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This question has been nagging me for ages.

I've read a lot of Sheldon Brown's site and actually tend to use bikes from the 70s-80s because they're more economical for daily use and especially for a student like me. But I've noticed that some of his opinions can be controversial (his discussion of "lawyer lips"), can fly in the face of industry practices (that all leather saddles, 'properly cared for', are better than any plastic saddle), questionable (that the Peugeot UO-8 makes for the greatest touring bike of all time) and then, sometimes, his opinions seem on a troll level, which I can't think of any examples off the top of my head, but have caught myself falling prey to them. A lot of his material is either very enlightening (his discussion of brake usage) or helpful in that you simply can't find the topic anywhere else on the web.

So the question is, is Sheldon Brown's site really the one-stop for all knowledge pertaining especially to older bicycles, or should he be taken simply as a prolific writer who wrote on a great many topics and should be taken with a large grain of salt? I guess the real question is, how much do bike mechanics especially and others depend on his work, or is it simply a convenient online resource for people new to the sport?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by jimirings, Neil Fein, freiheit Mar 13 at 23:46

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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@CareyGregory I'll post it when I find them. Maybe not troll, as trolling requires malicious intent, but definitely not a good idea to follow. –  JFA Mar 9 at 15:53
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@CareyGregory A lot of authorities have a few questionable ideas. You can take some things with a grain of salt while still regarding him as a great authority on most things. The examples in the question like leather saddles are fair, and there's more like that. He says there's no use for valve caps on presta valves, but the community here seems to disagree. –  Jefromi Mar 9 at 20:57
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I think Sheldon would encourage people to read everything with a critical eye and to make up their own minds about what works for them. –  WTHarper Mar 9 at 21:26
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@Jefromi Well sure. He's an authority, not a god. Everything any "authority" says should be considered with critical thought and not just blind acceptance. But I'm not so sure the valve cap thing is a good example. The community opinion on that seems to be mixed, and the opinions disagreeing with Sheldon don't sway me. In any case, even if he's dead wrong on that it's a pretty minor thing. The sum total of his work far outweighs any single issue he wrote about. I think Zenbike summed it up very well. –  Carey Gregory Mar 10 at 3:12
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@CareyGregory Exactly: he's an authority, not a god, so some things he says should be taken with a grain of salt, or at least healthy skepticism. –  Jefromi Mar 10 at 3:42

3 Answers 3

Sheldon Brown was a good man, a good cyclist, and he spent an inordinate amount of time writing answers for everybody to questions that every new cyclist has.

In a lot of ways, his answers were pretty dead on. However, like any person with the energy and commitment that Mr. Brown showed with his site, he was very opinionated on a number of issues which are controversial now.

Because he was also among the first cyclists to use the internet to spread his ideas and knowledge to anyone willing to listen, his ideas are often treated as canonical, even when time and science have moved on.

As with any science, new ideas and equipment overtake the old, and new methodologies, for fitting, for bike construction, and for fitness are tested, and either adopted or discarded.

There are cyclists who adhere to what Mr. Brown said on any topic, regardless of the evidence to the contrary which is available now. But then, there are dogmatics in any religion, and cycling is a religion for many. And if cycling was a religion, then Mr. Brown was its first, or at least best known, Internet age missionary.

He deserves respect for his efforts, but not dogmatic adherence to his viewpoints.

Try his ideas and use what works. If something doesn't work for you, discard it, and find something that does. He would be the first to tell you to think for yourself.

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Very well stated. He's a knowledgeable guy (or guys -- not sure how many people have actually written for the site) but has opinions like anyone else, and is generally writing with a particular perspective (more on-road than off-road, eg), so one need not (and should not) accept everything he says as the gospel truth. –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 9 at 19:17
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No disrespect to him intended. Maybe I didn't make it clear that I do think a lot of his ideas, especially his introductory articles, are spot on and make great resources, and I frequently link them to people I think can improve. But I do feel some of it is opinion based, and like all opinions, including those of the top experts in their field, his are not 100%. –  JFA Mar 9 at 20:44

I believe Sheldon passed away some years ago, so I don't know whether anyone is updating that site anymore,but if it's Sheldon, it would be divine inspiration.

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Lol no it's John Allen and someone else, but I don't think a lot has really changed. I'd kind of like to take all his material and put it in a a modern Web 2.0 format, but I don't know what the licensing on his stuff is. –  JFA Mar 11 at 22:29
    
I know, that there is Russian community site, that translated his texts and publishing them. If I remember right, they got permission to do it from Sheldon Brown. So just access John Allen, and I sure he will greatly accept your initiative. –  Alexander Mar 12 at 20:59

Every theory in science can be discussed. No one can say something absolute - even things, that looks now like "the only truth", can be overridden the next year (or even before).
Sheldon Brown was a great bicyclist, that knew the theory and physics of bikes. He also was a rider with lot of experience in it. He wrote his own feelings and practice. His opinion may be discussed (especially in such subjective things like saddle), and it is in some books. Yet his posts are highly honored by many cyclists.

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I've noticed that. What I'm saying is, after 5-6 years of reading his work, I'm starting to feel like it's more a cyclist bible than scientific fact. –  JFA Mar 9 at 20:39
    
He is writing much from his experience, so it have to be feel like a bible, but there are some scientific facts too. BTW yesterday I found another blog, that very recommends Brook saddles :) –  Alexander Mar 10 at 20:45
    
Do you still have the link? :P –  JFA Mar 11 at 0:38
    
@JFA it's russian site. He's writing only from his experience, with roughly these words: "If it will be about a great race, I would assemble a steel touring bike of Shimano XT class, maybe with a carbon fork, and for sure with a leather brooks seat." (For russian speaking: kotovski.net/gibridyi-kakie-dlya-chego-i-dlya-kogo) –  Alexander Mar 12 at 20:52

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