Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sheldon Brown interview up on Rivendell site

Grant & Co. have uploaded the Big Sheldon Interview over on their site. It is an 8 page in-depth candid talk with Captain Bike, from Rivendell Reader 25, around December 2001.

In the post on the Rivendell site, Grant says:
In the intro to it, last paragraph, you may notice the word "knowledge" is spelled three different ways, only one of them was correct—not even half. Sheldon never would have let that happen.
To which I would add: just think of it in baseball terms, my friend. Sheldon loved baseball, and .333 is hall of fame material.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

More words about Sheldon

This wonderful email came through my inbox from a fellow named John S. Allen. His words, and the stories about Sheldon and Sheldon's family are too good not to repost.
Friends -- Sheldon's memorial service will be held off, so that family and friends can gather. (This info from his wife, Harriet Fell). She'll let us know when it is to be.

More info:

In 1972, I was halfway home with a flat tire and walked into a bike shop that was just closing -- the bicycle Revival, River Street in Cambridge,. or maybe Western Avenue. Sheldon stayed late to fix it. That's how I first met him.

There were 46 bicycles in or around his house "with a few shared wheels", by his recent count, mostly in his basement. He didn't buy bicycles off the shelf -- as a challenge to his mechanical ingenuity, and a way to spend less money and spend more time doing what he liked to do, he cobbled up customized bicycles from parts he acquired mostly through special deals, barter or secondhand, to suit himself or someone in his family. He often came up with a something unique, clever and useful. You may read about his bicycles on his Web site. He had an eye for style, but also, one or two rusty clunkers hung out by the back door getting rustier, for the quick ride to the convenience store, and several old hulks of bikes lived under the front

Much more history could go here...later for that. As David Wittenberg described him in an e-mail this morning: "He knew more about bicycles than anyone else I know, as was always happy to share what he knew." Lemonade out of lemons, serving his lifelong interest in photography: he drilled a hole through the handle of the cane so he also could use it as a monopod for his camera. He could no longer ride a bicycle because he lacked the coordination and leg strength to mount or dismount. He rode a Greenspeed recumbent tricycle slowly.

You wouldn't have known about his illness from his correspondence, except when he openly mentioned it. He hated euphemisms and didn't mince words: he wrote "I am now a cripple." He remained upbeat, active and involved and said that his illness was much harder for Harriet to take than for him, though "it's damn inconvenient." With his usual mechanical ingenuity, he had bought a hoist secondhand and rigged it to lift his electric 4-wheel scooter in and out of the back of his minivan, and that's how he got around.

But it was a massive heart attack rather than the MS that ended his life last night. He was 63.

He leaves Harriet, a PhD professor of mathematics and computer science at Northeastern University, and the first American woman to complete Paris-Brest-Paris. You may read about that too, on her Web site. Her opening line when she first met Sheldon: "I see you're riding fixed." And then he noticed that she was riding a Holdsworth, a high-grade British bike of the day.

Bicyclists and computer gurus mixed at their wedding in 1979. Would you believe that my seat was next to that of artificial intelligence guru Marvin Minsky? It was. Sheldon and Harriet rode away on a tandem.

Their two children, George and Tova, are both now doctoral students in mathematics.

Sheldon was widely read, with a special interest in science fiction. He spoke French, and read Jules Verne in French, having brushed it up when Harriet was on a fellowship in France and the family spent a year there, 1988-1989. He wrote with lucidity and technical precision, though he had been a square peg in a round hole with conventional academics and never earned a college degree.

Favorite quote from Sheldon:

"Everyone I know in bicycling is at least a little bit crazy, present company included."

Amen, to which I would add, the craziness I know in bicyclists often leads in good directions, or the bicycling keeps it within bounds. I know of a lot of people *not* in bicycling who are very much crazier :-)

Favorite quote about him, I don't recall from whom (Harold Lewis, Ed Trumbull?):

"When they made him, they threw away the mold."

This afternoon, I went out for a bike ride. That always helps get *me* going in the right direction when things are getting out of bounds :-).

I stopped at the post office in Weston and a woman in line ahead of me was saying that everyone is depressed because the New England Patriots lost the Super Bowl game last night. Well, we all have our troubles, I guess.

John S. Allen

Member, Massbike Board of Directors.
Regional Director for New York and New England, League of American
League Cycling Instructor #77-C and Member of the League's Education

Monday, February 04, 2008

Farewell Sheldon Brown. You're a legend.

Today I received the news that one of cycling's most storied and passionate characters, Sheldon Brown, passed away.

I don't really know what to say.

Rob Hawks, a bay area cyclist summed it up as well as any:

"It is undeniable that Sheldon has influenced many, many people in the bicycling world. I read with sadness of his passing. The thing though that I've always remembered about Sheldon all along are some of the non-cycling elements to his communications with others. I loved and will now miss the quotes contained in his signatures to postings to the list. I'll also remember an email exchange I had with him off list regarding music. I had come to discover a band very late in my life and many years after the date of a recording, and mentioned this band and recording to Sheldon. His response had such enthusiasm in it and it put me in mind of being on the opposite side of the experience where one can look with a little bit of envy at someone who is just being exposed to a work of music, literature or film that had a profound effect on you at an earlier time.

Certainly, I've looked over Sheldon's cycling oriented articles, but I've also been intrigued by the other parts of his vast web pages and all the other passions in his life.

Poke around on those pages. It is amazing I think to see all the different things a single person can be so enthused about and really get into in a big way.

Farewell Sheldon, but you'll never be gone.

rob hawks
richmond, ca"

With that, all I can add is this: Sheldon, we only ever communicated via email, and you only ever offered sage advice, and always with a level head and sense of humor. You were always a great point of reference to all of us, and like Rob says, you'll never be gone.

Rest in peace Sheldon. Your contributions to cycling and general Good Will are as large as anyone in history.

With that, JimG (idea) and I (execution) offer up to anyone who wants them, these badges. Sheldon, whether you like it or not, you have a posse.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Tour de Ed - a great excuse to come to Chico

My friend, and the leader of Chico Velo for nearly as long as I've been alive, Ed McLaughlin sustained a severe spinal cord injury a little over a month ago during a regular group ride, and is currently in the spinal cord rehab unit in Santa Clara. If you've ever heard of the Chico Wildflower, or ridden it, Ed is the brains and brawn behind that spectacular ride.

The cycling community here in Chico is putting on a ride, called Tour de Ed (February 23rd), to raise money to help with his recovery. So, if you're in the area, you might consider coming to Chico for this ride.

The Tour De Ed follows the same course as the old Almond Blossom ride. It takes you on an easy 20 or so mile ride on quiet country roads through the almond orchards when the trees are in full bloom (spring comes early in Chico!).

The farmer's market is rocking the same morning, and the ride starts late (10am) so you can chow down at one of the local eateries (or at the market) before the ride. If there is enough interest, a few of us have talked about heading out for an S24O later that same afternoon to Woodson Bridge SRA, and back Sunday morning.

Do what Ed would do, and get on your bike!

Here are the links:
Tour de Ed info, and
Ed's status updates.

If you think you want to come out, let me know. It'll be a good day (or possibly weekend) of riding, and any excuse is a good excuse to camp out for a night.