Superstition, the Mosaic Theory, and Sheldon Brown

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It's Friday the 13th. Make of that what you will. This ends the superstition portion of today's blog. 

Mosaic Theory generally applies to investment management. The nickel tour of the concept is that an investment manager takes a huge array of information, directly-, indirectly-, and seemingly unrelated to a specific company, and fits those pieces together to form an overall picture - a mosaic, if you will - of the company's (and thus its stock's) prospects. The negative connotation is that it's used to cover insider trading, which it undoubtedly does. We live in the real world, people - the truth is stanger than Bud Fox, Gordon Gekko, and Bluestar Airlines. But the Mosaic Theory does have an accepted positive connotation, and there's no denying that some investment managers have a spidey sense that's no doubt attributable to some form of "mosaic" principle. Peter Lynch, Bejamin Graham, Warren (no relation to Jimmy) Buffett - they've all written extensively about their stock picking methods, but they also definitely picked up on a lot of things other people missed, and were able to make better cohesive wholes out of disparate pieces.

What does this have to do with bicycles - a question we've caused you to ask innumerable times on this here venerated web log, or "blog" as the kids call it. Well, I'm about to tell you.

When bikes are your job, and you're generally a pretty obsessive sort, you're constantly tuned into things. We must have spoken before about the way we triangulate things - piece of information A relates to piece of information B in such a way, and they both relate to piece of information C, that piece of information C obviously either does or doesn't make sense. We do this constantly, continuously even. 

You who are reading this are probably generally inclined to believe that we have general truth as well as your best interests at heart, hopefully mostly because we've given you good reason to over the last gazillion posts and other actions (and Mike is currently prepping a big site shift so we have recently counted the blog posts - gazillion it is). Sometimes we wade into forum topics and provide a perspective, and people assuming we've got an agenda that we just don't poke their virtual finger into our virtual chest and say "show me the proof." Well, we might have ready links to two or three things that could begin to give an impression of the overall picture. But the real and honest answer is "pay withering attention to this topic for ten years, read thousands of pages of background info, with senses that are tuned not only to what information is presented, but also to who is presenting it and how their presentations are generally shaded, within the context of the overall zeitgeist surrounding the topic, and bring to bear all of your disparate experiences and seemingly unrelated knowlege, and have your professional life depend on your ability to make an accurate picture out of that, and you will see my point better." I've never actually written that in a forum, but I might someday, because it's the truth. 

I say this as reverently as is possible to do - a TRUE bike dork

As part of this, we've probably reached a point where many people are unfamiliar with Sheldon Brown. He died getting on toward about a decade ago, and a lot of people riding bikes now probably weren't riding bikes then. Since the info on his site is getting a bit dated these days, it's not quite the constant reference it had once been for me, but it sure is always there as a background. The number of hours I've spent poring (and that's the right way to spell that, btw) over the info he accumulated, developed, and shared provide a HUGE amount of my personal "bike knowledge mosaic." Compared to Sheldon's, our interest in bikes is quite narrow, but sometimes you read something about a Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hub from 1970 and it helps you figure something out about today's hubs. Even though he was as good as anyone was at early internet cataloging (I have no idea if that's the right way to spell that, btw) and linking, at some point all the freaking absolute imperial tons of info he shared just sort of coagulate into "mosaic."

I don't have any idea if Sheldon would take any joy in my remembering him on a Friday the 13th, but I specifically, along with cycling in general, owe a huge debt to the guy. He was one of a kind. 


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  • Mike T. on

    Anyone who provides any information on the internet for use by others has to bow to the undisputed master of it all – Sheldon. The depth and scope of the information he left behind is truly staggering and I doubt that it will ever be surpassed. Where DID he find the time?

  • Scott on

    Well said, as usual!!

  • Rob on

    Thanks for the note on Sheldon. His site has taught more people about wrenching than any book. I had the pleasure years ago to speak with him by phone while trying to find a specific derailleur hanger… He found it for me in the UK. I'd love to see what his site would be like now. RIP

  • brian on

    I'm not the emotional sort but it touches my heart a little that you wrote about Sheldon. I've come across his work many times. My mosaic lies in the sciences and the great works left to us by the pillars who's names grace equations I know by heart. Though he will never be lectured about in a college class or have is name on any equation, Sheldon will always be one of the greats of bicycling. Thank you Dave for writing this.

  • Dave on

    Thanks, Scott.Mike – No doubt. It sort of makes you wonder at what was in that bearded head that he never got to write down? And to be sure you'll see me just reference "mosaic" by way of explanation on forums – this post has given me license to do so, I'm convinced.


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