Jobst Brandt, 1935–2015
June 22, 2015 4:12 PM   Subscribe

RIP, Jobst Brandt. Brandt established a reputation among cyclists first with his book The Bicycle Wheel, later with his promotion of slick-treaded clincher tires for road bikes, and finally with his presence on Usenet, where he and Sheldon Brown (RIP) were the Pillars of Hercules of technical knowledge about bikes, with Brown on the east coast and Brandt on the west, Brown with his jovial personality, and Brandt with what can euphemistically be described as an insistence on intellectual rigor.
posted by adamrice (25 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

I spent a lot of time reading Jobst's Usenet posts and it's no exaggeration to say he changed the way I thought about many things in the world. He could come across as grumpy sometimes, but had a way of explaining mechanical concepts that made everything so clear, when it never made sense before. He will be missed.
posted by FishBike at 4:21 PM on June 22, 2015

posted by the Real Dan at 4:31 PM on June 22, 2015

posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 4:37 PM on June 22, 2015

posted by eriko at 4:45 PM on June 22, 2015

posted by gorestainedrunes at 4:49 PM on June 22, 2015

His posts taught me how bicycle wheels worked.
posted by ryanrs at 4:49 PM on June 22, 2015

I'm a freaking engineer and a bike mechanic, and the only reason I understand precession is because of the way he explained it.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:05 PM on June 22, 2015

posted by zamboni at 5:13 PM on June 22, 2015


(though his explanation of spoke preloading as “the wheel stands on its spokes” was more confusing than enlightening.)
posted by scruss at 5:49 PM on June 22, 2015

Brandt was not one to take nonsense lightly, but was gracious explaining a few honest questions I had. As often as he ruffled feathers, he certainly knew his shit. Despite his sometimes curmudgeonly disposition, he was a font of knowledge for many, and the internet will be worse off for lack of his presence. RIP.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:09 PM on June 22, 2015

It is fair to say that Brandt retaught me everything I know about wheels, after first tearing down what I thought I knew. He was very generous with his time, but he didn't like having to explain things there were ready answers to.
posted by bonehead at 6:42 PM on June 22, 2015

Jobst, you magnificent bastard... I read your book!

posted by Slap*Happy at 6:47 PM on June 22, 2015

ALSO! If you ever make it to West Newton, Sheldon's old joint, Harris Cyclery, is about as bad-ass a bike-shop as you can imagine. They have a trap door, and the guy goes down into it and then emerges from this glowing basement, no I am not kidding, with a bike-chain and aluminum 27x1.25 wheels, hand-tuned, for, like pocket change... and oh, yeah, here are the Shimano indexed thumb shifters everyone has heard about but only we have in stock because HARRIS CYCLERY! "We love bike commuters and all living creatures" ought to be their motto. And yes, those shifters actually do make your bike more awesome.

They also have Rivendell saddlebags in stock, in plaid no less. Not... as impressive in person, I must say.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:03 PM on June 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

I used his book, now grease-stained, to learn to build wheels, and learned a lot from his usenet posts (Sheldon Brown's site has a sort of best-of collection): slick tires are best, use the front brake, and frame material doesn't really change ride quality.
posted by exogenous at 7:23 PM on June 22, 2015

I love how this picture of Brandt cornering like a monster (sans helmet!) appears whenever slick tires are denigrated.

The set of 3-cross, double-butted spoked wheels I built with The Bicycle Wheel in hand was fantastic. Stronger, lighter and cheaper than all the premade wheels, plus it was still pretty true with one broken spoke and then I could fix it myself.

He may have been sometimes grumpy but he was a good guy and will be missed.
posted by meowzilla at 8:08 PM on June 22, 2015

Oh dear, I remember reading his obituary last month when it rippled through my social circle, and I thought this post meant that he had lived another month despite news to the contrary. I had a brief moment of anxiety to consider what that must have been like, having seen others who lived on for a few days or weeks past a supposedly terminal event, and was oddly ... relieved? satisfied? that this was just old news that had finally made it to Metafilter.

There was a part of me that believes that certain aspects of internet bike nerd retrogrouch culture was deliberately modeled on Sheldon Brown and Jobst Brandt, because this community is notable in its combination of puckish humor and fussy detail. And we can entertain that there is something in the soul of every nerd that combines that, but I like to believe that there is a little bit of Sheldon Brown that lives on in every person who has a spurious nickname in their email sig and a little bit of Jobst Brandt that persists in arguments about 650b vs 700c wheels.
posted by bl1nk at 8:28 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Some of it is based on a 350-lb all-weather bike commuter, who never for an instant didn't believe he could do it, because he read the articles from Sheldon and Jobst on tires for snow and ice, and enthusiastic musings on the pleasures of cycling.

I'm now a 215lb car commuter, but I miss cycling in the snow to work.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:38 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Now that I'm starting to get a bit prickly myself in middle age, especially with people who seem to be wasting my time for no good reason, I can empathize a bit more with Jobst.

posted by Halloween Jack at 8:51 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

The memorial was held at the Skyline house of my former associate, Tom Ritchey, who was one of Jobst's dearest friends, and built his bikes for him.
posted by Repack Rider at 10:34 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

A huge, huge blow. Another one remembering the prickly, precise writing of Brandt when pitted against somebody who thought they knew better. But when he was shown wrong, he was gracious about it.
posted by ardgedee at 2:27 AM on June 23, 2015

First Sheldon and now Jobst, how very sad. These two gentlemen provided such great information on the subject of bicycling that just did not seem available elsewhere. Thank you Jobst for all you did for the sport and may you rest in peace.
posted by caddis at 8:06 AM on June 23, 2015

Wow, I had no idea he was that old, he always seemed to have the energy of a youth. I think of him every time I think I might be coming into a corner too fast, turn my handlebars slightly outward, and let the bike lean me through the turn.
posted by rhizome at 9:34 AM on June 23, 2015

BikeSnobNYC's take.
posted by look busy at 1:09 PM on June 23, 2015

I loved reading his Usenet posts from the early 90s, and many of the others on the bicycles group. They helped inspire me to stop being a moron who (tried to) fixed everything with vice grips, a monkey wrench, and 3-in-1 oil. Alas, decades later, I'm still not riding slicks - my favorite tires (Schwalbe Marathons) don't come in a slick version.

posted by Calloused_Foot at 2:08 PM on June 24, 2015

Just before they stopped producing them, I bought several pair of Avocet slicks at Jobst's recommendation (much like this one!). One of the best bike purchases I've ever made.
posted by bonehead at 2:21 PM on June 24, 2015

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