‘In Clancy’s Boots’ by Geoff Hill

clancys bootsThe centenary of the first round-the-world motorcycle trip passed with little comment outside of the circles that Overland readers often inhabit. People were still talking about Felix Baumgartner’s super-sonic skydive from the edge of space, or how much havoc Hurricane Sandy would wreak on the Caribbean and North America, while Daily Mail readers learned that eating cheese makes men infertile.

But 23rd October 2012 saw Geoff Hill depart on a recreation of Carl Stearns Clancy’s historic ride, from Dublin to New York the long way. A hundred years to the day and he carried with him a remarkable relic; the very boots worn by Clancy on that pioneering journey.

Like Clancy, Hill set-off with a riding companion on an identical bike – although Geoff’s companion didn’t bail-out in Paris and today’s BMW GS1200 stood-in for the original four cylinder inline Hendersons. Also like Clancy, Geoff Hill wrote a book to describe the adventure.

The comparison and contrast between their respective experiences is obvious, and In Clancy’s Boots is well executed by this award-winning travel writer. Each chapter tells the tale of two journeys through a particular part of the world – Hill’s and Clancy’s accounts juxtaposed after a short and entertaining (if not always academically rigorous) history of each country in its turn.

Hill is certainly humorous and insightful in his descriptions of the world, its people and their histories, which makes this both readable and informative. The layout is reasonable for a paperback, the available space on each page is about as fully used as is acceptable but the density of text is broken-up at the start of each chapter by the short histories.

While you should never judge a book by its cover, this one bears closer inspection; its imaginative and idiosyncratic treatment of the world reflects the content rather well.

As Geoff himself acknowledges, the centenary ride would not have been possible were it not for the determination of one man to bring Clancy’s story to wider attention – read more about this in the book by Dr. Gregory W. Frazier Motorcycle Adventurer: Carl Stearns Clancy: First Motorcyclist To Ride Around The World 1912-1913.

A potential contender for Overland Magazine’s Book of the Year, In Clancy’s Boots is both readable and informative and you can get a copy here, but if you want to read more of Carl Stearns Clancy’s own account, ‘The Gasoline Tramp’ or ‘Around The World On A Motorcycle (1912-1913)’ is available to download as an eBook.

Review by Nich Brown

ISBN 978-0-85640-913-4

Paperback 245pp, £9.99

Blackstaff Press 2013

197x130x22 mm


Geoff Hill is an award winning newspaper travel writer and author of many books including “Way to go: two of the World’s great motorcycle journeys”, “The Road to Gobblers Knob: from Chile to Alaska on a motorbike” and “Oz: around Australia on a motorbike.”