Book Review: Bicycle Kicks by Simon Hood
Some say football is a metaphor for life, others state that life is a journey; so what does it say if you set yourself the task over a ten month period to complete a 10,000 mile journey on a bicycle watching every single game played by your team (home and away) in the Conference National and FA Cup in the 2009/10 season?
The obvious response for many would simply be – why? However, there was method in the madness for life-long York City supporter Simon Hood which he explains in the Prologue to his book Bicycle Kicks. In his self-deprecating manner Hood tells the reader that on the one-hand he undertook the challenge because at the age of thirty two he felt life was passing him by in a “…passive, rudderless existence…” and that the challenge “…seemed a bit of a lark…” On the other-hand he acknowledges that it was a chance to reconnect with his home-town club, carry out some fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Society, write about his experience and so avoid becoming “…that guy staring into the bottom of his pint glass, thinking about this great idea he’d once had, and had never seen through…” As a consequence, Hood hands in his notice at work, gives up the lease on his flat in London and prepares for life on the road, with his bicycle and panniers containing some basics including a tent.
Over the course of the 155 pages, the book sets out month by month from August 2009 to May 2010 the story of Hood’s efforts to get to complete the task he set himself. In a bizarre twist of footballing fate, the same opposition begin the journey and end it – Oxford United. In between the writer has forty six league games to attend as well as the FA Cup Rounds that The Minstermen find themselves involved in, all achieved by the solitary mode of transport that was his bicycle.
What emerges over the course of the book is a read and style that is engaging, which stems from Hood’s dry wit and sharp observational humour. He manages to balance details about the games he attends, with the cycling routes, his family and friends as well as anecdotes from his travels around the country. Hood allows the reader enough detail to follow the events whether it is on the terraces at Bootham Crescent or cycling through the Fens with a cruel wind biting into the cyclists face and hands. However, there is the feeling at times that the reader is being slightly kept at arm’s length and that some things are not dwelt on. Perhaps it merely reflects Hood’s journey round the country, where the scenery is constantly changing, so that nothing has a great deal of permanence and is merely a passing memory.
By the end of the book the reader has shared with the author some of the emotional highs and lows of an incredible challenge. The story of a man reconnecting with his club, his family and friends and getting his ‘kicks’ enjoying the freedom of the open road. It will leave you with a feel-good factor; it may help restore your faith in human nature. It may also inspire you to get out and do something in turning a dream into a reality.