Lynette Chiang February 7, 2008 at 9:45 am

    I tried to post this earlier but it didn\’t seem to come through. If it doesn\’t I\’ll have to contact you J, and see if I\’m unwittingly breaking any rules here.
    Here\’s a small tribute from Bike Friday … because we used his gear inch calculator all the time! http://www.bikefriday.com/sheldonbrown

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  • Dave Madsen February 7, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Always a gentleman and tolerate of us that know so little and understand even less. Whether it be his ability to send the part that I was looking for or to suggest a better way to deal with my problem, he always interacted in a professional – and frequently humorous – manner.
    The comments left here prove that excellence, kindness, and a true willingness to give to others is remembered. So if you are looking to leaving a little immortality behind, maybe this is the lesson.

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  • OnceRiddenBikes February 8, 2008 at 9:14 am

    A devastating loss to the world of cycling. He helped us out of a fix a number of times, and I\’ll always be gratefull. I\’m sure he\’ll get his angels wings… and his wheels.

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