Who Can Carry Sheldon’s Torch?
By Scot Hinckley
For anyone who doesn’t know who Sheldon Brown is, and is fond of bicycles, you’re in for a real treat over at his website. If someone were to call Sheldon an expert or an enthusiast or an inspiration, most who know of him would agree that all are fair and deserved descriptions. However, the truth of it is that he was possibly the greatest single contributor to the cumulative bicycle technical knowledge the world has ever known. I can make this assertion without the slightest hint of hyperbole, and 15 minutes on his website will bring you to the same conclusion.
Even though Sheldon passed away in 2008, his writings have been preserved online and, with any luck, will stay there forever. It represents a lifetime of thinking and tinkering and trying and sharing. Sheldon was one of the few people who had the answer to whatever bicycle question you had. Plenty of people will tell you something is good or bad, but in a world of online forums and bike shop employees who are just as swayed by marketing as their customers, who really bothers to find the answers any more? Surely popular opinion can’t replace true understanding.
So that leaves the question of who remains in the world of bicycles who actually knows a thing or two about a thing or two. Who’s got a viewpoint that’s unswayed by marketing nonsense and has an opinion based on years or decades of experience? This is my attempt to share my list (in no particular order, and by no means complete) of trusted sources who I absolutely know I can rely on when it comes to making decisions and, of course, spending hard-earned money. After all, the only guarantee that these people will be around to help next time is if they stay in business. Don’t go talk someone’s ear off about tires and then go buy them on eBay to save $11, that’s just bad manners.
Peter White (Peter White Cycles) If there’s anything you want to know about dynamo lighting, Peter’s the guy. He’s also the guy if you want fine quality hand-built wheels. Go visit his shop in the beautiful woods of New Hampshire.
Grant Petersen (Rivendell Bicycle Works) Grant’s frame designs from his days at Bridgestone are still legendary, but his current stuff is even better. Frames, racks, bags, clothing, and more. All of the best function and finest quality.
Bruce Gordon (Bruce Gordon Cycles) Bruce does frames and racks as well as anyone out there and he knows it.
Hiroshi Iimura (Jitensa Studio) 25 years of designing some of the finest frames to ever come out of Japan. Hiroshi can make the frame of your dreams a reality.
Jim Thill (Thill Wheels, Hiawatha Cyclery) Jim does wheels, advice, and is a great advocate for bicycling. He’s also one of the few on this list who are really active in online communities.
Jan Heine (Compass Bicycles, Bicycle Quarterly) Part randonneur, part historian, part author, and part scientist.
Rich Lesnik (Hands on Wheels) Rich will make you the set of wheels you should be riding, not the set of wheels some advertiser wants you to ride.
Alex Kostelnik (2020 Cycle) You might be lucky like me and have a local shop owner like Alex who really is as good as it gets when it comes to knowledge and advice. If your shop doesn’t have someone like Alex, look around until you find one that does.