Zen and The Art of Bike Maintenance: An Ode to Sheldon Brown

Photo: Karl Anderson CC


Have you ever had a bicycle maintenance issue you didn't have the first clue how to solve?

We've all been there. As simple as bicycles are, there are a bunch of fiddly bits attached to them. It's often difficult to figure out how everything goes together, or just what the heck happened after something goes "clunk."

Enter Sheldon Brown, perhaps the most outspoken, prolific, and influential bicycle mechanic who ever turned a wrench on a 10-speed. He was just as much a bicycle mechanic as he was an enthusiast, writer, and promoter of cycling.

He passed away on February 4th, 2008. He was 54 years old when he succumbed to MS. 


His work

His legacy lives on. The website he helped develop with Harris Cyclery, SheldonBrown.com, is still up and running. It's a great example of an "ugly" website chock full of helpful content. If you need to figure out how to fix your bike, there's no better place on the 'net to find the information you need.

By all accounts Sheldon was a sincere person, loveable and extremely kind. He shared his knowledge with everyone, and his website is and always has been free to access. It is a little difficult to navigate at first, but once you get rolling it's a thing of beauty.


A passion for fixies

He was a huge proponent of using fixed-gear and single-speed bicycles for commuting, long before every hipster from Venice Beach to Williamsburg had one sitting in their living rooms. He was extremely enthusiastic about fixies. It's not a stretch to say his enthusiasm helped popularize fixies long before everyone else was even aware of them.


Praise and accolades

The Times of London considered his knowledge of cycling "encyclopedic." That's high praise.

Not only did Sheldon help build and maintain an incredibly helpful website, he was also a frequent contributor to magazines like Adventure Cyclist, American Bicyclist, Bicycling, and Bike World. His work was and is frequently cited by journalists, other writers, and cycling experts the world over.


Sheldon Brown, the legend

No other bicycle mechanic has had such a profound effect on cycling as the late, great Mr. Sheldon Brown.

Many bicycle writers write about the beauty of the sport. They tap into the essence of the experience itself. Sheldon was always more interested in getting people to ride their bikes and maintain them safely and properly, a very practical pursuit. And somehow, someway, he captured the essence of the sport of cycling not only in his writing but in the way he lived his life and pushed his pedals.


Ride in Peace, Sheldon. You are missed.