Cycling Books Reviewed

Over the years I've read a few cycling books. Here's what I thought of them:

Lance Armstrong's War - My favorite of the bunch. The author is a free-lance (pun!) writer who has covered a variety of sports and outdoor topics, but never cycling. This turns out to be a good thing as he brings fresh eyes and ears to professional cycling and soaks it up with few preconceptions. And what good timing - the 2004 Tour de France. It's not a perfect book, but the writing is good and I loved all the details he reveals. Like the custom of cyclists greeting each other by pinching the mid-section to gauge the competitor's body fat, and how they analyze butts to see who's in peak condition.

It's Not About The Bike - Basically the Lance biography. Blunt and revealing. When Lance tells you cancer treatment was worse than the most miserable day on the bike in freezing rain up some never-ending mountain, suffering all the way - you get it: cancer is really bad. I'm not sure anyone really knows Lance, but this is what he wanted to say about himself so it's at least a piece of the puzzle. And pretty good reading - I enjoyed it.

True Fans - This is actually a book about basketball that happens to be more about a coast-to-coast bike ride. A group of three guys (from Provo, Utah incidentally) decide to bike a basketball across the country and deliver it to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. The experience (touring, camping, meeting people) is what makes the book. It reminded me of when I was young and more adventurous. BTW, the author made a film about the adventure first. Both Jolene and I read the book and liked it, but we watched the film recently and thought it was pretty bad.

Bobke II is the follow-up to the original Bobke which is out of print, rare and quite expensive. It wanders and feels like pages from his journal torn out and plastered into a book. Bob's style is unique and feels incoherent, but just go with it and enjoy the wild ride. Some of his stories, and the way he tells them, are hilarious. His story about being constipated during a stage of the Tour Day France and how he remedied the problem had me laughing so hard I cried. This book is not a monument of literature, but most cyclists will find it entertaining.

The Race - This was local (Salt Lake City, Utah) athlete (including cyclist) and author Dave Shields first book. The story is inventive and engaging, and even features some Utah locations. But while the writing is earnest it is unpolished and unsophisticated, especially the dialog. An internet writers forum helped Dave shape this book, and perhaps it helped him learn to write better, but the mix of styles give the book an uneven feel. Still, the story was worth the clunky writing.

The Tour - Dave Shield's second book continues the story of the cyclist Ben Barnes from The Race. It shows marked improvement with one style and tone that flows much better. The writing is better - still a bit sophomoric, but it gets the job done. The story is surprisingly sophisticated, realistic and fairly deep.

The Yellow Jersey - A frustrating book. I love the quote plastered across the front cover from Bicycling magazine: "The greatest cycling novel ever written." If this is true then I should stop reading cycling novels now. The book starts out introducing you to the main character, a pro cyclist who's past his prime. Annoyingly, the introduction goes on and on with only little snippets of cycling. The author has a flair for writing, marred only by an excessive use of British slang (1970s?) that I often didn't understand. The story takes too long to get going with too many tangents - bragging coarsely about his womanizing, complaining about this and that, etc. But when the author gets into the cycling, especially The Tour, it's very good. I thought the ending might redeem the book, but no - in a big way. There were a few too many things I didn't like about this book so I can't recommend it, but I can see that others might enjoy it.

1 comment:

andy said...

i can connect with the part of the yellow jersey book...the part where his GFs friends thought he was a failure if he didn't win the race.

not that my friends think i'm a failure when i don't win (which is ever. single. time.), but they don't realize that the majority of cyclists measure them selves differently.

how well you did against your last time. did you beat someone with whom you've been comparing yourself. did you help achieve certain teams goals. etc.