The International Writers Magazine: Review
John Reynolds: The Autobiography
By John Reynolds with Jason McClean
Haynes Paperback 2008
Daniel Cann review
Any British fan of motorsport will recognise the name of John Reynolds. In a distinguished motorbike-racing career he won six British Championship titles including three BSB (British Superbike Championships). Here he covers his life and career as well as life after racing. I remember watching Reynolds on Sky Sports at the tail end of his career and was eager to find out more about this popular and remarkable racer.
Reynolds cheerfully describes how he could ride a trike his father made for him before he could walk; clearly he was destined to a life on wheels! Early chapters explore an idyllic childhood as an only but not lonely child. He was surrounded by friends and supported by two loving parents. His father helped him fund, build and repair motorbikes in his early racing career. As a youngster he raced in motorcross before as an adult he moved into vintage racing, then club racing before finally racing Superbikes and getting wildcard rides in Moto GP.
Thanks to the books style this is not a straight ‘by the numbers’ autobiography. Reynolds admits to being a bit of an exhibitionist and ‘Jack the Lad’ as a youth. I really enjoyed reading about his early years and especially of his transition from novice to privateer and finally to factory racer. His writing style is humble and down to earth, a very ‘what you see is what you get’ type of character emerges. Fiercely loyal and highly competitive through the course of the book it is clear that despite all of the success he has essentially remained the same person. This is an excellent account of an everyman with a full time job becoming a top racer through hard work and perseverance.
In a long and distinguished career he rubbed shoulders with riders of the calibre of Steve Hislop, Troy Bayliss, Carl Fogarty, Chris Walker and Neil Hodgson. He has competed all over the world and always given it his all. The book hugely benefits from Reynolds excellent recall and descriptions of key moments and battles he had on the track. As a reader you get a greater appreciation of just what goes into a successful racing team and rider. The raw excitement and drama of motor racing is effortlessly brought to life here.
Reynolds is disarmingly honest about the constant mental and physical pressure on a racer during a season. He catalogues his shortcomings, mistakes and failures as well as his triumphs giving the reader a more rounded and complete picture. We the public as well as the media are guilty of placing such high expectations on racers that we sometimes forget that they are mere mortals (gifted yes, but not flawless). He covers his experiences of riding with injuries facing adversity, anxiety and difficult race conditions. Reynolds does not hold back or sanitise what is a hugely thrilling and compelling but also dangerous sport. He of course is excellently and uniquely placed to describe what it is all like from the competitor’s perspective.
Reynolds tactical and technical knowledge is clearly evident as well as his thoughts on ageism in the sport. He admits to lying about his own age during his career to avoid annoying questions about retirement and whether it will be his last season. He asserts that age is not important; rather ability, skill and character count the most. He salutes his fellow racers and pays credit where it is due. The closing chapters show a family man with no regrets and at peace with himself. I recommend this to anyone interested in motorbike racing. Happy retirement JR!