I’ve just finished reading “Its Not About The Bike” by Lance Armstrong. The world and its mother has been telling me to read it or assuming I’d already read it ever since I started this cycling thing.
So when I was home, and I saw a copy sitting on the coffee table in a friend’s house, with no bookmark or turned down pages, and luckily Daz had just finished it.
The book charts Lance’s journey from a self proclaimed child prodigy to successful young athlete, cancer sufferer/survivor, to Tour de France winner and all round american hero.
Its not about the bike is written in roughly three sections. It opens with a plain narrative, telling of Lance’s wins and conquests up until the the day he gets the news that he has testicular and lung cancer and his world of security and success falls away.
Then he talks the reader through his bitter fight with cancer. Holding nothing back. He describes how the news reduced him. He describes the fear he carried throughout the ordeal of the imminent reality that he may not survive. or that he may never cycle again. He describes his feelings as he slips from powerful world champion to anemic patient with a three percent chance of staying alive. He describes this battle in candid detail, and explains his hair loss, the nauseating symptoms and his chemotherapy.
The final section charts his grind back to health, and his fight to regain motivation and purpose. Then he eloquently recounts his heroic Tour De France win which is so inspirational it deserves the rocky theme as a backing track.
What I found particularly interesting was, and its not clear whether this is deliberate or not, each of the three sections was written in a different tone. The first in the tone of a strong, cocky and arrogant jock with the world at his feet. Then his tone changes to one of candor, humility and vulnerability of a bald cancer patient as he recounts his raw and scarring ordeal. He describes his climb back to health and the grind to the top of professional cycling against all odds in the third section with a mature, philosophical air.
I disliked Lance the jock, and found his writing dry and dull. I would have put the book down three chapters in were it not for the high recommendations of my friends. I wanted to finish the book and then slate its arrogant and dull author. But, then the tone changed and the story became human, once he learns of his fate, and the narrative is stripped down, honest and powerful from there on in. As, the complex experiences other than success and winning call on Armstrong to reach for a thesaurus to accurately describe them.
There’s something to be learned from Lance’s story, amid the popular “can do”, “never give up” sound bytes there’s two subtle and elegant messages. Even the strongest “winners” are vulnerable. And, all experience is valuable, both the positive and the negative. As yer man Nietzsche said “what ever doesn’t kill us will just make us stronger”. Cancer didn’t kill Armstrong and definitely made him stronger, and it would also seem, wiser and humbler and more appreciative of his life. Life’s much more than standing on a podium, or sitting on a swinging chair in a big office and driving a silly SUV to a good post code every night.
Indeed, Its not about the bike, but being able to appreciate how fortunate you are to be riding it.
This Post was scheduled before we entered XinJiang Province. Find out why here