Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Passing Nod

A friend once defined a crank as anyone self-educated to a level of expertise on a given topic.

In cycling, cranks may fit into the bottom brackets, but everyone knows they’re what keep things moving forward.

In a little piece of synchronicity, I ran across Sheldon Brown’s name twice in the past week.

The second time was when I had a look at my old friend Al’s StumbleUpon page. Al recently ran across Sheldon Brown’s humor page and liked the haiku about (or by) dogs.

The earlier mention of Sheldon Brown was on the Astana team website, in a blog entry by Chris Brewer, who took time out from building homes for cancer survivors in New Orleans to note Sheldon’s passing. He died last week of a heart attack following several months of struggling against multiple sclerosis.

Nobody’s starting a campaign to make Sheldon’s birthday a national holiday; there will be no state funeral for a bike mechanic. But in his low-key, idiosyncratic way, Sheldon put in his best effort over the years to help bring light to people who wandered into his corner of the world looking for assistance.

Sheldon Brown knew an enormous amount about how bikes are put together and how to maintain them. He didn’t keep his wisdom under his hat; he shared it with the world on his website about bicycle technology. He spoke with equal authority and patience on everything from coaster brakes to PowerTap hubs.

I can vouch for the guy: More than once, trying to figure out the right way to repair or adjust some doohickey on my own bike, I ran across one of Sheldon’s pages when I did a Google search on the problem. I have various printed bike-repair manuals too, but often it helps to have more than one perspective on a repair or upgrade before you start tearing things apart.

I don’t think I ever ran across a Sheldon Brown page that sounded like generic instructions or that didn’t show his distinctive personality. I always found his remarks complete and thorough; they tended to anticipate exactly the problems a typical gearhead would run into. He always offered his opinions on what made sense to him, and frequently peppered his advice with specific experiences he’d had.

For those of us who lie in bed at night and think about goosenecks and crank pullers, down tubes and gear ratios, Sheldon provided an invaluable online compendium on the mechanisms of cycling. Since he published so exhaustively, his legacy remains. We cyclists can be grateful a guy like Sheldon came our way.

1 comment:

Kangamoo said...

I doubt I will be putting a bike together any time soon, or tearing one apart, but I can tell from reading some of the articles, if I ever did, I would look this guy up.

I really liked the dog haiku too!!