I can’t say that I have read many books by sports celebrities in my life. There was Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About the Bike and that’s pretty much it. However, just having finished Shut Up Legs! by Jens Voigt, it seems I am developing a theme of reading books by professional cyclists. I am glad to say that Jens, or Jensie as his fans sometimes call him, is a genuinely nice guy (happily married and has six—six!—kids and loves being a dad) and has never doped or been suspected of doping and has even spoken out against doping and caught some flak from it. There is also a lack of big ego and a deep loyalty for his teammates and willingness to help the team.
I can’t say that I expected much from the book. I was not looking for stellar prose and literary high jinks. Voigt loves to read (favorites include Jack London and James Fenimore Cooper), it helps him relax and unwind after racing, but he is no writer. He worked with a co-author to produce a chatty book about his cycling career that began in 1997 and ended in 2014. There is a definite chronology to the book beginning with his youth in East Germany and what it was like when the Berlin Wall came down to his hour distance record and retirement in 2014.
At the same time though, the book is not a “I did this, then this, then this” tour through his races. It is more of a highlight reel with side trips into funny stories about his teammates and a few doping scandals in the sport to what it is like to train all the time, travel a lot, sleep in bad hotels and have to eat surprisingly terrible food and how crazy Australian cyclists are. He also talks about how professional cycling has changed over the years not just in terms of the races but the approach to training and nutrition as well.
Voigt comes across as just a regular guy whose job happens to be riding a bike. When he decided to retire in 2014 he imagined he would finally get to relax and go fishing every other day but his retirement has not ended up that way. From the sound of it he is as busy as ever with cycling related work including working with the Tour de France organizers to have greater involvement with women’s racing at the Tour. I was thinking already this Jens guy was pretty ok, but when he mentioned that, he cemented my admiration. I saw the documentary Half the Road about women’s professional cycling recently and have been following a big sexism/harassment scandal in UK women’s cycling. Having someone like Voigt as an ally will hopefully be a good thing.
There isn’t much else to say about the book. If you are looking for an enjoyable book about a likable professional cyclist, Jensie is your guy.