“Lone Rider” by Elspeth Beard

Elspeth Beard documents her two-year, 35,000-mile journey on a BMW R60/6 in her book, “Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around the World.”

Reader Contribution by Richard Backus
article image
courtesy Octane Press

Around the world

In 1982, 23-year-old architecture student Elspeth Beard left her family home in London, England, bound for New York City. Waiting for her there was her 1974 BMW R60/6, and the start of what would become a two-year, 35,000-mile ride across five continents. When she finally returned to London, Beard parked her BMW and moved along, the experience slowly sinking into the past. But a few years ago, Beard started looking through her old diaries and photo albums, and in 2017, 33 years after her journey, her story, Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around the World, was finally published.

That tag line, “the First BritishWoman to Motorcycle Around the World,” is perhaps something of an unnecessary definer, as outside of French journalist Anne-France Dautheville’s approximately 12,500-mile ride across three continents in 1973, it seems almost certain that Beard’s ride was the first of its kind for any woman.

That it took Beard so long to dedicate herself to writing about her life-changing journey tells us much about her. “I always meant to write a book about my ride,” Beard told one interviewer recently, “but I didn’t bother because nobody was interested, so I just got on with other things in my life.” Remarkably, at the time of her ride, nobody was interested. Beard made queries to accessory manufacturers and motorcycle magazines, looking for sponsorship and coverage of her travels, but was met with either silence or mocking indifference. Yet she got on with it anyway, and decades later, we’re finally learning about Beard’s epic trip.

This is much more than the story of a ride. It’s a hugely complex examination of a life lived, opening windows of introspection into Beard’s memories of a family dominated by a quirky but clearly genius father, tempered by a smart but somehow fragile mother. Neither parent understood their strong-willed daughter, or recognized her focused intensity, a fact that helped drive her to make her epic ride.

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