Monday, February 04, 2008

Sheldon Brown

When I first got back into cycling in 2003, the first thing I did was start digging around on the Internet for pages and discussion groups on the subject (which is what I usually do with anything new I take an interest in). Among all the pages I found, three stood out above the rest: Icebike, Ken Kifer, and Sheldon Brown. The latter two individuals have probably had more impact on me as a cyclist than any other people who've ever lived.

Ken Kifer, by a tragic twist of fate, brought me together with Riin Gill. Despite the painful turn my relationship with her took, my time with her is still among my most precious memories. I'll always be grateful for the happiness he gave Riin during the all too short time they knew each other, and for the happiness she and I shared, however briefly, after his untimely passing. I wish I could have known him.

Sheldon Brown taught me most of what I know about gearing, braking technique and equipment though his humorous, down-to-earth style; I spent as much time on his pages as I spent on Ken Kifer's.

Sheldon Brown died this past Sunday of a massive heart attack; he was 63.

You know, I never actually contacted Sheldon. I always meant to; his pages were a truly invaluable reference to me. In fact his pages, in many ways, made possible the cyclist I am today. His explanations of gearing and gear ratios, technical enough to be thorough yet accessible enough for the math challenged (like myself) to follow, allowed me to make intelligent decisions about how to customize my 2004 Norco Screamer's gearing.

To this day, I rely on Sheldon's gear calculator when deciding what drivetrain components to choose when customizing a bike. I have a 2006 Norco VFR-3 now and I know from the feel of it that it doesn't have a low enough gear to pull Lisa's trailer up hills. However, the gear range on my previous bike, a 2004 Norco CRD-3, was perfect for that. Thanks to Sheldon, I have the tools and knowledge I need to find components that'll give the VFR-3 a comparable range.

I didn't even know the man, yet I can't help feel like I've lost a friend somehow.

I wish I'd taken the time to tell him, even if only in a brief note, how much his on-line references taught me. I guess, like many things in life, we don't take the time to appreciate what we have... until it's gone.

I don't know if there is a life beyond this one or, if there is, if those who have passed on can hear the living left behind; no one really knows. However, I prefer to believe that they can. With that in mind, I'd like to say:

Thank you, Sheldon. Thank you for everything you gave to me, and countless cyclists like me.

You'll be missed.